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Friendship and from-scratch food served up at Fr. Solanus’ soup kitchen

Detroit, Mich., Nov 18, 2017 / 12:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s a Franciscan custom to give food - even if that’s just a simple sandwich - to anyone who comes to the door hungry.

Beloved Capuchin friar and doorkeeper Father Solanus Casey, set to be beatified Nov. 18, knew the custom well, and had a desire to feed anyone who came to the door of St. Bonaventure monastery in Detroit.

"They are hungry; get them some soup and sandwiches," Fr. Solanus would often tell his fellow friars.

The need became especially great in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. That’s when Fr. Solanus had the idea to start a soup kitchen down the street from the monastery, where he could send anyone who came to the door looking for food.

“In time the lines grew to more than 2,000 people waiting for their single meal of the day. The friars knew they had to do more,” the Capuchins explain on their soup kitchen website.

To expand their ability to feed and serve people, the friars turned to the Secular Franciscans in their community. Together, they worked to gather, cook and serve meals at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which is still operating out of multiple locations in Detroit today.

The soup kitchen just down the street from the monastery is a rebuilt version of the original site founded by Fr. Solanus Casey.

Today, Alison Costello is the head chef at the soup kitchen, and she runs a tight ship. Friday, November 17 may have been the day before Fr. Solanus’ beatification, but it was a bustling day at the soup kitchen just like any other.

Coney dogs were on the menu, along with mixed green salad and roasted potatoes. Once Chef Alison got a breather, she sat down with CNA to talk about her philosophy as the head chef.

“This is a holy place, you have to treat it like a church,” Costello told CNA. So there are some rules: Don’t cuss. Dress modestly. Recycle.

A practicing Catholic herself, Costello came onto the staff of the soup kitchen about 17 years ago, “burned out” from the hectic hours of the regular restaurant industry. She was familiar with the Capuchins and saw the soup kitchen chef role as an opportunity to serve those in need.

“I knew I had to boost up the nutrition levels of the food here because most of our folks have a compromised immune system,” she said, “and I have to be culturally sensitive at the same time.”
 
While the guests at the soup kitchen are a diverse crowd, the majority at this particular location are African Americans, who tend to have similar genetic health problems and nutritional concerns.

“So when I started, I knew I couldn't’ just serve brown rice, I had to serve white rice as well. Or our salad couldn’t be just iceberg, it turns out that our guests really liked the bitter greens, and so I brought in spring mix salad. Our soups started to be made from scratch, and I make purees, which they had never seen, like I make a roasted red pepper puree,” Costello said. Her puree is very popular with the guests.

She has told other chefs that it doesn’t matter “if people are paying customers or they’re sitting there smelling (badly), they deserve to eat well.”

Talk to almost anyone at the Capuchin soup kitchen, and they’ll tell you the reason they continue to come there, whether as a guest or as a volunteer, is because of the community atmosphere.

Frank Shorter, who was pouring water into vases on Friday, said he originally started volunteering at the soup kitchen as part of a probation program, but he stayed because he got “addicted to helping people” and enjoyed the friendly environment at the kitchen.

Margie Coleman is a longtime volunteer with the soup kitchen, whose husband is a parishioner at Sacred Heart parish in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit.

“I love working with the people, it’s always a good time, I’m having a blast,” Coleman told CNA.

“You never know what you’re going to run into here, and I keep learning new tips and tricks for cooking, and I’m just having a good time. It’s all about service and giving back to the people,” she added. “Fr. Solanus was all about helping his fellow man, and I feel the same way.”

Margie’s husband Mark often works right alongside her in the kitchen. He said Fr. Solanus’ example teaches us that you don’t have to be academically smart to make a difference in the world.

“I got the sense that he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the closet,” because he struggled with seminary classes, Mark said. “But he actually was a much more powerful light, once you kind of dug into him, which I think is a real testament to him as an individual. Just because you’re not the brightest person in the world doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful impact on the world.”

Today, the Capuchin soup kitchen not only serves food, it also provides showers to those who need them, as well as social services. It is connected to a Capuchin-run urban farm, which provides much of the produce for the kitchen.

“People should come experience it for themselves,” Costello said, “and what a community this is and what a witness the friars are. I have enjoyed every day...that I’ve been here, the camaraderie, the family, we have our family here,” she said, thinking of guests or volunteers that they’ve grown close to over the years.

Costello added that she was “honored” to follow in Fr. Solanus’ footsteps at the kitchen. The quality she most admires in the friar’s legacy is his humility.

“I think Solanus would want people to know you can be an extraordinary person by doing ordinary things,” she said.

Legion of Christ responds to 'Paradise Papers' claims of offshore accounts

Rome, Italy, Nov 18, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Reports about the Legion of Christ’s offshore accounts date to the time of its disgraced founder and do not apply to the religious institute today, a spokesman has said.

“Today the Legion of Christ does not own offshore companies nor does it own resources in offshore companies,” Legionaries of Christ spokesman Father Aaron Smith told Vatican Insider.

“The companies, in Bermuda, Panama, Jersey and Virgin Islands, to which the articles refer, were created at the time when Father Marcial Maciel was general manager and then were closed,” he said.

According to Smith, the offshore companies were managed “in compliance with the law and were not shell companies used for illegal activities.”

Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli, writing at Vatican Insider, summarized several reports on the topic

These reports drew on the Paradise Papers, a collection of 13.4 million documents on various entities’ offshore finances that were reputedly obtained in a computer hack of the offshore law firm Appleby. The collection covers six decades, through the year 2014.

The documents were leaked to a German newspaper and shared with a network of journalists, including the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The documents began to be released Nov. 5.

Based on these documents, the Italian television program Report and the weekly magazine L’Espresso had reported that the International Volunteer Services company had been set up in Bermuda to protect the millions in revenues from the Legion’s education institutes. The alleged $300 million in revenues were said to come from the fees of more than 160,000 students around the world.

The first offshore company created, The Society for Better Education, was reportedly founded in July 1992. L’Espresso claimed the money was “secretly moved abroad and managed by Father Maciel personally, who rigidly controlled his collaborators.” The offshore network’s Rome address was the headquarters of the Legion in Italy.

L’Espresso had said that the Caserta Children’s Village would have suffered a $33 million loss through money going abroad.

Smith, however, said it was false to claim that over $300 million had been channeled annually through the International Volunteer Services company.

His comments contradicted L’Espresso's claim that the Legion’s offshore network had not been fully closed. It had claimed that some companies that opened in the 1980s in Panama are still registered, as are some in the British crown dependency of Jersey off the coast of France.

Smith cited a 2014 statement from the Commission for the Study and Review of the Economic Situation of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ which said there was “no misappropriation of money or other irregularities in the annual audit.”

Legionaries-backed activities today “have societies that allow them to operate in compliance with the laws in force in those countries where they carry out their pastoral mission,” Smith said.

The educational institutions “have no relations” with offshore companies and work “transparently,” are audited, and “comply with the legal and tax provisions of the respective countries,” Smith said.

He denied any links between the Caserta Children’s Village and offshore companies.

The Legion of Christ was long the subject of critical reports and rumors before it was rocked by Vatican acknowledgment that its charismatic founder, Fr. Maciel, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The Vatican congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.
 
From that point, Pope Benedict carried on a process of reform for the Legion of Christ, a process continued under Pope Francis.

As of 2016, the institute had 963 priests, 1,650 male religious, and 121 parishes. Its associated lay movement is Regnum Christi.

Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.

“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.

This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.

Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”

“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”

Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican's new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”

The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.

Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”

This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.

He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”

Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome  to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.

Again quoting from the Vatican's healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”

He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”

Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.

Pope: not everything technically possible is morally acceptable

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.

“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”

Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican's old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.

Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.

In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.

The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.

In the bible the course of man's anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”

Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.

This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”

Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”

Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.

Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”

In this regard, he said it's necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom”  and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.

He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.

The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.

“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can't go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.

Pope to Ratzinger Prize-winners: a symphony of truth

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the recipients of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize in Theology on Saturday morning. Catholic Professor Karl-Heinz Menke of the Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn, Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, share the Prize this year, which Benedict XVI established in 2010 as the leading international award for research in Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental theology.

Broadening horizons of the Ratzinger Prize

This year, therefore, marks the first time in which the Prize is given to someone not engaged in strictly theological endeavor.

When the prize-winners were announced in September, the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, said, “Benedict XVI’s appreciation for the art of music and the highly religious inspiration behind the musical art of Pärt, justified the attribution of the prize also outside of the strictly theological field.”

Click below to hear our report

In remarks to the roughly 200 guests, including the prize-winners and officials of the Ratzinger Foundation on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “I welcomed with joy the idea of ​broadening the horizon of the [Ratzinger] Prize to include the arts, in addition to the theology and sciences, which are naturally associated with it.” He went on to say, “It is an enlargement that corresponds well with the vision of [Pope emeritus] Benedict XVI, who so often spoke to us in a touching manner, of beauty as a privileged way of opening ourselves to transcendence and to meeting God.”

Ecumenical focus

The Prize this year also had an ecumenical element.

In addition to Pärt’s Orthodoxy, the year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran movement in Christianity, and Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter one of the three recipients.  “The truth of Christ,” said Pope Francis, “is not for soloists, but is symphonic: it requires docile collaboration, harmonious sharing.” The Holy Father also said, “Seeking it, studying it, contemplating it, and transposing it in practice together, in charity, draws us strongly toward full union between us: truth becomes thus a living source of ever closer ties of love.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “[C]ongratulations, therefore, to the illustrious prize winners: Professor Theodor Dieter, Professor Karl-Heinz Menke and Maestro Arvo Pärt; and my encouragement to [the Ratzinger] Foundation,” so that, “we might continue to travel along new and broader ways to collaborate in research, dialogue and knowledge of the truth. – a truth that, as Pope Benedict has not tired of reminding us, is, in God, logos and agape, wisdom and love, incarnate in the person of Jesus.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope calls for common good, ethical responsibility in science, technology ‎

"Science, like any other human activity, has its limits which should be observed for the ‎good of ‎humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” Pope Francis said on Saturday.  “The true measure of progress, as ‎Blessed ‎Paul VI recalled, is that which is aimed at the good of each man and the whole man,” the Pope told some 83 participants in the plenary assembly of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.  The participants met the Pope at the conclusion of their Nov.15-18 assembly which discussed the theme, “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology.” 

Click below to listen to our report:

Incredible advances

The Pope said, the Church wants to give the correct direction to man at the dawn of a new era marked by incredible advances in medicine, genetics, neuroscience and “autonomous” machines.  Speaking about the incredible advances in genetics, he noted that diseases that were considered incurable until recently have been eradicated, and new possibilities have opened up to “programme” human beings with certain “qualities”. 

Not all the answers

The Pope said that "science and technology have helped us to further the boundaries of knowledge of nature, especially of the human being,” but they alone are not enough to give all the answers. ‎“Today,” he explained, “we ‎increasingly realize that it is necessary to draw from the treasures of wisdom of ‎religious ‎traditions, popular wisdom, literature and the arts that touch the depths of the mystery of ‎human ‎existence, without forgetting, but rather by rediscovering those contained in philosophy and ‎theology.‎”

Church teachings

In this regard, the Pope pointed to two principles of the Church’s  teaching. The first is the “centrality of the human person, which is to be considered an end and not a means.”  Man must be in harmony ‎with creation, not as a despot about God's inheritance, but as a loving guardian of the work ‎of the Creator.‎

The second principle is the universal destination of goods, including that of ‎knowledge and technology. Scientific and technological progress, the Pope explained, should serve the good of all humanity, and ‎not just a few, and this will help avoid new inequalities in the future based on knowledge, and prevent widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.  The Holy Father insisted that great decisions regarding the direction scientific research should take, and investment in it, should be taken together by the whole of society and should not be ‎dictated solely by market rules or by the interests of a few.‎  And finally, the Pope said, one must keep in mind that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is ethically acceptable. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Life of African-American priest told through play 'From Slave to Priest'

The life of Father Augustus Tolton already reads like a novel and now it is immortalized on stage with the new play "Tolton: From Slave to Priest," produced by St. Luke Productions from Battle Ground, Washington.

Enjoy the time of your life

Spiritual Reflections: Pity those who refuse to get involved. Given much, they choose not to enjoy it. Unlike servants who respond with gratitude for the opportunities they receive, the unwilling see everything with suspicion.

Today's murals reflect growing diversity in Northern Ireland

The murals serve as a reminder of the contrast between past and present. Less sanguinely, they also call attention to the ominous possibility that the past may not be wholly past.

Pope prays for sailors aboard missing submarine

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is offering his “fervent prayers” for 44 Argentinian sailors aboard a submarine that has been missing since Wednesday.

In a telegram sent addressed to the Bishop Santiago Olivera, the head Military Ordinariate of Argentina, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin noted the Pope’s concern for the sailors and expressed the Pope’s spiritual closeness to the families of the sailors, and to the military and civil authorities of the nation. He also noted the Holy Father’s encouragement for the efforts being made to find the vessel.

“His Holiness entrusts them to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin, “ Cardinal Parolin said, and “he asks the Lord to instill in them spiritual serenity and Christian hope in these circumstances, in pledge of which he cordially imparts the comforting Apostolic Blessing.”

(from Vatican Radio)