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Pope Francis and his American Visit 9/22/2015
Who is Saint Father Junipero Serra 9/29/2015
Saint Patrick's Day- March 17th 3/15/2016
Pope Francis and his American Visit 9/22/2015
Pope Francis Visits Cuba and The United States of America From September 19th until September 27th, Pope Francis will be visiting Cuba and the United States of America. For many reasons, his visit to these two nations is historic and perhaps controversial.
Who is the Pope? The Pope is not just a person, but is called the Vicar of Christ for over 1.2 billion Catholics (that’s 1,200,000,000 people). The word “vicar” means earthly representative of God or Christ. Catholics believe that when Jesus Christ walked the earth, he chose a leader to guide Christians after he was to be crucified. Catholics refer to Bible passages to support this view, including Mathew 16:18. After Peter died, early Christians chose a new leader. Pope Francis is the 266th Pope in the history of the Church. When the Pope speaks, he speaks not only for himself, but for all Catholics of the world.
There are 801 million (that’s 801,000,000 people) Christians in the world today who do not believe the Pope is the leader of the Christian people. In 1053, within the Christian Church, there was a schism. A schism means a separation. The Christian Church divided in two, between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not accept the idea that the Pope was leader of the Christians on Earth. Then, in 1527, Martin Luther separated from the Roman Catholic Church, forming the Lutheran Church. This was the beginning of the Reformation. After this separation was made, hundreds of other Christian religions separated from either the Lutheran Church or the Roman Catholic Church. Faiths that separated from the Catholic Church do not hold that the Pope is leader of the world’s Christians.
The Pope and Cuba Since 1959, people of religious faith have been persecuted on Cuba. Fidel Castro installed a Communist government in Cuba, and Communist countries outlaw religious belief. Christians have been oppressed, tortured and executed on Cuba since this time. However, in recent years, the Communist regime of Castro may be softening its stance towards religion. Pope Francis has worked to bring greater freedom to the religious people of Cuba. He brokered the deal between the United States of America and Cuba that improved diplomatic relations between the two countries. Raul Castro, the current Communist dictator of Cuba, will attend all three Masses the Pope will celebrate, and the dictator has said he may go back to the Church.
The Pope and the United States of America Pope Francis will be in the United States of America from September 22nd until September 27th. His visit marks a few “firsts.” For the first time in history a Pope will address all members of Congress. This will take place 10:00 a.m. EST. Pope Francis will also canonize the first Spanish-American saint of North America, proclaiming Father Junipero Serra a saint on September 23rd at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Both events are marked with great interest and some controversy.
The Pope and the U.S. Congress Many are waiting with keen interest to listen to what Pope Francis will say to the U.S. Congress. The Pope has made statements that seem very critical of free market principles, which is favored by the Republican Party. He also has written and spoken about global warming, which is a favored topic of Democrats. On the other hand, he has confirmed the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion, which is a procedure nearly all Democrats believe to be a right of women. And, he has spoken against euthanasia, which more Democrats support.
The Church and Father Junipero Serra The Catholic Church proclaims a person to have been a saint if he or she lived an exemplary life for Christ, and, if two miracles can be attributed to this person after he or she has died. For example, if a believer asks a person he believes to be in heaven to pray for him, and the believer is healed of an incurable disease, the Church believes this may be a miracle. During his visit to the U.S.A., Pope Francis will be proclaiming Father Junipero Serra a saint.
Father Junipero Serra is somewhat of a controversial figure. Father Serra was a Spanish Franciscan priest who founded nine of California’s 21 missions from 1769 to 1782. Because of Serra, thousands of native Americans learned about Christ, were baptized, and learned trades that would help them in the new economy the Spanish brought with them when Spain colonized California. Once baptized, the Indians were not allowed to leave the missions, and when they broke laws or Church rules, Indians were physically punished, as was the custom in medieval Europe. On one hand, Father Serra is revered as a Christian who gave up worldly comfort to teach about Christ in a new land, but on the other hand, some believe he mistreated the Indians and should not be exalted.
Questions: 1. What is the Catholic view of who the Pope is? 2. What happened in the year 1053? 3. What happened in the year 1527? 4. Since 1959, who has been in control of Cuba and how does this group treat believers in God? 5. What are the two different views of Father Serra?
Who was Father Junipero Serra? 9/29/2015
Current Event During Pope Francis’ visit to the United States of America last week, he canonized Father Junipero Serra. This means that he proclaimed Father Serra a saint. For most Americans, this brings up many questions. What is a saint? Who was Father Serra? Why is there a controversy surrounding Father Serra? What does Father Serra have to do with American history? To understand American history it is necessary to understand Father Serra.
A Quick History of Sainthood In Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, someone who lives in Christ and is believed in Heaven is considered a saint. But those believed worthy of greater honor or emulation are proclaimed a saint. This practice began immediately after the crucifixion of Christ. In the first centuries, early Christian spread the word of Christ by speaking to others. The Roman Empire persecuted Christians, martyring many. A martyr is someone who died for his faith. Early Christians began referring to those martyred as saints. For example, all early Christians referred to the Apostles as saints, such as Saint Peter, who Christians believe to have been crucified upside down.
The first person to have been officially declared a saint was in 993, when Pope John XV proclaimed Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg a saint, along with Polish martyrs. In 1234, the Catholic Church adopted a formal canonization process.
Who Was Father Serra? Last week, Father Serra became the United States’ first Hispanic saint. He lived in 18th century Spain and became a priest. Father Serra joined the Franciscans, a medieval religious order, and promised a life of poverty. For many years, Father Serra’s life consisted of prayer, singing, physical labor, spiritual readings and instruction. Serra became a professor, and was known for being a great teacher. Giving up a comfortable life at the university, Serra volunteered to go to the new land to establish missions in California.
Father Serra established the first nine of 21 missions in California, which stretch from San Diego to Sonoma. Serra Christianized thousands of Indians, and the Spanish taught them how to farm, raise livestock, make soap, weave clothes, and how to survive in the new Spanish economy. Until about thirty years ago, no one questioned the accomplishments of Father Serra.
Some think Serra’s accomplishments were actually tragedies for the native peoples of California and that Serra should not be honored. Serra and the Spanish carried diseases the Indians did not have, and because of the Europeans, historians think 90% of the Indians died. Some even claim this is proof of genocide. Also, once the Indians joined a mission, they were never allowed to leave. The missionaries used the military to force Indians to stay. Some argue that the Indians were physically punished for not following the rules, but, Spanish were also physically punished for the same reasons.
There are many reasons these arguments against Serra are not strong. One, the Spanish did not know they carried diseases that would hurt the Indians. The word genocide means when a country as a policy tries to murder a people. There was no Spanish policy of genocide. Also, no Indian was forced to convert to Christianity and become part of the mission, and, there is no evidence Serra ever hurt an Indian. In Europe in the 1700s, serfs were not allowed to leave the land they worked on. The Spanish mentality of the 1700s was the same as every European in the medieval ages. Because of this, any Indian who ran away from the mission, was forced back by the Spanish soldiers. This was not a policy of Father Serra, but it was Spanish law.
American History and Father Serra Father Serra is important for the history of California and also for the United States of America. During the American Revolution, a group of untrained farmers fought and beat the strongest army and navy in the world. Their military leader was George Washington, and he led the Continental Army in beating the British and establishing the United States of America. In 1777, Father Serra had all of the California missions collect money and he sent $137 to General Washington.
Every state chooses two people from their state to honor by placing their statue in the U.S. Capitol. Since, Father Serra’s statue is one of two from California that are located at the U.S. Capitol (the other is Ronald Reagan). He has been traditionally recognized as one of California’s most important citizens. On his visit to America, Pope Francis visited this statue and said of Serra, “tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.” He said that relations between European and natives “were often turbulent and violent,” but “it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.”
Questions 1. Who was Father Serra? 2. What did Pope Francis do regarding Father Serra las week? 3. What is the controversy surrounding Father Serra based on? 4. How is Father Serra tied to California and American history? 5. What is your opinion of Father Serra? Was he a great man? Was he an oppressor of Indians?
Saint Patrick's Day - March 17th 3/15/2016
Patrick was born in fourth century Roman Britain (c. 390-461) to a loving family of wealth. His parents were most likely successful merchants and administrators of Rome. On February 27, 380, Roman Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica and declared the official religion in the empire to be the Catholic Church. Patrick was brought up in this faith. He had a privileged childhood as the son of wealthy Roman leaders, but suffered great hardships for a number of years. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish and changed the course of history.
At the beginning of the medieval ages, many in Europe clung to the pagan religions of the past. Ireland, the island to the west of Britain, was a land where Christianity was unknown. Celts in Ireland followed a belief called Druidism. They believed in many gods, and Druid priests had many practices that we would call barbaric. Druids sacrificed humans to keep their gods happy.
As a sixteen year-old, Patrick’s easy life of comfort and prestige changed forever. Some reports state Patrick had snuck out of his parents’ home and took part in an all-night pagan ritual. With dawn breaking, a small band of Irish pirates raided Britain and captured Patrick. He was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery, completely separated from his loving parents. Patrick wrote later that he had left the faith of his family, and for this he was being punished.
For six years, Patrick worked as a common slave in Ireland. At any instant, he could be killed, mutilated, or beaten by his owner. He was far from his home and far from any help his Christian friends could provide. Instead of becoming desperate and sad, though, Patrick spent his time in prayer and reflection. Working as a shepherd for six years, he grew to love the Irish land and people, and yearned to one day teach them the Christian belief. He united his sufferings as a slave to the sufferings of his savior, Christ, and his love for his captors grew.
According to Patrick’s writings, he heard the Heavenly Father speak to him and tell him to escape from slavery and to walk to the coast. A boat would be waiting for him. As a slave, if he were recognized, he would have been put to death! Patrick did as he was told, and there was a boat waiting for him. The captain agreed to take him back to Britain. Patrick’s parents were so excited to see him, but they were also disappointed to hear what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a priest and return to the people who enslaved him in Ireland. His parents wanted him to get married, become wealthy and important, and raise a family. If he returned to Ireland, wouldn’t he be killed by his former slave owner for escaping? How could he have a family if he became a priest?
Patience is a virtue Patrick practiced. He went to Gaul (France), studied to become a priest, and waited for his calling to go back to Ireland and spread Christianity. At the age of 49, after about 25 years of waiting, he finally received the order to go to Ireland as a bishop to evangelize. He returned, went to his former slave owner, and spoke about Christ. Amazingly, within Bishop Patrick’s lifetime, Ireland became a Christian country! And, since this time Irish missionaries have travelled throughout the world spreading the news of Jesus and his Church.
There are many legends attributed to Patrick in Ireland. For example, some say he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, or that he used a three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity. But, what is not legend is that within his lifetime, Ireland changed from a land of slavery, human sacrifice, and paganism, to a Christian land, where the slave trade came to a halt, and where murder and tribal warfare decreased.
Along with bringing Christianity to the Irish, Patrick established monasteries that some say saved Western civilization. In the Middle Ages, a monastery was a place where men lived and worshipped, served as doctors and nurses, fed the poor, took care of orphans, and copied important documents. It was the only place of learning in the first centuries after the Roman Empire fell. As Roman law and order gave way to chaos, Irish monks kept working, copying classic texts of the west, and spreading Christianity. For centuries after Patrick died, Irish monks spread both the Christian faith and the classics. It is for this that some historians claim that St. Patrick saved Western Civilization.