New evangelization also begins with confession, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - Confession can help Catholics build lives filled with hope and holiness, which are needed for effective evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"New evangelization, therefore, also starts from the confessional," he told confessors and other participants attending a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary -- a Vatican court that that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.

New evangelization "draws its life blood from the holiness of the children of the church, from the daily journey of personal and communal conversion to adhere ever more deeply to Christ, he said in his address March 9.

    Migration offers opportunity for growth, mission, say speakers in Rome

    ROME - While migration brings struggles for the migrant and the host country, in the long term it provides opportunities for stability, cultural enrichment and religious growth, said speakers at a Rome event sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

    U.S. Ambassador Miguel H. Diaz, a Cuban-born theologian, told the audience that while balancing humanitarian and legal concerns is a challenge for modern states dealing with migration, "by finding ways to integrate migrants, communities can become stronger than before. The experience of migration can be an opportunity to embrace positively human diversity."

      Irish asked to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

      DUBLIN - Organizers are encouraging parishes and communities across Ireland to use the feast of St. Patrick -- March 17 -- to intensify preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.

      Their initiative, Ring for Renewal, "invites people to pause for a moment in their day to ring a bell on St. Patrick's Day and reflect on how they can be renewed as individuals and members of the church as they prepare for the congress," said Father Kevin Doran, congress secretary-general.

        God is mercy and love

        Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 18 (2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)

        All written histories are interpretations of events rather than “cold, hard facts.” Historians have a lens through which they view the world and events. They usually seek to demonstrate their own ideas through the arrangement, selection and interpretation of events. For example, I and II Chronicles are theological reinterpretations of Israel’s history after the painful 70-year exile in Babylon and the return of the people to Jerusalem.

          Porous and buffered personalities

          A friend of mine tells this story: As a young boy in the 1950s he was struck down with pneumonia. His family lived in a small town that had neither a hospital nor a doctor. His father had a job which had taken him away from the family for that week. His mother was home alone with no phone and no car. Frightened and completely without resources, she came to his sick bed, knelt beside it, pinned a medal of St. Therese of Lisieux to his pyjamas and prayed to St. Therese in words to this effect: “I’m trusting you to make my child better. I’m going to remain kneeling here until his fever breaks.”

          Both my friend and his mother eventually fell asleep, he in his sick bed, she kneeling beside it. When they woke, his fever had broken.

            Pope says everyone needs help getting through tough moments

            VATICAN CITY - Just like the disciples, every follower of Jesus needs a "mountain-top" experience of light and of closeness to the Lord to get them through life's difficult and painful moments, Pope Benedict XVI said.

            Celebrating a morning Mass March 4 at the Church of St. John Baptist de la Salle in a Rome suburb and reciting the Angelus at midday with visitors at the Vatican, Pope Benedict commented on the day's Gospel account of the Transfiguration.

              Faith is light at end of dark tunnel of life's struggles, Pope says after Lenten retreat

              VATICAN CITY - When life feels like a dark and silent tunnel, faith gives a Christian light and music, Pope Benedict XVI said at the end of his weeklong Lenten retreat.

              Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa led the Pope's retreat Feb. 26-March 3 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, offering the Pope and top Vatican officials three meditations each day on the theme "Christians' Communion With God."

              Thanking the cardinal at the end of the retreat, Pope Benedict said Cardinal Monsengwo "seasoned these meditations with beautiful stories -- taken mostly from your beloved African land -- which gave us joy and helped us."

                Seminarians take to the soccer field in annual Rome tournament

                ROME - More than 350 seminarians and priests from 71 countries will take to the field in early March for the kickoff of the sixth edition of Rome's Clericus Cup soccer tournament.

                The spring 2012 tourney will feature 16 teams from pontifical universities, seminaries and religious orders vying for a trophy of a cleat-wearing soccer ball sporting a wide-brimmed clerical hat known as a saturno.

                The Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, placed fourth in 2011; team captain Daniel Gallagher, a seminarian from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said March 2 the North American Martyrs plan to make some noise in the 2012 season.

                  The cross is the door to the new temple

                  Third Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 11 (Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25; John 2:13-25)

                  Are the Ten Commandments old-fashioned or obsolete? There are those who think so. Cynics have sometimes called them the 10 suggestions or have mused on what would happen if archeologists discovered a tablet with numbers 11 through 20 inscribed on them. But they are as valid today as ever.

                    Six ways to avoid Lent (but it won’t be easy)

                    Lent this year has been going on for a while now, but it’s not too late to get around it. For those reluctant to join with the many who are making a Lenten sacrifice and are instead looking for reliable methods to escape Lent, I offer six suggestions. Use at your own pace.

                    1. Don’t enter a church. Lent is everywhere in there these days, in the words, the music, the smells, the wall hangings. Even if you do happen to wander into a church or two, there are still ways to avoid Lent while inside, including the techniques listed below.

                      Finding gratitude through my illness

                      As a columnist, I’ve always harbored a certain paranoia about being overly personal or exhibitionistic or in thinking my own emotional ups and downs are of interest to others. I’ve tried to respect that fear. Occasionally, however, circumstance dictates that I do write something more personal. This is such an occasion.

                      I want to express my gratitude for all the prayers and support I have received during these past seven months while undergoing treatments for cancer. That desert-journey has finally ended, and with a good result. Just over a month ago, I finished my last chemotherapy treatment and, three weeks ago, after a battery of tests, was pronounced “cancer-free.” To God, family, friends, colleagues and to the many who have supported me in prayer: Thank you!

                      John Updike, in a poem entitled “Fever,” once wrote about what illness might teach us: