Summer Highlights

Leave it to ITI students to make the most of their summer break. The following is a roundup of some of the global adventures of returning students, which includes volunteering, teaching, and attending summer schools.

Elizabeth Ielmini

What I did: I taught English at the English Summer School (ESS) in Ukraine for the Ukrainian Catholic University. ESS is a summer camp held each year outside of Lviv for students attending the Ukrainian Catholic University.

My thoughts: Teaching English at the English Summer School in Ukraine was truly amazing and unforgettable. It was a blessing to be able to help these students learn English and to learn so much myself. I made so many dear friends and had such a wonderful time being a part of the community there. I also came to love Ukraine more and more and all things Ukrainian, Слава Україні! I was surrounded by amazing and inspiring people, all of whom I am grateful to for such an extraordinary summer: the priests who said liturgy for us everyday, my fellow teachers and other camp volunteers, the administration and leaders of the camp, and of course the wonderful students (especially the seminarians)!


Benedict Hince

What I did: This summer I presented a paper at the Hildebrand Schülerkreis on Moral Action and the Apprehension of the Person. The Schülerkreis was focused on Christian Personalism and Phenomenological realism, and it particularly sought to foster dialogue between this tradition and that of Thomistic philosophy. It was hosted in Gaming, Austria.

My thoughts: It was a wonderful event and posed some very interesting questions which led to great discussions, particularly concerning the encounter between metaphysics and phenomenology. One thing that really struck me was how two people can disagree profoundly over something, and yet discuss it in a spirit of friendship, both seeking the truth together. It was also my first time presenting a paper at a conference, and so the experience was really encouraging, particularly as I look to continue my studies and delve deeper into some big questions.


Nicholas Koeppel

What I did: This summer I attended the Central European Summer Summer school for 10 days in Poland, walking in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and learning what it means to be a leader.

My thoughts: I especially enjoyed visiting the places of John Paul II, including: Wadowice, the place of his birth and childhood and home parish, hiking on the nature trail he walked near his home, and visiting Kraków, the city where he was a young priest and bishop. I also enjoyed meeting and interacting with people from England, Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine. Thanks be to God for a blessed time!


Elizabeth Stone

What I did: This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Armenia and Georgia. I spent one month volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity in Spitak, an Armenian village. I assisted the Sisters at their center caring for those with physical and/or mental disabilities.

My thoughts: My days consisted of praying with the Sisters, cleaning/cooking, visiting women and families in the village, and most importantly, and giving as much love and attention as possible to those living at the center. It was a wonderful experience filled with so much joy! I cherished every moment spent with my new Armenian family and I left the country with a promise to return next summer.


Rachael Johnson

What I did: I attended the Humanum Institute’s Sex and Gender conference at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England.

My thoughts: The conference offered a wealth of insight into gender dysphoria and the issues surrounding it, and Dr. Newton (ITI alum and past professor) was one of many amazing speakers. It also allowed me a glimpse of what our British brothers and sisters in Christ are currently facing. And last, I discovered Cadbury is superior to Milka (sorry, Switzerland).


Elizabeth Schick

What I did: On July 30, I attended the first-ever celebration of the feast day of Bl. Solanus Casey, a Capuchin friar who lived in my home archdiocese of Detroit (Michigan, USA). Present at the feast day Mass were the archbishop, members of Solanus Casey’s family, members of the Capuchins, and the Panamanian woman whose healing prompted his beatification in November 2017. The Mass was held at the National Shrine of the Little Flower, a basilica where Solanus Casey often prayed.

My thoughts: I was at the ITI when Solanus Casey was beatified in Detroit last November, so I wasn’t able to attend the beatification Mass, which made me that much more eager to attend the first feast day of Detroit’s first “hometown saint” with the archbishop. The basilica was packed, and when Archbishop Vigneron asked during his homily how many people had had a prayer answered through Solanus’ intercession, there wasn’t a single pew without at least one hand in the air.

Bl. Solanus is a great reminder to me of the importance of humility and of God’s ability to work through His “little ones”. Solanus was ordained a simplex priest (meaning he could not preach nor hear confessions) due to his academic and linguistic struggles in the German-language seminary in Wisconsin, and he was assigned the lowly job of “porter” at the friary in Detroit after his ordination, and yet God chose to use him as an instrument of healing for thousands of people, both during his lifetime and afterwards. People would line the street just to speak with him, and he encouraged and affirmed many in their faith.

As a student of theology, immersed in academia, I have found it tremendously important to have such role models to remind me that a smile or a cup of water given to one in need is worth more than all the “right answers” in the world. And whenever I find myself struggling to understand a concept – or a language – I know that I can turn to him for assistance in both humbly accepting my limitations and joyfully persevering in my assigned tasks, no matter how difficult they may seem.

Bl. Solanus Casey, pray for us!



Schönborn: VfGH-Entscheidung zur Ehe verneint Wirklichkeit

5 Dezember 2017

Vorsitzender der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz kritisiert Entscheidung des Verfassungsgerichtshofs, wonach Ehe künftig auch für gleichgeschlechtliche Paare möglich sein soll

Wien ( Mit deutlicher Kritik hat Kardinal Christoph Schönborn auf die Entscheidung des Verfassungsgerichtshofs (VfGH) zur Ehe reagiert: “Es ist beunruhigend, dass sogar die Verfassungsrichter den Blick verloren haben für die besondere Natur der Ehe als Verbindung von Mann und Frau. Sie ist wie keine andere Beziehung geeignet, Kinder hervorzubringen, zu hüten und aufzuziehen und damit die Generationenfolge zu sichern”, so der Vorsitzende der Bischofskonferenz in einer Stellungnahme gegenüber Kathpress. “Wenn der VfGH die Einzigartigkeit und damit die juristische Sonderstellung der Ehe verneint, die auf der Unterschiedlichkeit der Geschlechter aufbaut, verneint er die Wirklichkeit”, sagte der Kardinal und hielt in Richtung Höchstgericht fest: “Er tut damit der Gesellschaft keinen Dienst und schadet letzten Endes allen – auch denen, die er schützen möchte und die es auch zu schützen gilt.”

“Ich bin zuversichtlich, dass sich langfristig die Einsicht in die Schöpfungsordnung wieder durchsetzen wird, die der Mensch nicht missachten kann, ohne Schaden zu nehmen”, so der Kardinal, der weiter sagte: “Dennoch beklage ich die Umdeutung eines wesentlichen Begriffs der Rechtsordnung, der im Wesen des Menschen wurzelt und für die Gesellschaft eine entscheidende Rolle spielt – umso mehr, als der Verfassungsgerichtshof ohne weiters auch anders entscheiden hätte können und sein Erkenntnis nun sogar im Widerspruch zum Europäischen Menschengerichtshof steht.”

VfGH ändert bisherige Linie

Anlass für die Stellungnahme des Kardinals ist das am Dienstag veröffentlichte Erkenntnis des VfGH, mit der er seine bisherige Rechtsprechung zum Eherecht grundlegend geändert hat. Demnach sehen die Höchstrichter in der Unterscheidung zwischen Ehe und eingetragener Partnerschaft eine verfassungswidrige Verletzung des Diskriminierungsverbots. Gleichzeitig hat der VfGH verfügt, dass die bisher bestehenden unterschiedlichen Regelungen für verschieden- und gleichgeschlechtliche Paare mit Ablauf des 31. Dezember 2018 aufgehoben werden. Somit können auch gleichgeschlechtliche Paare in Österreich künftig heiraten. Gleichzeitig steht dann die eingetragene Partnerschaft auch verschiedengeschlechtlichen Paaren offen.

Anlass für das mit 4. Dezember 2017 datierte VfGH-Erkenntnis war die Beschwerde von zwei Frauen, die in eingetragener Partnerschaft leben und die Zulassung zur Begründung einer Ehe beantragt haben. Dieser Antrag wurde vom Magistrat der Stadt Wien und dann vom Verwaltungsgericht Wien abgelehnt. In der Folge hat der Verfassungsgerichtshof die Bestimmungen über Ehe und eingetragene Partnerschaft von Amts wegen einer Prüfung unterzogen. Insbesondere ist es dabei um die Frage gegangen, ob die als wesentliches Kriterium für die Ehe bestehende Wortfolge “verschiedenen Geschlechts” im Allgemeinen Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch (Paragraf 44) dem Gleichheitsgebot widerspricht. Diese Frage bejaht der VfGH jetzt in seinem Erkenntnis und verfügt, dass diese Wortfolge als verfassungswidrig aufgehoben wird. Genauso werden auch jene Wortfolgen im Gesetz über die Eingetragenen Partnerschaft aufgehoben, die dieses Rechtsinstitut auf gleichgeschlechtliche Paare beschränken.

Als Begründung für das Abweichen von seiner bisherigen Linie führt der VfGH an, dass sich die eingetragene Partnerschaft, die gleichgeschlechtliche Paare seit 2010 eingehen können, mittlerweile inhaltlich immer weiter an die Ehe angenähert habe. Die jüngere Rechtsentwicklung habe insbesondere eine “gemeinsame Elternschaft auch gleichgeschlechtlicher Paare ermöglicht”, so der VfGH in der Presseerklärung, wo es heißt: “Gleichgeschlechtliche Paare dürfen Kinder (gemeinsam) adoptieren und die zulässigen Formen medizinisch unterstützter Fortpflanzung gleichberechtigt nutzen.”

Daraus folgert das Höchstgericht, dass die Unterscheidung in Ehe und eingetragene Partnerschaft sich heute nicht aufrechterhalten lasse, ohne gleichgeschlechtliche Paare zu diskriminieren. Die Trennung in zwei Rechtsinstitute bringe zum Ausdruck, dass Menschen mit gleichgeschlechtlicher sexueller Orientierung nicht gleich den Personen mit verschiedengeschlechtlicher Orientierung seien, so der VfGH.

In dem Erkenntnis der Höchstrichter heißt es dazu wörtlich: “Die damit verursachte diskriminierende Wirkung zeigt sich darin, dass durch die unterschiedliche Bezeichnung des Familienstandes (‘verheiratet’ versus ‘in eingetragener Partnerschaft lebend’) Personen in einer gleichgeschlechtlichen Partnerschaft auch in Zusammenhängen, in denen die sexuelle Orientierung keinerlei Rolle spielt und spielen darf, diese offen legen müssen und, insbesondere auch vor dem historischen Hintergrund, Gefahr laufen, diskriminiert zu werden.”

Der Gerichtshof kommt daher zu folgendem Schluss: “Die gesetzliche Trennung verschiedengeschlechtlicher und gleichgeschlechtlicher Beziehungen in zwei unterschiedliche Rechtsinstitute verstößt damit gegen das Verbot des Gleichheitsgrundsatzes, Menschen auf Grund personaler Merkmale wie hier der sexuellen Orientierung zu diskriminieren.”

Diese Entscheidung hat zur Folge, dass die bisherigen Bestimmungen (Ehe für verschiedengeschlechtliche Paare, eingetragene Partnerschaft für gleichgeschlechtliche Paare) noch bis 31. Dezember 2018 in Kraft bleiben, wenn es nicht schon vorher eine Aufhebung oder Änderung durch den Gesetzgeber gibt. Erfolgt das nicht, dann können gleichgeschlechtliche Paare spätestens nach dem 31. Dezember 2018 heiraten, so der VfGH in seiner Aussendung. Wer bereits in eingetragener Partnerschaft lebt, kann in ihr verbleiben, oder künftig gemeinsam eine Ehe eingehen. Weiters wird erklärt, dass eine bestehende eingetragene Partnerschaft ein Ehehindernis ist. Wer also verpartnert ist und eine andere Person heiraten will, muss zuerst die eingetragene Partnerschaft für nichtig erklären oder auflösen.

Bischofskonferenz für Einzigartigkeit der Ehe 

Kürzlich hatte sich die Bischofskonferenz mit dem damals noch laufenden VfGH-Verfahren befasst. In einer Erklärung nach Ende ihrer Vollversammlung Anfang November betonten die Bischöfe, dass die Ehe wie bisher ausschließlich Paaren verschiedenen Geschlechts vorbehalten bleiben soll, weil das ihre Einzigartigkeit im Vergleich mit anderen Formen des Zusammenlebens ausmache. An die Adresse des VfGH sagten die Bischöfe damals, man vertraue darauf, “dass die Verfassungsrichter verantwortungsvoll über diese Frage beraten und an ihrer bisherigen Linie festhalten, wonach die Ehe aufgrund ihres spezifischen Wesens anders zu behandeln ist als alle anderen Partnerschaftsformen. ” Diese Rechtseinsicht decke sich zudem mit jener des Europäischen Gerichtshofes für Menschenrechte (EGMR). So habe der EGMR wiederholt festgestellt, dass es nicht diskriminierend ist, die Ehe allein der Verbindung von Mann und Frau vorzubehalten, erinnerten die Bischöfe.

Mit einem Bruch mit dem bisherigen Eheverständnis wäre nichts gewonnen, aber das Vertrauen in fundamentale Begriffe der Rechtsordnung, die im Wesen des Menschen wurzeln und für die Gesellschaft grundlegend sind, verloren, zeigten sich die Bischöfe überzeugt. Sie warnten vor einer Vielzahl neuer Fragen, die durch eine Uminterpretation von Ehe aufgeworfen würden. So sei im Blick auf andere Länder absehbar, dass durch die Preisgabe des bisherigen Eheverständnisses Forderungen nach Leihmutterschaft, Geschwisterehe oder auch Polygamie nur mehr schwer abzuwehren sein würden.

“Das Wesen von Ehe ist die dauerhafte Verbindung zwischen Mann und Frau und ihre Offenheit für gemeinsame Kinder. Dieses Verständnis von Ehe ist fundamental für das Zusammenleben der Menschen. Es spiegelt sich wider in der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention genauso wie in der geltenden österreichischen Rechtsordnung”, so die Bischöfe in ihrer Erklärung vor einem Monat.

Die Bischöfe würden alle Bemühungen unterstützen, Diskriminierungen Homosexueller zu beseitigen. Die Unterscheidung der Ehe von anderen Partnerschaftsformen sei aber nicht nur keine Diskriminierung, sondern vom rechtlichen Gleichheitsgebot her gefordert, wonach Ungleiches ungleich zu behandeln ist. Der Unterschied zwischen der Ehe und einer homosexuellen Verbindung sei so wesentlich, dass der Ehebegriff nicht auch auf sie ausgeweitet werden könne, ohne dass dabei der Sinn von Ehe verloren ginge: die natürliche Generationenfolge durch gemeinsame Kinder und das Recht von Kindern auf Vater und Mutter. Die Bischöfen verwiesen dabei auf die auch in Österreich geltende Kinderrechtskonvention, wonach Kinder grundsätzlich ein Recht haben, ihren leiblichen Vater und ihre leibliche Mutter zu kennen und von ihnen erzogen zu werden.

Copyright 2017 Katholische Presseagentur KATHPRESS, Wien, Österreich
Alle Rechte vorbehalten

Truth Should Speak To Power

Abortion is the gravest evil of our time and we all have a duty to be informed and be active in combating this great slaughter, be it through incessant prayer or through pro-life work, we can all make a difference.

Two articles (also to be viewed as videos) by the Catholic British parliamentarian Lord David Alton and by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, commemorate the sad anniversary of 50 years of legalized abortion in Great Britain:

Here is an excerpt:

What abortion involves then is not a mere removal of ‘potential life’, or a ‘blob of cells’. It is the wilful killing of the smallest and most helpless member of the human family in the very place she should be safest: her mother’s womb.

And it is done by the most barbaric means. Whether it is tearing her body apart piece-by-piece by strong plier-like instruments in ‘Dilation and Evacuation’ or by a powerful suction machine in ‘Vacuum Aspiration’, or whether it is simply starving her to death by chemically-induced miscarriage, abortion is an act of the cruellest destruction.

In some cases of later abortion, in order to prevent the baby from being born alive, it is actually recommended practice by the RCOG – the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – that the surgeons inject a salt solution into the baby’s heart to cause her a fatal heart attack. This also softens her bone tissue, making it easier for them to dismember her body.

This savagery actually takes place in Great Britain in 2017. At a time when we pride ourselves on our liberalism, our humanity, our civilisation, our compassion. In an age where human comfort for the average Briton has never been easier, and the welfare of almost every individual has at least been paid lip-service by the existence of a welfare state and a modern economy, however flawed in practice either of those might be.

We are told that this callous killing is justified. We are told, this is about a woman’s ‘autonomy’, and her ‘right to choose’.

But we know by common sense that our autonomy is obviously limited by the effect that it has on others. The ‘choice’ to not be a mother no more justifies the killing of a child in the womb than it justifies leaving a baby outside the womb to die of exposure.

No-one has the ‘right to choose’ to end the life of another human being, and so no-one has the right to have an unborn child destroyed.

Rather, we all have the duty to make sure that every member of our society is properly cared for, and that their right to life – recognised by international treaties to which our country is signatory as applying to every human being, to every member of the human family – that the right to life of everyone is given adequate legal protection.”

Here is the full text:


This is a prayer John Paul II prayed every day – it became a habit when he was 11 years old

VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o’erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.




Suffering for her Faith: Asia Bibi has spent more than 3,000 days in prison for blasphemy

Condemned to death in 2009 for insulting Islam, the Pakistani Catholic is still awaiting her final verdict.

On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi was thrown into jail. A year later she was sentenced to death for blasphemy, and since 2013, after two transfers, she has been languishing in one of the three windowless cells on death row in the southern province of Multan in the Punjab Penitentiary. A year after the Supreme Court of Pakistan postponed her appeal amid death threats by 150 muftis (Muslim legal experts) against anyone who would assist “blasphemers,” the case has not progressed by one iota. On August 30, Asia Bibi had spent 3,000 days in prison.

Her family lives underground. The only thing we know comes from her lawyer, the Muslim Saif ul Malook, who has visited her in recent months. He says she is doing well and is still hoping for her release. On the other hand, the Supreme Court seems to have forgotten the case, and has still not decided whether to confirm her death sentence or to release her.

During those 3,000 days Asia Bibi has never stopped praying and asking for prayers. As a tribute to this Christian who has become an icon for all those who struggle in Pakistan and the world against all violence in the name of religion, this is the prayer she composed last year on the occasion of the Easter celebrations, and which accompanies her in her detention:

Resurrected Lord, allow your daughter Asia to rise again with you. Break my chains, make my heart free and go beyond these bars, and accompany my soul so that it is close to those who are dear to me, and that it remains always near you. Do not abandon me in the day of trouble, do not deprive me of your presence. You who have suffered torture and the cross, alleviate my suffering. Hold me near you, Lord Jesus. On the day of your resurrection, Jesus, I want to pray for my enemies, for those who hurt me. I pray for them and I beg you to forgive them for the harm they have done me. I ask you, Lord, to remove all obstacles so that I may obtain the blessing of freedom. I ask you to protect me and protect my family.

After eight years of suffering, anguish and disappointed hopes, let us keep up our prayers and our actions of support for her, because through her we support all the persecuted Christians in their sacrifices.

Source: Isabelle Cousturie – France

The Church doesn’t need our opinion, she needs our holiness

It is doubtful that the Holy Spirit needs the voice of every Catholic with a blog and a Twitter account to set things straight.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,  but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2

We live in a world full of opinions. And the internet has amplified the number of opinions we hear each day. People who used to grouse about life to their best friend or next-door neighbors now have websites, blogs, and social media accounts through which they can announce their opinions on any given subject to the world.

“I can be silent no more!” This sentiment is widespread, as if typing out our grievances will somehow solve the world’s problems. The democratizing force of the internet makes us all feel like our opinions are much more valuable than they really are.

It sounds harsh but most of our opinions don’t really matter. The only thing that matters is truth and action, and that is not the same as opinion. Of course, the problem is that we often confuse having an opinion with knowing the truth. We step onto our soapboxes and pontificate as if we have a full and comprehensive understanding of the truth. But we don’t.

The closest we can get to knowing and understanding truth is to enter and live within the Church. Like a mother, the Church takes us close to her breast and feeds us the milk of truth. But this truth is not given to us to wield against others like a whip. Rather, as Saint Paul tells us, we are called to speak “the truth in love” so that we may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).

Paul’s image of “growing up” is right on target. We remain as children if we do not learn the art of speaking boldly both truth and love. If we emphasize one rather than the other, we are still being called to a greater maturity in Christ. And most of us will admit that we do not speak the truth in love perfectly. As humans, we almost never speak a full truth to another person, at least not the Truth that is a person, Jesus Christ.

Instead, we speak a mishmash of opinion, truth, lies, and love all at once. We often don’t realize it. But once in a while, God reveals to us how little we actually know. It is a mercy when he does this because we are revealed to ourselves in our nakedness. For “no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4:13). Only when we realize our nakedness can we cling more closely to Christ in the Church and trust in his guidance.

Though it is woefully unpopular to say, the Church does not need our opinion in matters of faith and morals. She is not a democracy. Even if some of us find ourselves in disagreement with Church teaching or we disapprove of something a pope has said, we often can find maturity and truth in doing something our egoistic, self-centered world disdains: remaining silent. As the book of Sirach tells us, “There is a man who keeps silent but is wise” (20:1).

The Church needs us to speak the truth in love, but She does not need our correction in matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit corrects the Church, and he taps people like Saint Paul, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Athanasius to play the part. But it is doubtful that the Holy Spirit needs the voice of every Catholic with a blog and a Twitter account to set things straight. In fact, it seems likely that the devil uses our obsession with such matters to distract us from what really matters.

What the Church does need is our holiness. She needs us to preach the Gospel to all creatures (Mk 16:15). She needs us to pull our eyes away from the internal politics of the Church and focus our eyes on spreading the Gospel and the Body of Christ. The Church needs us to desire and thirst for sanctity.

In the words of Saint Paul, the Church needs us to “increase and abound in love [for] one another…so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God” (1 Thess 3:12-13).


Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.

This article was taken from:


The Most Important Person on Earth

The Most Important Person

on earth is a mother. She

cannot claim the honor of

having built Notre Dame

Cathedral. She need not. She

has built something more

magnificent than any

cathedral—a dwelling for an

immortal soul, the tiny

perfection of her baby’s

body…The angels have not

been blessed with such a

grace. They cannot share in

God’s creative miracle to bring

new saints to Heaven. Only a

human mother can. Mothers

are closer to God the Creator

than any other creature; God

joins forces with mothers in

performing this act of

creation… What on God’s

good earth is more glorious

than this: to be a mother?

—Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty


Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

1892 – 1975

Joseph Mindszenty was born in Hungary on March 29, 1892. He was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus on June 12, 1915, and was consecrated Bishop of Veszprem on March 25, 1944. From November 27, 1944 to April 20, 1945, he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Pope Pius XII appointed him Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary on October 2, 1945. Just a few months later, on February 18, 1946, the Holy Father raised him to the Cardinalate. As Pope Pius XII placed the Cardinal’s hat on his head, the Pope said: “Among the thirty-two, you will be the first to suffer the martyrdom whose symbol this red color is.”

When the Communists arrested Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest on December 26, 1948, his twenty-three long years of persecution, suffering and enforced isolation began. Throughout his ordeals, he was unwavering in his faith, hope and love of God.

Upon the request of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Mindszenty departed from his country of Hungary, still occupied by the Communists, on September 29, 1971, and settled in Vienna, Austria. He died there at the age of 83 on May 6, 1975.

Today, Cardinal Mindszenty is buried in the Church of the Assumption, the Basilica of Esztergom, Hungary, where pilgrims visit daily and pray for his intercession in their needs.

(taken from:

Every life is worth living – A challenging and inspiring story

Saying Yes To Sara – a testimony by Catherine MacMillan

I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 2009 when I was 18 years old. I had recently returned from a gap year in Africa and had a place at Glasgow University to study music. The course was due to start that September.

Of course I did not feel ready to be a mother: I felt I was too young, I worried that I might not be able to cope with being a young mum. I had so many plans and I didn’t have a great relationship with the father. I booked an abortion, and this fact has filled me with such guilt that I’ve only started openly admitting it this year.

It is becoming more and more rare for young people to hear the case against abortion and it can be disheartening when the only advice available from people around you is to take take the opposite action. It is a counsel of despair. Pressure on young women in these situations is now huge. Abortion can seem the only way out of a frightening new situation.

Miraculously, my wonderful family found out about my pregnancy. Only then did I realise that they were going to be supportive of this new chapter in my life, and that abortion was no longer something that needed to be considered. When I speak about the person I was then, it doesn’t seem as if I’m talking about myself.

Although I was naive, self-centred, self-destructive and stupid in so many ways, I am proud of, and so very grateful to that old version of me for eventually saying yes to new life. As it turned out that wonderful new life was on its way to teach a lot of lessons, and ultimately to save me. In my 26th week of pregnancy I decided I would like to know the sex of my unborn child, so my mother and I went along to a private gender scan.

At this scan it was revealed to us that I was carrying a little girl, but also that this little girl had quite a few brain abnormalities. We were passed over to the hospital for further assessment. I used to think of that week as my “mourning period”— mourning the loss of the child I thought I would have. I tried to forget some of the hopes and plans I had already made for her, like teaching her how to play the cello and how to sing, and I mentally cancelled all the nice nurseries and schools I had made a list of in my head.

I’m now glad that week was so tough, as it matured me emotionally by about 10 years. Something else happened that week. It might have been happening before then, but that point in my pregnancy signified when I became my daughter’s advocate and began to stand up for her life, her right to life, and all that comes with that.

I’ll never forget the doctor I met the following week. She was the first of many with appalling social and people skills. She was a very severe woman and she didn’t give a hint of empathy for my situation the whole time I dealt with her. She scanned my (at this point enormous) belly in total silence, and when she had finished she took a deep breath and recited this speech: “There is a chance your child will be ‘normal’ and perfectly healthy, but there is also a chance she may not make it through birth. She will potentially be extremely disabled, she could have anything from Down’s syndrome . . . ” She then went on to list lots of possible scary syndromes, with a few of them usually resulting in the child’s death during or straight after birth.

The doctor strongly advised termination and offered no support whatsoever for my decision to continue with my pregnancy. I now know that this is scarily common in our hospitals. It is legal in this country to have a disabled child aborted up to 40 weeks into pregnancy. NHS guidelines consider a baby full-term at 37 weeks, though most women go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks into their pregnancy. Ninety-two per cent of prenatal Down’s syndrome diagnoses are terminated. This means that  if modern medical procedures continue in the way they have been going for the past decade, it will not be long before the condition is virtually extinct.

When I went in for my 30-week scan with the same doctor she was still pushing termination on me. I was a huge, waddling pregnant woman. Such a procedure routinely involves giving the baby an injection, usually of potassium, into its heart so it dies before the process starts. Then the mother would have to give birth to the dead child, or a suction device would be used to remove the dead child from the womb. No one ever tells you that. No one ever explained what I would really have had to do if I had agreed to “terminate”. I would have still had to give birth to my child, and it would have been my fault that she wasn’t breathing.

Doctors don’t tell you how traumatic that choice would be, how much of a burden that would be to carry around with you for the rest of your life. The same doctor continued to strongly advise termination until I was 35 weeks pregnant. On March 31, 2010, my beautiful Sara Maria was born. She was crying, loudly, she weighed 6lb 7oz, she was alive and she was perfect. It took a few months before the extent of her problems became clear. Even the doctors were encouraging in their prognosis after her birth, but only for a short while.

As soon as she was born, things became so much easier in a way. She was a gorgeous baby. Sara spent the first two years of her life very unwell with constant chest infections because of an undetected unsafe swallow. This meant that she had been aspirating on her feeds. When it was eventually detected, she had a gastronomy feeding tube surgically fitted in her stomach. Unfortunately, the way we were treated by the doctor who initially told us Sara could be disabled was the start of a recurring theme. Sara needed a lot of medical intervention; she had five major operations, 20-odd specialist doctors and she needed round-the-clock care.

I had to file complaints against doctors for neglect and bad practice. I had constant rows with some of her doctors about whether they had her best interests at heart. Some of them did not view Sara as a human being; they viewed her merely as a medical problem that they could not solve. Instead of trying to make her life the best it could be, some of them acted as if they could not be bothered, because unlike other children’s conditions, such as cancer, they couldn’t be the hero and cure Sara’s.

Sara’s condition is called Dandy Walker Syndrome, which means that three parts of her brain did not form correctly in the womb. Her other conditions included epilepsy, cortical vision impairment, scoliosis and hip problems, and she was fed entirely through the gastrostomy tube in her stomach. She was non- verbal and immobile. She also wore hearing aids for a long time, but at the end of last year we discovered, after much debate and disbelief on my part, that we were right about her not having hearing impairment. Despite my fears of her never being musical, Sara was a pianist and a drummer, with an eclectic taste in music already, ranging from Rachmaninov piano concertos to lots of different folk and rock music.

Sara’s favourite singer, Jackie Oates, came and sang specially for her at her fifth birthday party last year, thanks to the generosity of the Make A Wish Foundation. Despite not being able to talk, she learned to quack like a duck. One of her favourite things to do was to visit the ducks at the pond and have little conversations with them. Sara had her feeding tube fitted when she was two years old. It dramatically changed her quality of life, although she still struggled with reflux and digestion issues. I eventually found out that this was because of the milk being prescribed by her gastro-surgeon and dietician.

After some research I decided to put her on a blended diet of real food. Anything you and I would eat, she got it too. This had a huge impact on her health and happiness and for the last three years her main medical problem was hip dysplasia, which she had surgery to correct last year. The high-protein diet appeared to cure her epilepsy, and she stopped having seizures altogether, which was wonderful. She was a late smiler but she certainly made up for that. I have been told by countless people that Sara is the happiest child they have ever met.

Being so inspired by my daughter’s bravery and everything else, I completed a Bachelor of Music university degree, on time, with honours and a 2:1. Sara inspired me to do work with disabled adults and children doing music therapy, and I now teach early-years music classes. I will be going back to university in August for my one-year postgraduate teaching diploma.  I want to become a primary school teacher. When Sara’s health improved I started to take her on a lot more adventures. Such a well-travelled girl, such a happy girl, such a fulfilled life. Lots of days at the beach, visiting historical castles, a life filled with going to classical music concerts and plenty of parties and social gatherings, which she thrived in.

I took her to Disneyland Paris just before last Christmas, and it was just as magical as we could have ever hoped for. On the morning of January 5 this year I was busily preparing Sara’s uniform for her return to school the next morning, and sorting through my piles of work for my return to work after the Christmas holidays. Sara hadn’t made any noise yet, but it was not unusual for her to have a long lie-in, so I let her sleep for a little longer while I got organised.

Little did I know that in the early hours of that morning, my happy, beautiful, miraculous little girl’s soul had returned to Heaven. She passed away peacefully in her sleep and with no warning at all. She would have been six years old at the end of March. We still don’t know the cause of death, but it is likely that Sara died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I wasn’t prepared for that. But I take comfort from knowing that she didn’t die from any of the scary things I had been prepared for, like the pneumonia she came close to suffering from when she was two years old, or a long stint in hospital with her health deteriorating over time, and me having to watch her suffer.

At her Requiem Mass my father, the composer Sir James MacMillan, said this: “Catherine’s life changed forever when she said yes to new life, and we saw in this relationship an astonishing love and devotion; we saw rapture gazing at rapture, tenderness embrace tenderness, devotion build upon devotion, worship meet worship, the cherisher lift up the cherished, the enchanter astonish the enchanted, and heart lost to heart.”

He continued: “Our world celebrates strength and power. We glorify might and wealth and health and success. We cheer winners and achievers, we bow before men and women of financial clout, we laud politicians of guile and ruthlessness. Sara had nothing of any of this. Our society doesn’t know what to make of children like Sara any more. There are some very important, powerful, professional, ‘caring’ people in Glasgow who made it clear that they thought Sara should not exist—that the compassionate response to her significant disabilities would be to stop her living, for her mother to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ to Sara. The concept of ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ (life unworthy of life) did not disappear 70 years ago on the defeat of Nazi Germany. It’s here now—in our modern, oh-so-caring-and sharing nice democracies. Well, Sara interfered with that narrative too and turned it on its head.”

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Neil Lyndon wrote of a father’s pain, two decades after he and his girlfriend decided to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds of severe disability. After going into great detail about his son’s severe, extensive disabilities, and, by the sound of it, being advised to abort, he wrote: “Human beings aren’t made to take such superhuman decisions. We sexual mammals exist basically to reproduce, to suckle and to nurture our young and to let them go when they reach their majority, around the age of 21; not to determine whether they should live or die.

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, he removed from the father the moral responsibility for the decision and the deed. Nobody could have said it was the old man’s personal choice. “Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, my girlfriend and I had no such consolation.” Being in a similar situation almost seven years ago, I can tell you now, after losing my most precious creation, how thankful I am that I don’t have that kind of pain. The pain that asks, “What if?” The pain that wonders what might have been.

The pain I am experiencing now, and will experience for the rest of my life, is worth it. Worth it to have those almost six years of joy, love, heartache and extreme pride. Worth it to have the happiness, the smiles and everything that Sara taught me.


Man and Woman in Marriage: Foundations of Society

There is nothing that can replace the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. In every faith and culture of the world, the complementarity of the two sexes united in a relationship of fidelity and fruitfulness (whether physical or spiritual) is the foundational building stone of society.

The West, with its materialistic and relativistic approach to human life is the first culture in the history of mankind that deliberately and aggressively tries to deconstruct this natural reality of creation, in which we see this complementarity of two “opposites” fruitfully at work in every possible realm. Not only with human beings, but also in the animal world, we see that life is created and developed through the necessary difference yet at the same time compatibility of male and female. The world of physical laws is guided by the same principle, for example the need for electrical currents to have a positive and negative pole.

If Western societies want to survive the current crises that threaten to destroy or at least gravely weaken them, modern Man has to return to the healthy practice of accepting the reality of the natural created order, in which God created Man in His image as man and woman in order that the two can become one flesh and be fruitful. In God’s plan for humanity, so well described in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, we see the description of the creation of man and woman in God’s image and the institution of marriage as the groundwork of creation. Genesis speaks about the need for Man to be fruitful and multiply and inhabit the earth. We do not find calls for contraception and abortion, neither for population control.

If Jews and Christians of all stripes would accept these clear teachings of the Bible unequivocally and live them joyfully and responsibly, our world would soon see peace and prosperity flourish. It is really as simple as that.

Quietism and the need for Evangelization

A survivor of the Holocaust described very well to the Historian Martin Gilbert how this great evil could happen: it “depended most of all (…) upon the indifference of bystanders in every land”. The famous quote of Edmund Burke that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” equally underlines the core of the problem, something which Pope Francis is today calling the “globalization of indifference”. Whether it is politicians or those of us who decide to turn our back on the many harsh realities of our world because we think “there is nothing we can do”, it is all the same quietism that overlooks a central exhortation that Christ has given to his followers: go out to all nations and proclaim the Gospel – in words and in deeds.

There is the quietism surrounding the great evil of abortion and its dreadful consequences, most recently exposed by a group of courageous men and women in the United States through the release of a series of undercover videos showing how executives of the abortion industry discuss over lunch and wine how best to crush the skull of an unborn child in order for its organs to be sold intact to interested buyers. The Center for Medical Progress videos show a culture of death that bears all too much resemblance to other well documented forms of barbarism.

There is a quietism surrounding the ideological colonization perpetrated by Western governments that require developing countries wishing to receive financial aid to implement so-called progressive concepts of “sexual- and reproductive health” (a euphemism for desired-for population control through the means of unlimited abortion and contraception) and “marriage equality” (a euphemism for redefining marriage to include same-sex unions). These policies reek of a new form a racism.

There is the quietism surrounding the well-planned persecution of Christians from the Middle East and other parts of the world where a genocide is going on that has only one goal: to wipe out all Christians and their culture from the lands where Christianity was born. In the meantime, arms are flowing unimpeded to the various parties in the various conflicts in the Middle East. As a result, Europe is unsuccessfully trying to deal with an influx of refugees and migrants on an unprecedented scale. Most Europeans are showing their basic Christian humanism by receiving these our fellow human beings with charity and understanding. But this is not enough. Only the Gospel is enough.

To defend life in all its stages, Christians need to show by their lived example as couples and families God’s plan with humanity

To defend marriage, Christians need to themselves live and courageously testify to the meaning of human love and sexuality

To defend the faith, Christians need to stand up, go out, and bring the Gospel to everybody – in Europe, now more than ever, we need to bring the Gospel especially to the fallen-away Christians, and to the Mohammedans. Humanism towards refugees and immigrants is not enough. They need Christ above all else. In the words of Pope Francis to the millions of youth on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in 2013:

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.