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Iowa Catholic Radio: John Paul the Great 15 years later

2 Apr

DES MOINES, Iowa. (April 2, 2020) — Patrick Novecosky, editor of this blog, was a guest on Iowa Catholic Radio’s Jon Leonetti in the Morning program this morning — on the 15th anniversary of Pope John Paul the Great’s death.

During the 11-minute segment, Leonetti asked Novecosky about his new book, 100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World, which commemorates the great Polish saint’s 100th birthday coming up on May 18, 2020.

CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview. (10 minutes 30 seconds)

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Pope John Paul II taught us to have hope in troubled times

2 Apr

by Patrick Novecosky

(April 2, 2020) —  Fifteen years ago Thursday, the world bid farewell to a tenacious world leader whose life and words have much to offer us today. Even though Pope Saint John Paul II didn’t live through a global pandemic, he was renowned for his fighting spirit and his ability to find hope in troubled times. He found that hope in the cross of Jesus Christ.

As a young man, he survived the Nazi occupation of his homeland before serving the church in Poland as a priest and bishop during the communist occupation of Eastern Europe — until he eventually helped engineer its downfall.

When he died on April 2, 2005, at age 84, the Polish pope had guided the Catholic Church for more than 26 years. His life and his death spoke of his unfading hope in God’s providence and his mercy on all who turn their hearts heavenward.

Pope John Paul II addresses the United Nations on Oct. 5, 1995

What would John Paul say to today’s world, filled with so much uncertainty amid this global pandemic? There’s no way to know for sure, but when he spoke to global leaders at the United Nations in 1995, he told them to “be not afraid,” the mantra he repeated often throughout his pontificate.

“We must overcome our fear of the future,” the pope said. “But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The answer to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social model on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.”

If there was ever a man who had a right to embrace pessimism, it was Karol Wojtyla. Born in Wadowice, Poland, in 1920, the man who would go on to become John Paul II lived a life of suffering.

Young Karol was almost 9 when his mother Emilia died. Three years later, his brother Edmund, a doctor, contracted scarlet fever during an outbreak and died at the age of 26. Before the future pope had turned 21, his father died, leaving him an orphan.

The pope’s suffering was deepened in 1981 when an assassin shot him in St. Peter’s Square. Although his mental acuity never waned, his physical health began to decline with each successive year after breaking his leg in 1994.

Instead of turning inward as a pessimist and allowing his circumstances dictate his response, John Paul turned to God in prayer. This was, in a sense, the nuclear reactor that powered his entire life and all that he accomplished as a priest, bishop, pope, philosopher, theologian, poet, and diplomat.

“Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young,” he said at the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto. “Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

As I document in my new book, John Paul saw his role as more than just the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He firmly believed that God had positioned him to be pastor to the world. All told, the Polish pontiff made 104 foreign trips, touching down in 129 countries. He logged more than 775,000 miles — the equivalent of circling the globe more than 30 times.

Billy Graham meets with John Paul II in this undated photo

John Paul II reached out to men and women of all faiths — and those without religious conviction. He called the new atheism “the spiritual tragedy of our times,” and he entered into serious dialogue with all Christians — from evangelicals to traditional Protestants, from Orthodox churches to fallen-away Catholics.

In fact, shortly before his election as pope, Cardinal Wojtyla gave permission for Billy Graham to preach at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Krakow. A few years later, during Billy Graham’s first meeting with John Paul II in 1981, the pope held the American evangelist’s hand and said: “We are brothers.” For the Holy Father, that was one of many victories in his efforts to bring Christians together.

As the world watched John Paul’s rapidly declining health during the early months of 2005, the pope’s suffering was on full display. When he appeared at the window of the papal apartments on Easter Sunday, he was barely able to speak above a whisper. We watched and our hearts were moved. Despite the Easter jubilation, the pope was still walking “the way of the cross.”

When he died on April 2 — the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday — tributes poured in from around the globe. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said: “John Paul II was one of the greatest men of the last century. Perhaps the greatest.”

Billy Graham told talk show host Larry King that the pope dying was like losing a member of his own family.

“He believed in the cross,” Graham said. “That was his focus throughout his ministry, the cross, no matter if you were talking to him from a personal issue or an ethical problem, he felt that there was the answer to all of our problems, the cross and the resurrection.”

Patrick Novecosky is a media relations professional. He lives in Florida with his wife and five children. His new book is “100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World.” This article originally appeared at FoxNew.com on April 2, 2020.

Trending With Timmerie: John Paul the Great

1 Apr

GARDEN GROVE, California. (April 1, 2020) — Patrick Novecosky, editor of this blog, was a guest on Relevant Radio’s Trending with Timmerie today.

During the 48-minute segment, host Timmerie Millington asked Novecosky about his new book, 100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World, which commemorates Pope St. John Paul the Great’s 100th birthday, coming up on May 18, 2020. They discuss not only how this saint changed the world but also religious liberty, the value of suffering, death, human dignity, athletes, theology of the body, sexuality, and more.

CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview. (36 minutes)

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

The Jason Jones Show: John Paul II Changes the World

25 Mar

KAPOLEI, Hawaii. (March 25, 2020) — Patrick Novecosky, editor of this blog, was a guest on The Jason Jones Show podcast today.

During the 70-minute podcast, host Jason Jones asked Novecosky about his new book, 100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World, which commemorates Pope St. John Paul the Great’s 100th birthday, coming up on May 18, 2020. They discussed the 25th anniversary of both men’s favorite papal encyclical — Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which Novecosky calls “the Magna Carta of the pro-life movement.”

CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview. (70 minutes)

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Don’t Blame the Gun, Your Eminence

7 Oct

by Patrick Novecosky

(August 7, 2019) — Nobody blamed the truck when 29-year-old Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov rented a pickup from Home Depot 18 months ago and deliberately mowed down a dozen pedestrians and bicyclists in New York City, killing eight. There was no lobbying for background checks or more laws around vehicle rentals. Yet every time there’s a mass shooting, political leaders call for more gun laws. More laws won’t fix the problem.

I understand the necessity for political posturing. The President tweets and governors issue statements condemning the heinous crime. They assure the nation of their “thoughts and prayers” and the need to stop the violence. Lawmakers and those vying for office insist that we need new legislation. Some call for more drastic measures. Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg told Fox News Sunday that “we cannot allow the Second Amendment to be a death sentence for thousands of Americans a year.”

We should expect as much from him.

Surely, I thought, faith leaders will cut to the heart of the problem. During Sunday morning Mass, our deacon read a statement about the weekend shootings in El Paso and Dayton from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Frank Dewane, chairman of their Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities,” the cardinal wrote. “As people of faith, we continue to pray for all the victims, and for healing in all these stricken communities. But action is also needed to end these abhorrent acts.”

We should expect more from our bishops.

Sure, we must pray for the victims and their families. That’s essential. But we also need to pray for the disturbed individuals who may contemplate violence in the future. As Christians, we know that our prayers are efficacious. We must beg God’s grace for these men. They’re out there, and their numbers are growing.

These young, lonely, disaffected young men often had abusive, distant or absent fathers. The breakdown of the family and the isolation exacerbated by technology is affecting the mental health of thousands (if not millions) of Americans.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Some bishops get it. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who buried victims of the Columbine High School massacre 20 years ago, wrote this week that unless hearts are changed, mass murder like we witnessed this week will continue. He puts the blame squarely on the culture and each of us:

…only a fool can believe that “gun control” will solve the problem of mass violence. The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty, and perverted freedoms that we’ve systematically created over the past half-century.

The vast majority of these shooters, bombers, and truck-driving killers come from broken or abusive families. The sobering thread running through the lives of all these perpetrators is fatherlessness. The late rapper Tupac Shakur once famously said, “I know for a fact that, had I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence. Your mother can’t calm you down the way a man can. You need a man to teach you how to be a man.”

Things haven’t improved since Tupac was murdered in 1996. Today, despite a roaring economy, Americans are unhappy. Fortune reports that the 2019 World Happiness Report pegs the U.S. at No. 19—its worst ranking ever.

Like Chaput, one of the report’s co-authors points to Americans’ appetite for addiction – including “gambling, social media use, video gaming, shopping, consuming unhealthy foods, exercising, and engaging in extreme sports or risky sexual behaviors.”

These addictions are coping mechanisms for isolation. Millennials are among the loneliest and most isolated generation in our nation’s history, according to a new YouGov survey. Nearly a third say they always feel lonely.

“Millennials are also more likely than older generations to report that they have no acquaintances (25% of Millennials say this is the case), no friends (22%), no close friends (27%), and no best friends (30%),” according to the report.

These are the issues we expect our faith leaders to address. We expect politicians to pass legislation that keeps weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals, even though that won’t solve the problem. Troubled, angry men will then use a knife, a bomb, or a truck to lash out at the innocent. Politicians and faith leaders need to understand once and for all: it’s a heart problem, not a gun problem.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMediaThis article originally appeared on August 7, 2019, at Crisis Magazine.

For U.S. Catholics, it’s time to stop the bleeding

15 Jun

by Patrick Novecosky

The Catholic Church is bleeding.

It’s wounded from decades of abuse and neglect — sexual abuse, financial misconduct, cover-ups and the failure to adequately teach the faith, not to mention failure to live it. There’s enough blame to go around. Both laypeople and the clergy have done their part to break trust with the faithful.

As a result, the Church is hemorrhaging. Badly. For decades, the in-joke among Protestants and Catholics has been that the second-largest denomination in the United States is ex-Catholics. What was once a trickle is quickly developing into a massive flow.

Last year, a Georgetown study found that millennials leaving the Church stopped identifying as Catholics at a median age of 13, long before they ceased attending a parish.

A Pew study reports that more than half of adults who were raised Catholic have left the Church. “A significant minority of them returned, but most (four-in-ten of all those raised Catholic) have not.”

You get the picture.

Broken Trust

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Jose Gomez at a Nov. 12, 2017, presentation in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

As the U.S. Bishops meet this week in Baltimore for their General Assembly, they’ll discuss a host of issues. The abuse scandal is dominating the headlines, but the real underlying issue they should examine is broken trust. Catholics need to have confidence in their priests and bishops. Joe Catholic needs to know and see that Church leaders — priests, bishops and laypeople — are living the faith they profess to believe.

Catholics are rightly outraged when news breaks that prelates like West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield are spending a thousand dollars a month on liquor. Having fresh $100 worth of fresh-cut flowers delivered to their offices daily. Dropping $350,000 in gifts to priests, bishops and cardinals across the country and at the Vatican. Not to mention Bransfield’s sexual harassment of priests and seminarians under his authority. I hardly need to mention the now-laicized former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Bishop Michael Bransfield resigned last year, but an investigation showed accusations of homosexual harassment were credible and it detailed the bishop’s extravagant spending.

At the same time, the Associated Press reports that attorneys general across the country have gathered hordes of evidence on clergy sex abuse, seized through search warrants and subpoenas at dozens of archdioceses.

Hanging on by a Thread

Many have had enough. A Gallup poll in March showed that 37 percent of adult Catholics are considering leaving the faith. Who can blame them? It’s a terrible time to be Catholic. So why stick around when other denominations are more transparent and welcoming? But scandal has dogged other Christian (and non-Christian) churches as well. The Southern Baptist Convention — also meeting this week — is itself confronting the issue of sexual abuse.

A Time for Saints and Heroes

Other say this is a great time to be Catholic. Throughout its 2,000-year history, God has raised up saints to steer the Church right again during times of scandal, abuse and misconduct on the part of its leaders.

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who gave his life for a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz, on Aug. 14, 1941.

The response to the Protestant Reformation gave us great saints like Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, and Ignatius of Loyola. In our day, we have stalwarts like Pope St. John Paul II, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and Maximilian Kolbe. More saints are born out of troubled times than any other period in human history. Our day is no different.

The challenge for the bishops — and lay Catholics as well — is to rebuild trust. Jesus founded the Catholic Church, so we who believe that he is the Son of God need to amend our lives to conform to that belief. That’s the call of every baptized Christian.

Rocky Soil?

Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed is applicable here. A farmer scattered seed, and some fell on rocky ground while other seed fell on good, fertile soil. The seed that fell on rocky ground sprouted, but its roots failed to go deep. The plant withered and died. The seed that fell on good soil blossomed and produced a bountiful harvest. A faithful witness rebuilds trust and helps create that fertile soil for others to believe as we do.

The Catholic Church’s bleeding won’t stop any time soon. It will only begin to heal once our shepherds and other professed Catholics start living what they profess to believe.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on June 15, 2019, at The Stream.

St. Padre Pio and the art of fraternal correction

18 Sep

by Patrick Novecosky

(SEPTEMBER 18, 2018) — Nice is not a virtue. It’s not a bad thing to be nice, but it’s not among the seven virtues. To be frank, Jesus wasn’t always nice. When he overturned the moneychangers’ tables, I’m sure none of those who witnessed the event would have said, “Oh, that was nice!”

If you witness someone committing a grave sin and you sit back and do or say nothing, people might think you’re nice. If someone goes through life just minding their own business all the time, they may have someone deliver their eulogy extolling the person’s niceness. Trust me; you don’t want to go there.

Rather, we’re called to embrace the four cardinal virtues—prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude—and the three theological virtues of faith, hope, love/charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that a “virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions” (#1803).

That means we’re called to intervene when someone goes astray—an act known as fraternal correction. It takes courage (a virtue) to correct a friend or family member. Sometimes it may not seem nice to the person receiving correction, but it also takes tact or diplomacy to reach a person in need.

What does this have to do with St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), whose feast day we celebrate on Sept. 23? Those who’ve studied his life will know that often he was not nice—but he was always virtuous.

Any telling of Padre Pio’s life must start with the Mass and his love of Jesus in the Eucharist. When he celebrated Mass, he would often go into ecstasy for prolonged periods of time. He once said that at the Consecration he saw everyone who had asked for his prayers. Witnesses also say they saw a crown of thorns on the priest’s head during the Consecration.

He once famously said that “it would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass.”

Padre Pio was also physically tormented by demons. In 1998, I traveled to San Giovanni Rotondo where he lived in Southern Italy and saw his bedroom/cell where he was routinely thrown across the room by minions from hell. Despite this horror, his faith only grew stronger.

As a confessor, Padre Pio was known to be stern.

In the early days of his priestly ministry, Padre Pio often spent lengthy times in the confessional. Once his reputation spread, his confession lines grew until the average waiting time was 10 days. It got to the point that the Capuchins implemented a ticketing system starting in 1950. Despite his fame and demand on his time, he had a remarkable way of focusing on each penitent as they came to be healed from sin. We have a testament to the importance of confession by the sheer amount of time he spent hearing confessions. Some days, he spent 15 to 19 hours in the confessional.

Confessing to a priest who has the charism of reading souls might seem interesting, maybe attractive, [but] in reality, it was humbling for many. Padre Pio was not afraid to be gruff or confrontational to impenitent souls! He once called a man a pig and told him to get out of his confessional. He knew penitents’ sins better than the penitents themselves and called out anyone trying to hide something. (Source)

One of the beautiful things about Catholic groups for men and boys like the Troops of Saint George is that they provide a forum for members to know one another well—to know one another’s hearts and minds. That personal connection forces each of us to step up and become a better version of ourselves. Scripture says that “as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

This familiarization also sets up men and boys to become one another’s mentors. Fraternal correction may not always be nice, but it’s necessary if we’re to form saints. One of my mentors once told me that each of us is like a block of marble that needs to be chipped and polished into God’s masterpiece. Each blow of the hammer hurts a little, but those blows help reveal something—the beauty that lies beneath.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on Sept. 18, 2019, at TroopsOfStGeorge.org