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Ukraine war: Catholics invited to join Pope Francis in praying rosary for peace

Pope Francis prays before Our Lady of Fatima May 13, 2015. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, May 26, 2022 / 06:42 am (CNA).

The Vatican is inviting Catholics to join Pope Francis in praying the rosary for peace in Ukraine and around the world at the end of the Marian month of May.

The pope will pray the rosary before the statue of Mary Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major at 6 p.m. local time on May 31.

“At the conclusion of the Marian month, Pope Francis wishes to offer a sign of hope to the world, suffering from the conflict in Ukraine and deeply wounded by the violence of the many wars still active,” the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization said on May 26.

It added: “All the faithful in every part of the world are invited to support Pope Francis in his prayer to the Queen of Peace.”

The pope will pray the rosary in union with Marian shrines around the world, including the Shrine of the Mother of God in Zarvanytsia, western Ukraine. They will be connected via video link to the live broadcast from Rome.

Pope Francis is expected to lay flowers at the foot of the Marian statue before reciting the rosary. The statue of Mary Regina Pacis, in the basilica’s left aisle, was commissioned by Pope Benedict XV to ask for the Virgin Mary’s intercession to end the First World War.

The sculptor Guido Galli depicted Mary with her left arm raised, commanding the war to end. In her right arm, she holds the Child Jesus, who is poised to drop an olive branch symbolizing peace.

Visitors often leave handwritten notes with prayers intentions at the base of the statue.

The statue of Mary Regina Pacis at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Fczarnowski via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The statue of Mary Regina Pacis at Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major. Fczarnowski via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Pontifical Council said that the pope will be accompanied at the basilica by children who have recently made their First Communions or received the Sacrament of Confirmation, as well as families from Rome’s Ukrainian community.

A Ukrainian family is expected to pray one of the decades of the rosary.

Pope Francis consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25.

Gunmen kidnap 2 Catholic priests in Nigeria

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara, who were abducted in Nigeria’s Sokoto diocese on May 25, 2022. / Father Chris Omotosho.

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Gunmen attacked a Catholic rectory and kidnapped two priests in northwest Nigeria on Wednesday.

Father Stephen Ojapah and Father Oliver Okpara were abducted after gunmen broke into the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Gidan Maikambo, in the middle of the night on May 25, according to a statement from the Diocese of Sokoto.

Two boys were also kidnapped along with the priests, according to Father Chris Omotosho, a spokesman for the diocese, reported ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner.

Omotosho, a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria, of which one of the abducted priests is also a member, appealed for prayers “for their safety and release.”

The kidnapping is the latest incident in a series of attacks that have reportedly targeted Church institutions in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

ACI Africa reported on May 14 that Muslim youths vandalized multiple Catholic churches in the area, including the Sokoto diocese’s Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, and the St. Bakhita Center.

The young people vandalized the churches in protest at the arrest of suspects in the stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu on May 12.

Yakubu, a young Christian woman who was studying economics at a college in Sokoto, was stoned to death and then burned by male students at the college who accused her of blasphemy.

She had reportedly testified that Jesus Christ helped her pass exams, and was then accused of making blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.

Bishop Wilfred Chikpa Anagbe of Makurdi, Benue State, issued a statement on May 20 questioning why the Nigerian government continued to remain silent amid persistent attacks in the West African nation.

Anagbe said that widespread terrorism by Islamist Fulani herdsmen in Benue State had made it nearly impossible to conduct pastoral visits in the area.

The bishop decried the silence of the international community amid the suffering of Christians in Nigeria.

“Sadly, we continue to draw the attention of the outside world to the plan by Islamists to Islamize Christian territories countless times with little or no attention paid to our cry and call for help,” he said.

“Sometimes it appears we have been abandoned to the mercy of the jihadists.”

A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner. It has been adapted by CNA.

Catholic pro-life student attacked at public school, school criticized for lack of protection

Sisters Vanessa Pagano (left) and Nichole Pagano, who are both students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School and attended an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally at the school in order to stand up for the unborn with a pro-life sign. / Vanessa Pagano.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 03:05 am (CNA).

Seven students have been suspended from Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey — and seven “extended detentions” given, with more disciplinary measures possibly to come — after a rowdy pro-abortion protest by students resulted in the physical and verbal assault of a sophomore holding a pro-life sign.

Jeffrey Moore, the school’s superintendent, acknowledged the “distressing” behavior of the pro-abortion students toward 16-year-old Nichole Pagano at a live-streamed school board meeting on May 23. But he was still severely criticized at the meeting for the way the situation was handled.

At the meeting, Moore gave a presentation about the unsanctioned protest, which took place on May 16.

“I want to reiterate, certainly the most distressing moments of this incident were in the behavior that was shown to counter-protesters who had arrived and those involved,” he said.

“Shoving, expletive-laden verbal aggression, vandalism to signs, signs were knocked over, thrown, kicked, all of those things that made this a most distressing and disrespectful scene and example of student behavior against a student there who showed up with another viewpoint.”

Nichole speaks out

Nichole told CNA on May 24 that when she and her senior sister Vanessa, both Catholics, saw around 200 students forming a pro-abortion protest in the middle of the school’s campus during class hours, they immediately felt a call to action: they needed to stand up for the unborn. And they did.

As Nichole walked around the protest holding a pro-life sign that said “Equal Rights For Babies in the Womb,” she was physically attacked and screamed at by students.

Nichole, of Readington Township, recalled: “There’s like 200 kids there and then all of a sudden they come surrounding us — mostly trying to come at me and attack me because I had the sign — and then they came at me all up in my face, verbally screaming at me, and physically even grabbed me and ripped me down.”

Nichole Pagano, 16, stands holding a pro-life sign at an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally that occurred at Hunterdon Central Regional High School May 16, where she was verbally and physically harassed while having her sign vandalized. Vanessa Pagano.
Nichole Pagano, 16, stands holding a pro-life sign at an unsanctioned pro-abortion rally that occurred at Hunterdon Central Regional High School May 16, where she was verbally and physically harassed while having her sign vandalized. Vanessa Pagano.

Nichole said that her 18-year-old sister was the only person protecting her, “trying to get these kids away from me and almost pushing them off of me, off my arm, and blocking them so they wouldn’t get my sign.”

Nichole said that after the protest she had scratches on her arm and legs, and her shoulder hurt. Her father, Michael Pagano, described the shoulder injury as being a “sore shoulder.”

Superintendent Moore said at the board meeting that some school and town police officers “were attached near that student so that she would have that presence nearby as we continue to work to dissipate the crowd.”

After he said this, someone could be heard yelling from the crowd: “That’s a lie!”

Nichole told CNA that the school’s principal Edward Brandt apologized to her at a school board meeting on the day of the protest. Moore also publicly apologized to her.

Referring to Brandt’s apology, she said that “it didn’t seem like too big of an apology, though. It kind of seemed like a quick, short, little apology. It didn’t seem very long and even that concerning.”

She added that after the apology, she “didn’t hear anything from anyone,” adding that the school didn’t contact her parents. Her father confirmed that no one had contacted him or his wife, Jennifer, as of May 25.

Nichole spoke publicly at the May 16 board meeting about the “hurtful” events that occurred that day.

She told CNA that when she saw the protest, she was baffled that students thought it was acceptable to protest in favor of abortion, especially in school.

“Like, do they really know what that is? I don’t think enough of them even know exactly what it is and how it works,” she said.

Nichole said that if she were to give other high school students advice on how to deal with similar situations, she would say: “You’ve got to just do what your heart says and what you believe in. You’ve got to do what’s right.”

“Even if it’s sometimes hard to do, you go to do it to make a stand and make a point.”

School board members scolded by the public

At the most recent school board meeting, the school’s handling of the situation was criticized multiple times, with one man even calling for Moore’s job termination.

The critical comments included a statement from New Jersey state assemblyman Erik Peterson, who represents the 23rd Legislative District, including parts of Hunterdon.

Explaining that he was present at the meeting “in solidarity with the parents,” Peterson said that Nichole “is the victim, not the ‘counter-protester.’ She was assaulted. It’s on video.”

“The problem, from my perspective, is the leadership,” he said. “These kids didn’t learn this on their own, they learned it here. And it starts with this board and the superintendent.”

Peterson called Moore’s presentation “disrespectful to everybody in this room and to this board, to everybody, and to the victim.”

Asked if the school had checked in with Nichole to ensure her future safety and well-being, a school spokesperson said in a statement: “We are deeply distressed by the behavior between students who engaged in verbal and, in a very small number of instances, physical aggression during this gathering.”

“Youth demonstrations have a long history of educating students toward civic-mindedness; however, the behavior in this demonstration was disrespectful and distressing enough to be an affront to that tradition of peaceful assembly and protest. We are investigating thoroughly and taking all appropriate disciplinary actions.”

The statement went on: “This demonstration brings us to serious reflection on the procedures we have for managing such events and, most especially, on the examples that we, as adults, are setting for our children.”

“The actions that they see taken by adults impact the actions that they believe to be appropriate and acceptable.”

“As we move to correct their behavior, we must work together to offer better object lessons. We must provide outlets for expression, but these need to be exercised with care, respect, and dignity for ourselves and one another. We need to teach these lessons of civil discourse to our children in much more deliberate ways, especially in these times.”

The statement concluded: “At Central, we will continue to insist on respect in all civic and political processes and hope that this contributes to a future in which there is better and more constructive civic participation. We are thankful for the partnership with our community in that effort.”

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

Ascension

Weekday (Saint Philip Neri)

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

Reading I Acts 18:1-8

Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus,
who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla
because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.
He went to visit them and, because he practiced the same trade,
stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
Every sabbath, he entered into discussions in the synagogue,
attempting to convince both Jews and Greeks.

When Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia,
Paul began to occupy himself totally with preaching the word,
testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
When they opposed him and reviled him,
he shook out his garments and said to them,
“Your blood be on your heads!
I am clear of responsibility.
From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
So he left there and went to a house
belonging to a man named Titus Justus, a worshiper of God;
his house was next to a synagogue.
Crispus, the synagogue official, came to believe in the Lord
along with his entire household, and many of the Corinthians
who heard believed and were baptized.

Responsorial Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

R.        (see 2b)  The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
or:       
R.        Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
            for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
            his holy arm.
R.        The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
            in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
            toward the house of Israel.
R.        The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
or:
R.        Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth have seen
            the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
            break into song; sing praise.
R.        The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
or:
R.        Alleluia.

Alleluia See Jn 14:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord;
I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 16:16-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“A little while and you will no longer see me,
and again a little while later and you will see me.”
So some of his disciples said to one another,
“What does this mean that he is saying to us,
‘A little while and you will not see me,
and again a little while and you will see me,’
and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”
So they said, “What is this ‘little while’ of which he speaks?
We do not know what he means.”
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them,
“Are you discussing with one another what I said,
‘A little while and you will not see me,
and again a little while and you will see me’?
Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The Ascension of the Lord

Reading I Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
            shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
            is the great king over all the earth.
R God mounts his throne to shouts of joy:  a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
            the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
            sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R God mounts his throne to shouts of joy:  a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
            sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
            God sits upon his holy throne.
R God mounts his throne to shouts of joy:  a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R Alleluia.

Reading II Eph 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might:
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

OR:

Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23

Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that men and women die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have
"a great priest over the house of God,"
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.

Alleluia Mt 28:19a, 20b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 24:46-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you;
but stay in the city
until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage
and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God.

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Nancy Pelosi's Communion ban will apply in Diocese of Arlington, bishop says

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington. / CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 21:21 pm (CNA).

The Communion ban in place within House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home diocese in California now extends to the Diocese of Arlington, located just outside Washington, D.C.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said Wednesday that he would respect the ban imposed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone last week because of Pelosi's staunch advocacy for legalized abortion.

“He is her bishop and as that bishop the direction and guidance he provides is not limited to just a geographical area,” Burbidge said on his diocese's "The Walk Humbly Podcast." His comments were first reported Wednesday by the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocese's newspaper.

Burbidge is the second U.S. bishop to announce that he will apply San Francisco Archdiocese ban in his own diocese. Bishop Robert Vasa said on May 20 that he would do so in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, where Pelosi reportedly attends Mass occasionally. At least a dozen U.S. bishops have publicly come out in support of Cordileone's action.

Bishop Joseph Strickland said on May 25 that Pelosi would be barred from receiving Communion in the Diocese of Tyler in eastern Texas.

He wrote on Twitter: "The concern for Mrs Pelosi’s eternal salvation extends to the Diocese of Tyler. She is barred from Communion here until she repents & stops advocating the murder of children. Pray for her heart to be turned to God & away from the power of this world."

Cordileone has stressed that his decision was "pastoral, not political." Burbidge said on the podcast that he views the issue the same way.

“I can’t say it enough, (these) decisions are made for the good of individuals to guard the faithful from scandal," which is caused when Catholics in public office take positions at odds with Church teaching," the bishop said, according to the newspaper's report. "That confuses people and a bishop has to guard against that."

Burbidge revealed that while he has not publicly announced that someone should not receive Communion in his diocese, "I have privately shared that directive with individuals who have continuously scandalized the Church by holding a personal Catholic identity while also publicly advocating for abortion or other inherent moral evils," the newspaper reported.

“All people, including those who are not public individuals, have to approach the sacraments truly in communion with the Church and Our Lord,” Burbidge said.

This report was updated at 05:32 MDT on May 26 with Bishop Strickland's comments

Spanish priest responds to Whoopi Goldberg on Nancy Pelosi and Communion

Nancy Pelosi (L) Whoopi Goldberg (R) / Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0) / David Shankbone (CC BY 3.0)

Lima, Peru, May 25, 2022 / 17:41 pm (CNA).

Actress Whoopi Goldberg defended what she considers the right to Communion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in wake of the decision of Archbishop  Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to deny her Holy Communion for her obstinate and public support for abortion.

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone wrote in a letter released to the public May 20.

The archbishop explained that for his decision to not take effect, Pelosi must  “publicly repudiate (her)advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.”

Goldberg said in a video posted on Twitter that "The abortion rights battle is starting to blur the lines between Church and State."

“The archbishop of San Francisco is calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be denied receiving Communion because of her pro-choice stance,” she said.

Addressing the archbishop, Goldberg exclaimed “This is not your job, dude! That is not up to you to make that decision! It’s kind of amazing. What is the point of Communion? Right? It’s for sinners. It’s the reward of saints but the bread of sinners. How dare you?”

Commenting on Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks, Father Juan Manuel Góngora, a Spanish priest who has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, said that “this lady is confused. Eucharistic communion is not a ‘right.’”

“Any priest can deny it when there are appropriate circumstances and it’s a gift that must be received in a state of grace. But of course, for the unwary, the story of victimization is more interesting,” said Fr. Góngora.

In Lumen gentium, its 1964 dogmatic constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council stated that bishops "govern the particular churches entrusted to them by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant ... In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate."

Archbishop Cordileone explained that his decision is in accord with Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law which states that “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” 

"Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi's position on abortion has become only more extreme over the years, especially in the last few months," the archbishop said in his statement.

The Archbishop of San Francisco also recalled that on Sept. 20, 2013, Pope Francis told a group of Catholic doctors that “Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”

Catholic community ministers to Texas shooting victims: 'God's love will prevail'

Parishioners mourn at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. On May 24, 21 people were killed, including 19 children, during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The shooter, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was reportedly killed by law enforcement. / Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

The local Catholic community is ministering to the victims of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. The Archbishop of San Antonio, along with priests in that archdiocese, sprang into action as soon as they learned of the tragedy.

“We're inviting people just to pray that love will prevail — that the love of God through us will prevail,” Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller told CNA.

García-Siller visited the hospital and the civic center in Uvalde, where the families of missing children gathered, on Tuesday. That evening, he celebrated Mass at the city's Catholic church, Sacred Heart.

Several of the victims and their families belonged to the Sacred Heart community, he told CNA, including two adults who were killed. Many involved in responding to the shooting attended the Mass: the person who dialed 911 from the school, the person who drove the children to the hospital, and a person who was tasked with taking photos of the victims’ bodies.

Their response came after a gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, located about 90 miles west of San Antonio. The incident is reported to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

The two adults have been identified as 4th-grade teachers: 46-year-old Irma Garcia, a mother of four, and 44-year-old Eva Mireles, a mother of one. News outlets such as NBC News reported their relatives as saying that the two died while trying to protect their students.

“I was able to meet the husband of one of the teachers who was killed, and the two daughters and son,” García-Siller said of Irma Garcia’s family.  

He met with them at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, as they waited to hear what had happened to the wife and mother. 

“The husband showed a lot of strength,” he told CNA. The three teenaged children, he said, were devastated. 

García-Siller described the other families at the center as very quiet, with some crying. He called the mood “very somber,” with everyone silently sitting on their own without engaging with one another. 

“So I asked them what we were able to do for them” and what they needed, García-Siller said. The only consistent request he received was for prayers and, in particular, “to pray for my child.” 

García-Siller described Uvalde as a tight-knit community, including a large Catholic community. He credited Sacred Heart for organizing the Tuesday Mass and setting up “the vision for how we can be of use, how we can be of help, to the larger community.”

“We have, already since [Tuesday], deacons, permanent deacons, priests, nuns, lay people, available for prayer, for counseling,” he told CNA, “which was the main thing the families directly affected asked for.”

“It's a lot of pain,” García-Siller described. “It’s just hard to communicate, or articulate the situation.”

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio on May 23, 2022. Youtube screenshot taken from Today’s Catholic Newspaper, a service of the Archdiocese of San Antonio

Next steps

“Today we're going back,” García-Siller told CNA on Wednesday. “We're driving back to Uvalde to be at the school where the shooting took place, at the civic center, at the hospital, and the parish.”

He will be present to say Mass and “to be all day with the people.”

Catholic Charities, García-Siller added, is providing counseling. And, he added, “We are opening an account to invite people to provide funds for all the funerals” and whatever the victims’ families need, including traveling expenses, lodging, food, and legal assistance. The archdiocese's Catholic Charities has opened an Uvalde Relief fund to aid those affected by the shooting.

The Bishop of Piedras Negras, located in Mexico near the border, will also travel to Uvalde. The two cities are connected, García-Siller said, since many of the people in Uvalde originally came from that city. 

The archbishop has also engaged teams of prayer. Before he drove Uvalde on Tuesday, he contacted prayer teams in San Antonio — teams that he calls from his office any time he has a need.

He revealed to CNA how he, personally, is dealing with the response. 

“You know that you are tired, but you don't recognize it because you're on the move,” he described. “I feel OK. As I said, this is a very community effort and so I don't feel in any way alone.”

Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller visits Uvalde, Texas, following the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Archdiocese of San Antonio.

A meaningful Mass

The archbishop told CNA that Catholics and leaders of other religions attended the Tuesday evening Mass at Sacred Heart. The Gospel, he said, told the story of when the disciples discouraged little children from approaching Christ. 

Christ responded by saying, “Let the children come to me,” García-Siller recalled, as the Kingdom of God belongs to them and people like them. 

He stressed the importance of the Mass and “to at least to know what we're doing, why we are doing it, having very clearly the presence of these families before us and knowing that our God will intervene and that God is present.”

Catholic priests take action

Father Jaime Paniagua from Del Rio and Father Matthew De León from Sabinal concelebrated the Mass at Sacred Heart, Aleteia reported. Like García-Siller, both Paniagua and De León traveled to a hospital in Uvalde and the civic center. 

They stayed at the hospital for hours, Paniagua said in a video shared by reporter Ashlee Burns of Caller.com and USA Today.

“We talked to the authorities, we talked to the staff, doctors, nurses. And we were able to visit at the ER with some of the wounded, with the families, with the kids,” he said. “In some of the cases, the parents hadn’t arrived yet. So we were there in the ER rooms with the doctor and the kid, and praying with them.” 

“We were present there as well when several families received the news of their kids being deceased,” he added, “being able to pray there for them.”

The victims Paniagua met with included a Border Patrol agent grazed by a bullet, a girl with a gunshot wound, and a girl whose face was injured from fragments, the Washington Post reported.

“She was very talkative, describing what happened, step by step,” Paniagua said. “When the shooting was happening, she held another girl’s hand, and they were screaming. Their teacher protected them, and they saw the teacher get shot.”

The priest said that he asked each injured child he enountered how they were doing and if they wanted to pray with him. 

“I experienced powerlessness, being there for six hours,” he said. “But God is almighty.”

Read Cardinal Sarah's commencement address at Christendom College

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, delivers the commencement address at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., May 14, 2022. / Christendom College

Denver Newsroom, May 25, 2022 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Addressing the graduates of Christendom College this month, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, focused on the virtue of practical wisdom, or prudence, "the crown of the virtues."

We are called "to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us," the cardinal said May 14 on the campus in Front Royal, Virginia.

"Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not."

During the commencement ceremony, Sarah was given an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Find below the full text of Cardinal Sarah's commencement address:

I. Introduction

"Christendom." The name of a Catholic college that unabashedly places Christ as its center. With a distinct mission to restore all things in Christ — instaurare omnia in Christo (Ephesians 1:10) —and to rebuild Christendom, so that our culture may be inspired again by Jesus Christ and what He left us. Today, I am honored to graduate from such a College. I am proud to be a member of the Class of 2022!

Fellow graduates: you leave today from Christendom College as confident and courageous disciples of Jesus Christ, having been equipped with a solid Catholic formation in an extraordinary time. Thank you to your parents, benefactors, the President, Faculty and staff of the College, who have made your formation possible. Formation that is open to the True, the Good and the Beautiful, wherever that is found, as enlightened by the truths of Divine Revelation as found in Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church. For those of you who have been here for at least four years, your formation at Christendom has been marked by a global pandemic, by the most divisive national election in the living memory of this country, and by the ongoing threat of major war in Europe for the first time since World War II. All along, the liquidation of God and moral relativism with the creation of false moral norms become ever more widespread. The Evil One is at work to sow confusion even in terms of our most basic identity as men and women, created in the divine image and likeness from the very first moment of conception in the womb of the mother — a demonic, spiritual revolt against what we have received from God, the gift of grace.

Every university exists to form its students for the challenges that they will face. For a Catholic college, like Christendom, that means having the courage to adhere to the faith of the Church, even if that contradicts the scheme of the modern world. If it recognizes what is in its nature to do, every university seeks to cultivate in its students the good habits of virtue, which fortify them for all the years ahead. The mission of Christendom College is precisely this. I quote: "The chief goal of the academic program is to form intellectual virtues in the students. Man is called not only to know the truth, but to love it, and to make it the formative principle of his life."

I hope that the extraordinary events of the last years have impressed upon your minds and hearts all the more deeply the beauty of virtue, the perennial value of firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good. You and I — all of us here — will need it. In the years ahead, we will all lean on the habits that we have formed, on the formation that we have received. It is the foundation of virtue, aided by grace, that allows us to perceive clearly and to respond generously to the persons and situations and opportunities that God places before us.

II.    Practical Wisdom

In the few minutes that I have to speak with you, there are two aspects of virtue on which I would like to reflect. Both concern the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom. I have deliberately chosen this topic as the focus of this Commencement Address, since the motto of Christendom College - instaurare omnia in Christo — entails precisely this: to sum up every aspect of creation in Christ, who is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). I expect that most of you will have spent some time while at Christendom getting to know the work of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to the Aristotelian and Thomistic tradition, practical wisdom is the crown of the virtues, which we attain supernaturally by grace, but naturally only after we have formed all the other moral virtues. These other virtues enable us to perceive clearly and to respond rightly to specific goods, such as wealth or health or honor. Practical wisdom, by contrast, enables us to integrate these goods, to discern how they fit together within each of our lives and in accord with each of the vocations given to us by God.

Practical wisdom, therefore, is key to our moral development. In the order of nature, the attainment of the natural virtue of practical wisdom is the culmination of our journey to moral maturity. In the order of grace, its perfection helps us to imitate Christ, to fulfill His command: "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). I pray that God bless every one of you with the wisdom that you will need in the journeys that commence today.

III. Taking Time for Deliberation

I said that I would reflect on two aspects of practical wisdom. The first is this: Practical wisdom enables us to make decisions. In the next weeks, months and years, you will be making decisions that change your lives and can change the world. Not just any decisions, but difficult decisions, decisions that draw upon multiple perspectives and multiple virtues, decisions that involve competing goods or conflicts of interest. When faced with such a decision, it is a virtue unto itself — or an aspect of practical wisdom — to understand how quickly or how slowly to arrive at a conclusion.

Noting this is of great help: You need not rush. Nor should you delay. How we arrive at the right balance, the right speed, is something that we learn through practice. We get better at making decisions, and at pacing our decisions, through practice and through listening carefully to the advice of our elders. For those of you who face great decisions on the horizon, and perhaps feel anxiety or stress about them, this advice might bring little consolation. But I shall not leave it there.

We can extract from Aristotle some more detail. He suggests that taking time for deliberation before we make a decision is itself a good, a good which we ought not overvalue or undervalue. He recommends that we deliberate slowly in most cases. First, he recommends that we give more time to more grave choices and less time to less grave choices. In other words, we ought not distract ourselves over lesser things, and fail to give adequate attention to what matters more and to what matters most.

Second, he recommends that we seek further clarity in a situation only to the degree that the field under consideration allows for it. For example, there was no way for any of you to guarantee ahead of time that the choice of Christendom would be the best choice of school for you. The process of choosing a school does not admit of such a guarantee. The choice of a school always involves a risk. Likewise, in any domain, we should respect the degrees to which we may attain certainty, on the one hand, or to which we must admit uncertainty, on the other. This point too saves us time and protects us from needless worry. It sharpens our deliberation and discernment.

Finally, Aristotle acknowledges that we do not always have the time that we might like for deliberation and discernment. Sometimes situations demand that we make decisions, even momentous decisions, quickly. It is in times like these that the value of the habits that we have formed and the formation that we have received is clearest of all. In these moments, when a decision is demanded of us, we fall back on what we have practiced. We fall back on the insights with which we have grown familiar and on the skills that we have developed over many years. It is then that we are most grateful for our firm and settled dispositions to know and love what is true and good.

This was the first characteristic of practical wisdom that I wanted to discuss: It is a distinct aspect of practical wisdom to understand how quickly or slowly to arrive at a conclusion in a given situation. You need not rush. Nor should you delay. This is a skill for each of you to acquire.

IV.    An Example of Practical Wisdom: St. Ignatius of Loyola

The second characteristic upon which I would like to reflect is not a systematic component of practical wisdom but a particular example of its appearance. It is an example both fitting and startling in light of our experience of the pandemic and comes from the autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I quote:

"At that time the plague was beginning to spread in Paris ... Ignatius [entered a house in which there were many corpses of those who had died of the plague, and he] consoled and revived a sick man he found lying there. When he had touched the wounds with his hand, Ignatius departed alone. His hand began to cause him great pain, and it seemed as if he had caught the disease. The fear that came upon him was so great that he was unable to vanquish and drive it away, until with a great effort he placed his fingers in his mouth, and for a long time kept them there, saying [to himself], 'If you have the plague in your hand, you will also have it in your mouth.' As soon as this was done, the illusion left him and the pain he had felt in his hand ceased."

After caring for a sick man, Ignatius worried that he too had been infected. If he had had a deeper understanding of bubonic plague, he would have known that infection would not have been indicated by pain in his hand. But that is beside the point. What is striking is his deliberate action. He puts what he takes to be his infected hand in his mouth. He does not want to fear infection. He prefers to have the infection, and to know that he has it, rather than to fear it. For us, after the enormous sacrifices made to reduce the spread of COVID, the action of Ignatius might appear utterly reckless, even offensive.

But his action brings to light something profound, or rather a series of profound insights. First, you are all familiar with the claim that virtue seeks the mean, the middle way between two extremes. In order to hit the middle, virtuous action must often overshoot its target. When we naturally incline to one extreme, such as fear for our own health, virtue must tend toward the opposite extreme, again and again, until what is truly the middle way becomes clear to us. What may appear to be an extreme action by St. Ignatius perhaps allowed him to find the mean. He feared that he had already been infected with bubonic plague. By his dramatic action, he did not expose himself anew but simply disciplined his own fear. He rebuked himself, prohibiting fear from troubling him, from discouraging him from tender care for the sick, and from distracting him from the work of God.

Second, Ignatius' action is decisive. Once he has spread the infection to his mouth, according to his own understanding of the plague, there is no turning back. Beforehand, he was greatly troubled. He could not contain his fear. Different goods, different interests pulled him in different directions. In those minutes or hours of anxiety, he must have undertaken some form of deliberation, as much as his overwhelming fear would permit — considering, on the one hand, the value of his health, his natural fear of death, his fear of suffering the agony of plague, and then, on the other hand, his vocation to service, the freedom to which God calls us all, and the judgment before God that awaits us after death. Once these factors were weighed and considered, he acted suddenly. No further deliberation was necessary. There was no need for delay. And by his action, the tension is resolved. He has made his choice.

This is the third insight that we can glean from Ignatius' account. Not only does virtuous action appear to be extreme at times, and not only is it decisive, it reveals a choice. Practical wisdom culminates in decision. It commits us to one path instead of others. And in so doing, it re-arranges the values in our lives. It reorders how they appear to us and how they appear to others. The choice of Ignatius to risk his life to overcome his fear affects us all. He presents to us courage and self-sacrifice and perhaps even a degree of foolhardiness as choice worthy and preferable to overwhelming fear of disease. Health is a legitimate good, which we ought to take care to preserve. So, the choice of Ignatius was not simply an act of courage. It was a decision of practical wisdom, aided by the supernatural perspective on life and death that comes from Christian faith. He shaped his life in that moment, and set before us all a startling manifestation of human choice and human virtue.

V.    Conclusion

It is to such action that we here today are called. Not necessarily to expose ourselves to disease. But to act contrary to the tendencies in ourselves and in others that obscure the middle way of virtuous action. To act decisively, after mature deliberation, so that we might live in the freedom that formation in virtue affords. And to reveal to the world by our choices the beautiful arrangement of the values that God integrates within each of us — in other words, to reveal the vocations that He gives to each of us. I propose to all of you to carry the account of St. Ignatius in your heart, knowing that God will call you, too, to surprising, startling, and decisive choices that will shape your lives and the lives of all around you.

We live in a time of crises — a time that demands of us decision after decision to respond to the immense challenges that we face and that will shape our lives and the lives of generations to come. I think of Saint Joseph, who is rightly called the "Terror of Demons," since he made decisions without delay in obedience to God's Word. At yesterday's Baccalaureate Mass, I invited you to take Mary "into your own home," "into your own affairs" and into every aspect of your lives. Today, I invite you also to "go to Saint Joseph." Ite ad Joseph. With the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph at our sides, let us rise to the challenge. Let us thank God for the formation that we have received. Let us consider carefully the deliberations that we must undertake and the array of challenges that we face, which are grave and which are not.

Our most profound deliberations and our clearest vision of what lies ahead come to us when our hearts rest in silence. Especially silence before the Lord in the Eucharist — either in the silence of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or in the sonorous thread of silence that runs through the Holy Mass. Before Him, in light of faith and in the grace of the sacraments, we receive the greatest help in confronting the crises that we face and in choosing rightly and in accord with His will. By recognizing the responsibilities to which we are called, and by taking the appropriate time to deliberate, especially in silence, and to respond to the challenges ahead with practical wisdom, we will fulfill our vocations and reveal to the world the beautiful constellation of values that God shapes within each of us in order to "restore all things in Christ" and so to rebuild Christendom.