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Fort Wayne-South Bend priest will plead guilty to sex abuse charges 

Father David Huneck, who has has agreed to plead guilty to two felony charges of child seduction and sexual battery. / Whitley County Sheriff's Department

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 7, 2022 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Father David Huneck, a former high school chaplain in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, has agreed to plead guilty Jan. 27 to two felony charges of child seduction and sexual battery after six allegations were brought against him for sexual crimes committed against both a 17 and a 19 year old girl.

The other four misdemeanor charges -- contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and two counts of battery -- would all be dropped if the court accepts the plea agreement. 

According to the plea agreement, which has the possibility of being amended before the change of plea hearing on Jan. 27, Huneck’s sentence for child seduction would amount to one year with between 10 and 90 days to be served in jail. The court will address the conditions and rules of the remainder of Huneck’s one year sentence during the hearing.

The sentence for sexual battery would also be between 10 and 90 days served in jail concurrent to his first sentence. A concurrent sentence allows Huneck to serve both sentences simultaneously, so he would only have to serve his longest sentence. 

During sentencing, Huneck is able to request that his felony charges be counted as misdemeanors. The agreement also includes the possibility of Huneck serving his jail time on work release.

A probable cause affidavit shows that Huneck, 31, invited the two girls to his home on two separate occasions, in which he got intoxicated and groped and sexually harrassed the girls multiple times. The girls knew Huneck from their time at Bishop Dwenger High School, while he was chaplain. He was ordained in 2018.

The first night, Jun. 30, 2021, Huneck invited the girls to celebrate his birthday with cake. Huneck offered them alcohol, which they accepted. They did not become intoxicated, the affidavit said. 

Huneck then became seriously intoxicated and began groping the older girl, despite her efforts to slap his hands away. He then asked the older girl about her sexual encounters and inquired if she would have sexual encounters with him. He became so intoxicated, he lay down on the kitchen floor. While the two girls assisted him to his bed, he pulled the younger girl into bed with him and groped her, to which she asked him to stop. Huneck fell asleep, then the girls left. 

The girls said they returned to his home the second time because he apologized for his misconduct and had several normal encounters with him after the first night. Both girls considered him a spiritual advisor, friend, and central figure in their faith and were willing to forgive him. The older girl, however, said she “would not forget,” the affidavit says. 

Their Sept. 17 visit was similar to the first. Huneck offered the girls alcohol and invited them to watch a movie. They accepted. Huneck became intoxicated and began groping the older girl. He then exposed himself to the two girls. The two girls then left. Huneck then texted the older girl the next day apologizing, adding that he may be relegated to the “bad priest list.”

In a Sept. 28 statement, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said it immediately referred the incident to authorities when it was made aware of the abuse. Huneck subsequently resigned as pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church and as chaplain of the high school. He was also suspended from all public ministry.

In a follow up statement on Oct. 8, the diocese said its internal investigation resulted in finding the allegations against Huneck credible. Huneck has been added to a list of clergy credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

In a press conference on Sept. 28, Bishop Kevin Rhoades called the incident “tragic news” and “a shock to us all.” 

“Sexual abuse or misconduct by clergy, as you know, has caused enormous pain, anger, and confusion for victims, their families, and the entire Church,” Rhoades said. “We have worked so hard here in our diocese to strengthen a safe environment within the Church for our young people and we’ll continue to do so.”

He added that the diocese will continue to do its best to provide healing and help for the victims and said that caring for the victims is his priority.

Bible in a Year: Have you heard about Father Mike Schmitz's next project?

Father Mike Schmitz is the host of the podcast "the Bible in a Year," produced by Ascension. / Courtesy of Ascension

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 7, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Father Mike Schmitz recently marked two major milestones, on consecutive days.

On Dec. 31, listeners to “The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)” were able to hear the 365th and final episode of the hugely popular podcast, as Schmitz wrapped up the last verses of the Book of Revelation.

The following day, Jan. 1, brought a revelation of a different sort: “Bible in a Year” stood atop the charts as the No. 1 overall podcast in the U.S.

That’s an impressive achievement, considering Schmidt’s podcast bested such well-known competitors as “Crime Junkie,” “Dateline NBC,” and “The Daily.”

“That’s amazing,” Schmitz, 47, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, said in a recent interview with EWTN Nightly News anchor Tracy Sabol. “That’s such a testimony to people’s faithfulness and their hunger” for God.

This is the podcast’s second stint at the top of the Apple podcast charts. After the show’s launch in January 2021, it held the No. 1 position in all podcast categories from Jan. 2–18, 2021, something no religious podcast had ever done.

“We are overwhelmed by the staggering response to this podcast,” Matthew Pinto, founder and president of Ascension, said in a statement earlier this month.

“We had hoped that this program would be exciting to our listeners, but this huge level of response is truly unbelievable. People are hungry for God, and we’re honored to help them encounter God’s Word through a daily podcast, especially as so many of us continue to be cut off from our parishes, communities, and loved ones during these difficult days.”

Three key ‘ingredients’

Each episode of “Bible in a Year” lasts roughly 20-25 minutes and features two to three scriptural readings, a reflection on those readings by Schmitz, and a prayer. 

Instead of reading the Bible linearly, the podcast follows “The Great Adventure Bible Timeline,” developed by scripture scholar Jeff Cavins. Cavins was a featured guest on the podcast.

The podcast's latest No. 1 ranking coincided with Schmitz’s appearance on an enormous billboard overlooking New York City’s Times Square in December and January.

A "Bible in a Year" billboard was displayed above New York City's Times Square in December and January. Courtesy of Ascension
A "Bible in a Year" billboard was displayed above New York City's Times Square in December and January. Courtesy of Ascension

Schmitz told Sabol that three “ingredients” helped make the podcast more accessible to listeners who otherwise might have been too intimidated by the prospect of reading all 73 books of the Bible.

“Those three things — just press play, you have a map, and you have a guide — I think that was a really good mixture of ingredients to help people who really desired to hear God's word to be able to actually follow through all 365 days.”

Though the podcast has now concluded, it will remain available on every major podcast app for new users to listen to in the future.

In addition, a Spanish-language version of the podcast, “La Biblia en un año,” launched Jan. 1, featuring original commentary and a native-Spanish speaking host, Dominican Father Sergio Serrano, director of the Hispanic Apostolate for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Ascension also will host a virtual retreat in February to support the community that grew around the podcast in 2021.

Schmitz’s next project

Now that “Bible in a Year” has concluded, what’s next for Schmitz?

Schmitz revealed to Sabol that his original pitch to Ascension was to read both the Bible and the entirety of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in combination over the course of the year.

“I'm really glad we didn’t do it at the same time because that would have been a whole other can of worms,” he said.

Now, however, a catechism-in-a-year project is in the early stages of development, Schmitz revealed. You can hear Schmitz discussing the project in the video below.

“We wanted to give people a time to be able to finish the Bible podcast before they had this other thing, you know, on their shoulders,” he said, “and so we're going to start it in 2023, God willing, if we get all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted.”

That’s good news for those who are still somewhere between the Royal Kingdom and the Gospel of Luke, and even better news for those who have yet to join Schmitz and Cavins on an audio pilgrimage through salvation history.

Neighbors' generosity after Colorado fire has been 'extraordinary', displaced family says

The Greany family (from left) Lance, Tom, Kat, and Cole, who lost their Colorado home in the Marshall Fire in late 2021. / Courtesy photo

Denver, Colo., Jan 6, 2022 / 19:19 pm (CNA).

A Catholic couple who lost their home in a historic Colorado wildfire late last year say they have experienced “absolutely heroic virtue” from their neighbors, as they and thousands of others reel from the complete loss of their homes. 

“Many blessings every day have helped us see the glory of God in this devastating time,” Tom Greany told CNA in emailed responses to questions. 

“Our Catholic friends have almost all reached out with offers to help…Those who took it upon themselves to purchase and deliver items without asking taught me a great lesson in giving.”

The Greany home was destroyed by the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30, with only a statue of Mary left standing. The fire destroyed at least 991 homes and businesses and damaged about 125 more structures, the Colorado Sun reported Wednesday. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Since evacuating, Tom and Kat Greany have been staying in a hotel in nearby Thornton, Colorado, and have plans to move soon into a condo provided rent free by “an angelic lady.” 

Tom says they have been almost overwhelmed by offers of help and prayers. 

“It has been truly extraordinary to see how many people have generously offered space in their homes; purchased items as though they had already been through this and knew exactly what we needed,” Greany said. 

“People who have offered to step up in every way— running needed errands, offering the use of vehicles, tools; gifts of time in doing grunge work.”

He also noted that many area restaurants that have already been suffering from closures related to COVID-19 have offered free meals to displaced people. 

“I don’t know how many people have said, ‘I’m praying for you but I wish I could do more.’ Recognize that prayers made in faith are the greatest gift. Because they beget blessings for the giver and receiver,” Tom said. 

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver announced last week the establishment of an emergency fund to assist victims of the fires. Local Catholic parishes have been opened to receive displaced families.

Tom stressed that the fire comes on top of a now two-year long pandemic, and many families will be stressed almost to the breaking point. The situation “may also create the need for counseling and mental health services at a time when there is no money to pay for them.”

In terms of their neighborhood and community, the rebuilding process will take years, he noted, so even if a person of good will cannot donate or help now, that “doesn’t mean their gifts won’t be needed at other points in that timeframe…Recognizing that many different skill sets are needed when building back is helpful because gifts of time and talent are underrated.”

Despite early and widespread evacuations ahead of the fire, two people remain missing and as-yet unidentified remains of one person have been found in the burned area. 

The Colorado Apartment Association has set up a portal to help displaced residents find a new place to live. 

President Joe Biden will tour the Marshall Fire area on Friday at the invitation of a local representative, it was announced Wednesday.

Monks bow out of Illinois Catholic school after controversy over coach in same-sex union

A same-sex wedding cake topper. / edwardolive/Shutterstock

Joliet, Ill., Jan 6, 2022 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

After a Chicago-area Catholic high school bowed to protests and hired a lacrosse coach in a same-sex marriage, the Benedictine monks who sponsor it have said they will transition out of leadership at the school.

“After much deliberation, the monks as a community have discerned that they no longer have the resources needed for the governance and oversight of the academy,” Benet Academy chancellor Abbot Austin G. Murphy, O.S.B. and the academy board’s chairman Dennis M. Flynn said Jan. 4.

Benet Academy, a co-ed preparatory school of about 1,300 students, is located in Lisle, Ill., a western Chicago suburb in the Diocese of Joliet. The Benedictines of St. Procopius Abbey, who currently have about 20 monks, founded the school in 1887. Murphy is its tenth abbot and has served in that role since 2010.

Murphy and Flynn said that alternatives for how the academy is governed are being considered.

“In the meantime, the Abbey will continue its role in the governance of the high school,” they said Tuesday. “The goal is that Benet Academy will continue to operate with an emphasis on academic excellence and Catholic identity within the Benedictine tradition.”

Later that day Stephen Marth, Head of School at Benet Academy, tried to counter portrayals of the changes as a rejection of the school’s Catholic identity.

“Contrary to some reports circulating in the media earlier today, know of our steadfast commitment to ensuring that the Academy will maintain its Catholic identity, in the Benedictine tradition, for years to come,” he said.

Marth said there would be a committee to collaborate on this work, with representatives from the Joliet diocese, the American Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, the Benet Board of Directors, and the administration at the academy.

In September 2021 Benet Academy deferred an employment decision about prospective girl’s lacrosse coach Amanda Kammes after learning she is in a same-sex marriage. It initially defended its decision not to hire her because of the importance of employing individuals who “manifest the essential teachings of the Church” in the education and faith formation of students.

However, it reversed the decision on Sept. 21 after its decision became public and prompted some protests from students, parents, and others in support of Kammes.

A group of 40 or so students and parents at the school reportedly staged pro-LGBT protests after learning that the school had decided not to hire Kammes. The girl’s lacrosse team was photographed wearing rainbow masks in support of the prospective coach.

Numerous comments from self-described alumni were posted on the school’s social media site. An online petition advocating for Kammes’ hiring, which appears to have since been removed, reportedly garnered nearly 4,000 signatures. 

Kammes, an experienced lacrosse coach and a Benet Academy alumna, had previously coached at a Catholic school in Lombard, Illinois. In a statement, she said she was “truly humbled” by those who supported her and voiced hope that “the LGBTQ+ community at Benet and other Catholic institutions, felt supported, loved, and know that they are not alone.”

In a Sept. 28 statement, Abbot Murphy said the reversal “raises the question of what a Catholic high school should require from those who work with and form its students.” He said he believes it is necessary that “the witness of their public lives not be in opposition to Catholic moral teaching” and so he was “deeply troubled” by the decision. The school’s decision “calls into question its adherence to the doctrines of the Catholic faith.”

“Pope Francis has been clear that our love and respect for all persons is not in contradiction with Church doctrine on the sacrament of matrimony and teachings on sexuality,” he said. “At the same time, it is important to note that honest disagreements about the morality of homosexual acts should not be construed as hate. If we give in to the voices that say that disagreement equals hate, then we allow civil discourse to perish.”

In his September announcement, the abbot said he would take the matter to prayer and he encouraged everyone to “stay rooted in the peace of Christ.”

Benet Academy lists on its website 24 board members. Of these, five are Benedictine priests, brothers, or sisters; 12 are lay alumni of the school; and seven are non-alumni lay persons.

The abbey gave at least $50,000 to Benet Academy in the 2019-2020 school year and is one of its largest donors, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

St. Procopius Abbey also has a connection to Servant of God Dorothy Day, a radical activist who converted to Catholicism and launched the Catholic Worker Movement. She became an oblate of the abbey in 1955 and she often returned there for retreats. At the time, the abbey was involved in promoting Christian unity with Orthodox Christians and she was attracted to this effort. 

The abbey says on its website that it continues to pray for Day’s canonization.

The controversy at Benet Academy follows decades of cultural, political, and legal changes in how society views Christian morality and same-sex relationships.

In the United States, various Catholic schools and dioceses have faced lawsuits from employees who have been fired after contracting same-sex marriages in violation of the diocesan or school policy. Many states and localities protect sexual orientation and gender identity under anti-discrimination law.

Federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination – Title VII – includes an exception for ministers of religion. In the June 2020 ruling Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Catholic school teachers, even if not given the formal title of "minister,” can fall under the ministerial exception because the essence of their job is to transmit the faith to students.

However, these precedents are not necessarily strong. In North Carolina last fall, a federal judge ruled that the Diocese of Charlotte discriminated against a substitute teacher by firing him upon his announcement that he intended to contract a same-sex marriage. The judge said the plaintiff was a lay employee whose role was limited to teaching secular classes.

Maine's Catholic churches will continue attendance at Mass, while ecumenical group urges online services

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conceptionin Portland, Maine. Credit: Kelly Lynn Butler/Shutterstock / null

Portland, Maine, Jan 6, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of Portland will continue to permit attendance at Mass, even as the state’s Council of Churches has urged all services to move online in light of a recent surge in coronavirus cases.

“This isn’t about sending care packages or Hallmark cards (though those are certainly nice),” said Maine Council of Churches Executive Director Jane Field in a statement published Jan. 4.  

“For starters, it’s about making the difficult and necessary decision to return to virtual online worship services only and refrain from in-person church gatherings during this deadly surge.  It’s also about sending a clear message from the pulpit that getting vaccinated, boosted, and wearing masks when in public is a moral imperative for anyone who follows the commandment to love their neighbor,” she added.

Further, said Field, churches should “offer up [their] church building as a pop-up vaccine clinic site.” 

Field, a Presbyterian minister, has served Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopalian congregations throughout the northeast. She was the pastor at Faith Lutheran Church prior to becoming the executive director of the Maine Council of Churches. 

Going online, promoting vaccines, and taking other steps is “how faith communities can best help reduce the spread of COVID, which is the only way to provide effective and meaningful relief and support to weary and overrun hospitals and their staff,” she said. 

Maine’s hospitals are seeing close to record levels of Covid-19 hospitalization, with 380 people hospitalized. The Maine CDC reported 1,302 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday. 

Maine has the third-highest Covid-19 vaccination rate in the country, with 76.1% of its total population fully vaccinated. 

The Maine Council of Churches is led by a board of directors, and represents seven Protestant denominations in the state: Episcopalian, Unitarian-Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran ,and Quaker.

The Diocese of Portland left the Maine Council of Churches in 2018. The diocese left after the council changed its policy to release statements approved by a majority vote, rather than unanimous consent of the then-eightcommunities.

Dave Guthro, a spokesperson for the diocese, told the Portland Press Herald that access to the Eucharist is one of the motivating factors for keeping churches open. 

The diocese has recommended that all who attend Mass in person wear masks, and some parishes live-stream Masses. 

“The diocese has complied with (government) protocols and rules put into place and, in many cases, has enforced even stricter safeguards in our churches to ensure the safety of parishioners and the wider community,” he told the Press Herald.

There have been no Covid-19 outbreaks traced to any of Maine’s 141 Catholic churches. 

“During the Christmas season, which runs through Jan. 9, the large majority of Catholics attending Masses have been wearing masks, which is great to see,” said Guthro. 

“But not having daily and weekly access to the Eucharist, the very presence of Christ at Catholic Masses, would be a great hardship for thousands of Mainers,” he added. “It is also the Catholic Church’s responsibility to be open for the many health care workers and other first responders who need the spiritual comfort and support at this incredibly difficult time in history.”

In an updated statement released Jan. 6, Field, the executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, apologized for what she called a “hasty, but heartfelt” earlier statement. 

“Nuance, consultation and collaboration went out the window—and I’m truly sorry for the ways in which that created confusion, tension or even conflict for clergy, congregations and judicatories,” she said. 

“And…we’ve also received calls and email from clergy and lay leaders letting us know that, even if they’ve decided returning to virtual worship services isn’t the right solution for their particular context, they are doing AMAZING work to keep their congregations and communities safe and to let our frontline health care staff know how much we care about supporting them in their heroic efforts,” Field added.

March for Life Chicago: Learn about the Midwest’s ‘largest pro-life event’

Pro-life poster / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 6, 2022 / 15:35 pm (CNA).

March for Life Chicago — which calls itself “the largest pro-life event in the Midwest” — is expecting more than 10,000 pro-life Americans at its 2022 march in downtown Chicago on Jan. 8.

The Midwest march is newer than the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., that challenges abortion each year around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The D.C. March for Life began in 1974; the Chicago March for Life started in 2013, after the late Cardinal Francis George, then-archbishop of Chicago, united local pro-life organizations.

The march’s purpose is to “provide an annual public event composed of people from diverse ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds dedicated to defending and protecting all human life.”

One-hundred-fifty people attended the 2013 march. Just seven years later, in 2020, it attracted 9,000 marchers. 

Why is there a pro-life march in Chicago?

On the organization’s website, March for Life Chicago stresses the importance of holding a pro-life march in Illinois, and, in particular, Chicago.

“In 2019, Illinois performed 46,517 abortions, a 10% increase over the prior year,” March for Life Chicago says, citing cnumbers highlighted by the Chicago Tribune in 2021. Of those, 7,534 abortions were obtained by women from out-of-state, the organization states.

March for Life Chicago worries that the growth of out-of-state abortions will continue.

“Illinois’ permissive abortion laws means that the abortion industry targets people in Illinois and in neighboring states to come to Illinois,” March for Life Chicago cautions. “New abortion clinics are opening near state borders to draw residents of other states in, such as Waukegan (next to WI) and Fairview Heights (next to MO).”

Chicago, in particular, has high abortion numbers. Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, reported 23,189 abortions in 2018. That is more abortions total than in Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri combined for 2019.

While March for Life Chicago identifies as a grassroots organization run by weDignify, a pro-life college mentorship program, it has collaborated with the national March for Life, such as when it invited President Jeanne Mancini to speak in 2019. 

What makes the march important in 2022?

This year, March for Life Chicago is challenging the repeal of the Parental Notice of Abortion Act in Illinois. The repeal does away with a law passed in 1995 that requires abortion providers to notify the parent or guardian of a minor seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before performing the abortion. The repeal goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

“The Illinois abortion industry and their friends in the legislature are working to make Illinois the ‘abortion capital of the Midwest,’” March for Life Chicago Director Kevin Grillot told CNA. “Most recently, Parental Notification was repealed, which has dire implications not only for Illinois, but also in neighboring states.”

March for Life Chicago points to polling that found that 72% of Illinois voters support parental notification for minor girls seeking abortion. According to Grillot, March for Life Chicago plans to take action.

“During the past 24 months the March for Life Chicago network has tripled, and a new life advocacy mobilization program is set to be unveiled at the Midwest’s largest pro-life gathering,” he said of the Jan. 8 event. “While the llinois abortion lobby and legislators promote abortion and further separate parents from their children, pro-lifers from across the Midwest are uniting to march in Chicago to Save Midwestern Lives.”

When and where is the Chicago march?

The outdoor rally on Jan. 8 begins at 1 p.m. at Federal Plaza (50 W. Adams) in downtown Chicago. Immediately following the rally, marchers will walk 1.2 miles to the Hilton hotel (720 S. Michigan Ave.), where the March for Life Chicago convention is located.

The convention doors open at 8 a.m. on Jan. 8. The convention includes a youth rally by the Archdiocese of Chicago, educational sessions, a Catholic Mass for Life, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod prayer event, and a banquet and cocktail hour featuring Catholic guests such as Bishops Mark Bartosic and Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese of Chicago. There will also be a diaper drive.

Who is speaking at the march rally?

Nine rally speakers are listed online: Republican Rep. Avery Bourne of Illinois; Kelly Dore, founder of the National Human Trafficking Survivor Coalition and director of Sierra Cares Foundation; Pastor Chris Butler, senior pastor of Chicago Embassy Church and executive leader of the AND Campaign; Sister Alicia Torres of the Franciscans of the Eucharist in Chicago; Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Dante Bucci, weDignify student leader and senior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Kevin Grillot, executive director of weDignify, which oversees the March for Life Chicago, and a client from Aid for Women, a Chicago-based pregnancy resource network. 

Does COVID-19 impact the march?

March for Life Chicago is “the first large group to obtain a permit for Federal Plaza since the pandemic began,” the organization says. Last year, during the pandemic, March for Life Chicago hit the road and hosted car rallies and processions in cities across the Midwest in a “Moving the Movement Tour.” 

This year, according to March for Life Chicago, Illinois’ current mask mandate does not apply to outdoor events. Chicago’s proof of vaccination order also does not apply to the rally or march. However, the City of Chicago Departments of Public Health recommends marchers wear masks “whenever social distancing cannot be maintained.”

How to bless your home on the Feast of Epiphany 2022

A chalk home blessing from the feast of the Epiphany / A.Davey via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Denver Newsroom, Jan 6, 2022 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Have you ever gone past a door with what appears to be random letters and numbers written at the top? These letters and numbers actually have a great significance. 

Traditionally on the feast of Epiphany, Catholics bless their homes by writing the letters C, M and B and the numbers of the year, for example 2022, at the top of their doors. The letters stand for the names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also represent the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” 

Many Catholic parishes will give their parishioners a piece of chalk, a small bottle of holy water, and the house blessing written so that each family can go and bless their homes.

Epiphany, which is also known as “Little Christmas,” is the feast that celebrates the arrival of the three Magi who had come to worship the Child Jesus shortly after his birth. It is traditionally celebrated on Jan. 6. However, in the United States, in the Novus Ordo, it is celebrated on the Sunday between Jan. 2 and Jan 8. Many around the world celebrate this feast with as much pomp and circumstance as Christmas, including the exchanging of gifts. 

The blessing, which is popular in Poland and other Slavic countries, has spread around the world and is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. 

How do you bless your home?

Begin by having all family members gather outside the front door. All make the sign of the cross. One person will then read this prayer:

Priest/Leader: Peace be to this house.

All: And to all who dwell herein.

Leader: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Enter your home and read the Magnificat, the hymn of praise sung by the Blessed Virgin Mary in Luke’s Gospel after being greeted by Elizabeth. During this, sprinkle the area you are in with holy water. After that is complete: 

All: From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.

Leader: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,

All: But deliver us from evil.

Leader: All they from Saba shall come

All: Bringing gold and frankincense.

Leader: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come unto Thee.

Leader: Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Leader: Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee– Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

All: And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.

Leader: Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

After the prayers are recited, walk throughout your home sprinkling each room with holy water. Then write the initials of the Magi connected with crosses at the top of your front door. Then the numbers of the year. The numbers will be split so that they are on each side of the initials.

Here’s an example:

20 + C + M + B + 22  

This tradition is done at the beginning of each year so that you can invite God into your homes and place your family under his protection.

Educational video platform aims to share Catholic teaching on controversial issues

Unsplash.

Denver Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic political advocacy organization recently launched an online video platform designed to educate people and change minds on controversial issues, informed by Catholic teaching and “the foundational principles of America.”

EDIFY, an initiative of the nonprofit CatholicVote Education Fund, says it aims to be “a PragerU for Catholics,” a reference to the nonprofit media company PragerU, which is known for its popular videos which espouse conservative ideas. 

Scot Landry, executive director of EDIFY, told CNA in an interview that he believes PragerU has proven the concept that five-minute videos on timely topics can do very well on social media because of their shareability and low barrier to entry. 

"We seek to accomplish for Catholics what PragerU has accomplished for young conservatives," Landry told CNA, noting that because so many young people are interested in and talking about politics, political discussions can be a great place to draw young people in and introduce them to the truths of the Catholic faith. 

According to EDIFY’s website, topics to be covered in its weekly videos include Human Dignity, Religious Liberty, A Just Economy, “The Best Way to Live,” Care for the Environment, and Social Justice. Each video focuses on a single topic and features a transcribed monologue from an expert speaker, along with on-screen text and motion graphics. 

Landry said he sees EDIFY’s mission as educational and, hopefully, evangelistic. 

"If we can persuade somebody who might see the world from a secular point of view to understand the wisdom of Church teaching on a particular hot-button issue of the day, that can lead them to be curious on a second issue,” he explained.

“By just starting with that one issue that they're interested in, and presenting, in a very pragmatic way, Catholic Church teaching on that political issue, or an issue related to human dignity...I think it's one door God can use to bring people back to Him, to the fullness of truth."

EDIFY’s first video posted was on the topic of “Seeing the World as a Catholic,” narrated by Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. 

Another recent video, on the topic of gender ideology, is narrated by Mary Rice Hasson of the Ethics and Public policy Center. Hasson is a contributor to Person and Identity, an online project of the Catholic Women’s Forum in Washington, D.C., which features information about current trends in gender ideology, scientific evidence against those ideologies, and explanations of Church teaching on the topic with the goal of promoting a Catholic vision of the human person. 

On Nov. 30, EDIFY released a video narrated by legal scholar O. Carter Snead on the topic of “The Supreme Court & Abortion,” ahead of Dec. 1 oral arguments in the consequential abortion case currently before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 

While CatholicVote has a reputation for primarily promoting Republican politicians and policies, Landry said he takes seriously EDIFY’s responsibility to ensure the content of their videos is authentically Catholic, rather than partisan. 

"Ultimately my job is to make sure that everything EDIFY publishes is in line with the Catholic faith and our Catholic teaching, and that's a significant responsibility on my shoulders; it's not the first time where I've had a job where people trust me to make sure that what is being said— in their name, on behalf of our organization, on behalf of the Church— is fully Catholic," Landry continued. 

He also emphasized that, depending on the topic being discussed, EDIFY typically asks independent people from outside the organization to take a look at and fact-check each video before publishing. 

"When the speaker is speaking on behalf of the Catholic faith, we want to make sure that that is well-sourced," Landry said, citing a recent video EDIFY posted on vaccine mandates. He said he personally made sure that that video cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith "squarely and fairly.”

To vet the speakers featured in each video, Landry said the EDIFY team reads each prospective speakers’ published work, examining not only the factual content but the person’s tone as well. Special attention is paid to ensure that all the speakers are “people we know live the Catholic faith in private and in public,” Landry said. 

Landry added that many of the speakers are chosen by EDIFY based on personal recommendations. For example, Landry’s twin brother Father Roger Landry is a well-known Catholic writer and commentator, and is scheduled to make an appearance in an upcoming EDIFY video. 

CatholicVote says it is non-partisan and aims to encourage voter registration and voting among practicing Catholics, and the group’s platform is not completely aligned with either major party platform. 

In the past CatholicVote has highlighted the importance of "a culture that celebrates life," "marriage is between one man and one woman," has noted that "we are all called to help the poor," has called for environmental stewardship, and has said that "the death penalty is an unnecessary legal penalty in the developed world."

However, in recent years, some have criticized aspects of CatholicVote’s strategy, particularly with regard to former President Donald Trump. In 2016, CatholicVote joined calls for then-presidential candidate Trump to step down following his lewd comments about women in a leaked audio recording from 2005, calling the comments “disgusting and simply indefensible.”

After Trump’s election, however, in Facebook and blog posts, the group regularly promoted Trump’s decisions or policies and those of other Republican lawmakers, and regularly criticizes Democratic lawmakers, with the exception of former Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski, who was one of the last pro-life Democrats in Congress before ultimately losing his seat. 

Landry said it is plain to see that CatholicVote is known primarily for its political advocacy at the moment, but he wants to see the “education” side of CatholicVote’s mission come more to the forefront. Landry said CatholicVote’s educational mission is “to help Catholics apply the truths toward the issues that we're facing in America, and at the local level in our communities and in our states.” 

"There's a very pragmatic application of it that many other organizations don't get down to, that ground level, because their mission is a different mission than CatholicVote," Landry told CNA, adding that EDIFY’s goal is to "present Church teaching in a way that makes young people want to explore more.”

Brian Burch, the leader of CatholicVote, told CNA in a statement that “EDIFY is designed to transform the way Catholics and all Americans think about today’s hot button issues, using the insights of the Catholic Church, and the foundational principles of America.”

“With the volume of information we are inundated with every day, more and more people are searching for how to make sense of it all. With the help of experts from around the country, EDIFY will be an invaluable resource that everyone can use to navigate the messy world of ideas and politics.”

When does Christmas actually end?

Three Kings / Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

How many days is Christmas? When should you finally take those lights off the porch, or remove the tree? Read on for some of the arguments for and against commonly agreed-upon end dates for Christmas.

Christmas is one day

This, of course, is the simplest answer. Christmas is typically celebrated on Dec. 25 for most of the world, and on Jan. 7 for Churches using the Julian calendar, and on Jan. 6 for yet another, considerably smaller, part of the world. On this day, the liturgy celebrated is the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord. Priests wear white vestments on Christmas, which is different from the violet they wear during Advent. 

Christmas is eight days

There’s also an argument to be made that Christmas is eight days long. The Church regards Christmas as an octave, or eight-day celebration. The octave of Christmas begins on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and concludes on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on Jan. 1. 

During the eight days of Christmas, clergy wear white, except during St. Stephen’s Day and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when they wear red. 

Christmas is 12 days

We’ve all heard the Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas.” While it’s unclear as to why someone would give someone 23 separate birds, a pear tree, and the services of 50 people over a 12-day period, there actually is a liturgical precedent for claiming that Christmas is 12 days long. 

Twelve days after Christmas is the Feast of the Epiphany. This day marks when the Magi encountered Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and gave Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Epiphany celebrates the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God. It focuses primarily on this revelation to the Three Wise Men, but also in his baptism in the Jordan River and at the wedding at Cana. 

In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, Theophany — as Epiphany is known in the East  — commemorates the manifestation of Jesus' divinity at his Baptism in the River Jordan.

But here’s where it gets a little confusing. While the traditional date for the feast is Jan. 6, in the United States the celebration of Epiphany is moved to the second Sunday after Christmas in the Novus Ordo. Because Christmas 2021 fell on a Saturday, Epiphany was observed on Jan. 2, which was just eight days after Christmas Day.

During the 12 days of Christmas, clergy wear white, except during St. Stephen’s Day and the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when they wear red. 

Christmas ends Jan. 13

In the usus antiquior of the Roman rite, per the general rubrics of the Roman Breviary, “Christmastide” includes both “the season of Christmas” (the 12 days seen earlier) and “the season of Epiphany,” which is the eight days from the Epiphany on Jan. 6 to the commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 13. 

What is now called the season of Epiphany was, until 1955, observed as the Octave of the Epiphany.

Christmas ends on Candlemas 

Now we’re talking. 

Candlemas, or the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is Feb. 2. On this day, many Catholics bring candles to the church to be blessed. They can then light these candles at home during prayer or difficult times as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

Candlemas is the last day that the Alma Redemptoris Mater is the Marian antiphon appended to hours of the Divine Office. The Alma Redemptoris Mater is used from the beginning of Advent through Feb. 2, and so Candlemas has come to be associated with the close of the Christmas season. 

Candlemas is still observed with public, Christmas-esque celebrations throughout the world, including in Peru, Puerto Rico, France, and Belgium. 

On the other hand, Septuagesima Sunday — which is definitely not part of Christmas — has been known to fall before Feb. 2, giving the lie to the Christmas-is-until-Candlemas party. 

What do the U.S. bishops say?

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the liturgical season of Christmas ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. 

The Baptism of Christ, which the USCCB states is the end of Christmas, is observed on the first Sunday after Jan. 6 in the Novus Ordo. This year, that is Jan. 9.

After the Baptism of Christ, clergy are to wear the green vestments of Ordinary Time. 

So when does Christmas end?

The exact right time to observe the end of the Christmas season? That is largely a personal call, based on your own traditions, customs, and other factors. For safety reasons, CNA recommends that you take your tree down as soon as it starts shedding a ton of pine needles, but other than that, there’s an argument for leaving things up as late as Feb. 2. Of course, your neighbors may disagree, but that’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem. 

Merry Christmas!

Despite censorship, Heartbeat International's Abortion Pill Reversal program is saving lives

Abortion Pill Reversal seeks to counter the effects of the first progesterone-blocking abortion pill, providing an opportunity to save the unborn child. / Shutterstock

Denver Newsroom, Jan 5, 2022 / 14:32 pm (CNA).

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, predicts that 2022 will be a "a year of great promise" for pro-life efforts to provide an alternative to the growing number of women who seek chemical abortions online.

2021 saw the FDA approve the delivery of abortion pills by mail, while Google banned all advertisement of the pro-life alternative known as the Abortion Pill Reversal (APR). The latter uses the natural hormone progesterone to counter the effect of the first progesterone-blocking pill taken in the chemical abortion regimen.

Despite those developments, Godsey told CNA that last year's unexpected growth in women seeking to keep their babies and reverse the two-step drug-induced abortion by mail, "is an amazing new achievement that makes 2022 a year of great promise." 

"The 2021 achievements at Heartbeat are all the more remarkable considering we've been targeted for censorship by Big Tech (Google) and misinformation campaigns by Soros-funded leftist outlets," he said.    

Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International
Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International. Courtesy of Heartbeat International

Describing Heartbeat International's accomplishments, Godsey explained that the "our statistics suggest that more than 3,000 babies were saved through successful APR starts," a record high for the organization.

Google blocked all ads promoting the abortion pill reversal arguing that one of its "fact checkers," the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, claim that the use of female hormones to reverse the powerful action of the drug mifepristone is not supported by science.

"Facts are important, especially when discussing the health of women and the American public. Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence, and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medical abortion,"  ACOG has stated.

But pro-life activists who promote the APR claim that the ACOG's position is ideological and not scientific. They argue that the National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine has published important studies demonstrating that APR is safe and effective. One 2016 study that observed 754 women seeking to reverse their abortions reported that intramuscular progesterone and high dose oral progesterone had successful reversal rates of 64% and 68%, respectively, with no apparent risk of birth defects.

Godsey mentioned several other significant achievements of crisis pregnancy centers affiliated to Heartbeat International, including nearly 1 million interactions of women interested in opting for life rather than abortion.

"2022 holds immense promise for the pro-life world, especially in the U.S., and 2022 holds immense opportunity for Heartbeat International and the pregnancy help movement to reach and rescue more lives," Godsey told CNA. 

"The intense attacks from Big Abortion allies only highlights how vital the life-saving work of the pregnancy help movement. While Big Abortion focuses on profits, Heartbeat International will continue to help women choose life for their babies," he said.

Editor's note: CNA Executive Director Alejandro Bermudez is a member of the board of Heartbeat International.