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Guess who’s coming to the State of the Union? Pro-life hero and target of Biden Justice Department Mark Houck
Posted on 02/7/2023 21:50 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Feb 7, 2023 / 13:50 pm (CNA).
While several Democrats are showing off their commitment to removing restrictions on abortion by inviting pro-abortion guests to attend President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, one Republican is making a statement in support of life with his invitation.
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry invited pro-life advocate and recently exonerated Catholic father of seven Mark Houck to be his guest.
“Mark Houck and his family are innocent victims of the radical left’s reprehensible abuse of power, which systematically seeks to destroy the lives of hardworking Americans whose only ‘crimes’ are using their God-given constitutional rights to protect their families, faith, and way of life,” Perry told The Daily Signal Feb. 7.
Houck recently fought charges in federal court of violating two counts of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, known as the FACE Act. His trial and subsequent acquittal followed his early morning arrest by the FBI in September 2022, which made national headlines. It also led many federal lawmakers to criticize the Department of Justice for excessive use of force in order to intimidate pro-lifers.
Perry said that Biden has “weaponized” the federal government “against anyone who thwarts his radical, leftist agenda.”
“He should see the faces of some of those Americans who have been relentlessly and unjustifiably persecuted by the same government sworn to protect their freedoms,” he concluded.
Houck told the outlet that he will be attending with his wife, Ryan-Marie Houck, and is honored to be asked by Perry.
“We hope our presence with members of Congress will continue to raise awareness about the injustice that was rendered against my family and others in recent months,” Houck said.
Tuesday is Biden’s first State of the Union Address following the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Following the defeat of Roe, Houck’s acquittal in Philadelphia federal court marks another major political blow to the Biden administration’s pro-abortion agenda, which includes the prosecution of several pro-life advocates under the FACE Act.
“We pray for the opportunity to meet with those who need to hear our story and for the eventual opportunity to testify before the Judiciary Committee about our reckless experience with the Department of Justice,” Houck concluded.
Posted on 02/7/2023 21:30 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Feb 7, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).
Several Democratic congressmen have invited pro-abortion activists as their guests for President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address Tuesday night to highlight their commitment to removing restrictions on abortion.
Jill Biden has also included an abortion activist as one of her guests to sit in the First Lady’s box.
Tuesday is Biden’s first State of the Union Address following the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide.
As abortion becomes increasingly more difficult to procure in many states — and much easier to access in others — pro-abortion politicians are digging their heels in on the issue while pro-life advocates are doubling down on the humanity of the unborn.
And not all the guests coming tonight are advocates of abortion. One high-profile advocate for the unborn, pro-life advocate Mark Houck, will be attending at the invitation of a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.
Sen. Ed Markey
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, is bringing abortion rights advocate Kate Dineen, a Massachusetts woman who traveled out of state to legally procure an abortion in Maryland.
Dineen was pregnant past the legal stage to get an abortion in Massachusetts when her son suffered a devastating stroke in her womb, according to the Patch.
Markey said that he is bringing Dineen to “highlight the importance of codifying abortion rights into law” and the “urgent need to go further” in removing legal, economic, or geographical restrictions to abortion.
Rep. Katherine Clark
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, has invited Boston abortion doctor Cheryl Hamlin as her guest Tuesday night.
Hamlin, who works at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, spent time working at an abortion center in Jackson, Mississippi, which was the focal point of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wade: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Hamlin worked at the Jackson abortion clinic to perform abortions that local doctors refused to perform, taking her motivation from the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, who was staunchly pro-life, WGBH reported.
Clark said that she invited Hamlin to highlight the Democratic Party’s “commitment to reproductive freedom” and standing against the “MAGA Majority’s assault on women’s health and rights.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, will be joined by Kelsey Leigh, an abortion activist from the state who herself has had an abortion.
According to Dean, Leigh had an abortion at 22 weeks, after it was discovered that her child had “severe fetal anomalies.”
Dean said she wanted to make it clear by inviting Leigh that “abortion care is health care.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Anabely Lopes, a Florida woman who traveled out of state to procure an abortion of her child after genetic testing identified “a deadly fetal anomaly,” will be joining Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the congresswoman announced Monday.
Wasserman Schultz said that Lopes is “a victim of extreme MAGA Republican policies that focus on Florida culture war distractions and attacking women and minorities.”
In a tweet Monday, Wasserman Schultz said that Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ “abortion ban forced my #SOTU guest Anabely Lopes to leave FLA for the procedure when genetic tests revealed a deadly fetal anomaly,” adding that President Joe Biden and the House Democrats “defend women’s rights.”
First Lady Jill Biden
The First Lady, Jill Biden, invited a host of guests to the State of the Union to sit in the First Lady’s box, including Amanda and Josh Zurawski of Austin, Texas.
Amanda Zurawski was pregnant in 2022 and her water prematurely broke at 18 weeks. She subsequently developed sepsis and almost died because of a failure to treat her in a time-appropriate manner, the AP reported.
The couple’s daughter was delivered stillborn, according to TODAY.
Posted on 02/7/2023 20:23 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver, Colo., Feb 7, 2023 / 12:23 pm (CNA).
A Planned Parenthood affiliate has won a legal judgment of almost $1 million against a pro-life group that gathered outside of a Spokane abortion clinic.
The group, which calls itself the Church at Planned Parenthood, must pay $110,000 in civil damages to Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho and another $850,000 in legal fees to the abortion provider, The Spokesman-Review newspaper reported Feb. 3.
A Spokane County judge ruled in December that the church repeatedly violated state law by “willfully or recklessly” disrupting the normal functioning of a health care facility, including by making noise that “unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”
Judge Tim Fennessy of Spokane County Superior Court agreed with Planned Parenthood’s evidence that the church held 22 services in violation of state law and fined the church $5,000 for each day of a violation. He agreed that the violations put patients at increased risk of physical and mental health problems, the news site Crosscut reported.
Among the critics of the ruling was Esther Ripplinger, executive director of the pro-life group Human Life of Washington, who addressed the decision in Feb. 7 remarks in an interview with CNA.
“What we’re seeing is an attack on pro-life, period,” said Ripplinger, whose organization is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. “It’s an attack on life and it’s unfair. And it’s singled out. These are just trumped-up charges and I hope that they fight it to the fullest extent of the law.”
“These are people who engage and mobilize other people who believe that abortion is wrong, and so they have the right to do that, to assemble together on public property,” Ripplinger said. “Absolutely no laws were broken here. This is really just a witch hunt against the organizers and against what they believe, and it’s not fair.”
Pastor Ken Peters, a co-founder of the church, denied allegations of harassment and obstruction to reproductive care. He characterized the events as peaceful and nondisruptive.
“Literally, we were singing, praying, and preaching. That’s what we got sued for. We were doing it after hours when we got sued,” he told Spokane CBS affiliate KREM2 News. He said that insurance will pay for legal fees, and the church’s future events and rallies will go forward.
Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said its arguments in the case were “content-neutral.” The clinic saw the protests’ impact on patients and abortion providers. “They did not feel safe,” he said.
Dillon said the group tried to “tiptoe around the law” despite previous court orders.
The Church at Planned Parenthood launched in 2019 as a “church plant” outside the abortion facility. Its website says the church meets only once a month and that the gathering is “not a protest” but “a worship service at the gates of hell.” It characterizes its actions as “non-confrontational spiritual warfare” in the “revival spirit” of Wesley and Whitefield, an apparent reference to John Wesley and George Whitefield, leaders of the Methodist and evangelical Christian movements of the 18th century.
The church says it preaches the Gospel outdoors and “unifies the True Church confronting the Evil of our Day.” Its actions show “repentance for America’s sin.”
The Church at Planned Parenthood has the support of at least nine Washington state churches. It also has controversial links.
It was founded by Covenant Church of Spokane, then pastored by former state Rep. Matt Shea, who now heads On Fire Ministries in Spokane, the newspaper The Spokesman-Review reported.
Shea was suspended from the Washington State House Republican Caucus after a December 2019 report that accused him of “engaging in an act of domestic terrorism” for planning, promoting, and engaging in political violence against the U.S. government from 2014–2016, according to CNN. The incidents included support for the Bundy Ranch standoff against FBI agents in a conflict over grazing rights.
Ripplinger, however, said church attendees are respectful of the law. She told CNA she had attended one Church at Planned Parenthood event several years ago.
“I saw firsthand that this group abides by the law,” she said. “They are on public property and very courteous to anyone. They meet in the evenings after hours, so there’s no disruption to the business whatsoever. I saw that firsthand. They’re extremely polite to pedestrians.”
According to Ripplinger, the gathering she saw had crowd control practices in place to ensure compliance with rules.
The Church at Planned Parenthood initially met on a sidewalk and strip of grass alongside the south wall of the abortion clinic. A court order in September 2020 said the church could only gather across the street, but Planned Parenthood said this order was routinely violated, according to KXLY News. In September 2021, a judge barred the church and its members from gathering anywhere within 35 feet of the clinic and from making noise between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Before the legal action and internal splits, the church drew as many as 500 attendees.
Father Darrin Connall, vicar general for the Diocese of Spokane, told CNA he thought the fines seemed “excessive and punitive,” though he was unfamiliar with what laws were broken.
He questioned whether the Church at Planned Parenthood had the best approach.
“The Christian world isn’t united on the best way to protest the taking of unborn human life, so I can’t say if Catholics would be united with their approach or not,” the priest said. “But we certainly would have obeyed the law and if the law needed to be changed, [we’d] work to change the law through the system, rather than rather than breaking it.”
“We in the diocese organize peaceful protests in support of human life regularly,” the vicar general said.
Connall, who is also rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, said a group of parishioners goes to an abortion clinic once a week and prays the rosary outside while obeying the law.
He said the Catholic Church would emphasize prayer, “begging God to bring about a deeper and greater respect for the sanctity of all human life.”
He also noted Catholic Bishop of Spokane Thomas Daly’s launch of the annual Walk for Life Northwest in downtown Spokane, now in its seventh year. According to Connall, this is a time “for people to come together for a public witness to what we believe about life in a very public way.”
Bishop Daly addressed the Walk for Life Northwest in Spokane on Jan. 22. About 2,000 people attended the event, the Spokane diocese newspaper Inland Catholic reported.
Posted on 02/7/2023 18:47 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Feb 7, 2023 / 10:47 am (CNA).
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced plans at his annual State of the State address Monday to expand support for crisis pregnancy centers in the state to $100 million.
Abortion has been illegal in Tennessee for all stages of pregnancy since a ban went into effect in the state in August 2022. On Monday night, Lee, a Republican, proposed strengthening support for women and families through a list of expanded social welfare programs.
“Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn. It’s not a matter of politics; this is about human dignity,” Lee said.
In addition to increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers, Lee also proposed widening Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and parents, asking the federal government to cover the cost of diapers for Medicaid recipients, and granting additional paid parental leave time for state employees.
“There was a significant shift in this country last year when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn,” Lee said, referring to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. “We now all have an opportunity, a moral obligation, to support strong Tennessee families.”
To take effect the governor’s proposed budget must be passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, which is majority Republican in both houses.
“If approved, Tennessee will be the first Medicaid program in the nation to implement this kind of support. That’s pro-life. That’s pro-family,” Lee said.
Crisis pregnancy centers typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials.
Pregnancy Resource Center, a Tennessee nonprofit medical clinic that operates two crisis pregnancy centers and a mobile clinic, offers “pregnancy testing, ultrasound exams, STD testing, and holistic wraparound care to women, men, and families in need,” according to CEO Valerie Millsapps.
Millsapps told CNA that she’s “grateful” the governor and state Assembly “are committed to serving moms and dads in need.”
“These are exciting times for Tennesseans,” Millsapps said. “It is clear that our governor and state leaders are prioritizing moms and families in the same way we have for decades.”
Millsapps also noted that the governor’s proposals are “just the beginning of what our state can do to foster environments where families flourish.”
Posted on 02/6/2023 23:45 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 15:45 pm (CNA).
As Church of England leaders meet in a contentious synod over whether to bless same-sex unions, tensions escalated when a diocese reported a lay synod member to police for “hate speech.”
The Diocese of Coventry announced reported synod member Sam Margrave to the police after he reportedly posted his beliefs that same-sex relationships are sinful. The diocese is part of the Anglican communion and not in communion with the Catholic Church.
Margarve has been a vocal critic of Anglican Church leaders who want to bless homosexual unions and those who want to go further and perform marriages for homosexual couples.
Bishop Christopher Cocksworth of the Diocese of Coventry informed Margrave that they had reported him to the police, according to a news release from the United Kingdom-based Christian advocacy group Christian Concern.
“The diocesan secretary has had no option, in view of a number of complaints received, [but] to report your offending tweets to the West Midlands Police and is in continuing conversation with them,” the correspondence read.
“[The police] have advised her that they have been able to speak to you but that you continue to deny you have done anything wrong.”
When contacted by CNA, the diocese forwarded its statement condemning Margrave but refused to comment further on its decision to report him to the police.
In its statement, the diocese wrote that “everyone has the right to feel safe when interacting online” and encouraged people to read an information sheet that includes information about how to receive mental health support and report supposed hate speech to social media companies and local police.
“We are extremely sorry when an individual makes comments that fall short of the social media guidelines published by the Church of England and fails to behave in a way fitting of their office as a member of Synod,” the statement read.
“We continue to take all the appropriate action available to us, including reporting the matter to external agencies, and are working to introduce a Code of Conduct with sanctions for non-compliance to our own Synod. We have not taken these actions lightly and have only done so in view of the sheer number of complaints received from third parties, and only after other avenues have been exhausted, including repeated offers of support to the individual concerned.”
Posted on 02/6/2023 22:36 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
St. Louis, Mo., Feb 6, 2023 / 14:36 pm (CNA).
A crowd of military veterans, their families, and Boy Scouts filled a New Jersey parish church on Sunday to honor the “Four Chaplains” — a band of men of different faiths who all sacrificed their lives to save others on the torpedoed U.S.A.T. Dorchester 80 years ago.
“Most of us will never die a hero’s death… But all of us are called by the idea of faith to, day in and day out, give of ourselves,” said Bishop Gregory J. Studerus, an Archdiocese of Newark auxiliary bishop, who presided over the Feb. 5 Mass.
“Day in and day out we look for ways of being generous, ways of being kind, ways of reaching out and touching the heart of those who are sad and mourning, reaching out and touching those who are oppressed. And sometimes [we go] as far as the ones we honor today, giving our lives because of faith.”
The Four Chaplains — Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist minister; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; and Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Reformed Church in America minister — gave their life jackets to save others when their ship was torpedoed in the frigid North Atlantic in 1943.
The Mass commemorating the 80th anniversary of the chaplains’ sacrifice took place at St. Stephen’s Church in Kearney, New Jersey — the last parish where Washington served before being dispatched for war.
The Feb. 5 ceremonies featured a presentation of colors featuring veterans organizations, Boy Scouts, and the Knights of Columbus. A group of Boy Scouts received special Four Chaplains patches after completing an educational program designed by St. Stephen’s Boy Scout Unit 305 in honor of the 80th anniversary.
Washington, Fox, Goode, and Poling, all first lieutenants, met in 1942, having been inspired to sign up as military chaplains after Pearl Harbor. Their vessel, the Dorchester, a troop ship bound for a U.S. military base in Greenland, was struck by a U-boat torpedo in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1943. Washington had celebrated Mass just hours before the hit and began to offer absolution.
The chaplains calmly assisted and encouraged numerous civilians and soldiers, offering them their own life jackets as the terrified crowd sped to the lifeboats.
“When giving their life jackets, Rabbi Goode did not call out for a Jew; Father Washington did not call out for a Catholic; nor did the Reverends Fox and Poling call out for a Protestant. They simply gave their life jackets to the next man in line,” a history from the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation noted.
The chaplains themselves all stayed behind as the ship capsized and sank in just 20 minutes. They joined more than 670 of their peers as they perished, reportedly with locked arms and hymns on their lips.
Many of the 230 survivors lauded the chaplains’ selfless actions. At one point, Petty Officer John J. Mahoney remembered returning to his cabin to find his gloves. Rabbi Goode stopped him, saying, “Never mind. I have two pairs,” and handed him some — Mahoney later realized the rabbi had given him his only pair.
One eyewitness, John Ladd, said as reported by Columbia magazine: “It was the finest thing I have seen or hope to see this side of heaven.”
“The Four Chaplains did something without hesitation that a lot of us would at least pause to think about before doing,” said Father Joe Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church, this week.
“They selflessly acted out of faith in God and a need to help others. They were true heroes, and it’s important to look to them at a time when so many people are only thinking about themselves. That’s the goal of this Mass and everything else we do at the parish — we want to keep the Four Chaplains at the forefront of people’s minds even 80 years later.”
In 1944, all four men posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart, and in 1948 a U.S. postage stamp was issued in their honor bearing the words “These Immortal Chaplains.” Then, in 1988, a unanimous act of Congress established Feb. 3 as the annual Four Chaplains Day, Columbia reported.
Posted on 02/6/2023 21:55 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Boston, Mass., Feb 6, 2023 / 13:55 pm (CNA).
In early January, a man entered a Benedictine monastery in Arkansas and began smashing the altar with a sledgehammer.
He was about to begin breaking open the tabernacle where the consecrated bread is kept, but something stopped him in his tracks: a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Jerrid Farnam, 32, of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, was arrested for the crimes of property damage and theft committed at Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco, Arkansas, and is currently incarcerated awaiting trial.
Sheriff Jason Massey of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office told CNA that when they brought the suspect in he confessed to the crime. But, Farnam told the police, after he looked up and saw a statue of Mary, he couldn’t continue to break open the tabernacle as he had planned to do.
“He decided he just couldn’t do it,” Massey said. “I think he felt it was wrong at that point.”
RELICS FOUND AND RETURNED!: Through the swift investigation by Sheriff Jason W. Massey and the Logan County Sheriff's...Posted by Subiaco Abbey on Friday, January 6, 2023
Subiaco Abbey had reported that on Jan. 5, a man using “a regular hammer and sledgehammer/axe” began destroying the abbey’s marble altar by smashing it in different places. Founded in 1878, Subiaco is home to a community of 39 Benedictine monks.
The suspect left a gaping hole in the top of the altar and broke open stones that contain relics, the abbey said. Two reliquaries — small, brass-colored boxes that each contained three relics of saints from more than 1,500 years ago — were stolen, according to the Logan County Sheriff’s Office.
Father Elijah Owens, OSB, the abbot of the monastery, told CNA in January that the relics contained in one of the reliquaries were those of St. Boniface, St. Tiberius, and St. Benedict of Nursia.
The other reliquary contained the relics of St. Tiberius, St. Marcellus, and St. Justina, Owens said.
A video of the damage can be seen below.
The abbey said in its press release that the man approached the tabernacle and removed a cross located on top as well as the tabernacle’s veil before being “interrupted.”
Farnam was arrested the same day and three of the relics were found in his truck.
At the time, the reliquary containing the relics of St. Tiberius, St. Marcellus, and St. Justina was still missing. The sheriff’s office later discovered them in a trash can in Farnam’s father’s house.
Farnam gave the reliquary to his father, who, unaware of the nature of the objects, threw the contents of the container in the trash, while keeping the container for himself, the sheriff said.
“Luckily there was no food or anything on them. They were found in great condition,” he added.
Massey said that one of the seven offenses Farnam was charged with was theft of property, a Class B felony, which is the highest classification of a felony in the state, he said.
“You can’t put a price on those relics. They’re 1,500 years old,” he said.
Farnam thought that Jesus’ bones were in the altar and that God was telling him to remove the bones, Massey told CNA. He added that Farnam has a history of substance abuse and was intoxicated during his arrest.
The abbey is under repairs, and a portable altar will now be used until repairs are made, according to the abbey’s press release.
Posted on 02/6/2023 21:21 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 13:21 pm (CNA).
The Associated Press (AP) issued new guidelines advising reporters not to use the terms “crisis pregnancy center” or “pregnancy resource center” but to instead refer to centers that offer pro-life counseling and support as “anti-abortion centers.”
Reporters should “avoid potentially misleading terms such as pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy counseling centers,” because “these terms don’t convey that the centers’ general aim is to prevent abortions,” according to the AP’s Abortion Topical Guide.
The AP publishes the most widely used style guide, which journalists and editors across the country look to determine proper rules for coverage. According to the Daily Signal, the AP made the rule change in November 2022.
In its updated guidance, the AP states that though the centers provide “counseling, material support and/or housing,” because their purpose is to “divert or discourage women from having abortions” they should be labeled “anti-abortion centers.”
The new AP policy suggests the term “crisis pregnancy center” be used only if placed within quotation marks and if it is explained that its purpose is to “dissuade people from getting an abortion.”
The AP instructs reporters to frame the abortion debate as “anti-abortion” or “abortion rights” and to not use the term “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”
Reporters are also advised not to talk about a fetal heartbeat when referring to laws that ban abortion after a detectable heartbeat. Rather, the guide says, they should use the term “cardiac activity” as “the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and it has only begun forming a rudimentary heart.”
“The Associated Press shows itself to be tongue-tied with political correctness in trying to finesse how to explain organizations dedicated to public service,” Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist at Students for Life of America, told CNA.
“Without any sense of irony, they want to call Pregnancy Resource Centers ‘anti-abortion centers,’ diminishing the love and support such nonprofits offer to mothers and their children, born and preborn,” Hamrick said. “With that logic, hospitals must be ‘anti-death centers’ and our food support through the federal government named ‘anti-starving’ programs.”
Crisis pregnancy centers, which typically offer pregnant women and families free resources and baby materials, have faced a spate of attacks, vandalism, and acts of intimidation since May 2022, when the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked.
According to the Family Research Council, more than 100 pregnancy centers, churches, and pro-life organizations have been attacked or vandalized.
See CNA’s coverage of the attacks against pregnancy resource centers and pro-life groups and churches below.
Some Democratic politicians, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have called for a “crackdown” on crisis pregnancy centers. In an August 2022 speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Warren decried pregnancy centers as “organizations that deliberately deceive women and girls who are seeking help to terminate a pregnancy.”
In another viral video, Warren said pregnancy centers “torture” pregnant women and called for them to be shut down across the nation.
Posted on 02/5/2023 13:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington D.C., Feb 5, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).
The French documentary film “Lourdes” will be shown in 700 theaters in the U.S., for a special two-day screening, on Feb. 8 (in French with English subtitles) and Feb. 9 (in Spanish with English subtitles).
The film presents a unique and affecting view of the Catholic pilgrimage site as seen through the eyes of several of the sick pilgrims and their caregivers.
A surprise hit in France among critics and audiences, the award-winning documentary follows several sick and disabled pilgrims who travel to Lourdes in search of consolation, if not miracles, at the Marian shrine in the French Pyrenees. It was there on Feb. 11, 1858, that 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
The filmmakers received unprecedented access to the sacred site from the Catholic Church. The sick and disabled pilgrims are seen praying at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, worshipping at the grotto where the visions took place, being immersed in the baths, and perhaps most affectingly, being cared for and assisted by volunteers or “hospitaliers.”
The U.S. tour follows the film’s debut in France, where in 2020 it was nominated for best documentary at the Cesar Awards. Tickets for the Feb. 8 and 9 showings can be purchased online at Fathom Events or at participating theater box offices.
As many as 6 million people visit Lourdes each year to pray and to touch, bathe in and drink from the spring water that flows under the grotto where the apparitions of the Virgin first took place. More than 7,000 cures have been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, with 70 officially recognized by the Catholic Church. A 15-minute-long “bonus” film following the presentation of the movie, distributed by Spain’s Bosco Films, features a Catholic physician discussing the miraculous cures attributed to Lourdes.
The movie “Lourdes,” however, is not exactly a movie about miracles. Audiences eager to be blown away by visible proof of the existence of a loving God who answers prayers may at first be disappointed when they realize it is not that kind of movie. What follows are miracles of a different sort: the gift of faith that makes possible peace and even joy through suffering, and the exercise of loving one’s neighbor in charity and compassion.
“Lourdes” is not always easy to watch — not only because it’s uncomfortable to see suffering at such close range, but also because the unfamiliarity with that feeling is an indication that one tends to go through life avoiding being exposed to it.
A despondent teenage girl has come on an annual pilgrimage with her unemployed father to bathe in Lourdes’ spring water. Her father hopes to cure her of the cysts forming in her arm, but she prays before the statue of the Virgin Mary for relief from the kids who bully her at school.
A mother and father travel by bus with their 40-year-old son who can’t stand or feed himself, as his mother confesses that she still blames herself for the accident that changed their lives forever.
A father and his son, who himself is sick, seek healing for a terminally ill younger brother suffering from a painful skin condition. The faith of the two is palpable as is that of the boys’ mother, who manages to radiate joy as she sees them off.
A man afflicted in the last stages of ALS explains that he is grateful for the gift of peace he feels he has been given.
A group of prostitutes from Paris makes a solemn annual “Magdalena” pilgrimage to Lourdes in the company of a Catholic priest who gently counsels one to consider giving up his way of life.
Another man communicates by pointing to letters on a sheet of paper. The wry, intelligent look on his face seems to invite people to engage in conversation with him. We later learn that he has attempted suicide twice.
The inspiration for the movie came from its writer, veteran journalist Sixtine Léon-Dufour, who first went to Lourdes as a volunteer, very reluctantly, on the occasion of her mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. Once there, she was profoundly moved by the work, bathing, dressing, feeding, and talking to the pilgrims, and now returns with her family every year.
When she is volunteering at Lourdes, she told CNA that she is struck by the faith of the pilgrims, who, she said, come for consolation more than for a cure.
“What they all say is that when you go to the grotto and you spend some time praying — or not — at the feet of this statue of the Virgin Mary, you find peace, a real peace,” she said.
While Léon-Dufour is Catholic, the film’s directors, Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai, are nonbelievers, she said.
In the months they spent interviewing people to feature in the movie, she said, the directors would always ask the same question: “You’re very Catholic, you pray a lot. Tell me, you are absolutely looking for a miracle, right?”
“And each time all the people you saw in the documentary, they said, ‘No, no!”
“No matter how hard I tried to explain that people come to Lourdes not especially looking for a miracle they would not understand that it was much more about faith and being together to find some comfort,” she said.
And despite the directors’ initial confusion and purported lack of faith, they managed to capture traces of the divine in the interactions between the sick and the volunteers who assist them. The word “miracle” comes from the Latin miraculum or “thing of wonder,” which perfectly describes these encounters.
The film shows the sick and disabled pilgrims light up when they are with others who treat them with love and respect. Volunteer nurses are seen engaging with their charges, talking to them, and drawing them out. For some pilgrims, it is clear that just being touched or held as they are bathed and dressed delights them.
For other sick pilgrims, it is the conversation that brings them joy. A sad-looking woman in her 90s appears completely transformed after talking with a young volunteer who engages with her as she would a friend. At first quiet and guarded, the encounter leaves the woman smiling, telling stories, and even singing.
The young faith-filled boy who is at Lourdes to pray for his sick brother seems to know what these pilgrims need. He makes a habit of reaching out to hold the hands of those who seem barricaded in their wheelchairs, eliciting shy smiles on their faces.
When a disabled woman begins to thrash and cry and it’s explained to the group of volunteers with her that she is sad to be leaving Lourdes, the young women soon have tears rolling down their cheeks.
Léon-Dufour told CNA that she thinks the sick and disabled find Lourdes a respite from what can be a cruel world.
“To be able to be in that place without any judgment from society because you are surrounded by disabled people, sick people. The poor, ‘the invisibles,’ are on the front stage, which doesn’t happen in our real lives. Here in Lourdes, you don’t have any judgment. So I think that the first cure you can get is that you don’t have ‘funny eyes’ on you.”
“And oh, all the people you will find on your way! Either they’re as sick as you or as poor as you. Either. They’re here just to help you,” she said.
The volunteers, many of whom are college students, usually stay for one week and receive training upon arriving at one of the welcome centers. The film shows a group of new volunteers being instructed on how to bathe their patients, how often to change their urinary incontinence pads, and the importance of drying them off completely. Many of the female volunteers wear nurses’ uniforms, complete with starched caps, a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, Léon-Dufour said.
“It was a matter of hygiene, and it was also because you used to have a lot of people, and especially women, from the French aristocracy [volunteering]. They didn’t want to have any difference, between the, let’s say the farmer and the aristocrats, so we kept these uniforms,” she said.
Lourdes, she said, is one of “the rarest places in the world,” because the volunteer nurses continue to come from all walks of life as do the pilgrims, she said.
“You have to give the showers, you have to dress the people, you have to entertain them, etc. And so, it’s one of the places in the world where you will see a very successful CEO giving a shower to, let’s say, a maid. And it’s great sometimes to have this kind of reminder, you know?” she said.
In making a movie about Lourdes, Léon-Dufour hoped to share with others something she discovered as a reluctant volunteer years ago.
“It’s about giving back. Of course, you can give back everywhere — you can give back when you see a homeless person or whatever, but I think that you receive so much joy spending one week [at Lourdes],” she said. “I can assure you that that is very, very rewarding. The thing is that you keep going back because you receive much more.”
Watch the trailer here:
Meet the ‘Lone Survivor’ priest and ‘Grunt Padre’ author who’s now the head chaplain of the Coast Guard
Posted on 02/5/2023 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 5, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
Father Daniel Mode was the chaplain for the “Lone Survivor” SEAL team in Afghanistan and has authored a book about the famed “Grunt Padre,” Father Vincent Capodanno.
Now there’s a new distinction on Mode’s impressive service record: leading the chaplaincy efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, the first Catholic priest to hold that important role in 12 years.
Yet Mode, 57, says his greatest mission is bringing the peace of Jesus Christ to the service members and civilians to whom he ministers.
“Peace is kind of my mantra,” Mode told CNA.
He was ordained in 1992 in the Diocese of Arlington, where he served for 13 years, pastoring Queen of the Apostles Parish in Alexandria from 2001 to 2005.
Mode was deployed as a chaplain to Afghanistan in 2005, and within the first 24 hours of being in theater he came face-to-face with the realities of war.
“I had my first death,” he said. “The soldier died in my arms in a field hospital in Kandahar.”
After ministering to service members in Afghanistan for 22 months, Mode said he realized the “amazing need for chaplains” and felt a “call within a call” to continue serving those who serve.
Since receiving his bishop’s permission to become a full-time, active military chaplain in 2007, Mode has worked to share God’s peace in his ministry all over the world. He has spent nine years overseas, seven of those years on ships and aircraft carriers.
“I’ve served in very remote places and very overseas places, and it’s just reinforced … that service members need their shepherds, they need their chaplains,” Mode said.
How has he sustained such incredible challenges as a priest and a military chaplain?
Mode, now a Navy captain, explained that “God is preeminent in my life. My savior Jesus gives me hope for the future. I believe in grace, and I believe that God gives us the grace to continue.”
A SEAL team’s grief
In June 2005, Mode was serving as a Navy chaplain, moving from one Forward Operating Base (FOB) to another every few days.
One day Mode received word that SEAL Team 10 was in dire need of a chaplain after an elite group of SEALs had been ambushed and killed by Taliban warriors, leaving only a lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell.
“When that happened, the Navy SEALs specifically requested a Navy chaplain,” Mode explained. “There were very few of us in the country at the time … So, I was sent in there for those weeks to care for them.”
“It was indeed tragic and very historic, especially for the Navy SEALs, and actually the largest loss of life, to that time, of American service members in Afghanistan,” Mode said.
Luttrell went on to write a book about his horrific experiences, titled “Lone Survivor” (Back Bay Books, 2008), which was later turned into a major motion picture starring Catholic actor Mark Wahlberg.
Yet very few know that when disaster struck SEAL Team 10, the man who responded to the call for help was a Catholic priest.
Mode described his time serving the tragedy-stricken unit as “several weeks of intense ministry.” Besides ministering to those left behind, he honored the sacrifices of the fallen, presiding over “ramp ceremonies” at Bagram Airfield.
“It underlines the reality that there’s a lot of difficulties like that, a lot of tragedies that happen in conflict and war, and chaplains are always there on the front lines,” Mode said of those experiences. “The key with any difficulty that you enter into is just to give them (the soldiers) space and time to be able to talk.”
Inspired by the ‘Grunt Padre’
When Mode, who has advanced degrees in theology and Church history, went to Navy Chaplain School in Newport, Rhode Island, he realized that a nearby-anchored ship, a nearby street, and the school's chapel were all named after Medal of Honor recipient Father Vincent Capodanno, a Navy chaplain during the Vietnam War.
Capodanno dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the Marines in his care, giving special care to the lowest-ranking service members, called the “grunts.” Capodanno became a beloved companion and father of the soldiers, living, eating, and sleeping in the harshest conditions alongside them. His dedication earned him the nickname the Grunt Padre.
On Capodanno’s second tour in Vietnam in 1967, his unit got pinned down by a North Vietnamese ambush. Already seriously wounded himself, Capodanno rushed to the aid of a wounded man and was gunned down by enemy fire.
“That inspired me. I was still in the seminary at the time, and I decided to write my master’s thesis on him. So, I spent the next two and a half years researching and writing about his life,” Mode explained.
Mode’s thesis ultimately became a book, “The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno, Vietnam, 1966-1967” (CMJ Marian Publishers, 2000).
Mode told CNA that Capodanno’s cause for canonization has cleared the diocesan level and is now underway in the Vatican. With one miracle already attributed to the intercession of Capodanno, his cause is now being considered for the next level, “venerable.”
As an expert on Capodanno’s life and service, Mode continues to be called in by the Church hierarchy to advise on his canonization process.
As a Navy chaplain himself, Mode says the Grunt Padre has had an incredible impact on his ministry.
“His life, his witness, his spiritual care has affected me,” Mode said. “In Afghanistan, I often would say, ‘What would Father Capodanno do in this situation?’ Whether with the Navy SEALs, whether with all the other units I was with, whether with this death or this person who’s coming for a difficult counseling situation, what would Father Capodanno do?”
New role, same mission
In April 2022, Mode was appointed head chaplain for the U.S. Coast Guard, a role based in Washington, D.C., in which he oversees 157 other chaplains of different faiths.
Wherever he goes, Mode said, “the biggest thing I hear from everyone is, ‘We would like another chaplain,’ and it goes back to what we said: People want their shepherds.”
Even in this new role, Mode continues to hear the same clear call from God to share Christ’s peace.
In the military, there is a tradition of commanders giving out memento coins as symbols of honor.
“When I became the chaplain of the Coast Guard,” Mode said, “I got to design that coin. And at the bottom of that coin, I had the word ‘PAX’ — ‘peace’ in Latin.”
Editor's Note: Several details in the original version of this article were in error, and have been corrected.