Program #0214 for Thursday, January 12, 2012: Vocations Awareness Week; March for Life; New Cardinals; Fr. Barron’s persons of the year

January 12, 2012

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Today’s host(s): 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 Fall River diocese; and Gregory Tracy, managing editor of The Pilot, the newspaper of the Boston archdiocese

Links from today’s show:

  • The Anchor
  • The Pilot
  • Some of the stories discussed on this show will be available on The Pilot’s and The Anchor’s websites on Friday morning. Please check those sites for the latest links.

Today’s topics: Vocations Awareness Week; March for Life; New Cardinals; Fr. Barron’s persons of the year

Summary of today’s show: Scot Landry and Susan Abbott discuss the news of the week with Fr. Roger Landry and Gregory Tracy, including Vocations Awareness week, especially how parents can promote vocations by teaching their children to pray and how all can hear their vocational call more clearly by making a habit of prayer. Also, more youth than ever are heading to the annual March for Life, while those who can’t go are gearing up for a record-breaking number of Holy Hours for Life; 22 new cardinals for the Church, including two Americans; a national conference for deaf Catholics to be held in Boston; and Fr. Robert Barron’s persons of the year in response to a dubious choice by the National Catholic Reporter.

1st segment: Scot and Susan commented on the bad weather in Boston today and whether it would have been better to have the freezing, pelting rain or blowing snow. Scot said various groups in the Archdiocese are coming into the Pastoral Center to talk about Pastoral Planning. Susan said they are difficult conversations, especially with the fear of the unknown, but everyone acknowledges that we can’t have business as usual.

2nd segment: Scot and Susan welcomed Gregory Tracy and Fr. Roger Landry to the show. Scot said this week is National Vocation Awareness Week, starting this past Monday to Saturday. He said the Church’s takes this week seriously, not just for priestly vocation shortages, but also for the decline in the number of marriages.

Susan said she is thrilled that they are looking at the whole of vocations, not just priesthood. Fr. Roger Landry in his editorial in the Anchor this week discusses the vocation of the baptized. Susan said it’s a challenge in this day and age of iPods and earbuds to hear the call of God. She recommended a video from Grassroots Films called “Fishers of Men”.

Scot quoted St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations from the CNS story:

“Through a culture of vocation in families, parishes, schools and dioceses, Catholics can nurture an environment of discipleship, commitment to daily prayer, spiritual conversion, growth in virtue, participation in the sacraments and service in community,” the archbishop said. “Without this environment, promoting vocations becomes simply recruitment. We believe we have much more to offer our young people.”

Greg commented on how formation in the Christian family, learning to pray, being involved in the sacramental life of the Church, and seeing their parents live the vocation of marriage are foundational for vocations for priesthood. Scot said in 1997, the vocation awareness week was moved to coincide with the Feast of Baptism of the Lord. Fr. Roger said everything in our life flows from the call we receive at our baptism. The Greek word for Church, ecclesia, means the assembly of those who are called.

Scot said that in Fr. Roger’s editorial he wrote about the great decrease in the number of sacramental marriages in the Church.

Normally when we hear the expression “vocations crisis” we think of the diminishing numbers of priests or religious. The expression is also now commonly being used to refer to the crisis in the understanding of the vocation to the Sacrament of Marriage: not only is the number of sacramental marriages way down and the percentages of divorce, cohabitation and civil unions way up, but many Catholics seem to be incognizant that marriage is a true calling by God, not just a consequence of ephemeral sexual or emotional attraction.

Susan said she was struck by what Fr. Roger wrote about a common habit of prayer, where most people who even bother to pray just a few words at the end of the day, is a habit of conversation that wouldn’t be able to even sustain a marriage. He remarked on the number of people who come to confession tell him that they don’t pray every day, and the people who come to confession are those with a higher level of practice of the faith. He said it’s a matter of priorities. We find time to eat and we even find time to watch TV, but we squeeze God in after all the other things we think are more important.

Scot said part of being a good parent is teaching kids how to pray. Greg said he and his wife pray with all the kids every night before bed. They start them from the youngest age and it’s not optional for any of them. They attend Mass Saturday evening so they also pray together every Sunday morning around the table, reciting the Psalms of Morning Prayer and reading a Scripture, usually the Gospel of the day. Then they have a dialogue about what they’ve read.

Susan said as a catechist and parent, she recalls teaching other parents to pray when she worked in the parish. They encouraged them to start with grace before meals, even with older kids, and to bless their children every night before bed. The parents really responded to that. Once parents get used to it, it makes such a difference in the family’s lives. Scot said it’s very important for the Dads to be involved. Greg said when his kids come to him for help or advice, he encourages them to think about what God would want them to do in this circumstance.

Fr. Roger said the key is to be consistent in prayer, praying even on days when we don’t feel like it. If we pray when we don’t feel the Lord speaking to us, then we won’t be praying when we would be able to hear him. He recalled that his parents praying every day, even when he didn’t feel like it, gave him the foundation to be able to pray on his own when he got to college.

Scot aid Fr. Roger’s editorial emphasized the importance of listening to God’s voice, not just talking the whole time. Fr. Roger said the person should just be conscious that God is there, perhaps to pray at the beginning saying that. Then to praise, thank, bless, ask, and offer penance. Finally, then to be quiet and listen to how God might speak to our heart. He said adults don’t do well with this naturally, but kids seem to understand how God responds to us. When we quiet our imaginations and our senses, the Lord enlightens us with insights.

3rd segment: Scot said the cover story in the Pilot this week is that almost 500 youth from Boston are planning to go to the March for Life in Washington DC on January 22. They will be involved in several events over the course of a few days. Greg said this is a full multi-day pilgrimage, including opportunities to be with Cardinal Seán. Since they began this trip as a pilgrimage for life about 4 years ago, the numbers have increased every year. It’s as close to World Youth Day as you can get without going to an actual World Youth Day.

Scot said some estimates for this year is that between 400,000 and 900,000 will attend the March for Life. Susan recalled going to the first March for Life 39 years ago.

Fr. Roger said in the years he’s taken youth to the March for Life, he’s seen the transformations among youth. Many who went on the trip on a lark, came back changed into pro-life advocates. He would take them to the Holocaust Museum to see what man’s inhumanity to man looked like on an unrestrained scale. At the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, they would experience Mass among a sea of their peers enthusiastic for their faith.

Scot said many parishes in the archdiocese are hold Holy Hours for Life, as co-sponsored by the group Deacons for Life and the Pro-Life Office. A record number of 203 parishes will be holding the Holy Hours. Call 508-651-1900 for more information.

4th segment: Last Friday, Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals to be elevated at a consistory planned for February 18. The two from the United States are Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Both men were rectors of the Pontifical North American College.

“This is not about Timothy Dolan,” the New York cardinal-designate said. “This is an honor from the Holy Father to the Archdiocese of New York. … It’s as if Pope Benedict is putting the red hat on top of the Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty, or on home plate at Yankee Stadium.”

Greg said his wife is a Mets fan and might take exception to that characterization. He said it makes him think to when Cardinal Seán came to Boston and people speculated on when he would be named cardinal and when it happened there was a sense that the Holy Father had deemed Boston worthy again. Scot said it is an honor for the city and the people.

He said in 2006 when Cardinal Seán was named in February ahead of the March consistory, there was a large group from Massachusetts at the audience, including Scot and Fr. Roger’s parents as well as people from the Fall River diocese where the cardinal was bishop before, who cheered loudly and unexpectedly. Fr. Roger said he’s thrilled for both Dolan and O’Brien. Archbishop Dolan was the rector of the Pontifical North American College when he was a seminarian there. Archbishop O’Brien saved the NAC, which was a wreck when he came. He hopes they will continue to serve as examples of what priests need to do as images of Christ.

Scot said while about 500 people came from Boston when Cardinal Seán was elevated, he expects that New York will have an unprecedented number of pilgrims to come to the consistory to celebrate.

Scot noted that in other news, there is a national conference for deaf Catholics in Boston starting on January 13. They will be looking at what Boston is doing in terms of deaf ministry, including Fr. Sean Carey, assistant director of the deaf apostolate and one of only nine deaf priests in the US. Cardinal Seán will celebrate a Mass for all the attendees at Sacred Heart Church in Newton, which has a weekly American Sign Language Mass.

Scot said there is an obituary in this week’s Pilot for Fr. Nicholas Driscoll, who was ordained in 1969 and grew up in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury.

Scot said there is also an announcement in this week’s bulletin that Fr. John M. Sullivan will become the new pastor of St. Margaret in Burlington, leaving St. Mary of the Annunciation in Melrose.

Also in this week’s Pilot is a column by nationally known priest Fr. Robert Barron about the persecution of Christians worldwide. He notes that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Seventy-five percent of those killed for religious reasons throughout the world are Christians. At the end he writes:

And this leads me to declare persecuted Christians as people of the year.

At this point, I will make a confession. This reflection was prompted by a piece published by the editors of the National Catholic Reporter. In their lead article, they declared Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a theologian from Fordham University, as the “person of the year” in the Catholic Church. What was the reason for this designation? Sister Johnson, they explained, had been unfairly “persecuted” by the bishops of the United States who dared to question the theological integrity of one of her many books. The bishops did not excommunicate Sister Johnson, or strip her of her teaching position or declare her not to be a Catholic theologian. They simply were critical of aspects of one of her books. And for this, a tenured professor at Fordham, a woman lionized by the academic establishment, is declared a persecuted victim.

Give me a break.

The nineteen-seventies era narrative of brave progressive theologian fighting against the repressive church is tired and utterly un-illuminating. Far more compelling is the story of the truly brave souls who are risking livelihood, life, and limb in order to declare their faith in Jesus Christ.

Fr. Roger said he wishes he could have written this piece as Fr. Barron did so well. Susan and Greg both found it to be great. Scot recommended Fr. Barron’s great miniseries, which is available on DVD, as well as EWTN and local PBS stations, called “Catholicism”.

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