Pet blessings across the U.S.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Zaborowski, pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Baltimore, blesses 3-month-old German shepherd puppy Maximus during the blessing of the animals in 2007. (CNS/Chaz Muth, Catholic Review)

Capuchin Franciscan Father Paul Zaborowski, pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Baltimore, blesses 3-month-old German shepherd puppy Maximus during a blessing of the animals in 2007. (CNS/Chaz Muth, Catholic Review)

Pets and farm animals across the country get a special church blessing Oct. 4, the feast day of  St. Francis of Assisi. These outdoor blessing ceremonies — on parish grounds or church parking lots — involve creatures great and small.

To find out just where you can bring your dog, cat or lizard, check out the 14th annual listing of pet blessing sites provided by the Catholic magazine St. Anthony Messenger. The diverse list reveals a trend in pet blessings. Many parishes collect donations for pet shelters or those in need. They often provide snacks (for pets and owners) and always require pets to be leashed or in cages.

While one site specifically noted that no animal was too large, another drew a line on one kind of pet. It specificially asked for no snakes.

Enough church stats to keep any numbers geek happy

Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, known as CARA, now has a blog that digs into the whys and wherefores of statistical reports on the church.

For instance, a recent post compares data on how often Catholics attend church, as reported by various sources, balanced against actual counts of how many people are in the pews.

Another post looks at a recent Washington Post story, “Many Women Targeted by Faith Leaders,” which reported that one in 33 women who attend religious services said they had been the subject of an inappropriate sexual advance by a religious leader. CARA digs deeper into the report by Baylor University researchers of data from the General Social Survey and puts the statistic reported by the Post into more thorough context by explaining the question asked immediately before the one reported which had to do with women who worked for their church or synagogue.

The Holy Pony Express

VATICAN CITY — When the Vatican press office has an important letter, document or package to pick up or drop off, it uses its own private courier service.

The Vatican office had been using a car, but somehow it was decided to substitute it two years ago with a motorbike, which certainly can zip in and out of Rome’s famous traffic snarls a lot more easily.

The Vatican press office uses this motorbike for picking up and dropping off important documents

The Vatican press office uses this motorbike for picking up and dropping off important documents

Today the special bike got its official blessing by Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office. Father Lombardi gathered everyone working in the press hall together to participate in the blessing ceremony held in the building’s courtyard.

Wearing a cream-colored embroidered stole, Father Lombardi asked us all to pray as he sprinkled holy water on the motorbike and the young men responsible for riding it.

The prayer he recited (which had been used for blessing cars but works just as well for two-wheelers) was especially nice, and I think a portion of it deserves to be reprinted here:

“Bless this motorbike, a wonderful instrument of communication invented by mankind. It shortens distances and makes communication and communion between people easier.

You, who are omnipotent and infinitely good, make sure that (the bike) does not cause increased risks and dangers and that it not be an instrument of death, but brings more joy to life and fraternal encounters.

For the person who rides this motorbike, keep them safe from distraction, nervous tension, impatience, intolerance, and breaking the rules of the road so that this, which is made for life, may always and only serve for life.

We ask this of you in the name of Jesus Christ, your son and our Lord.”

Year for Priests: Keeping the focus on Jesus’ compassion

By Paulist Father Tom Holahan
One in a series

ROME — Last night I was shocked when, discussing the recently restored version of “Godfather III,” no one agreed that the church was treated unfairly. While the story touches on the Vatican bank scandal of the 1980s, my ire went up when the Godfather, Michael Corleone, received a papal knighthood from the archbishop of New York. Soon it was clear where this was going, the “favor” would be repaid by getting the Godfather to (unknowingly) assist in the bank fraud. The cynical conclusion is that the church may even be more corrupt than the crime syndicate Michael Corleone was trying to step away from.

It makes the news and it makes for good stories. But the truth is far different. At this point in history, it is the church that stands against many of the “acceptable” behaviors of modern times. Notwithstanding the hopes and vision of Vatican II, the work of the church is engaging the people of God is the paradoxical rightness of the Beatitudes. It has taken a financial meltdown to convince nations that nurturing struggling economies is to the benefit of all and the right to life is still a question mark for some, if a personal sacrifice is involved.

Here in Italy we had a national moment of silence for six Italian paratroopers who were killed in a terrorist bombing in Afghanistan. Some non-Italians wondered out loud why this was necessary when “so many Americans have died.” Excuse me, but is not every life worthy of mourning, especially in a country that was reluctant to become involved in the conflict, but did so out of duty to its agreements with NATO?

It seems to me that the work of the priest is to constantly, with patience and understanding, lift the sights of those who have become weary or confused about the key role of compassion in human life. Jesus dramatically told the story of the “non-believer” (the Samaritan) who showed compassion and so became an excellent example of virtue. Making the effort to “cross the road” and experience what another is going through is still the hallmark of a vibrant faith and religion.

My efforts to do this on a small scale were thwarted this past week when I attempted to visit one of our library volunteers who was recovering from a stroke. The clinic she was in was not easy for me to find and it took 90 minutes to get there by bus and then a rather dangerous walk on the heavily trafficked Via Appia Nuova. I managed to get there during visiting hours, but that was why she was off in a side courtyard with visitors and not in her room. After calling her name and walking most of the grounds with two nurses, we gave up our search and I returned home. Was it a waste of time? I think not. Word got to her that I went through the “trouble” of the visit and we had a good phone conversation the next day. It’s simple: Just “showing up” is worth something, even when the stated goal has been missed. Relationships can be built on such “unproductive” times.

Rome Diary

Sept. 25 – There is a symbiotic relationship between weddings at the Vatican and the crowds of tourists. Most brides cannot get everyone they would like to come over to Europe for the wedding. The tourists act as replacements, gathering excitedly around the designated “wedding chapel,” applauding as the bride emerges, even taking picture of … who? For a moment the strangers become a big, happy family celebrating a major step in life.

Sept. 27 – Two small discoveries ruffle the day: I notice that the smooth white stones in some old terracotta flowerpots are pure Carrara marble, extravagant. Then, in a search for lemon juice, I am told, “We don’t have this thing. We like our fruits and vegetables very fresh.” What about your tomato paste in tubes? I think, but do not say.

Sept. 28 – I am beginning to notice the prevalence of angels here. Not just cherubs, but “serious” ones like the large bronze on top of Castle St. Angelo and the ever-popular image, by Guido Reni (left) of St. Michael the Archangel vanquishing the devil. At the same time I notice people citing miraculous coincidences. A teacher links the finding of a spring on school grounds with future enrollment growth; a seminarian believes the death of the Pope John Paul II occurred on the eve of the Sunday after Easter “because he loved that Sunday.” I am reminded of a nice person I met in Berkeley years ago who said, “You never know so I believe in everything.”

Father Thomas J. Holahan, CSP, was ordained for the Paulist Fathers in 1977. Since 2006 he has served as vice-rector at the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome. This church was designated for Americans in Rome by the Vatican in 1922. He is also chaplain to Marymount International School. Previously, he has worked in campus ministry at the University of Colorado (Boulder), the University of California (Berkeley) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also served as communications director for the dioceses of Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio.

Click here for more in this series.

Pope’s departure talk in Prague

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican text of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at a departure ceremony Monday at the end of his three-day visit to the Czech Republic:

Mr President, Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I come to bid farewell, I wish to thank you for your generous hospitality during my short stay in this beautiful country. Continue reading

Pope’s words to young people in Prague

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Here is the Vatican’s English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s multi-lingual greetings to young people following a Mass in Prague Monday:

Dear Young Friends,

At the conclusion of this celebration I turn to you directly and I greet you warmly. You have come here in great numbers from all over the country and from neighbouring countries; you camped here yesterday evening and you spent the night in tents, sharing an experience of faith and companionship. Thank you for your presence here, which gives me a sense of the enthusiasm and generosity so characteristic of youth. Being with you makes the Pope feel young! Continue reading

Pope’s homily in Prague on feast of St. Wenceslas

VATICAN CITY — Here is the Vatican text of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at a Mass in Prague Monday celebrating the feast of St. Wenceslas, patron saint of the Czech Republic:

Dear Cardinals,
My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear Young People,

It gives me great joy to be with you this morning, as my apostolic visit to the beloved Czech Republic draws to a close, and I offer all of you my heartfelt greeting, especially the Cardinal Archbishop, to whom I am grateful for the words that he addressed to me in your name at the start of Mass. My greeting goes also to the other Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and consecrated persons, the representatives of lay movements and associations, and especially the young people. I respectfully greet the President of the Republic, to whom I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of his name-day; and I gladly extend these wishes to all who bear the name of Wenceslaus and to the entire Czech people on the day of this national feast. Continue reading