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EPISODE#42
CATHEDRAL SQUARE: CONCERN AMERICA

On today’s episode of Cathedral Square, Fr. Christopher Smith welcomes 2 people who are truly “world changers.”

John Straw (Executive Director) and Catharine Quinn (Field Program Coordinator) join us to talk about how CONCERN AMERICA helps to transform need into self-sufficiency.

Since their beginning in 1972, Concern America’s vision has been to build health care, clean water, education, and economic opportunity with communities worldwide

Tune in for some powerful stories and reflections!

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 10/17/20

ADVENT IS TIME TO IDENTIFY SIN, HELP THE POOR, SEE BEAUTY, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Advent is a time to be watchful and alert to the ways one strays from God’s path, but also to signs of his presence in other people and in the beauty of the world, Pope Francis said. 

Reciting the Angelus prayer Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis told people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, “Being watchful and alert are the prerequisites for not continuing ‘to wander far from the Lord’s path,’ lost in our sins and infidelities; being watchful and alert are the conditions for allowing God to break into our existence, to give it meaning and value with his presence full of goodness and tenderness.” 

Like the ancient Israelites who wandered in the desert, the pope said, “we, too, often find ourselves in a situation of infidelity to the Lord’s call; he indicates the right path, the path of faith, the path of love, but we look for happiness elsewhere.” 

Advent gives people time to review the paths they have taken and to turn back to the ways of God, he said. 

It is a time for paying attention to the needs of others, “trying to counter the indifference and cruelty” present in the world, the pope said. But it is also a time to “rejoice in the treasures of beauty that also exist and should be protected.” 

“It is a matter of having an understanding gaze to recognize both the misery and poverty of individuals and societies, but also to recognize the riches hidden in the little things of daily life precisely where God has put them,” he said. 

Pope Francis, who had returned to the Vatican late the night before after a six-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, also used his midday address as an opportunity to thank everyone who had prayed for the trip’s success and everyone who had a hand in organizing it. 

The pope said he carried with him “the memory of so many faces tried by life, but still noble and smiling. I carry them in my heart and in my prayers.”  

LATINOS JOIN NONPROFIT’S EFFORTS TO HELP POOR ON ‘SKINNY’ BUDGET

WASHINGTON (CNS) — From a Washington rooftop, Pedro Francisco could see the top of the U.S. Capitol, the place he was heading to the next day to speak for the poor.

Through a program for the Christian nonprofit Bread for the World, which focuses on eradicating hunger, Francisco, representing the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, was one of more than two dozen Latinos from around the country who spent June 12 learning about the budget being proposed by the Trump administration.

“I work at the school system in my hometown, a low-income school. We benefit from (social service programs) in the budget,” said Francisco. “Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than a plate of food.”

Bread for the World, like many organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have cried out against the so-called “skinny” budget the administration has proposed. It’s called skinny because it aims to drastically cut social safety-net programs, but fattens military spending. This year, the nonprofit hosted a meeting for Latino advocates to get more Hispanic Christians to understand and participate in legislative efforts to end hunger and other issues that affect them as well as other communities on the margins of society.

“We’ve been working to have more Latinos involved in our legislative agenda,” said Dulce Gamboa, associate for Latino relations at Bread for the World. “It’s definitely been challenging.”

Some of the Latino participants come in with the fear that they’re not going to be heard by Congress or they may have migrated to the U.S. from countries where citizens don’t usually advocate for issues with their elected officials, she said.

The effort by Bread for the World aims to discuss some of the issues with the Latino advocates, which includes pastors and lay church members, and then have them join in the organization’s lobby day. For participants like Pedro Francisco, a first-generation American, that meant having a chance to talk to his state representatives about what would happen if Congress reduces programs that help feed some of the children he works with in Alabama schools.

“It’s a difficult thing, as a Christian, to hear,” said Francisco, a former seminarian, about the proposed cuts that would end meals for the poor, particularly when they involve educational programs for children. “How can you expect a child who comes from a low-income family, not economically well-established, to do well and excel at school when they’re barely making ends meet?”

Such measures are contrary to the social justice that the Catholic Church, and other Christian groups advocate, Francisco said — and in his case, it’s personal. He has an 8-year-old nephew who lives in public housing and is in an after-school program that helps give him stability, food, and enriches his life, he said.

“It’s not just statistics, these are people we’re dealing with,” Francisco said. “When they’re taking money and resources away from the educational system, from those who need it, and are appropriating that for mass incarcerations, that to me … it’s bad policy.”

By “incarcerations,” he was referring to funding in the proposed budget for immigration and detention centers.

Gamboa said the program for Latinos is about empowering communities to use their voice, particularly when that voice comes from a place of faith.

“God is calling us at this very challenging time to tell Congress what should be the priority for the government,” Gamboa said. “Our faith really motivates us. God is a vision of a world without hunger.”

God’s message of justice resonates with Latinos whose lives are centered on faith, said Gamboa, and it goes beyond issues of hunger.

For Catholics, the issues of hunger and poverty particularly resonate, said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, who’s a member of the board for Bread for the World, and now’s the time to speak up for the poor and hungry because they’re “under great, great threat,” with the proposed budget cuts, he said in an interview with Catholic News Service, but there are other issues that are important for people of faith, too, and also are under threat.

The Trump budget would cut by 37 percent the $50 billion budget for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Both have anti-poverty programs to help foster democratic societies abroad and cuts would be disastrous, said Bishop Pates, who as past chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee, said he saw the positive relationships those programs created. Cutting the agencies’ budget would mean “undermining all we’ve been able to accomplish in terms of our relationships with other countries,” he said.

And what’s more troublesome is cutting programs that help people in order to buy more arms, Bishop Pates said, referring to the proposed increase for the military.

“They’re bare bones to begin with,” the bishop said about the budget for the Department of State, “and they want to put (money) in defense? And with the arsenal we have? What kind of arsenal do we need, to kill people seven times over?” he asked.

Instead of benefiting people and humanity, that money benefits “the gun merchants, those people who have a lot of investment in the war machine,” Bishop Pates said.

It’s important, he said, for Catholics to remain engaged in the issues of the world, to be advocates for the poor, to call out injustice and call for good stewardship of what God has provided.

“The world’s goods are intended for everyone,” he said.” That’s what justice is about.”

The Gospel makes it clear that if “our relationship to Jesus, if it’s going to be authentic, it’s going to have to be also expressed in our service to others,” he told CNS.

That’s why Christians must engage in issues of hunger, poverty, as well as immigration and climate change, Bishop Pates said.

For Francisco, who hadn’t engaged his faith in a similar way before, the experience provided by Bread for the World meant thinking about issues for a bit, praying, and then seeking to dialogue with elected officials.

And dialogue is an important part of the process, said Bishop Pates.

“We don’t want to be judgmental,” he said. “But we want to call them to task, ask them to be faithful to the stewardship that God has entrusted … if we have faith in God, and his will, we have to advocate.”

 

VATICAN GROUP TALKS NEW WAYS TO HELP POOR, MARGINALIZED

Vatican City, May 2, 2017 / 11:33 am (CNA/EWTN News) – Traditional solutions to the problem of poverty typically take a top-down welfare approach, focused on fulfilling a person’s most basic needs, such as food and shelter – but which don’t address the issue of societal participation and inclusion.

The plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, held at the Vatican April 28-May 2, aimed to find solutions which promote inclusion for the otherwise marginalized, especially the poorest in society.

“All of the 20th century, and the end of the 19th century, the response to the poorest of the poor was to provide them with absolute basic necessities, such as the workhouse, food, clothes,” said Margaret Archer, president of the Academy of Social Sciences.

“This is not enabling them to participate in society; at best, only to survive. Life is about more than just simple survival. Welfare is a top-down solution. So this was the motive for the conference on participation,” she said.

Archer, who spoke to journalists at a press conference May 2, said the question of how to go about helping “the poorest of the poor” is a “major challenge” for social theory.

“When you have a population of extreme poverty, what do you do? You give them welfare. The Pope doesn’t want the simplistic solution of just giving them money, because it doesn’t last forever anyway,” she said.

The academy’s plenary session, titled “Towards a participatory society: new ways for social and cultural integration,” discussed the wide-ranging topic of societal exclusion, which can manifest in different ways in different parts of the world.

In addition to the poor and economically disadvantaged, it also can include migrants and refugees, religious minorities, and those with disabilities.

In some parts of the world, an initial exclusion can end up leading to more and worsening issues, said Paulus Zulu, a professor at the University of Natal. In Africa, for example, he said there is “a crisis of representative democracy.”

This is one of the major causes of a lack of social participation, he explained. And when this happens to too great an extent, it frequently leads to excluded populations seeking inclusion or existence elsewhere, one of the reasons behind migration, especially economic migration.

In their meetings, the group discussed alternative ways to bring about “global social change in the direction of inclusivity and fraternity,” Archer said, one solution being through Church support of non-governmental organizations.

Pope Francis sent a message to the academy on April 28 encouraging them in their plenary session and urging them, according to the Church’s social doctrine, to find “ways to apply in practice fraternity as the governing principle of the economic order.”

“Fraternity allows people who are equal in their essence, dignity, freedom, and their fundamental rights to participate differently in the common good according to their capacity, their plan of life, their vocation, their work, or their charism of service,” he said.

“From the beginning of my pontificate, I wanted to point out that ‘in our brother lies the permanent extension of the Incarnation for each of us’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). In fact, the protocol we are judged by is based on brotherhood: ‘All you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did to me’ (Mt. 25:40).”

“Even though we live in a world where wealth abounds, many people are still victims of poverty and social exclusion,” Francis continued.

“The Gospel Proposal: ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice, and all these things will be added to you’ (Mt 6:33) has been and is still a new energy in history that tends to arouse fraternity, freedom, justice, peace and dignity for all.”

Concluding, he quoted from Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, saying: “To the extent that the Lord will succeed in reigning in us and among us, we will be able to participate in divine life and we will be one to the other ‘instruments of his grace, to pour out the mercy of God and to weave nets of charity and fraternity.’”

 

PAPAL ALMONER OPENS LAUNDRY SERVICE FOR THE POOR

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The office charged with coordinating Pope Francis’ acts of charity announced the opening of a laundromat for the poor and homeless of Rome.

The “Lavanderia di Papa Francesco” (“Pope Francis Laundry”) is a free service “offered to the poorest people, particularly the homeless, who will be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets,” the Papal Almoner’s Office announced April 10.

The laundry service, the office said, was inspired by the pope’s call for “concrete signs of mercy” during the Year of Mercy in 2016.

“Here, then, is a concrete sign desired by the Papal Almoner’s Office: a place and service to give a concrete form of charity and mercy to restore dignity to so many people who are our brothers and sisters,” the office said.

The laundromat is located in a building already housing services run by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, which will also maintain the facility and add other essential services for the city’s poor, including showers, a barbershop and a medical clinic.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said that six brand new washers and dryers were donated by the Whirlpool Corporation while Procter & Gamble will provide a free supply of laundry detergent and fabric softener for the new facility.

DESPITE DROP IN POVERTY, ADVOCATES SAY MUCH WORK REMAINS TO LIFT UP POOR

WASHINGTON (CNS) — While 3.5 million fewer Americans were living in poverty and the median household income grew 5.2 percent in 2015, advocates maintain that there’s much more work ahead to help the country’s 43.1 million poor in their struggles to obtain affordable housing, feed their families and find well-paying jobs.

“The (poverty) statistics went down, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Sheila Gilbert, president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s national council, told Catholic News Service.

“I would suspect that probably the ones that were the closest to coming out of poverty and had the most resources were the ones who were able to come out of poverty. Those who are further down the line are still in poverty,” she said.

The Census Bureau reported Sept. 13 that the poverty rate declined to 13.5 percent last year from 14.8 percent in 2014.

In addition, federal statistics show that median household income rose to $56,515 in 2015, an increase from $53,718 a year earlier. The figure represents the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the onset of the Great Recession.

Even with the rise in incomes, the 2015 levels still fall short of peak median incomes recorded in 1999.

In the same announcement, the Census Bureau said the percentage of people without health insurance coverage in all of 2015 stood at 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The figure represents a decline in the number of people without health insurance from 29 million last year from 33 million the year before.

Michael O’Rourke, policy adviser in the Office of Domestic Social Development at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the numbers “encouraging.”

However, he told Catholic News Service after looking at various analyses of the statistics, “that wherever we are, we’re still not where we’d like to be. You still have families who are not feeling their incomes move.”

Brian Corbin, executive vice president, member services at Catholic Charities USA, was excited about the economic progress and said that member agencies across the country had seen a slight decline in the number of people seeking social services in the last year.

“The economy is improving and that’s a very good thing,” Corbin said. “People are getting jobs to help pull out of poverty. Like everything else, we have to keep on moving, keep on working to help people’s lives.”

Where Catholic Charities agencies are seeing an increased need, however, Corbin said, is among individuals and families in who live just above the poverty line: $11,880 in income for single people and $24,300 for a family of four. While not technically living in poverty, Corbin described people in such situations “the working poor” and they are a step away from a crisis.

People in such circumstances can be thrust into a financial crisis if they suddenly are faced with a $1,000 car repair or another unexpected expense, he explained.

“At a certain level of income, they can access government programs. But if you’re just at the line or above where people don’t have the safety net, we’re seeing people who come to us who have multiple problems,” he said.

Of even more concern to the advocates is the high level of poverty among children identified in the Census Bureau statistics. Nearly one in five children — 19.7 percent or about 14.5 million — lived in poverty in 2015, according to the data. In 2014 about 15.5 million were in poverty. O’Rourke called their situation disturbing.

“We’re still living in a society where the burdens of poverty are being borne most severely by our kids,” he said. “We shouldn’t normalize this. Our eyes should not glaze over when we see something like this. This is something that should be troubling to us right now. I think there’s a moral imperative to do something right now.”

O’Rourke is planning a webinar for Oct. 4 to discuss the census statistics with social service providers and poverty-fighting agencies to encourage them to continue advocating for continued federal funding of vital social service programs.

The three advocates also expressed hope that the downward trend in poverty and the upward movement in incomes will continue.

“When you’re coming into an election year like this and everything could change drastically, it’s hard to know who’s going to be in power and understand what that means,” Gilbert told CNS. “That’s where prayer comes in and real belief the Holy Spirit is the one who’s behind this process. I think it the Holy Spirit who’s waking us up. I don’t think the Holy Spirit will stop on this.”

 

CALIFORNIA BILL THREATENS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, MINORITIES AND THE POOR

Note: California is currently considering new anti-discrimination legislation regarding colleges and universities. In this piece, two religious leaders comment on the bill who, together, represent a broad coalition of minority interests in the state. This piece originally appeared August 2 in Angelus, a publication of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

 

This week the California Assembly begins final deliberations on Sen. Ricardo Lara’s “Equity in Higher Education Act” (SB 1146). The bill, which passed the Senate in late May, has a salutary purpose – to ensure against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at California campuses.

Unfortunately, this legislation goes far beyond that.

As it is written today, SB 1146 would violate the religious freedom of faith-based colleges and could jeopardize higher educational opportunities for the tens of thousands of Californians they serve, including many who are black, Latino, Asian and low-income.

Here is the problem, as we see it.

Current California law exempts religious schools from nondiscrimination laws in cases where applying these laws “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.”

This is sensible and reflects our nation’s founding principles of religious freedom. For years now, this policy has worked well, enabling church-run colleges and universities to hire personnel and establish policies and expectations regarding religious practice and personal conduct that reflect their beliefs and values.

SB 1146 proposes to drastically narrow that historic exemption so that it would only protect seminaries or other schools that train clergy and ministers.

Any other faith-based school that receives state monies or enrolls students who depend on the Cal Grants financial aid program would be forced to change their policies to accommodate practices that in some cases would be contrary to their beliefs and teachings.

Detailed provisions in the legislation include rules for bathroom use and sleeping arrangements in dormitories. The bill even has the government setting  guidelines for what “religious practices” and “rules for moral conduct” will be acceptable on these campuses.

If passed as written today, this bill would force faith-based institutions to choose between compromising their deeply held beliefs or risking an endless wave of costly litigation to defend themselves.

This is a choice that no individual or institution should face in our state or in our country. In fact, the First Amendment and Bill of Rights were enacted to prevent precisely the kind of government interference reflected by SB 1146. Title IX of federal law also respects the rights of faith-based colleges and universities to operate free from government meddling.

But those who would truly be punished by this bill are California’s low-income and minority families – including millions served by our respective faith communities here in Los Angeles.

Historically, faith-based institutions have been a refuge for blacks, Asians and other minorities seeking a college education in the face of economic hardship and racial discrimination. That was true in the days before the Civil Rights Act and it is still true today.

Christian and other private nonprofit colleges in California serve a diverse student body – nearly 60 percent are minorities and nearly 90 percent need financial aid.

Many of the schools that would be affected by this legislation participate in the federal government’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS) initiative to expand Latino access to higher education – schools such as California Lutheran, Azuza Pacific, Fresno Pacific, Notre Dame de Namur, among others.

To qualify for HIS status means these schools have student populations that are at least 25 percent Hispanic. Many of these students are children of immigrants and the first in their families to attend college.

We question why lawmakers would want to make it harder for Latinos and other minorities to receive an education by potentially denying their schools the opportunity to redeem Cal Grants. This is not fair to those students and it contradicts the state’s noble tradition of seeking to expand educational and economic opportunities for all Californians.

And all of this is unnecessary to achieve the goals of protecting the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender students.

The simple solution is to require that faith-based schools clearly state – on their websites and in written materials – what they believe, what accommodations they intend to provide to students, and what will be expected of students in terms of religious practice and personal conduct.

Most faith-based colleges and universities already do this. Sen. Lara’s bill proposes some helpful requirements that would further strengthen transparency and public disclosure at these institutions. But his legislation should stop there.

It is important to remember that no one is compelled to attend a private religious college or university. Those who do so make a deliberate decision because they are seeking an academic environment and community in which they can live, learn and serve with others who share their beliefs, values and aspirations.

We respectfully urge lawmakers to amend SB 1146 so that California continues to protect the freedom and integrity of faith-based higher education and continues to afford poor and minority students the freedom to attend the college or university of their choice, regardless of their religious beliefs.

 

Archbishop José H. Gomez is head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Catholic community. Bishop Charles E. Blake is pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ and Presiding Bishop of the worldwide Church of God in Christ, a 6 million-member Pentecost-Holiness denomination.

 

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO SCORN, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU, POPE TELLS POOR

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pray for those responsible for extreme poverty, for the rich who feast unaware of people in need at their door, and for priests who ignore those who are hurting, Pope Francis told people living a precarious existence.

Say a prayer for these people, wish them well and “ask Jesus that they convert, and I assure you that if you do this, there will be great joy in the church, in your hearts and also in beloved France,” the pope told his audience.

The pope met with about 200 people from the French province of Lyon, who are homeless, living in poverty or coping with an illness or disability.

The group was on pilgrimage to Rome with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon and the All Together With Dignity Fourth World movement founded by Father Joseph Wresinski, who ministered to deprived families in urban and rural parishes.

Meeting with the group July 6 in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, the pope told them he had a favor to ask them, or rather, he said, he was giving them a mission to carry out.

It is “a mission that only you, in your poverty will be able to accomplish,” he said in Italian, while an aide translated into French.

Jesus was very harsh with and “strongly reprimanded people who do not embrace the father’s message,” the pope said, recalling Jesus’ “sermon on the plain” in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

While the poor, hungry, excluded and mournful are blessed, Jesus said, “woe to you who are rich,” satiated and mocking, the pope said.

When spoken by the son of God, the warning of “woe,” he said, “is frightening,” and Jesus directed that admonition “to the rich, the wise, those who laugh now, those who like to be flattered, hypocrites.”

“I give you the mission of praying for them so that the Lord give them a change of heart.”

The pope also asked them to pray for those who are “guilty of your poverty” and for “so many rich people dressed in purple and fine linen, who feast with great banquets without realizing that lying at their door there are so many Lazaruses eager to eat the scraps from their table.”

“Pray also for priests, for the Levites, who, seeing that man beaten and half-dead, pass to the other side, look the other way, because they have no compassion,” the pope said.

Jesus chose to share in their suffering out of love, by becoming “one of you: scorned by man, forgotten, someone who means nothing.”

“When you experience this, do not forget that Jesus also experienced this like you. It is proof that you are precious in his eyes and that he is by your side,” he said.

The poor are a priority for the church, Pope Francis told them. “The church, who loves and prefers those whom Jesus loved and preferred, cannot rest until it has reached all those who experience refusal, exclusion and who don’t mean anything to anybody.”

Not only are people able to encounter Christ in the poor, he said, the poor help build peace in the world by “reminding us that we are brothers and sisters and that God is the father of everyone.”

SERVING THE POOR AND SICK

The Order of Malta is a worldwide, lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to glorify God by promoting the sanctification of each member through his or her work with the sick and the poor, and in defense of the Catholic faith.

Micah Navarro is just 15 years old but already he has made several holy pilgrimages to the sacred shrine of Lourdes.

In fact, the Lake Forest teen just returned with an OC team of Order of Malta Knights and Dames from the group’s annual trek to France, where they assisted a group of terminally ill patients throughout the journey. As part of the 2016 Orange County contingent, Micah carries on a family tradition ¬– his grandparents Jill and Pat Ortiz were invited to join the 80-member Orange County chapter of the Order of Malta in 1996 and started making Lourdes pilgrimages shortly thereafter.

“I enjoy getting there before anyone else and seeing what happens behind the scenes,” Micah says. “It’s a unique place. In Lourdes everyone is nice and they come from all over, so there are always different people to meet.”

During his recent trip, he rarely saw his mother, Michelle Navarro, who plans the pilgrimage for the Order of Malta’s Orange County members, the young Auxiliary volunteers, and their chosen “malades” – the French term for the sick who join them for the journey.

Michelle sees her family’s devotion to the Order of Malta and its pilgrimage as a logical extension of their dedication to serving others. “It’s something I grew up with,” she says. “My parents were always working at a church and volunteering and as a family we worked in soup kitchens, so we showed our kids as they grew up that it’s good to help others – to be a good citizen and member of society who looks out for others.”

Although the pilgrimage requires a multitude of logistics and hundreds of details, she says she is pleased to carry on what has become a family tradition.

“Our beloved malades sometimes need a break from the reality of being ill,” Michelle notes. “One of them told me ‘this is the first time that I’ve been seen as a person instead of an ailment.’ It’s good for us, especially the young people, to serve others and not be thinking about ourselves.”

Jill Ortiz says the Order’s mission – to help the poor and sick – resonated with her. “Once you’ve been you are drawn to go again,” she says. “Some people describe it as what God wants a perfect society to be like. You are off in a small village in prayer. No one wants to leave that peaceful, loving environment.

“When you make the journey, you see the Catholic Church at its finest.”

Some of the malades are seeking a miracle while others just want to find peace. “We learn so much from our interactions with them, because we see such grace and faith in how they deal with their illness.”

OC team captain Geoff Lee welcomed three young men on the most recent trip: His son Chris, a Servite sophomore who was making his fifth pilgrimage; Micah Navarro, a freshman at Servite; and fellow Servite freshman Michael Marrujo. Lee said the trek was challenging this year because many of the team’s malades were paralyzed and in wheelchairs, making the 4,000-foot elevation and the village cobblestone streets especially difficult.

“Our pullers – which include the three young men – walked 8 to 10 miles a day, each pulling a malade with all their gear,” Lee notes. “They truly went above and beyond. We were almost in tears at the end, seeing how these three young men stepped up and never wavered.”

Lee said he was intrigued by the Order of Malta after a chance meeting with a St. Joseph Hospital volunteer who prayed with his late mother when she was a patient. “He invited me to lunch and I was hooked.”

The idea of serving the sick and poor called to him, Lee said, “because in truth I haven’t really been that generous with my time in the past. Once I realized that this is a hands-on group that gets in the trenches, I took to it.”

Lee, who has taken both Chris and his older son Alex on the Lourdes pilgrimages, said that the younger volunteers welcome membership in the OC’s Auxiliary. They must wait to join the Order of Malta, which only accepts Catholics who are 35 years or older as Knights and Dames.

Known formally as the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the Order of Malta is one of the oldest institutions in Western civilization. It was noted in Palestine in 1050 that the lay religious order “traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature” included Knights and Dames devoted to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity. Applicants to the Order must be approved by its members.

Other OC young people who have served on the Order of Malta’s recent pilgrimages include: Sean Byrne, a student at Santa Margarita Catholic High School; Chase Mattius from Servite; and Elena Navarro, a St. Norbert’s student and Micah’s sister. In some cases, three generations in different families serve alongside one another.

“These trips change everybody,” Lee declares. “We never come back the same.”

GIVING TO THE POOR IS PART OF JUBILEE YEAR, POPE SAYS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A jubilee year that does not open people’s wallets to share what they have with others is not a true jubilee, Pope Francis said.

“This pope isn’t inventing that,” he insisted. “It’s in the Bible.”

At his weekly general audience Feb. 10 in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the description of a jubilee year in the Book of Leviticus. The religious feast also had serious social implications, he said, because it proclaimed a forgiveness of debts, the freedom of indentured servants and special generosity toward the poor and the stranger.

“It was a kind of ‘general amnesty,’ which permitted everyone to return to their original situation with the cancellation of every debt, the restitution of land and the possibility of enjoying once again the freedom proper to members of the people of God,” he said.

For God’s chosen people, who are called to holiness, the pope said, the jubilee prescriptions help “to combat poverty and inequality, guaranteeing a dignified life for all and a fair distribution of the land on which to live and draw sustenance.”

During the Catholic Church’s jubilee year, each Christian should think about what they have, he said, and “if they have too many things,” they should “give some to someone who has nothing; 10 percent or 50 percent. The Holy Spirit will inspire you.”

Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that “a jubilee is for conversion so that our hearts become bigger, more generous, more (like) a child of God, with more love.”

“I’ll tell you something,” he said, “if this jubilee doesn’t reach our pockets, it’s not a real jubilee. Do you understand? This is in the Bible, eh, this pope isn’t inventing that. It’s in the Bible.”

“The biblical message is very clear: courageously open yourselves to sharing; this is mercy,” the pope said. “If we want mercy from God, let us begin by being merciful ourselves.”

A biblical jubilee is about sharing and solidarity, Pope Francis said. “The biblical jubilee was a ‘jubilee of mercy’ because it was lived with a sincere search of the good of one’s needy brothers and sisters.”

The laws governing God’s people in the Bible, he said, also had other means for encouraging people to help others experience God’s mercy. One of those things was the command to tithe a tenth of one’s earnings to the temple and to widows and orphans or to give a portion of the first fruits of one’s harvest.

In addition, he said, the Bible had harsh words for those who charged high interest rates when loaning to the poor. In many countries, he added, usury is still a huge problem and families lose everything and end up on the streets.

“Please, let us pray that in this jubilee the Lord would remove from all our hearts this desire to have more,” he said.