Confirmand raises bar for re-gifting

First communicants (CNS photo)

First communicants and confirmandi are often given the gift of cash from well-meaning (but gift-giving-challenged)  friends and family members.

The recipients can then buy something for themselves — or they could follow the example of  Brianna Montecalvo   and donate the cash to a worthy cause.

As the Rhode Island Catholic reports, Brianna recently gave $800 from her confirmation gifts to the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of her grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died four years ago.

The 16-year-old student from La Salle Academy in Providence told the diocesan newspaper she was happy to make the contribution and felt her grandmother would be proud of her. She also said she hoped the donation would help her mature.

She only wished she had done something like this before. She noted, rather maturely, that some people need the money more than she does.

Rome diocese’s official hymn for Blessed John Paul II

A Vatican-Poland joint issue postage stamp marking the beatification. (CNS/Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office)

ROME — Msgr. Marco Frisina, the director of liturgy for the Diocese of Rome, a composer and director of the diocesan choir, has written a hymn for the beatification of Pope John Paul II: “Aprite le Porte a Cristo” (“Open the Doors to Christ”).

The hymn will have its public debut in Rome April 30 during the Rome diocese’s prayer vigil in preparation for the pope’s beatification May 1. A portion of the hymn in Latin also will be sung in St. Peter’s Square May 1 immediately after the recitation of the formula declaring Pope John Paul blessed.

The Italian words of the refrain can be translated as: “Open the doors to Christ/Do not be afraid, Open wide your heart/To the love of God.”

Msgr. Frisina said the eight verses of the hymn highlight the most important qualities of Pope John Paul: His witness of hope, his fatherly love for youth, his witness of faith, his love for the family, his work for peace and justice, his demonstration of the redemptive power of suffering and his love for Mary.

The monsignor told reporters yesterday that he has posted a sound clip and the words of the hymn so that people can practice before the big event.

Virginia Catholics make connection to modern saint

Virginia Catholics had a chance to view second-class relics of St. Gianna Molla in late March during a special night in honor of the saint at Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge.

A story on the event reported by the Arlington Catholic Herald said that participants, including several families with young children, took turns fingering the fabric from St. Gianna’s wedding dress and holding her leather gloves.

Participant Mary Cuellar said handling the relics gave her a feeling similar to electricity and left her shaky. Together with her husband, she encouraged her daughter to hold one of the gloves to her throat, while praying for a cure for her heart and thyroid problems.

You can view Catholic News Service’s story on the modern saint here.

Looking back — and looking forward — at John Paul II

(CNS/Joe Rimkus Jr.)

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II. Remarkably, he will be beatified in less than a month, one of the fastest — if not the fastest — intervals between death and beatification for anyone, let alone for modern popes.

To relive the life of Karol Wojtyla and his impact on the world, especially as you prepare spiritually for the May 1 beatification, read our comprehensive obituary of Pope John Paul, written by our Rome bureau chief, John Thavis. Thavis also wrote a personal reflection on the late pope and what it was like to cover him, beginning with the day a Polish cardinal surprised the world and walked onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica as the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

For more on his remarkable papacy, visit the special section we prepared and posted on the day six years ago when Pope John Paul died. (And don’t miss our look at the top conclave cardinals of 2005, including a profile of the man who was elected.)

Japanese survivors recount hardships

Evacuees stand in Tokyo park March 11 after massive earthquake in Japan. (CNS photo from Reuters)


As Japan copes with its triple disaster — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis — communication between family members in Japan and other countries has been sketchy at best. Many family members in the United States waited several days before getting word of their loved ones.

Myra Holmes, a parishioner at St. Matthew Church in Hillsboro, Wash., waited one day before hearing news about her adult son and his family in Sendai, Japan — the epicenter of the earthquake. The day’s wait,  while expecting the worse, was almost unbearable as the Catholic Sentinel story reports.

Holmes said she was able to occasionally get her mind off the tragedy thanks to her parish ministry work  that kept her busy. On March 12 she learned of her son’s safety amid the vast wreckage in his city and days later she found out that his family was able to find refuge in the Phillipines where they plan to stay for another month before returning home.

“We are just praying that God will guide them in their decision, and they will know the Lord’s will,” Holmes said.

The Tablet, a Catholic newspaper in England, highlights a detailed personal account of Japan’s disasters from a student studying Japanese Catholicism at Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo.  The college student not only recounts his experience on the day of earthquake but also the constant worry and tension in recent days caused by fears of aftershocks.


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