Program #0036 for Thursday, April 28, 2011: The Culture of Death and the Beatification of Pope John Paul II

April 28, 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 official newspaper of the Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Today’s topics: An offensive state-funded website; pro-euthanasia billboard; local and worldwide reaction to Pope John Paul’s beatification

A summary of today’s show: Scot and Susan discuss the news of the week with Gregory Tracy and Fr. Roger Landry, including an offensive, state-funded website telling teens abortion is no big deal; a new billboard in Boston advertising euthanasia; and local and worldwide reaction to the beatification of Pope John Paul II, including our hosts’ and guests’ personal recollections of the Pope.

1st segment: Scot catches up with Susan. She said her parish this week confirmed 70 teens and 2 adults, giving the whole parish a spiritual high. Bishop Allue celebrated the confirmation. Scot recalls that in 1979, Susan’s pastor Msgr. Helmick was in charge of the papal visit of Pope John Paul II to Boston along with Fr. James McCune. Scot has been going through the archives of the archdiocese, looking for photos of the papal visit.

2nd segment: Scot and Susan welcome Gregory Tracy and Fr. Roger Landry to the show. On Wednesday, April 20, there was a story in the Boston Herald profiling a website called “Maria Talks” and then a column the next by Michael Graham about the site. The Pilot this week has a story on legislators who want to pull state-funding from the site. The site is partly funded by the state of Massachusetts and run by the AIDS Action Committee and is aimed to be sex education of teens. It includes graphic content on sexual activity and downplays the reality of abortion, saying it’s easier than it sounds and that it’s not a big deal. It also describes in great detail how to avoid telling parents about an abortion.

Susan said that as a mother and a grandmother she is outraged. Massachusetts Citizens for Life sounded the alarm on this site. She recalls that while you may need parental permission to have ears pierced, there is state-funded information on how to get an abortion without parents. Susan said the information they provide is itself factually flawed.

Scot said there is a bipartisan group of lawmakers asking Gov. Deval Patrick to take down the website. Fr. Landry said that while people are always telling pro-lifers not to force their morality on them, here they are forcing their immorality on us. Mis- and partial information is being peddled to young people. It’s another sign for us to awaken from our slumber, They aren’t just trying to force this immorality on our young people and they’re trying to make us pay the bill for it. He hopes that we’ll keep our vigilance up because this is just scratching the surface of the larger effort to advance the anti-life cause.

NARAL Pro-Choice America calls the site “terrific”. Gregory said this is abortion distortion: The normal rules of life somehow don’t seem to apply when abortion is involved. Children can’t bring aspirin to school, but they can get abortions without parental involvement.

Another local story is a Boston billboard outside the Callahan tunnel in East Boston advertising euthanasia. The billboard is paid for by the Final Exit Network. Kris Mineau of the Mass. Family Institute said that the group is looking for low-hanging fruit to drum up support for a pro-suicide bill. Fr. Landry said that when people get to the stage of suffering when they start to think they just want to die, that’s when people need more help to live, not a message that they should die. They should be told that they still have much to offer, dying with real dignity. Fr. Tad Pacholczyk of National Catholic Bioethic Center said: “All of us will ourselves invariably die, with 100 percent certainty. Acknowledging the impending arrival of death, and seeking to pass from this life at home surrounded by loved ones can be a great grace.”

Susan said you often hear people claim that there needs to be a quality of life, but that’s the beginning of the slippery slope, if history teaches us anything. Also, she said, the last days of Pope John Paul II taught us much about suffering with dignity, teaching us to live with suffering and to die with dignity.

3rd segment: Fr. Landry wrote an editorial in this week’s Anchor on exactly why John Paul is being beatified. He framed it in terms of a conversation the pope had in 1995 with George Weigel as Weigel was about to write a biography of the pope. He said the only way to understand him was to understand him as first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ, that all the fruit he had borne as pope came from the source. A beatification is not an exaltation of a papacy, but an acknowledgement that John Paul lived as a virtuous disciple and that God worked a miracle through the intercession of the pope to show that John Paul can be a model we can follow to grow in the Christian life.

Scot said George Weigel writes this week about the beatification and says he worries that we will lose sight of the Pope as a man. When a saint is made, he becomes removed from everyday life and untouchable, an ideal that we can’t imagine being. But we are all called to holiness and sanctification. John Paul lived in a radical way, leaning on Christ for strength and guidance, and we’re all capable of living this way.

Fr. Landry said the Holy Father clarified the standard by which we are to live our lives. John Paul had encountered an attitude in the world that people approach life as a pass-fail course, where we just hope to just get by and into heaven through purgatory. Instead we should strive to get that A+ and doing all the best. The odds that someone striving to get an A will instead fail is much less than someone who sets his sights low and just hopes to get by. God wouldn’t call us to anything unless He was willing to give us all that we need to achieve it. John Paul said we need to take prayer seriously, we need to take Mass as the source and summit of existence, we need to be cleansed through confession, to listen to the Word of God and let it take on our flesh, to share the gift of the Word with others, and we need to reach out for God’s grace that is extended to us. This is the lesson he preached and lived in his example.

4th segment: Both The Anchor and The Pilot have testimonies from local people on the life of Pope John Paul. Many people talk about meeting the Holy Father in Rome, sometimes encountering him in his private chapel for Mass. Fr. Roger had the privilege five times. He was always struck by the intensity of his prayer, how focused he was on Jesus when all other eyes were on him. He was a living sign that Jesus Christ is alive. The same Jesus who called Peter from fishing boat called Karol Wojtyla from his home in Wadowice, Poland. Fr. Landry had the experience of preaching the Gospel of Matthew 16:18 as he stood facing Pope John Paul in a private Mass from just four feet away.

On his first trip to the United States, Pope John Paul came to Boston in 1979. Susan was a member of the papal choir at the Mass. The choir was directed by then-Fr. Strahan, who composed some settings for the Mass. On the day of the Mass, it poured rain and her red robes stained her clothes underneath. In The Pilot this week, former Boston mayor and former US Ambassador Ray Flynn to the Vatican first met John paul in 1969 when he was Cardinal Wojtyla. Flynn said the result of that meeting was a changing in his outlook on life and a desire to help the poorest and the voiceless. He said that in 1979, when he was a city councilman, he and his wife helped with people who were handicapped attending the papal Mass in the rain on Boston Common.

The Pilot talked briefly with Cardinal Sean before he went to Rome for the beatification. He said, “His ministry has a huge impact on the Church and the world. He was always warm and gracious. He was interested in people and energized particularly by young people.”

Both CatholicTV and EWTN will have extensive coverage, including the Vigil Mass on Saturday night at 8pm and then on Sunday morning. They will also have many other features on the life of Pope John Paul II. On Monday, the first memorial Mass using the prayers for John Paul led by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Cardinal Bertone.

On Saturday, April 30, at 8 pm, CatholicTV will air a special vigil from the Circus Maximus in Rome. Join pilgrims from around the world and see a video message from Pope Benedict XVI during this broadcast on the eve of the beatification.

On Monday, May 2 at noon & 8 p.m., CatholicTV will broadcast a special Mass of Thanksgiving for Blessed John Paul from Saint Peter’s Square. This Mass will presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

The beatification Mass will air live at 2:30 a.m. Eastern time and will be re-broadcast at noon. Scot said anyone who plans to get up at 1am to watch the royal wedding tomorrow better get up early on Sunday for the beatification Mass.

5th segment: The beatification will occur on Divine Mercy Sunday. He died six years ago on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy devotion was very important to him. When John Paul was in the clandestine seminary in Krakow during World War II, he worked a day job in a chemical factory. That was located across the street from the convent where St. Faustina received the messages of Divine Mercy from Jesus. As a young priest he also had a great dedication to hearing confessions, reportedly hearing each confession for up to an hour. He always said that in confession the whole Church is present for that one penitent sinner. When he was a young archbishop, he promoted the cause in the face of criticism. And as Pope he wrote an encyclical on Divine Mercy and then made St. Faustina the first saint canonized in the new millennium. At that Mass he declared the first Sunday after Easter will be known as the feast of Divine Mercy.

Fr. Roger told a story of being in St. Peter’s Square on that day and being approached by a young man asking to hear his confession. More and more people lined up to the impromptu confessions and Fr. Roger heard confessions for more than 2 hours. From that time on, he has had a great devotion to the Divine Mercy.

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