Catholic advocates get specific on health care reform

Town hall meetings across the U.S. have stirred the passions of protesters opposed to health care reform in general or opposed to certain aspects of bills currently before Congress. Here’s a story about Catholic efforts on the health reform issue, including the viewpoint of  Catholics voicing their support for universal health care.

The Catholic Courier, newspaper of the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., reports that many in that group are calling for a government-run health-insurance plan that would compete with private insurance, and mandate that all Americans have health insurance.

New Italian book features then-Cardinal Ratzinger on liturgy

Pope Benedict in Jerusalem 2009


VATICAN CITY — Our Italian colleague, Andrea Tornielli, today published two texts written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on the liturgy. The pieces — one a letter translated from German into Italian and another from a speech — are contained in a new book, “Davanti al Protagonista: Alla Radici della Liturgia” (“Before the Protagonist: At the Roots of the Liturgy”).

The letter by the future pope was written in 2003 to Heinz-Lothar Barth, a classics professor at the University of Bonn, Germany. The text — in German, in English and even in Italian — has been available on Web sites for years.

The letter expresses support for Catholics attached to the older form of the Latin Mass. One of the most interesting paragraphs (our translation from the Italian) states:

Nevertheless I believe that in the long term the Roman church once again must have only one Roman rite. In practice, the existence of two official rights would be difficult for bishops and priests to ‘manage.’ The Roman rite of the future should be one, celebrated in Latin or in the vernacular, but completely in the tradition of the rite that was handed down to us. This could include some new elements that have been experienced as valid such as the new feasts, some new prefaces for Mass, an extended lectionary — with more choices than before, but not too many — a ‘oratio fidelium,’ that is, a fixed litany of intercessions that follow the ‘Oremus’ before the offertory, which is where it had been placed.

Of course, all this has been superseded by history. Pope Benedict in 2007 relaxed restrictions on use of the Tridentine rite as an alternative to the post-Vatican II liturgy. Rather than speak of this as two coexisting rites, the pope has described it as “two usages of the one Roman rite.”

Milwaukee couple begins every day with wedding vows

OK, now here is a story about a married couple who show their devotion to their wedding vows — literally on a daily basis! 

The Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, has run an article about this couple who begins each day reciting their marriage vows and how that practice has strengthened their 20-year union.

On the Rise

If a mile away can be classified as “right under my nose,” then back in Detroit, a Capuchin-supported bakery named On the Rise has been operating for two years right under my nose.

dsc_0335Detroit’s my hometown. On the Rise is about one mile from where I grew up, and about one mile from where I go to Mass on Sundays when I am in Detroit. It’s also a block from the church where my mother was married and buried.

During a visit home from Washington, I heard about the bakery at the end of Mass last week and was determined to seek it out. It was easy enough to find. The bakery boasts many artisanal breads and coffees, but for my immediate needs, I purchased a peach pie for an after-Mass gathering. The father of the gathering’s host proclaimed it as “the best peach pie I’ve ever tasted.”

On the Rise has been taking its wares on the road as of late to parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit, almost in the style of missionary priests on fundraising duty after having spent several years out of the country. Here, though, the bakers are providing intrigued shoppers a tangible good from an economically distressed section of a city itself in dire economic straits, which proves that good things can indeed come from unlikely places.

And since — like any bakery worth its salt — On the Rise makes doughnuts, my Catholic community in Detroit is considering putting in a standing order for them every Sunday after Mass. I can hardly wait to return.

Mules … and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square


(CNS photos byJohn Thavis)

VATICAN CITY — St Peter’s Square is never dull. People from all over the world end up there. The square has hosted Masses, religious processions, concerts and the starting lines or finishing lines of marathons, bike races and car rallies.

But the mules in the square this morning were unusual.

As were the 300 Spanish pilgrims who were with them. The pilgrims had just spent nine days walking from Assisi, Italy, to Rome, taking a wandering path through the countryside of Umbria and Lazio to visit sites associated with the life of St. Francis of Assisi. They walked 103 miles with 10 mules, who took turns pulling eight colorfully decorated carts. Several of the carts carried statues,  including of Mary and of St. James.

bisconti1290Many members of the group organized in the town of Fuenterroble, Spain, are used to walking pilgrimages — they are experts on the road to Santiago di Compostela, where tradition says the Apostle James is buried.

Their Italian pilgrimage, which they called the “Via Lucis” (or “Way of Light”), commemorated the pilgrimage of St. Francis to Santiago in 1214. And, they said, it also was an opportunity “to reunite St. James with St. Peter” — who is buried at the Vatican — and to honor St. Paul a few months after the end of the year marking the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.

Spiritan Father Eugene Hillman was a hero to an African tribe

People who knew Spiritan Father Eugene Hillman, who died Aug. 5 at age 84 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease, said he truly loved the people of the Masai tribe in East Africa, where he did mission work for 18 years.

As a missionary, he established health centers, provided education and helped areas develop economically.

He also seemed to be skilled in photography. Take a look at some of the photos he shot in Africa, mostly of the children of tribe members.

Vatican Museums open Friday nights in September, October


The Courtyard of the Pigna in the Vatican Museums (CNS)

VATICAN CITY — After more than 6,500 people visited the Vatican Museums the night of July 24, the museums’ director has decided to open the miles of galleries and the Sistine Chapel to visitors every Friday night in September and October from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Reservations are required for the nighttime visits and can be completed online. Visitors also can reserve a guided tour in advance.