Relics of Ss. Louis, Zelie Martin find home in parish named for daughter Therese

February 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Lansing, Mich., Feb 27, 2020 / 03:01 am (CNA).- Fr. John Fain is getting the 19th-century family of St. Therese back together.

Well, sort of.

First-class relics of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the recently canonized parents of St. Therese, have found a new home in a parish named for their daughter in Lansing, Michigan.

Fr. John Fain of St. Therese parish told CNA that the relics will be encased in a display case along with a relic of St. Therese, and a print of the whole family. All five of the children who survived childhood became religious sisters.

Fain said he hopes the relics inspire greater devotion to St. Therese herself, along with devotion to her family.

“What St. Therese is known for is The Little Way, and it’s doing small things with great love,” Fain said. “Her parents, I think, taught her that.”

“They were people who went to daily Mass, they practiced fasting, they regularly checked out for the neighbors, people in the neighborhood that were struggling. They would take them food and other things. They comforted the sick of their neighborhood and just lived a very joyful family life,” he added.

Fain said he was inspired to ask for relics of Louis and Zelie after ordering a print of an icon of the Martin family.

“I happened to buy a picture of the family of St. Therese of Lisieux and her parents and the entire family, including the children who had died. It just sort of occurred to me, ‘Wow, this would be really neat to have the relics here too.’”

But obtaining relics is no easy process. Fain petitioned Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing to see if he could get relics of Louis and Zelie for the parish, thinking it would take several years.

Boyea put the chancellor of the diocese, Michael Andrews, on the task of obtaining the relics, Fain said. Andrews, who speaks several languages, contacted the head of Carmelite order in Rome to ask about obtaining relics of Louis and Zelie.

“That’s the only place you could get the relics from. It’s actually very hard to get relics anymore. It used to be somewhat easy, but there’s been so many abuses and trafficking in relics that basically you can only get one,” Fain said.

Fain said he believes his parish is one of the only places in the world to have first-class relics of Louis and Zelie, as they are recently canonized saints, and relics are a rarity.

First-class relics are fragments of the body of the saint, such as bone, flesh, or hair. Fain said he thinks the relics of Zelie and Louis are pieces of bone.

Anything touched to a first-class relic of a saint, like a rosary or a holy card, becomes a third-class relic. Fain added, “I think that’s pretty exciting in itself.”

Before they were married, both Louis and Zelie desired religious vocations. But both were turned away – Louis was rejected from seminary because he didn’t know Latin, and Zelie from a religious community because she had poor health. Louis then became a watchmaker, and Zelie a lacemaker. They had nine children, only five of whom survived childhood.

Zelie died from cancer at the age of 46, leaving Louis to care for the children alone, including Therese, who was four at the time. Louis died in 1894, after suffering two strokes in 1889.

The couple’s desire for holiness despite being turned down from religious vocations can be observed in the way they lived their family life, Fain said, and in a way, their home became “like a small convent in a lot of ways.”

“It’s just obvious that that’s what God’s intention was for their vocation was to be a married couple who shared their family life with their children,” Fain said.

Sts. Louis and Zelie were canonized Oct. 18, 2015 by Pope Francis – the first-ever married couple to be canonized together. Another married couple, Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were beatified together in October 2001.

Fain said he hopes the relics and life of the Martin family can show his parishioners that “spirituality doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the great saints and sometimes have a hard time relating to them, but St. Therese is one that I think everyone can relate to.”

He said he also hoped that couples were inspired to see their marriages as holy vocations as well.

“I think a lot of times married couples don’t see themselves as living a vocation. When they think of vocations, they think of priests or deacons or religious men and women, but they don’t really consider being married a religious vocation,” Fain said.

“The state of marriage is definitely in crisis. It’s in crisis in our country, but it’s also in crisis in the Church itself. I think by looking at a couple such as Louis and Zélie and by learning from their merits and example…again that it doesn’t have to be an extraordinary thing. It can just be living a good saintly life in a simple way. That’s ultimately how they made it to heaven. I think that can be a great hope for married couples,” he said.

Fain added that Bishop Boyea plans to visit the parish on Corpus Christi to bless people individually with the relic. The relics can also be removed from their display case by request for those hoping to touch rosaries, holy cards, or other objects to the relics.

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Wear black to protest anti-Christian violence, Nigerian Catholics told

February 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Benin City, Nigeria, Feb 26, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The bishops of Nigeria have told the nation’s Catholics to wear black on Ash Wednesday to protest the ongoing persecution of Christians in the country.

In a letter read in all the country’s parishes on Feb. 26, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, said that the black clothing would be a show of solidarity with victims of violent crime, as well as a display of mourning for the murder of seminarian Michael Nnadi. Akubeze is the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).

Nnadi, was killed in late January, weeks after he and three other seminarians were abducted from their seminary. The seminarians kidnapped with Nnadi were released, one with life-threatening injuries.

Also in January, Rev. Lawan Andima, a local Government Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria and the married father of nine children, was beheaded by Boko Haram.

Akubeze has previously said Andima was killed “simply because he was a Christian.”

In the Ash Wednesday letter, the archbishop called for Catholics to join in a “Day of Prayer Procession” across the country against “the repeated barbaric executions of Christians by the Boko Haram insurgents and the incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom linked to the same group.”

The secretary general of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, the administrative headquarters of the CBCN, also issued a request for Catholics around the world to pray for peace in Nigeria and security for the nation’s Christians. 

“I have been directed by the administrative board of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) to communicate to you that in the face of the current security situation, the Church needs to speak out in word and action against the level of insecurity in the country,” said Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi on Tuesday to Nigerian press. 

Samjumi also announced that Sunday evening Masses on March 1 would be cancelled. Instead of Mass that evening, churches will hold “peaceful prayer protests against the incessant killings and insecurity in our country.” 

Despite the sadness and grief amongst Nigerian Catholics, Samjumi said that they are “confident that the light of Christ, which shines in our hearts, will brighten the dark corners of our Nigerian society.” 

Samjumi said that the majority of Nigerians throughout the country live in a constant state of fear, and there is a ever-present state of insecurity. In Nigeria, Christians are subjected to “repeated barbaric executions” and “incessant cases of kidnapping for ransom” by the Islamist group Boko Haram, and other terrorist organizations. 

The violence has “traumatized many citizens,” he said. 

In a Feb. 7 interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Akubeze warned that the situation was deteriorating.

“How can he be surprised at this time? After some of us have attended mass burials of Christians killed by Boko Haram?” he asked. 

“The government is certainly not doing enough to protect both Christians and Muslims.”

Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, has been active in Nigeria for years. While the group has attacked both Muslims and Christians in the past, the archbishop said that recent attacks have focused on the killing and kidnapping of Christians.

Akubeze said that the situation is dire and getting worse.

“One area that I think the Western nations and the media can be of great help is to cover the stories of these atrocities in Nigeria,” Akubeze said.

“The number of killings is just mind boggling. Maybe with significant Western coverage, the Government of Nigeria may be put under pressure to act.”

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Accompaniment central to priestly formation in Cuba, spiritual director says

February 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Camagüey, Cuba, Feb 26, 2020 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Accompaniment for seminarians is critical in Cuba, a priest has said, reflecting that Cubans are “a tired people, a people without hope, it’s a people that really feels helpless.”

Fr. Alberto Reyes Pías, a priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey and spiritual director for the archdiocesan seminary, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language new partner, that “The two words Cubans live with are survive or leave.”

“There are a lot a people for whom the Church is the only thing that gives them some hope, gives them some meaning. There are lot of people going through an interior process in the Church, which gives them meaning.”

Pias spoke to ACI Prensa at the Feb. 18-22 Night of Witnesses event organized by the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need in Mexico to draw attention to persecuted Churches.

He emphasized that “there’s a feeling of stagnation” in Cuba, but that “there’s this feeling that ‘I can count on the Church’” among Cubans, which “is something that means a lot to the Cuban people.”

Turning to priestly formation in particular, he said there is a particular need to accompany seminarians, since “often there are really good, nice people, but sometimes guys also come who are very broken.”

He lamented that “the situation of the family in Cuba is quite disastrous. They come to us very broken. I believe the most important thing is ‘we’re going to live what one day you will have to help others experience.’ Then it’s to accompany them, to listen to them.”

“One thing I usually say is ‘don’t hold anything back.’ I’m not here to judge you, I’m here to accompany you, but you also have to heal things yourself if you want to be a healer later on. You’ve got to go through a process.”

“The seminary can’t be a tunnel, something you go through to become a priest, because the problem is not becoming a priest, what’s at stake here is your happiness, your fulfillment. You’ve got to go through a process. And processes are painful,” the spiritual director noted.

Pías explained that “we would like them to have done some previous work, so they don’t come to the seminary to discern, although it’s true that the seminary is a time of confirming what you have seen. We try to have them have done some previous work, of accompaniment, of working with the priests.”

“We meet with them ahead of time such that we don’t admit anyone to the seminary who doesn’t have a certain level of discernment. Because there are things it’s better to do on the outside, beforehand,” he added.

Pías explained that “the majority of the seminarians don’t come from Christian families. In fact, it Cuba there’s a very interesting phenomenon going on. In many places in the world children are brought to the Church by their parents, but not in Cuba. In Cuba a lot of children go to catechism class, adolescents, young people, go on their own, and in fact there are parents who have started coming to church because of their children.”

“Most of our vocations are young people who one day encountered Jesus Christ and are fascinated,” he said.

He also noted that Cuba is marked by emigration.

“I’m in a parish where I’ve been for 15 years now. Out of that community I was with 15 years ago, I think 95% of them are in the United States. In fact, when I have gone to the United States, to Miami, they tell me, ‘Father, come here, because we’re all here.’”

“What’s beautiful is that very many of these people are still practicing, they’ve become catechists in the United States, they’re leading couples’ groups, so the seed has borne fruit. But there’s continual emigration,” he said.

The priest also reflected that in Cuba, “we’ve lived in a system in which the absolute value has been fidelity to the system.”

“In fact there are young people whom I would not say are immoral, I’d have to say they’re amoral. They don’t know where there’s good and where there’s evil,” he noted.

For Pías, “one of the greatest works of the Church, obviously besides evangelization, that you  encounter Jesus Christ, is to discover values, so that whatever happens, you can be a person who can later build something with his life.”

“Something very beautiful is how there are guys who enter the Church broken and you see them continue on the journey and they end up having a Christian family, where values are lived and a different kind of education is given to the children, giving them something that was never given to them. When you see something like that, you say it’s all worth it,” he concluded.

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Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday: Confession purifies hearts

February 26, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called on Catholics to go to Confession during Lent to experience God’s healing love. 

“We can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance because there the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin. The embrace of the Father in confession renews us inside and purifies our heart,” Pope Francis said in his Ash Wednesday homily Feb. 26. 

“Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing,” he said in the Basilica of Santa Sabina.

Before going to confession, Pope Francis recommended, people should stand in front of the Crucifix and contemplate Christ on the cross.

While looking at the crucifix, the pope said one can repeat the following prayer: “Jesus, you love me, transform me.” After welcoming God’s love and crying in front of the cross, receive God’s forgiveness in Confession, he said.

“Let’s look inside, into our hearts: how many times do we extinguish the fire of God with the ashes of hypocrisy,” Pope Francis said.

“How often do we do things only to be recognized, to look good, to satisfy our ego? How often do we profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us? How often do we preach one thing and practice another? How many times do we make ourselves look good on the outside while nursing grudges within?” he asked. “We need to be cleansed of all the dust that has sullied our hearts.”

Pope Francis said Lent is not a time “for useless sermons,” but instead it is “a time of grace” to welcome God’s loving gaze and then to change one’s life.

To mark the start of the Lenten season, Pope Francis prayed silently at St. Anselm Church on the Aventine Hill in Rome before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the offering of the Mass and the imposition of ashes.

As the procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, Benedictine monks, Dominican friars, and lay people made their way between the two churches, they sang the Litany of the Saints.

The tradition of a Lenten pilgrimage by the Bishop of Rome and Catholics in the city to the tombs of the martyrs dates back to the early fourth century. 

“The ashes we receive on our foreheads should affect the thoughts passing through our minds,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

“If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust,” he added. “That is not why we have been put in this world. We are worth so much more. We live for so much more, for we are meant to make God’s dream a reality and to love.”

The pope said that the earthly goods we possess will fade away, but the love we give to our families, to our work, in the Church, and in the world will remain forever.

“Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts,” he said.

“May we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with him at our side. Let us allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return,” Pope Francis said.

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