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Pope Francis meets Dutch king and queen, returns long-lost stick

On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, as part of the visit returning to them a long-lost royal stick of a 16th century Dutch king.

An important diplomatic portion of the audience June 22, was the Vatican’s return of the stick of William I, Prince of Orange, which until recently had remained lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.

The stick, which resembles a sort of scepter or baton, and depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange, was given by the 16th century Dutch royal to a Dutch commander in the Battle of Mookerheyde in 1574.

The stick was waved by William’s brother, Luigi of Nassau, during the battle.

After it was lost, it came into the hands of a Spanish general and eventually a Jesuit general, until being returned Thursday, through the Vatican, to Willem-Alexander, current King of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange.

According to a press release from the National Military Museum of the Netherlands, the delivery of the stick represents “a testimony of reconciliation, and of the current union between the two countries and religions.”

“It is also a symbol of the long journey that the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have passed from the past of rivalry, war and repression to a present of mutual respect and promotion of peace and human rights.”

The baton will be displayed to the public in the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands from April 27 to the end of October 2018.

According to a June 22 Vatican communique, in the audience the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.

Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”

They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.

Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.

“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.

During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.

He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.

For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the Pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.

Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren’t only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.

Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

The Royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.

Before their meeting with the Pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.

According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.

By Hannah Brockhaus


IN PICTURES: Extraordinary Form Ordinations Take Place in England for ‘First Time in Decades’

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon presided over the ordinations for the FSSP in Warrington

Ordinations in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite took place in England for the first time in decades on Saturday.

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon presided over the ordinations of Alex Stewart and Krzysztof Sanetra to the Priesthood at St Mary’s Shrine Church, Warrington.

The two priests were ordained for the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), a clerical society of apostolic life that exclusively uses the pre-1962 rite.

Writing for the Catholic Herald in September 2016, Fr Armand de Malleray, superior of the FSSP in England and Wales, said: “St Mary’s Shrine Church is a fitting place for the ceremony, due to its beautiful Pugin design and because Archbishop McMahon has established it as ‘a centre for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of Mass and the sacraments’.”

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon processes into St Mary’s Church, Warrington (John Aron/FSSP England)

The ordinands wait for Mass to begin (John Aron/FSSP England)

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon prays before the beginning of Mass (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop enters the sanctuary (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop is vested for Mass (John Aron/FSSP England)

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon before the start of Mass (John Aron/FSSP England)

Prayers at the foot of the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

Censing the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop censes the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

A lady wears a mantilla (John Aron/FSSP England)

The gathered clergy (John Aron/FSSP England)

The subdeacon sings the Epistle (John Aron/FSSP England)

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon reads the sermon (John Aron/FSSP England)

The ordinands kneel the the start of the ordination rite (John Aron/FSSP England)

The ordinands prostrate themselves as the clergy and congregation sing the Litany of the Saints (John Aron/FSSP England)

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon kneels during the Litany of the Saints (John Aron/FSSP England)

The ordinands lie prostrate (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop places his hands on the head of each ordinand (John Aron/FSSP England)

All priests present place their hands on the ordinands (John Aron/FSSP England)

The clergy keep their right hands extended over the ordinands (John Aron/FSSP England)

The new priests are vested in chasubles, which remain folded at the back (John Aron/FSSP England)

The new priests kneel before the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

After having their palms anointed, the new priests’ hands are bound together with a linen cloth (John Aron/FSSP England)

Assistant clergy (John Aron/FSSP England)

The reading of the Gospel (John Aron/FSSP England)

The newly-ordained priests hold candles that they then present to the archbishop at the start of the Offertory (John Aron/FSSP England)

The new priests kneel before the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

Bishop of Shrewsbury Mark Davies sits in choir (John Aron/FSSP England)

The Consecration (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop makes the sign of peace (John Aron/FSSP England)

“Ecce Agnus Dei” (John Aron/FSSP England)

The archbishop places his hands on the new priests once more as they profess obedience (John Aron/FSSP England)

The new priests’ chasubles are unfolded (John Aron/FSSP England)

The Archbishop of Liverpool imparts a final blessing (John Aron/FSSP England)

The clergy kneel before the altar (John Aron/FSSP England)

The newly-ordained Fr Alex Stewart and Fr Krzysztof Sanetra (John Aron/FSSP England)

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon processes out of St Mary’s Church, Warrington (John Aron/FSSP England)

The clergy gather after the ordinations (John Aron/FSSP England)

Fr Alex Stewart offers First Blessings (John Aron/FSSP England)

Fr Krzysztof Sanetra offers First Blessings (John Aron/FSSP England)


Why is Pope Francis staying away from Argentina?

By January next year, the Pope will have visited nearly every country in South America – apart from his homeland

The Vatican has just announced the first overseas trip that Pope Francis will make in 2018. In the January of that year, he is going to Chile and Peru. In Chile, he will visit the capital, Santiago, as well as the cities of Iquique (in the far north of the country) and Temuco (in the south). In Peru, he will take in the capital Lima, as well as the cities of Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.

This coming September he is going to Colombia. Thus, by this coming January, he will have visited most of the countries in Latin America, having taken in Brazil in 2013, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay in 2014, Cuba in 2015 and Mexico in 2016.

All those visits have been of great interest. He was in Brazil for World Youth Day, which supposedly saw the biggest ever gathering for a Mass in history on Copacabana beach. In Bolivia, he met with the controversial president Evo Morales, who gave him the hammer and sickle crucifix. In Cuba, he met with Fidel Castro. In Mexico, he castigated the bishops for “living like princes”, which did not go down well.

The Pope still has to visit the countries of Central America, and the much-troubled country of Venezuela, which is probably in too much turmoil at present to receive any sort of visit. And he still has to visit Argentina, his homeland. Given that Argentina borders Chile, this surprising omission has drawn comment.

The Pope’s only surviving sibling, his sister Maria Elena, who is twelve years his junior, lives in Buenos Aires and is believed not to have seen him since he became Pope. On the other hand, the Pope is reputed not to be a fervent admirer of President Macri of Argentina, and there have been rumours that the two men do not get on personally or politically.

The politics of Argentina are pretty complex, to say the least, and where Pope Francis stands with regard to the various strands of Peronism is hard to determine. Pope Francis often clashed with President Kirchner, Macri’s predecessor, though later their relations seemed to have warmed. This is surprising, given Mrs Kirchner’s record on human rights, as well as her belligerence over the Falkland Islands. By contrast, President Macri is not a Peronist.

Is the Pope holding off from visiting Argentina until a new president is in power? Or is it possible, that having taken the trouble to renew his Argentine passport back in 2014, Francis is saving his return to his native land for the moment when he retires from the papacy and comes home for good, not as Pope but as a private citizen once more? Given his well-known love of surprises, I would not put that past him.



How Lack of Reverence for the Eucharist puts People off Catholicism

Patrick Madrid recalls the Mormon who told him: ‘I’ve never seen Catholics show awe. So I guess they don’t believe it’

Having referred to Patrick Madrid’s Life Lessons: Fifty Things I Learnt in My First Fifty Years (USUK) in my last blog, I have found it both so readable and so full of wise reflections based on his own experiences (which could easily be the reader’s experiences too), that I will highlight another chapter here.

Madrid relates that, as a full-time Catholic apologist, he was once giving a lecture on the Catholic faith when a Mormon in the audience asked if he could speak to him later on. During their conversation, which happened to be on the Eucharist and the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, the Mormon remarked, “I really don’t get the impression that most Catholics believe what you have just said about ‘the Eucharist’.”

Madrid was taken aback, commenting: “As a Catholic I figured that I’d know a whole heck of a lot better than what he, a Mormon, could possibly know about what Catholics believe, especially on something as central … as the Eucharist.” Then the Mormon explained that he had been to several Catholic weddings and to other Catholic Masses “And the Catholics I’ve seen there sure didn’t seem as though they believed in what you just said about Jesus being in the Eucharist.”

He went on: “I’ve seen Catholics going forward [for] Communion chewing gum… Some Catholics look pretty bored. I’ve seen some waving to others as they go forward.” Even after receiving Communion, “they look disinterested and indifferent”.

Naturally enough, Madrid began to feel very uncomfortable, realising that what the Mormon described was often the case and that “the generalised lack of respect for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that stems directly from the generalised lack of faith that he is truly present – was actually true.”

The Mormon repeated his earlier remark, saying: “I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything, but I just don’t think Catholics believe what you believe on this issue.” But what he said next was an even larger indictment: “If I believed what you believe… if I truly believed that it is really God himself and not just a symbol, I would fall flat on my face and be prostrate before it – him. I would be so overcome with awe and worship. And I’ve never seen any Catholic show that kind of respect. So… I guess they just don’t believe it.”

Madrid concludes that the Mormon “had spoken a terrible truth so clearly and with such devastating accuracy that it’s all I could think about for the rest of our discussion”. The “life lesson” he learned was that Catholics do not always edify and evangelise non-Catholics; indeed, “We can also dis-edify, discombobulate and de-evangelise them without ever trying… simply by dint of our sheer laziness and complacency and our lack of reverence for sacred things.”

At the end of every chapter Madrid adds the appropriate passage from Scripture that reflects the “lesson” he has learnt. Here it is “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). The Mormon’s remarks were a wake-up call to me, too. I have heard other people outside the Church make the same point: “If you Catholics really believed what you say you do…” What we purport to believe is awesome. Reverence and recollection at Mass should guard us against allowing it to become simply a routine weekly exercise.



How John Paul II can help us really pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart

A litany is a tricky form of prayer

In the mid to late 80s, Pope John Paul II took three summers and dedicated his mini-reflections at the public praying of the midday Angelus to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Polish pope drew his reflections from the Litany of the Sacred Heart (which you can pray with the podcast here from Aleteia’s editor-at-large, Elizabeth Scalia).

As I was reading through the first several reflections from John Paul, it struck me that a litany is a tricky form of prayer.

God himself provided us with the model for litanies in Psalm 136, as the refrain “for his mercy endures forever” is repeated in each verse. Then the Sacred Liturgy gives us a kind of mini-litany at each Mass, with the Kyrie (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy), drawn from much longer litanies of mercy in the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern tradition.

Litanies are calming, meditative prayers, helping us to really dwell on one or several key truths or petitions, letting them sink in to the heart and mind.

But the repetition can have the effect of dulling us to the depth and wealth of the truths we mention in the prayer. And hence it’s good, as St. John Paul II did, to stop and really consider each phrase.

For a long litany like the Litany of the Sacred Heart, it could be useful to dedicate a day to considering just one verse — or perhaps take the morning to dwell on one title, and then in the afternoon, move to the next one, and so on, until you’ve contemplated the whole litany.

When we stop to really think about what we’re saying, we can draw from the litany the consolation and grace God wants to give us.

John Paul II can give us a start. Here are translations of phrases taken from his reflections on some of the first few petitions.

Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.

“The infinite God has permitted that he be embraced by the Heart of a Man whose name is Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ. And through the Heart of the Son, God the Father also draws near to our hearts, and comes to them.”

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother, have mercy on us.

“Right now, we want to make this Heart the only custodian of our poor human hearts, of hearts tried in so many respects, oppressed in various ways.”

Heart of Jesus, infinite in majesty, have mercy on us.

“This Heart is the maximum closeness of God in relation to human hearts and human history. This Heart is the marvelous ‘condescension’ of God: the human Heart that beats with divine life; divine life beating in the human heart.”

Heart of Jesus, aflame with love for us, have mercy on us.

“A furnace burns. In burning, it sears away all that is material: brush or any other easily combustible material. The Heart of Jesus, the human Heart of Jesus, burns with the love that permeates it. And this love is love for the Eternal Father and love for men, for the adopted daughters and sons. A furnace, in burning, little by little goes out. The Heart of Jesus, instead, is an inextinguishable furnace. It resembles the burning bush of the Book of Exodus, that God revealed to Moses.”

Heart of Jesus, source of justice and love, have mercy on us.

“In You the Eternal Father has offered humanity the justice that is in the Most Holy Trinity, in God Himself. The justice that is of God is the definitive foundation of our justification. This justice comes to us through love.”


The text of the litany is here.

The reflections from John Paul’s Angelus addresses on the Litany of the Sacred Heart are compiled in this book.

By Kathleen N. Hattrup


What’s popular in Catholic circles? 7 Trends shaping the Church

“Winter is coming,” say numerous polls and studies on the Church, but here are some solid signs that we’re headed into a true spring.

I know what I have been told: In the United States, interest in the Catholic faith is waning, and statistics of baptisms, Mass attendance, and priests and religious prove it. By that telling, the future of the Catholic Church is bleak.

But I also know what I have seen. My circle of friends — and the student body at Benedictine College, where I work — is filled with families who have rediscovered their faith. I see Catholic youth events overflowing and am thrilled by all the seminarians I see in ours and nearby dioceses.

So, which is it?

It is hard to tell. On the one hand, immigration from Catholic countries is a significant factor, but on the other hand, immigrants tend to assimilate — just look at the Italian names on the mailboxes of a typical Connecticut neighborhood if you don’t believe me. In the same way, economic and technological trends are changing the world — but they don’t predict our future churches as well as they do our future careers.

So I listed out some places where the Church has energy and growth, starting with the phenomena that hit closest to home for me.

1: College campuses have seen a counter-cultural increased interest in the faith. Newman centers are thriving. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) capped years of growth by working with 25,000 students last year — up from 21,000 the year before, and an increase of 9,000, accounting for graduates, according to Curtis Martin in the organization’s 2016 annual report. FOCUS was founded at Benedictine College.

The board chairman of St. Paul’s Outreach is a Benedictine College alumnus, Bishop Andrew Cozzens. The organization’s 2016 annual report shows a 184-percent growth in student attendance at Bible studies, prayer events and retreats (2,300 students) over the past 10 years and 70 percent growth in reach on college campuses (17,000 students contacted through all the organization’s events).

2: ‘Newman Guide’ colleges. I asked Patrick Reilly at the Cardinal Newman Society if he sees a growth trend at the schools he recommends in his Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. “Some of the undergraduate enrollment increases are just phenomenal, including 75 percent over seven years at Ave Maria University and 70 percent over five years at Belmont Abbey College,” said a statement he sent me. “Benedictine College has built 10 new residence halls in the last 10 years. Christendom, Holy Apostles, Northeast, St. Gregory’s, Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More are all seeing their best years in student numbers.”

3: Classical education — elementary and secondary schools with a focus on the great works of Western Civilization — has been on the rise for years. One article noticed “The exponential growth of Classical Christian Education” with students rising from hundreds to hundreds of thousands over the past two decades.

Traditional Catholic high schools are declining, but new classical schools are seen as an “in-demand product.” Places like the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education — where Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron is a board member — are struggling to serve the growing market.

4: Home-schooling is another “education alternative” that has grown enormously, 61.8 percent in 10 years according to Department of Education numbers cited last summer by Business Insider. The National Catholic Register saw the same trend in Catholic home schooling.

5. In the business world, there are signs of increased Catholic growth. Membership in Legatus has been rising steadily for 30 years. Legatus describes itself as “the world’s premier membership organization for Catholic business leaders committed to learn, live and spread the Catholic faith.”

Catholic Marketing Network President Alan Napleton said the organization is returning to Chicago for its annual conference this July. “Our exhibitor attendance was up 4 percent and store attendance jumped 8 percent,” last year, he said. Ken Davison, owner of Holy Heroes, which provides faith formation materials to Catholic families, told me, “We see constant and accelerating increases in our email list.”

6. Catholic youth conferences have seen great success, also. World Youth Day saw 40,000 Americans register to attend in Krakow, Poland, last summer. The last European World Youth Day, 2011 in Madrid, attracted 29,000 registrants from the United States.

The National Catholic Youth Conference has grown steadily throughout its decades of existence — often by 1,000 or more a year — and now attracts 23,000 participants.

7. The renewal of the sacraments in general deserves notice here.

A decades-long effort to reform the English language liturgy and promote Eucharistic spirituality has produced great fruit. Eucharistic adoration has grown from availability in 715 chapels nationwide reported in 2005 to 1,100 in 2015. Pope Francis is promoting 24 Hours for the Lord events that combine opportunities for confession with Eucharistic adoration.

The Economist noticed the Latin Mass’s popularity in 2012 and USA Todaynoticed it in 2015. Meanwhile, the renewal of the English liturgy has transformed the Mass in its ordinary form, as well.

Fine — but couldn’t all of this be painting a false picture?

Yes, it could. The numbers in some cases may merely show increased activity in a shrinking remnant or they could reflect better marketing by a few institutions. But the number of indicators is impressive — and they aren’t the only signs of growth.

From 2005 to 2014, the number of Catholics grew faster than the population in America, according to the Vatican. In “America” (which includes North America and South America) the Catholic population grew 11.7 percent while the general population only grew by 9.6 percent.

What shape will the Church take in the future? It is growing in that direction already.

By Tom Hoopes


The symbolism behind Mary’s Immaculate Heart

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Many are familiar with the image, but what is the meaning behind it all?

Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is an ancient custom, tied to a passage from the Gospel of Luke that speaks of Mary’s heart, “(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).

By the 17th century the devotion became more widespread and at about the same time images of Mary with her Immaculate Heart rose in popularity.

The image appears to be simple, but the symbolism behind it is complex.

First of all Mary’s heart is visible outside of her body. This points to her undying love for all people. Her love is such that she can not contain it within. Some artists choose to depict the Blessed Virgin carrying her heart in her hand or simply pointing with a finger to her heart. The gesture suggests that Mary wants to give her heart to the one who is viewing the image.

Secondly, her heart is typically on fire, which emphasizes the intensity of her love for God and for humanity.

Next there are white roses that encircle her heart. These symbolize her purity, brought about by her Immaculate Conception, creating within her a most pure heart. In some cases her heart is also shown with a lily coming out of the top, also symbolizing her purity.

A single sword is sometimes added going through her heart, referring to the passage of Luke (“a sword shall pierce…”) and brings to mind the sorrows she endured during her lifetime, especially during the crucifixion.

Last of all, the heart is typically surrounded by rays of light. This brings to mind Revelation 12:1, where it describes the Blessed Virgin Mary as “a woman clothed with the sun.”

By Philip Kosloski


Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary always wearing blue?

The color has multiple spiritual meanings, each revealing a different attribute of the Mother of God.

When viewing Christian art from the past thousand years or so, there is one color that is almost always associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary: blue.

Why is that? What significance does it have?

To start off, the color blue has deep biblical roots in the Old Testament. According to Dr. R. Jared Staudt, the color is specifically mentioned as the color of the people of Israel in the book of Numbers.

Speak to the people of Israel, and bid them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put upon the tassel of each corner a cord of blue; and it shall be to you a tassel to look upon and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to go after wantonly. (Numbers 15:38-39)

For the people of Israel blue brings to mind the following of God’s Commandments, as opposed to a person’s selfish will.

This was perfectly lived out by the Blessed Mother who said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She was the faithful “Daughter of Zion” who fulfilled the call of obedience that God had asked of the Israelites.

Additionally, Numbers indicated that “the Levites are to ‘spread over [the Ark of the Covenant] a cloth all of blue’ (4:6). And further: ‘And over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue’ (4:7).”

Mary is traditionally referred to as the new Ark of the Covenant, as she held within herself the Divine Presence of God.

On the other hand, the Byzantine/Orthodox tradition of clothing Mary in blue has a different meaning.

Blue in iconography represents transcendence, mystery, and the divine. It is the color of the sky and as a result is viewed as a heavenly color.

Red in contrast is seen as an earthly color, the color of blood.

Jesus is typically depicted in icons with a blue outer garment and a red inner garment, symbolizing how divinity wraps his humanity.

Mary on the other hand is seen with a red outer garment and a blue inner garment, representing how she carried divinity (Jesus) within her humanity.

When Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego, she wore a blue-green mantel. According to the Knights of Columbus, “the star-speckled green-blue mantle symbolizes the heavens. In addition, the mantle’s color indicates her royalty, since only the native emperors could wear cloaks of that color.”

So blue is a very important color in the artistic traditions of Christianity and has deep spiritual meanings that bring out different attributes of the Blessed Mother. It is a sacred color, one that reminds us of Mary’s faithfulness and her privileged role in salvation history.

By Philip Kosloski


‘A saint for our times’ – the inspiring story of Chiara Corbella Petrillo

Chiara Corbella Petrillo lived a short life.

She met her husband Enrico Petrillo at age 18, became the mother of three children, and died at the age 28.

But what happened within those 10 years has touched the hearts of thousands across the globe. Chiara’s sainthood cause was opened last week, five years after her death. Her story is told in the 2015 book, “Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy,” published by Sophia Institute Press.

“In the story of the Petrillo couple, many people recognize a providential consolation from heaven,” said Simone Troisi and Christiana Paccini, close friends of the Petrillo’s who wrote the biography of Chiara’s life.

“They discover that in any situation, there is no real reason to be sad. This is because Chiara shows that if you have God as your guide, misfortunes do not exist,” they told CNA.

Chiara and Enrico married in Italy on September 21, 2008 after having met at Medjugorje in 2002. During the early years of their marriage, the young Italian couple faced many hardships together, including the death of two children, who both died only 30 minutes after birth.

Chiara became pregnant a third time with their son, Francesco. However, the joyful news of their pregnancy also came with a fatal diagnosis of cancer for Chiara. Her cancer was an unusual lesion of the tongue, which was later discovered to be a carcinoma.

Chiara rejected any treatment that could have saved her life during pregnancy because it would have risked the life of her unborn son. As the cancer progressed, it became difficult for Chiara to speak and see clearly, eventually making her final days on earth particularly excruciating.

“Her [Chiara’s] suffering became a holy place because it was the place where she encountered God,” Troisi and Paccini recalled.

Although many couples face hardships, Troisi and Paccini remembered something different about the Petrillos – they leaned on God’s grace which made their family particularly serene. They made peace with the reality that Chiara would never grow old with Enrico or watch Francesco grow up.

During Chiara’s last days, Enrico embraced God’s grace just as Chiara did, saying, “If she is going to be with Someone who loves her more than I, why should I be upset?”

Chiara died on June 13, 2012 at home in her wedding gown, surrounded by her family and friends. Although her earthly life was over, Chiara would continue to be a witness to joy.

Troisi and Paccini believe that Chiara’s legacy is still living on because she gave witness to the truth that “love exists.” Neither she nor Enrico were afraid of love, marriage, or of committing themselves to their family.

According to the authors, the young couple showed how “the purpose of our life is to love… to be married is a wonderful thing, an adventure that opens you up to Heaven in the home.”

Chiara and Enrico’s remarkable story is “a story of salvation in which God shows himself as a faithful God: they trust in Him and are not disappointed,” they stated.

However, they were quick to note that Chiara was not “an extraordinary young woman, in a way that makes her different from us.” Rather, she struggled with many human fears and anxieties, especially with thoughts of pain, vomiting, and purgatory.

“She had the same questions that we have, the same objections and struggles, the same fears,” Troisi and Paccini noted, saying what made her different was her “capacity to cast everything on the Father, to welcome the grace needed for whatever step she had to make.”

With Chiara, the ordinary always became the extraordinary. Troisi and Paccini have fond memories of everyday life with the Petrillos, when a conversation about cooking chicken would end in talking about heaven.

“We would share simple things like dinner, chatting, games on the rug with little Francesco… always very simple, without masks,” they remembered.

“But when we were together, there was no difficulty in believing that eternal life was here and now!”

Chiara has been called “a saint for our times.” Although her death was only five years ago, her legacy lives on and has inspired others around the world to be the same witness to joy.

“Today, this joy is visible in those that lived alongside her: even if they miss her, they experience a mysterious and profound joy,” Troisi and Paccini stated.

“We cannot insist enough on the fact that Chiara did what she did, not trusting in her own strength, but trusting in the grace and the consolation of God… She never doubted God’s faithfulness to His promise of happiness for her story.”

An earlier version of this article was originally published on CNA Dec. 2, 2015.

By Maggie Maslak


Euthanasia mindset looms over disabled baby’s legal fight, ethicist warns

Legal efforts to bar the parents of a British baby born with a disabling medical condition from seeking treatment overseas are based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics has warned.

“It seems to me completely wrongheaded that the state should be stepping in here when the decision that the parents are making is really aimed at the best interests of the child,” Dr. Melissa Moschella, a Catholic University of America philosophy professor, told CNA.

“It’s not crazy, it’s not abusive, it’s not neglectful. It’s the decision of parents who want to, however they can, to give their very sick child a chance for life.”

She said such a decision “should be completely within the prerogative of the parent,” citing the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to Moschella, that declaration “clearly indicates that the parents, not the state will have primarily responsibility.”

Charlie Gard, now aged 10 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, have wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

Their final legal challenge is presently before the European Court of Human Rights. The court has said Charlie must continue to receive treatment until its judges make a decision.

Moschella said the legal decisions favoring ending life support for Charlie are effectively “telling the parents that their child’s life has no value and that therefore they should cease any effort to heal him of his disease.”

These decisions represent a “quality of life” ethic and an ideology that say human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities.

“It’s the same ideology that underlies allowing euthanasia or physician assisted suicide,” she said. “That’s completely opposed to the Catholic view in which every human life has intrinsic value regardless of the quality of that life.”

Patiently waiting……..

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Charlie’s parents have raised more than $1.6 million to help seek experimental treatment for him in the U.S. Their decision faced legal challenge from Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he is being treated.

In early April, the baby’s hospital challenged their efforts. The hospital’s experts argued in court that long-term life support should be withdrawn from the baby because his quality of life was so poor.

Charlie’s court-appointed lawyer argued before a High Court judge that any treatments in the U.S. would be experimental and long-term life-support would only “prolong the process of dying.”

Charlie’s parents had their own legal representative in the case, who argued that travel to the U.S. for treatment would not cause the boy significant suffering or harm and could give him another chance.

Yates, Charlie’s mother, has argued that she would welcome any treatment that could help him live. She also suggested anything learned during an experimental treatment could help treat future babies who suffer from the disorder.

According to Moschella, who has a background in parental rights and medical ethics, said parental rights derive both from the “special intimate relationship” they have with their child and from their primary obligations to care for their own children. Interfering with their conscientious best efforts is akin to violating religious freedom, she said.

“It is a deep violation of conscience, when, without a very serious reason, the state prevents parents from fulfilling that conscientious obligation,” she said.

She noted that what Charlie’s parents are trying to do by helping secure extraordinary treatment is not ethically required by Catholic ethics.

“It would be perfectly morally acceptable should they choose to forgo seeking further treatment and take the baby off life support and allow him to pass away naturally due to the underlying disease,” the professor said. “But it’s also acceptable, on Catholic ethics, to do whatever you can to heal a person if you think that there’s any chance that a treatment could have a positive effect.”

She suggested that extraordinary treatment could be unethical only when “there is absolutely no hope of any benefit whatsoever” and the treatment is painful to the patient, or the treatment would take away “important resources that are needed to help other patients who could benefit.”

Moschella said there should only be legal intervention against the wishes of parents in cases “when there is a clear case of abuse or neglect or some significant threat to the public order.”

“Neither of those situations is the case here.”

By Kevin J. Jones

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