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After needing a heart transplant, one woman’s rehabilitation became spiritual

Kathleen Anderson holds a photo of the woman whose heart was donated and transplanted into her. Anderson still keeps in contact with the woman’s family. / Credit: Isabel Cacho/Angelus News

Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 13, 2024 / 08:00 am (CNA).

For 70 years, Kathleen Anderson’s congenital heart disease had eroded her health and brought her to her knees in prayer. 

As she finally prepared to undergo a heart transplant, she paused to pray and hoped to find healing and respite when she emerged from surgery.

Although she awoke with a healthy new heart in her chest, the ordeal triggered a monthslong spiritual battle that caused her to cry out to God.

Today, Anderson says that God has physically — and spiritually — healed her heart and says that her Catholic faith, her commitment to prayer, and the support of others helped her to persevere. 

“My advice to those who are suffering is to never give up hope and to turn to Jesus, because he will give you the peace that you need,” said Anderson, a longtime parishioner of St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach, California. 

Anderson was born into a devout Catholic family and prayed the rosary every night with her parents, asking God to heal her heart. She went on to get married and have three children, even after doctors weren’t sure she could have kids because of her illness. 

With time, Anderson’s condition worsened. She had her first heart surgery at 52 and underwent additional procedures in the following years.

Ultimately, doctors placed her on Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s heart transplant list but warned her that it could take years for her to get a new heart. Having a heart transplant is also still fairly rare — 4,545 in the U.S. in 2023, according to tracking data — despite it being well known.

“I had faith,” she said. “I prayed. I said, ‘Thy will be done.’”

But that faith was tested with several letdowns. Twice, Anderson was called into the hospital to receive heart transplants but was turned down at the last minute. 

She was later told she was being removed from the transplant list as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold. She wasn’t sure when — or if — she’d be put back on the list but again clung to prayer and tried to accept God’s will.

In November 2020, she was called in for a heart transplant for the third time but didn’t think it would actually happen. 

“I was wheeled into the operating room and this time the doctor was all suited up,” she said. “He looked at me and he said, ‘Are you ready for battle?’ And I knew that it was time.” 

When Anderson awoke from surgery, she quickly realized that her battle would be more spiritual than physical — something that she did not expect.

She found that her new heartbeat felt “different.” She feared her body might reject her new heart. And she didn’t feel the “euphoria” that she thought she should feel. 

“I wanted to feel the happiness because I could see that everyone was so happy for me,” she said. “Instead I felt fear, confusion. Almost not knowing how to feel. Almost not feeling at all.”

Anderson returned home to a strong support system and supportive church community but still couldn’t shake her feelings. 

It took several months for her to rebound, but she remained steadfast in prayer and looked to the lives of the saints for inspiration and guidance.

“Little by little, I felt Jesus and I felt God helping me through all the prayers, through all the support,” she said. “And I started to feel that lifting. And I started to feel the joy.”

As the first anniversary of her heart transplant neared, she felt invigorated and grateful. 

She planned a big party at a park near her house to thank her supporters for their support, love, and prayers. COVID restrictions were starting to lift and she wanted to see everyone in person. 

“I didn’t want to just send notes,” she said. “I wanted to feel them, I wanted to touch them. I wanted to really let them know that I was here.”

Today, Anderson is 74 and has been married for 48 years. She is a grandmother of seven and has been active at her parish for more than 20 years.

She’s also struck up a friendship with her heart donor’s husband and two daughters. She visited them a few years ago in San Diego, where they spent several hours telling Anderson about their beloved wife and mother and sharing family photo albums with her. 

“It was a good meeting,” she said. “To this day, we still keep in contact.”

These days, Anderson is focused on teaching her grandchildren how to turn to God in good times and in bad. 

She’s also intent on sharing her story with others as a way to spread hope and healing. 

“My purpose is to reach out and to let people know what God did for me, what Jesus did for me, what people did for me,” she said. 

Those who know Anderson say she’s happy with life and goes the extra mile to help bring others to Christ. 

“It was such a bittersweet moment,” said Anderson’s daughter, Jaclyn Padgett, who also attends St. Cornelius. “Somebody lost their life to give a life and she’s held that very near and dear to her heart.

“She’s just got a sense of wonder and amazement about this gift. I think she truly feels like it’s such a gift for her to be able to continue living and to continue serving.”

Monsignor Jarlath Cunnane — known as “Father Jay” — pastor at St. Cornelius, describes Anderson as a dedicated parishioner who is involved in various groups and often speaks about her transplant and faith journey during parish retreats.

“I think her testimonies are always very impactful because of the depth of her sharing and the faith involved,” he said. 

Looking toward the future, Anderson said she’s trying to live in the moment and not worry about what tomorrow may bring. 

As always, she remains consistent in her willingness to follow God’s plan. 

“I now hold two hearts within me,” she said. “One physical, and one spiritual, sharing in the wonders of God’s glorious works. And I thank God every day.”

This story was originally published by Angelus News on July 8, 2024, and has been adapted and reprinted by CNA with permission.

Relics of Carlo Acutis and 6 saints coming to National Eucharistic Congress

A reliquary containing Blessed Carlo Acutis’ relic at a Mass at St. Dominic Parish in Brick, New Jersey, Oct. 1, 2023. / Credit: Thomas P. Costello II

Rome Newsroom, Jul 13, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Relics of Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Juan Diego, and five other saints will be available for veneration each day of the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis next week. 

Catholics attending the congress will have the rare opportunity to pray with the relics of Sts. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Manuel González García, Paschal Baylon, Junípero Serra, Juan Diego, and Blessed Carlo Acutis, as well as part of a relic from Chartres, France, known as “the Veil of Our Lady.”

Organizers announced that the relics will be displayed at a specially designated reliquary chapel within the Indiana Convention Center July 15–20 from noon to 6:30 p.m. each day, allowing the faithful to offer prayers of intercession and reflect on the lives of the saints who exemplified profound devotion to the Eucharist.

“From our Blessed Mother through Blessed Carlo Acutis, the Eucharist has been at the center of the lives of all saints, and these particular patrons can inspire us to share in their closeness to Our Lord, present in the holy Eucharist,” Father Eric Augenstein, the reliquary chapel coordinator for the congress, told CNA.

Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. First-class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone, and second-class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items).

Catholics venerate relics for the sake of worshipping God, as St. Jerome described in “Ad Riparium” in 404 A.D.: “We venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” 

The Church has documented medical miracles that have occurred when people have prayed with relics, including the miracles that led to the approval of Acutis’ upcoming canonization.

Here are the Eucharistic saints whom people can encounter at the National Eucharistic Congress:

St. Manuel González García

Known as the “Bishop of the Abandoned Tabernacle,” St. Manuel González García (1877–1940) was a bishop amid the Spanish Civil War known for his profound devotion to the Eucharist. After his episcopal ordination in Seville, he said: “I desire that in my life as a bishop, as before in my life as a priest, my soul should not grieve except for one sorrow which is the greatest of all, the abandonment of the tabernacle, and that it should rejoice for one joy, the tabernacle, which does not lack company.”

On his tomb in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Palencia Cathedral, it is written: “I ask to be buried next to a tabernacle, so that my bones after my death, like my tongue and my pen in life, may always be repeating to those who pass by, ‘Jesus is here! Jesus is here! Do not leave him abandoned!’”

First-class relics of St. Manuel González García’s bone, blood, and hair are being brought to Indianapolis from Spain by several sisters who are members of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth, a community he founded.

Blessed Carlo Acutis

A relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis’ heart (pericardium) from Assisi, Italy, will be on display in the congress reliquary. The Italian teenager who died in 2006 is known for his devotion to the Eucharist and his passion for technology. He called the Eucharist “my highway to heaven” and used his computer skills to catalog Eucharistic miracles from around the world. Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 15, Carlo offered his suffering for the Church and the pope. Pope Francis has put forward Acutis as an example for young people and recently approved his canonization as the first millennial saint, expected during the Catholic Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year.

Acutis’ Eucharistic Miracles Exhibit will also be on display in the Indiana Convention Center each day of the congress. 

St. Paschal Baylon

St. Paschal Baylon was born on the feast of Pentecost in 1540 in Torrehermosa, Spain. A humble shepherd who joined the Franciscan order as a lay brother, he was known for his deep piety and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Despite his lack of formal education, he was revered for his wisdom and spirituality. He was canonized in 1690 by Pope Alexander VIII and declared the patron saint of all Eucharistic congresses and associations by Pope Leo XIII.

A relic of Baylón’s mummified finger is provided to the Eucharistic congress from the Shrine of All Saints in Chicago.

St. Junípero Serra

St. Junípero Serra was a Franciscan missionary who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the California mission system. The missionary saint from Mallorca, Spain, arrived in Mexico in 1749 and later moved north to found the first nine of 21 missions in California, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in 1769. His efforts significantly influenced the spread of Christianity in the American West. Pope Francis declared Serra a saint in the first canonization on U.S. soil in 2015. 

St. Juan Diego

St. Juan Diego is best known for his encounters with the Virgin Mary, who appeared to him as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531. The Virgin Mary instructed Diego to build a church in her honor, leaving her image miraculously imprinted on his tilma as proof. The Mexico City basilica that now houses the tilma has become one of the world’s most-visited Catholic shrines. Pope John Paul II beatified St. Juan Diego in 1990 and canonized him in 2002.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

A pioneer in American Catholic education, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American to be canonized as a saint. Seton was born into an Episcopalian family in New York City in 1774. After her husband's death, she converted to Catholicism and founded the Sisters of Charity, the first American religious community for women. She established schools and orphanages, laying the foundation for the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. 

The Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis provided Seton’s relic for the congress.

The Veil of Mary

A piece of a relic of the Veil of Our Lady from the Chartres Cathedral in France will be displayed for veneration at the National Eucharistic Congress. The veil, also known as the Sancta Camisa, has been preserved and venerated in the Chartres Cathedral since the 10th century. This piece of the veil belongs to Holy Rosary Church in Indianapolis and is on loan for the congress. 

The Shroud of Turin

Visitors to the National Eucharistic Congress will also have the chance to see a replica of the Shroud of Turin, which is part of an educational exhibit on display in the Wabash Ballroom Three of the Indiana Conversion Center each day of the congress. 

Eucharistic adoration

Eucharistic adoration will be available 24 hours a day throughout the congress at St. John the Evangelist Church next to the Indiana Convention Center starting at 9 a.m. on July 15 and concluding at 9 a.m on July 21.

“The Eucharist we receive and adore today is the same Jesus who was received and adored by these great saints, and so many others before us. We are united to the Communion of Saints most intimately through the Holy Eucharist,” Augenstein said.

More than 100 years after Fátima, New Jersey Knights of Columbus promotes similar message

A handful of LOFRON resolution members stand outside of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Trenton, New Jersey. It was here where they recited the Prayer of Consecration of America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on July 4, 2022. / Credit: LOFRON

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 13, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

During the apparitions that took place between May and October of 1917 in Fátima, Portugal, Our Lady revealed to three shepherd children the importance of penance, praying the rosary, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart, among other things.

Now, more than 100 years later, a local Knights of Columbus group from New Jersey hopes to spread a similar message across the United States.

The Living Our Faith to Restore Our Nation (LOFRON) resolution was officially approved this past March by the Knights of Columbus Order of the Fourth Degree. Now, the group is looking to expand outside of New Jersey and across the nation.

LOFRON first began in 2020, when members of the Knights of Columbus St. Elizabeth Council No. 2393 in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, held Zoom sessions to discuss the state of the country.

“We were terribly frustrated with what was going on in the country and a growing secular culture,” said Matt Porraro, a Knight and founding member of the resolution.

Citing the inclusion of God throughout the Declaration of Independence and several of the Founding Fathers’ practice of Christianity, Porraro shared the group’s desire to combat secularism by putting “God back into everyday society, everyday language, and everyday messaging. He has been put off to the side in today’s society, and we have to bring him back.”

Calling themselves a nonpolitical “spiritual militia,” members of this resolution aim to “bring our nation closer to God and his holy mother Mary” by pushing for a yearly rosary procession and consecration of the United States to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In hopes of gaining more momentum beyond a state level, the LOFRON movement — which currently consists of about a dozen members — has partnered with the National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Asbury, New Jersey.

Founded in 1947 and decreed as the World Apostolate of Fátima in 2005, this shrine’s mission is to “help people learn, live, and spread the message of Our Lady of Fátima in communion with the Church and in concert with the new evangelization.”

The National  Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, located in Asbury, New Jersey, hosts “Mary-thon” events on the 13th of the months of May through October each year to commemorate the Fatima apparitions. Credit: Megan Pritchard/The National Blue Army Shrine of our Lady of Fatima
The National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, located in Asbury, New Jersey, hosts “Mary-thon” events on the 13th of the months of May through October each year to commemorate the Fatima apparitions. Credit: Megan Pritchard/The National Blue Army Shrine of our Lady of Fatima

To recognize the anniversaries of each Fátima apparition, the Blue Army Shrine hosts annual “Mary-thon” events on the 13th of the month from May through October. For its July 13 event, the shrine will host Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and Father Joshua Caswell for a rosary, Mass, and Eucharistic procession, among other things — and LOFRON will play a significant role.

Following the noon rosary procession with a pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fátima, Burke will bless the LOFRON resolution as group members place a crucifix, American flag, and U.S. Hopkinson flag into stands around the shrine’s pavilion.

Burke will then recite the Prayer of Consecration of America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which dates back to Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States and archbishop of Baltimore.

Carroll, whose cousin was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also known for his regular correspondence with President George Washington and efforts to further advance the Catholic Church throughout the United States.

“We’re just so tremendously honored to have [Burke] read this prayer,” said David Carollo, a member of the LOFRON resolution and executive director of the World Apostolate of Fátima.

Carollo expressed the significance of this prayer and movement today, telling CNA that “we’re at a point in this country and beyond even in the world, and in our Church, where we’re afraid to live out our faith.”

“Secularism has become more prominent, similar to Our Lady’s warning of the errors of communist Russia,” he said. “The essence of communism is atheism, or taking God out of the equation. So that’s what we’re dealing with today, having put aside a Catholic basis and accepting a secular vision for the country and world.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke says a “Mary-thon” Mass at the Blue Army Shrine in a previous year. He will bless the LOFRON resolution and recite the Prayer of Consecration of America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on July 13, 2024. Credit: Megan Pritchard/The National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima
Cardinal Raymond Burke says a “Mary-thon” Mass at the Blue Army Shrine in a previous year. He will bless the LOFRON resolution and recite the Prayer of Consecration of America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on July 13, 2024. Credit: Megan Pritchard/The National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima

Carollo continued: “St. John Paul II said in the 1980s that Fátima ‘is more important now than in 1917.’ Well, I contend that the Fátima message is even more relevant today than it was when he said that 40 years ago.”

“Our resolution and initiative with the Knights of Columbus matches our apostolate. We are here to spread the message of Fátima, which is to live in accord with the Gospel,” Carollo continued. “[The Knights] serve as Our Lady’s Blue Army, as the Church’s soldiers who help to save souls. That’s what the whole Fátima message is. Are you willing to offer your lives, Our Lady told the shepherd children, in prayer and reparation for the conversion of sinners?”

Echoing this sentiment was Sgt. Robert Bartlett, whose family’s military service dates back to the Battle of Valley Forge and who began practicing his Catholic faith following a near-death experience in Iraq in 2005.

As a member of the LOFRON movement, he cited the resolution as being a means to “restore the nation back to the reverence of God.”

“We need to push politics aside. Our message is clear in bringing attention to praying the rosary and consecrating ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Bartlett told CNA. “This can’t be a one-off instance. [LOFRON] would like to see an annual consecration bring about true conversion, with people in this country turning their lives back to Christ. That’s all that matters.”

Crediting their efforts to “God and the Holy Spirit,” members of the LOFRON resolution also expressed hope in turning their New Jersey initiative into a nationwide one.

“We want to make separate chapters and committees in different states,” said Tim Bradshaw, one of the resolution’s founding members. “We’d like to see the Knights, under the Order of the Fourth Degree, go to their states’ organizations and do what we’ve done here in New Jersey.”

Carollo mirrored this desire ahead of the Blue Army Shrine’s “Mary-thon” event: “This needs to be a national movement, something that needs to reach everybody. [LOFRON] wants to save this country by bringing it back to God — we have an obligation to do so.”

Those who wish to view the “Mary-thon” events can either access the Blue Army Shrine’s livestream or tune into EWTN’s television coverage of the Mass on July 13 at 6:30 p.m. ET. 

St. Henry II, the German king who became patron of the Benedictine Oblates

The Regensburger Domspatzen, a choir based at Regensburg Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany. / Credit: Bistum Regensburg

CNA Staff, Jul 13, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

On July 13, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Henry II, the German king who led and defended Europe’s Roman Empire at the beginning of the first millennium. 

Henry was born in 973 to Henry the Duke of Bavaria and Princess Gisela of Burgundy in the village of Hildesheim, Bavaria. During his youth, he received both an education and spiritual guidance from a bishop who also went on to become a saint — St. Wolfgang of Regensberg. This greatly impacted Henry and influenced his reign. 

Upon the death of his cousin Otto III in 1002, Henry succeeded him as king. Pope Benedict VIII crowned him Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1014. 

During his reign, Henry shared his faith by rebuilding churches that had been destroyed, building monasteries, and supporting them with both money and land. The king also helped the poor by making generous contributions for their relief.

According to historians, many people committed themselves to God and to follow the Rule of St. Benedict by uniting themselves to famous monasteries. Henry was one of them. Tradition states that he wanted to become a Benedictine and lived as an Oblate.

Benedictine Oblates are men and women, both lay and ordained, who seek God by striving to become holy in their everyday lives, in their family, and in their workplace. Oblates offer their lives to God through prayer and service and faithfully participate in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. 

Henry showed such love and veneration for the Benedictines that he was declared a patron of the Benedictine Oblates after his canonization by Pope Pius X. 

In 1006 Henry founded the See of Bamberg and built its cathedral. It was consecrated by Pope Benedict VIII in 1020. During this time, Henry also established a monastery at Bamberg and supported the reforms initiated by the monks of Cluny in France.

During the last several years of his life, Henry suffered from a serious illness and another ailment that left his left leg crippled. He found strength in prayer during these challenging times. He died near Gottingen, Germany, on July 13, 1024, at the age of 51 from a chronic urinary infection. He was buried at the Cathedral of Bamberg.

Pope Eugene III canonized Henry in 1146.

Charlie Rodríguez, first contemporary beatified layman in the Americas

Known as “Charlie” — abbreviated to just “Chali” in his most intimate circle — from childhood Carlos Manuel “Charlie” Rodríguez exuded a gift and zeal for communicating the tremendous value and vitality of the Catholic faith. / Credit: "The Church in Puerto Rico"/EWTN Screenshot

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 13, 2024 / 04:00 am (CNA).

July 13 marks the feast day of a dynamic, enthusiastic Catholic layman from the Caribbean who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Known as “Charlie” — abbreviated to just “Chali” in his most intimate circle — from childhood Carlos Manuel “Charlie” Rodríguez exuded a gift and zeal for communicating the tremendous value and vitality of the Catholic faith.

“He lived according to the maxim ‘the zeal of your house has eaten me up,’” recalled renowned Puerto Rican endocrinologist Dr. Francisco Aguiló, who was among the young people indelibly impacted by Charlie’s apostolate at the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) main campus in Río Piedras in the 1950s and early 1960s. 

“That’s the way he always insisted the Christian should feel for his Church, understood as the mystical body of Christ, as well as for the Liturgy, the life of the Church,” added Aguiló in his 1994 book “A Puerto Rican Saint?” (“¿Un santo puertorriqueño?”).

Aguiló, along with his wife, UPR chemistry professor Carmen Delia “Delí” Santana, were both instrumental in spearheading the effort that led to Charlie’s canonization cause. In his book, Aguiló chronicles Charlie’s short but fruitful life, including the “calvary” and “dark night of the soul” he suffered before dying in “odor of sanctity” of cancer in 1963 at age 44.

The chronic colitis that plagued Charlie throughout most of his life and impeded the completion of his studies at UPR did not impede him from either attaining remarkable intellectual heights or, more importantly, sharing his engaging experience and knowledge of the faith with others. 

“Never did we see him so openly happy as when he referred to the psalm: ‘Our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joy,’ — and immediately described the feeling of the Israelite with the heart and lips filled with joy as he approached Zion,” members of the Carlos M. Rodríguez Circle (his former disciples), led by Aguiló, would testify later in the process leading up to his 2001 beatification. “And he would tell us of the greater joy of one who, having sown in tears, was content to reap his harvest in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

He was known to be a voracious reader. By making the most of his innate capacity and extraordinary memory, he became a self-taught Catholic intellectual in his own right. His thought was deeply influenced by the writings of such saints and luminaries as St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross, St. Charles de Foucauld, Cardinal John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, and St. Edith Stein. 

Impact of his teaching

Charlie centered his catechetical labor not on apologetical questions but on communicating to others the personal and collective efficacy of the liturgical life of the Church. His primordial concern was to stimulate laypersons’ full understanding of — and participation in — the holy sacrifice of the Mass and all the events and spirituality that takes place in the life of the Church throughout the liturgical year.

Charlie intensely promoted the Easter Vigil as the defining moment of Christian spiritual life. He emphasized the definitive triumph of Jesus Christ in the redemption of human beings and the world, made manifest by Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead.

In this 2001 poster, artist A Vonn Hartung features various symbols that project the core joy, serenity, and spirituality of Blessed Carlos Manuel "Charlie" Rodriguez. Credit: Courtesy of A. Vonn Hartung
In this 2001 poster, artist A Vonn Hartung features various symbols that project the core joy, serenity, and spirituality of Blessed Carlos Manuel "Charlie" Rodriguez. Credit: Courtesy of A. Vonn Hartung

Using well-developed bilingual skills in Spanish and English obtained while attending Catholic schools both in his hometown of Caguas and nearby San Juan, for example, Charlie translated “Of Sacraments and Sacrifice” and “Preparing for Easter by Father Clifford Howell, SJ. 

The liturgy was of great interest to him, but not merely for its externals. “Charlie made us understand that the true meaning of ‘liturgy’ comes from its Greek roots: ‘leiton’ (people) and ‘ergon’ (work). It is the most important work for the people: the redemptive action of Christ and its continuity in the Church,” members of the Carlos M. Rodríguez Circle later testified.

Father Oscar Rivera, the abbot of St. Anthony Monastery in Humacao, Puerto Rico, who served as adviser to the Carlos M. Rodríguez Circle, notes that the Christ and paschal-centered spirituality that characterized Charlie and his students was at the time “unique in a great part of the Church, not only in Puerto Rico, but in the entire world.” 

Rivera also observes that Carlos Manuel was the prototype of a proactive layman. The way in which he advocated innovation within the established doctrine and tradition of the Church, Rivera adds, “constituted a challenge to both laypersons and religious, a challenge which continues to hold validity.”

University apostolate

The most impactful years, in the 1950s and early 1960s, of Charlie’s lay apostolate took place at the University of Puerto Rico, where his brother Pepe and his sister Haydee worked as professors.  

During most of this time, Charlie was working as an office clerk at the UPR’s Agricultural Experiment Station. Together with a handful of other professors and students, Charlie met with Father Antonio Quevedo, SJ, to discuss the need to revitalize the campus’ Catholic University Center. Then, as now, there was widespread, palpable hostility among many faculty members toward the Christian worldview in general and the practice of the Catholic faith in particular. Some professors were even known to yank Catholic medals off the necks of students. 

With the full support of Quevedo, Charlie took the lead in organizing the Christian Culture Circle at the Catholic University Center. In its statement of purpose, the Circle, which aimed to help its members become genuine, apostolic Catholic intellectuals, affirmed: “We need Catholics who live in the present, who are awake to the current moment and who at the same time know how to use all the good of the present without falling into modernism. Catholics who are nourished from both the past and present, but with their eyes on the future … Catholics who know how to make the most of the time at hand, and who know that the ultimate and most transcendent development has been manifested to them through the sacraments.”

Communication of the Christian life

Through the organization of discussion and study groups, coupled with days of reflection, social activity, and the virtually single-handed publication of materials such as the magazine Christian Culture, during more than a decade’s worth of apostolic work at the UPR’s Catholic University Center Charlie dedicated himself to communicate — to students and professors alike — the vitality, coherence, and relevance of the faith. 

More than half a dozen religious vocations were the fruit of his labor, including those of his brother Pepe and sister Haydee. 

The portrait of Carlos Manuel Rodríguez featured at his beatification by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on April 29, 2001. Credit: Vatican Media
The portrait of Carlos Manuel Rodríguez featured at his beatification by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on April 29, 2001. Credit: Vatican Media

Promotion of cause

Although Charlie’s disciples would continue to meet sporadically in the years following his death, it wasn’t until 1987 — the year that Pope John Paul II declared the “Year of the Layman” — that the group decided to organize, with the enthusiastic approval of Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez of the Archdiocese of San Juan, the process leading up to Carlos Manuel’s canonization. 

The Circle’s feelings for Charlie were summed up by professor Santana, who stated: “I hope he will be canonized, not for his benefit but because the Church needs models of contemporary sainthood, especially of laymen who have not done anything extraordinary in this world, but who have done ordinary things with a great love for God and his Church.”

Approval of miracle

Following an intense investigative process both in San Juan and in Rome, in 1997 Pope John Paul II declared Carlos Manuel “Venerable.” This title was the result of having confirmed that he had lived all the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) as well as cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) in a heroic manner.

In November 1999, medical authorities in San Juan and in the Vatican confirmed that in 1981 — seven years before the initiation of Carlos Manuel’s canonization cause — Delí, who had been diagnosed with malignant lymphoma, had been suddenly and completely cured, and that in the absence of a medically-grounded reason for the cure, the only explanation that remained was the pleading for Charlie’s intercession by Aguiló.

His future canonization as a full-fledged saint now awaits the certification of a second miracle.

The example of Charlie’s beatification has subsequently helped stimulate the promotion of the canonization of other exemplary lay and religious throughout the world. The beatification of this humble, winsome contemporary lay apostle is, without a doubt, a well-deserved distinction for Puerto Rico and a source of inspiration for Catholics everywhere.

House Democrats ask accountability office to investigate pregnancy center funding

null / Tatiana Vdb via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 12, 2024 / 17:55 pm (CNA).

Two House Democrats who serve on the Oversight and Accountability Committee are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the funding of pro-life pregnancy resource centers.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the committee’s ranking member, and Rep. Maxwell Frost sent a letter to the GAO requesting the government watchdog conduct a study showing how much federal funding pregnancy resource centers receive. The duo sent the letter on Thursday, July 11.

Pro-life pregnancy centers offer a variety of material goods and life-affirming services to women who are pregnant and struggling mothers who have young children. This includes diapers, baby formula, ultrasounds, health care services, and education classes. According to a report from the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, 2,750 pro-life pregnancy centers provided nearly $368 million worth of goods and services in 2022.

The two Democrats wrote to the GAO that they are “concerned” about the pregnancy centers, which they claimed operate with an “ultimate motive, often achieved through deception, misinformation, and intimidation, … to prevent people from accessing abortion care.” The pair accused the centers of providing “biased, limited, and scientifically inaccurate information” to patients.

The letter argues that the pregnancy centers, who do not perform abortions and do not refer women to abortionists, “have been found to delay access to medically legitimate prenatal and abortion care.” 

Pro-life pregnancy centers have been eligible for federal funding since 1996. The Democrats asked the GAO to determine how much federal funding pregnancy centers have received in that time frame and how much funding has changed from year to year.

The lawmakers also requested that the GAO investigate which programs pregnancy resource centers have received funding from. They also asked the GAO to look into how the centers track their spending of federal money and how the funding is audited.

Pro-life pregnancy centers have become the target of pro-abortion politicians in recent years, particularly since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which allowed states to restrict or prohibit abortion.

In May of this year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued pro-life pregnancy centers based on allegations that the organizations misled patients about the abortion pill reversal drug. Lawmakers in some states, including Illinois and Vermont, passed laws that sought to restrict the speech and advertisements of pro-life pregnancy centers. The Illinois law was blocked by a judge and the Vermont law is currently being challenged in court.

Pro-life pregnancy centers and other pro-life organizations have also faced attacks from pro-abortion activists since the Supreme Court decision. This includes vandalism, such as arson, smashed windows, and graffiti. Law enforcement has failed to locate and charge most of the perpetrators.

At Conservatism Conference, panel challenges philosophy of church-state separation

Speakers at the panel discussion "Separation of Church and State Has Failed" at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., July 9, 2024. / Credit: Tyler Arnold/CNA

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2024 / 17:25 pm (CNA).

A panel at the annual National Conservatism Conference challenged the efficacy of a strong separation of church and state in the United States — calling into question the conventional wisdom of many thinkers on both the political left and the political right.

“A good society educates the young to look above … and not just below,” R.R. Reno, the editor of the Christian ecumenical journal First Things, said during the July 9 panel at the conference, held in Washington, D.C.

Reno, the only Catholic on the panel, argued the case that Catholics should not fear efforts to dismantle the separation of church and state but should rather “rejoice over … [the] demise of extreme secularism.”

The other panelists were Timon Cline, who is Presbyterian and the editor of the American Reformer; Josh Hammer, who is Jewish and an editor at Newsweek; and Josh Mitchell, who is Protestant and a professor of political theory at Georgetown University.

Panelists, who were speaking at a breakout session titled “Separation of Church and State Has Failed,” discussed some efforts in Republican-led states to peel away at the hard barrier that separates church and state in the country. 

Those efforts include Bible literacy bills proposed in some state legislatures, a new Louisiana law that requires public schools to display the Ten Commandments, and a new Florida law that allows public schools to hire religious chaplains for counseling students.

All of these bills have faced legal challenges from advocacy groups that claim the legislation violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause. That clause reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s ruled on several cases related to the establishment clause. The high court took a hard-line interpretation of the provision as creating a strong barrier between church and state, citing a letter from Thomas Jefferson that called for a “wall of separation” between the two.

Reno argued that Catholics should oppose this interpretation and that it should be revisited by the Supreme Court. “Justice [John] Roberts, tear down that wall,” Reno said in a reference to Ronald Reagan’s famous order to Mikhail Gorbachev regarding the Berlin Wall.

Under the strict interpretation of separation, Reno warned that “even the slightest hint of public support for religion would be a violation.” This, he argued, impedes a state’s duty to promote the general welfare of its population, which includes a duty “to promote religion.” 

According to Reno, “a free society” requires “moral citizenry,” and embracing the ideology of secularism at the federal level “undermines the American tradition of well-ordered liberty.”

“Our duty to honor and serve God is not [simply] a revealed truth,” Reno said, noting that all societies have historically recognized the importance of serving a conception of God or gods.

“It’s a truth of natural law,” Reno explained, arguing that the “true nature of that God is revealed in Scripture.”

Reno, along with Mitchell, made that case that federally imposed secularism is not true neutrality in matters of religion. Rather, Mitchell argued, society has embraced “incomplete religion,” which seeks to take the place of Christianity.

The incomplete religion adopted in the United States, Mitchell posited, is “identity politics,” in which there is an “oppressor” class and an “oppressed” class, where the oppressed is “never guilty of anything, no matter how many laws they break” and there is “an unpayable debt of the transgressor [that] must be reckoned with.”

Mitchell contrasted identity politics with Christianity, in which humanity’s sin breaks them from God and Christ’s death on the cross and Resurrection from the dead restores human nature and provides an opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. In the secular religion, he warned, “there is no forgiveness.” 

“We already have an established church,” Mitchell said. “... Politics and religion have become one.”

Mitchell noted that every society that has abandoned Christianity has embraced an “incomplete religion,” such as the Atheistic Cult of Reason following the French revolution, which oversaw widespread atrocities against Christians, and the Soviet Union’s imposition of atheistic communism and its persecution of Christians following the Russian revolution.

“After Christendom does not come secularism,” Mitchell said.

Hammer, meanwhile, argued that the solution is not to get rid of the ruling class but “rather we are trying to replace the ruling class with our people.” He said those efforts include building up competing institutions but also trying to make inroads in established institutions.

According to Hammer, secularism can be fought with good statescrafting. 

Similarly, Cline noted that good laws can affect culture, just like bad laws have. As an example of a bad law affecting culture, he noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s imposition of legalized homosexual civil marriages on every state, noting that now “marriage is a moot point” and “no one talks about it.”

The National Conservatism Conference, which is a project of the Edmund Burke Foundation, was held in Washington, D.C., from July 8 through July 10.

Catholic Relief Services mobilizes supplies after hurricane ‘rips through’ Caribbean

An empty street as Hurricane Beryl hit Kingston, Jamaica, on July 3, 2024. Beryl caused widespread damage in several island nations as it crossed the Caribbean and then hit the city of Houston. / Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 16:55 pm (CNA).

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said this week it is mobilizing humanitarian supplies after the extremely powerful Hurricane Beryl blew through the Caribbean, killing numerous people and destroying or damaging thousands of buildings. 

Beryl, which struck in late June, was the earliest-forming Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean. Its wind speeds peaked at about 165 miles per hour and affected areas ranging from Barbados to Canada before dissipating this week. 

A Catholic Charities group in Texas said this week that it was coordinating aid in that state after the hurricane made landfall near Houston. 

CRS, meanwhile, said in a press release that it was partnering with aid workers in the Caribbean to respond to the devastation left in the hurricane’s wake. 

The monster storm “swept a destructive path” through Barbados, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Grenada, and Jamaica, CRS noted, leaving at least 10 dead there and thousands seeking refuge. 

Cristopher Lopez, a technical adviser on CRS’ Humanitarian Response Department, said in the release that homes in the region suffered widespread devastation. 

“The rains and winds have ripped off roofs, cars are under water and many communities have lost power because of all the fallen trees,” he said.

Low-lying areas were swept by flooding and swells, CRS noted, while mountainous areas were hit by high winds. 

Lopez noted that the devastation “has been no impediment for the youth volunteers” in the region “who have been trained in first aid and search and rescue” and who are assisting partners in the area. 

CRS said it was working with Caritas Grenada to address the crisis there; around 1,600 people are in shelters, the organization said, with that number “expected to double” due to widespread building damage. Caritas Antilles is also working at distributing emergency aid. 

The emergency response crews will determine overall emergency needs before coordinating distribution of “shelter supplies; food and cash assistance; hygiene kits and sanitation supplies; and long-term support for home repairs and rebuilding and infrastructure restoration,” CRS said.

Gun found in abandoned suitcase before papal visit to Trieste, Italy

Pope Francis travels between the conference center and Unità d’Italia Square in Trieste, Italy, with a golf cart during his pastoral visit to the northern Italian city on July 7, 2024. In Trieste, the pope addressed around 1,200 participants in a Catholic conference on democracy for the annual Social Week of Catholics. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 12, 2024 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis’ security had to be reinforced during his visit to Trieste, Italy, on July 7 due to the discovery of a pistol inside an abandoned suitcase at the city’s train station. The pope traveled to and from the city by helicopter.

According to the Italian press, less than 24 hours after the arrival of the Holy Father, all the alarms went off after the police discovered a Czech-made semiautomatic pistol inside the suitcase.

The discovered weapon, a 9 mm handgun with a magazine containing 14 bullets, was inside the suitcase along with two pairs of shoes and clothing of Turkish origin still bearing the labels.

The Carabinieri (Italy’s security agency) acted immediately and informed the authorities in charge of Pope Francis’ security during his participation in the 50th Social Week of Catholics so that they could increase protection measures.

The pope made the trip to participate in the annual event organized by the Catholic Church in Italy dedicated to promoting Catholic social doctrine.

In a statement to Il Piccolo — Trieste’s main newspaper — the city’s bishop, Enrico Trevisi, said the pontiff was aware of what happened and “was calm” at all times.

In fact, the prelate was informed about the weapon by the Holy Father himself, who despite the situation decided to continue with the trip.

Trevisi noted that the citizens of Trieste “welcomed the pope’s arrival with great joy, and we don’t want this joy to be disturbed by other thoughts” and invited them to “treasure the pope’s words.”

Pope Francis’ visit to Trieste continued normally and without additional incidents, although the intelligence and anti-terrorism unit continues to investigate a possible connection between the weapon and the Holy Father’s visit.

Although they have not yet determined the identity of the suitcase’s owner, the station cameras show a man 5 feet 9 inches tall with a dark complexion who looked around before leaving the suitcase and exiting.

When consulted by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said this is a matter that concerns “the Italian authorities.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Catholics in Africa want Nigeria withdrawn from ‘pro-LGBT, pro-abortion’ Samoa agreement

A map of Nigeria. / Credit: Shutterstock

ACI Africa, Jul 12, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

Catholic activists under the umbrella organization CitizenGO Africa are calling on the Nigerian government to withdraw from the Samoa agreement, a contentious document they say seeks to promote abortion and LGBTQ ideologies in the West African nation.

In a petition launched on Tuesday, July 9, the members of CitizenGo Africa — which advocates for the promotion of family values — say there have been widespread debates in Nigeria compelling the government to withdraw from the agreement that is perceived to undermine the fundamental cultural values of Nigerians.

“The calls for Nigeria to withdraw from the agreement reflect a deep-seated concern for protecting the country’s legal framework, cultural integrity, and fundamental values,” the activists say in the petition.

In addition, they say the push for Nigeria to withdraw from the agreement “is grounded in a staunch belief that the terms and provisions of this pact pose a threat to the Nigerian legal system, sovereignty, and values.”

According to CitizenGo, “the provisions within the agreement have been critiqued for their potential to undermine Nigeria’s autonomy and impose foreign ideologies that are incompatible with Nigerian society.”

In the petition, the activists go on to highlight sections within the agreement that they say undermine African cultural values.

“One of the principal contentions against the Samoa agreement revolves around Article 2.5, which mandates that the signatory parties must actively promote a gender perspective and ensure gender equality across all policies,” the activists say.

They further explain: “Critics argue that the term ‘gender equality’ is a guise that conceals a broader agenda that includes the legitimization of practices such as homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism, and abortion.”

CitizenGo Africa says critics further contend that the use of the term “gender” in the agreement “is problematic, as it diverges from the constitutional definition in Nigeria, which explicitly uses the term ‘sex’ instead.”

This deviation, the activists say, “is seen as a deliberate attempt to introduce concepts that are culturally unacceptable and morally repugnant in Nigerian society.”

CitizenGo Africa further refers to Article 29.5 of the agreement, which they say “calls for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, education, and the integration of reproductive health into national programs.”

“Critics argue that the vague language used in this article masks more controversial practices such as abortion, LGBT services, and the promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE),” they explain.

“This ambiguity raises concerns about the potential influence of the Samoa agreement in shaping the socio-cultural landscape of Nigeria, particularly regarding sensitive issues related to sexuality and reproductive health,” they continue.

In addition, CitizenGo Africa says that Article 36.1 on the importance of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and Article 36.2, which commits parties to implement the Beijing Declaration and the International Conference on Population and Development, seek to impose foreign values on citizens of Africa’s most populous nation. 

“Critics view these provisions as a potential gateway for the imposition of foreign ideologies and values that run counter to Nigeria’s cultural norms and sovereignty,” the activists say.

“The reference to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ in these articles is particularly contentious, as it has been associated with promoting LGBT rights, sexual orientation, and gender identity, which are sensitive issues in Nigerian society,” they say.

In their petition, the CitizenGo Africa members also point out that the agreement extensively mentions human rights but needs to offer clear definitions for what these rights entail.

They say the ambiguity in elaborating on the rights therein “has raised suspicions about the underlying intentions of the agreement and its potential implications for the legal and social landscape of Nigeria.”

“Critics argue that the vague language used in the agreement leaves room for interpretation that could result in the infringement of fundamental rights and values enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution and international human rights instruments,” they say.

CitizenGo Africa says the pressure from European countries on Nigeria to sign the Samoa agreement has been seen as a form of neo-colonialism.

“The attempt to coerce Nigeria into agreeing to terms at odds with its cultural beliefs and legal framework has been met with resistance from those who advocate for the protection of Nigerian identity and autonomy,” the Catholic activists say in their petition.

“The refusal to bow to external pressure and prioritize the preservation of Nigerian sovereignty has emerged as a central argument in favor of withdrawing from the Samoa agreement,” they say.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA's news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.