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Pope St. John Paul II: A world-changer

15 May

by Patrick Novecosky

Whenever he spoke, whenever he traveled, whenever he wrote, Pope St. John Paul II made history. Long before he stepped out onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica in the fall of 1978 as Supreme Pontiff, Karol Wojtyła had already made a substantial mark on the Catholic Church — and the world — but the best was yet to come.

Whether as a priest, bishop or pope, Pope St. John Paul II left his mark in large and small ways. As the world remembers him this month on the centenary of his birth (he was born on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland), we take a look at the impact he left on the 20th century and beyond.

A heart for young people

As a young man, Wojtyła had been known as a gifted actor who took to the stage with a clandestine theater troupe during the Nazi and communist occupation of his native Poland. But when his father died a few months before he turned 21, the future pope stunned his friends by announcing that he was going to be a priest. His mother had passed away when he was 9, and his older brother, a doctor, had died during a scarlet fever outbreak.

During his seminary studies and his priestly ministry, Wojtyła engaged young people. In 1946, he left Poland to further his studies in Rome. Throughout this time, he spent his vacations ministering to young Polish emigrants in France, Belgium and Holland. A naturally gifted linguist, he made efforts to learn French and Italian during these months abroad. He would become fluent in 11 languages.

He then returned to Poland and taught at two prominent universities. As a professor, he formed a small group of young people who began to call themselves Rodzinka, or “Little Family.” They met for philosophical discussion, for prayer and to help the sick. The group grew to nearly 200, and their activities expanded to include skiing and kayaking trips.

The experience of forming community and ministering to young adults stayed with the young priest. He stayed in touch with this group throughout his life, watching its members fall in love, have children and grow old. Father Wojtyła’s experiences formed the basis of his first book, “Love and Responsibility,” published in 1960. The book delves into Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and morality, and it formed the basis of the first major teaching of his pontificate nearly 20 years later — theology of the body.

A group of Cuban children sing for Pope John Paul II outside the papal nuncio’s residence Jan. 22, 1998, in Havana, Cuba. The pope was on his historic five-day visit to the communist island nation. (CNS photo/Reuters) See CUBA-FRANCIS (THIRD UPDATE) and CUBA-REACTION Dec. 17, 2014, and CUBA-POPE and CUBA-MIAMI Dec. 18, 2014. EDITORS: Image reposted with original caption from 1998.

As pope, he met with young people in Paris in 1980, and he marked the 1984 Holy Year by meeting with youth in Rome. From there, the idea of a larger, international gathering began to percolate. He invited youth back to Rome in 1985 — and a quarter of a million took him up on it. World Youth Day was born. John Paul used the gatherings to challenge young people to know Jesus in a deep and personal way.

During his final visit to the United States in 1999, he preached to youth about prayer. “You belong to Christ,” he said in St. Louis. “But you will get to know him truly and personally only through prayer. What is needed is that you talk to him and listen to him. Today we are living in an age of instant communications. But do you realize what a unique form of communication prayer is? Prayer enables us to meet God at the most profound level of our being. It connects us directly to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a constant exchange of love.”

Similarly, in 1993, at World Youth Day in Denver, John Paul challenged young people to be bold and evangelical in telling the world about their faith in Jesus Christ.

“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops!”

Unpacking Vatican II

John Paul’s passion for Jesus’ Great Commission was core to his priesthood and his pontificate. Pope St. John XXIII made him an auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958. Four years later, he journeyed to Rome for the first session of the Second Vatican Council. Over the course of its four sessions, the Polish cardinal left an indelible mark on the council’s reform of the Church — and he spent the rest of his life implementing those reforms, first in Kraków and then, as pope, around the world.

Cardinal Wojtyła was instrumental in developing the council’s text on religious freedom and the vocation of the laity — as well as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes.

When he was elected pope, only 13 years after the council’s closing, John Paul II inherited a deeply divided Church. One faction proclaimed the “Spirit of Vatican II,” while another thought the council was a terrible mistake. The pope understood immediately that his task would be to interpret and unpack the council. In virtually every document he wrote — and in many of his speeches and homilies — he referenced Vatican II.

In 2001, he wrote: “From the beginning of my pontificate, my thoughts had been on this Holy Year 2000 as an important appointment. I thought of its celebration as a providential opportunity during which the Church, 35 years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, would examine how far she had renewed herself, in order to be able to take up her evangelizing mission with fresh enthusiasm” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, No. 2).

Pope John Paul I meets Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, in this 1978 photo. Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood cause of Pope John Paul I with a decree recognizing his heroic virtues. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters) See POPE-JPI-CAUSE Nov. 9, 2017.

John Paul insisted that Vatican II was “truly a prophetic message for the Church’s life; it will continue to be so for many years in the third millennium.”

One of the fruits of the council was a new Code of Canon Law. Pope John XXIII had aspired to revise the Church’s complex legal system, but his efforts took a backseat to Vatican II. Revisions to the Code of Canon Law moved slowly until John Paul II kickstarted the process in 1982. That year, he met with seven canonical experts from different countries. Things moved quickly, and the revised code was promulgated 11 months later. The pope called the 1983 revised code “Vatican II’s final document.”

With the tumult that followed Vatican II, both Pope St. Paul VI and John Paul II fixed their attention on the necessity of unpacking the council and dealing with the dissent and rampant confusion left in its wake. To this end, John Paul convened an extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 to mark the 20th anniversary of Vatican II’s conclusion.

The synod’s final report recommended a universal catechism of Catholic faith and morals. The previous universal catechism, the Roman Catechism, written in the wake of the Council of Trent (1545-63), had held sway for 400 years.

John Paul tasked a group of 12 bishops with creating the new catechism. The group was led primarily by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Father Christoph Schönborn, who later became archbishop of Vienna.

John Paul approved and promulgated the text in 1992. It was first published in French (1992), then in English (1994) and Latin (1997). Unlike previous iterations, this catechism was not in question-and-answer format. The 2,865 paragraphs are a veritable treasure trove of quotations from the Fathers, Doctors and saints of the Church.

Critics inside the Church said that a universal catechism was an outdated idea, that there was no need for such a resource. But John Paul shot back that the Catechism was “indispensable, in order that the richness of the teaching of the Church following the Second Vatican Council could be preserved in a new synthesis and be given a new direction. Without the Catechism of the universal Church, this would not have been accomplished.”

The faithful responded to the critics by making the Catechism an international bestseller, with well over 8 million copies in print in 20 languages worldwide.

The mercy pope

As the archbishop of Kraków, Wojtyla played a key role in authenticating the Divine Mercy message Jesus had given to Sister Faustina during the 1930s.

Pope John Paul II’s promotion of the Divine Mercy message is one of the most important ways in which he changed the world for one simple reason: He and St. Faustina Kowalska were pivotal players in God’s plan to set the stage for Jesus’ second coming.

Many believe that Divine Mercy is simply a pious, Polish devotion. It is that, but it’s much more. Divine Mercy is God’s love poured out for mankind during the time before Jesus’ return — or before our particular judgment at the foot of his throne immediately after our death, whichever comes first. It’s Jesus reaching out to each of us personally, calling us to repent now because he wants us to spend eternity with him.

After young Karol Wojtyła finished high school in his hometown of Wadowice, he and his father moved to Kraków in August 1938 so the teenager could start his university studies. A few months later, 33-year-old Sister Faustina Kowalska died in Kraków. The young nun and the future pope never met, but their paths certainly crossed in mystical ways.

Pope John Paul II prays in 1993 at the Hill of Crosses in Siauliai, Lithuania. Pope Francis will make the same three-nation visit — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — Sept. 22-25, stopping at a number of the same places as his saint-predecessor. (CNS photo/Arturo Mari, L’Osservatore Romano) See POPE-BALTIC-SCHEDULE July 5, 2018.

As the archbishop of Kraków, Wojtyła played a key role in authenticating the Divine Mercy message Jesus had given to Sister Faustina during the 1930s. The young nun had only three years’ schooling, so her diary detailing the mystical experiences was written like that of a child. Bad translations were leaked out of communist Poland after her death, so the Vatican put a prohibition on spreading her writings.

Cardinal Wojtyła subjected Faustina’s diary to its first scholarly analysis, and he opened her cause for canonization in 1965. He tasked one of his top theologians with authenticating her diary. Exactly six months after the Holy See lifted the prohibition of her Divine Mercy message, Wojtyła was elected bishop of Rome.

In his 1980 papal encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (“Rich in Mercy”), John Paul II asked the faithful to plead for God’s mercy as the only answer to humanity’s tribulations. In 1982, he said that God had called him to help spread the message of mercy: “Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered [spreading the Divine Mercy] message my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.”

Divine Mercy is woven through the entirety of John Paul’s work as pope. “It is truly marvelous how [Faustina’s] devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world and gaining so many human hearts!” he said at her 1993 beatification. “Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope?” A year later he said, “As people of this restless time of ours, wavering between the emptiness of self-exaltation and the humiliation of despair, we have a greater need than ever for a regenerating experience of mercy.”

Jesus made two demands of Faustina: to have an image of him painted as she saw him in her visions and to have the Sunday after Easter dedicated to his mercy. When John Paul canonized her in 2000 — the first saint of the Jubilee Year — he fulfilled the latter demand, declaring that “it is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’”

He noted that by canonizing Faustina he intended “to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know ever better the true face of God.”

He also lauded the new saint for her faith in Jesus. “And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of Divine Mercy; help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters.”

After the canonization Mass, the Holy Father reportedly told his guests that this was the happiest day of his life. It certainly was the icing on the cake of John Paul’s efforts to fulfill Jesus’ demand to make his mercy known to the whole world.

The New Evangelization

While teaching and catechesis were John Paul II’s passion, the Polish philosopher pope knew that helping to bring Catholics into right relationship with Jesus Christ was truly his principal task. Paul VI taught that the Church exists to evangelize, but John Paul II recognized that the Church had not always been focused on evangelization, so he set out to bring Jesus to the world in new ways.

He formally called for a “new evangelization” in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio. However, he had been preaching about it for years. In 1988, he said that “the present-day phenomenon of secularism is truly serious, not simply as regards the individual, but in some ways, as regards whole communities, as the council has already indicated: ‘Growing numbers of people are abandoning religion in practice.’ At other times I myself have recalled the phenomenon of de-Christianization that strikes longstanding Christian people, and which continually calls for a re-evangelization.”

Pope John Paul II pulled no punches, saying that it is a requirement for every follower of Jesus to evangelize: “God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes [to the nations]. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (Redemptoris Missio, No. 3).

When a pope says with unwavering conviction that the Church must commit all of her energies to an initiative, the faithful must sit up and take note. Those of us who lived during his 26-year pontificate, watching him circling the globe, calling the faithful to conversion and a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, should count ourselves blessed to have experienced what few have witnessed over the course of the Church’s two millennia — a great saint standing on the world stage, pointing to heaven and to the Creator of the universe.

Patrick Novecosky is a Catholic journalist, the managing partner of NovaMedia and the author of “100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World” (OSV, $16.95). This article originally appeared in the May 17-23, 2020, edition of Our Sunday Visitor.

The saint with a passion for America

by Patrick Novecosky

Pope John Paul II had a special affinity for the United States. His passion for the U.S. is evident not only in his speeches and writings on the national values of freedom and justice contained in our founding documents but in his love for Americans themselves.

Prior to his 1978 election as pope, he had visited the U.S. twice — in 1969 and again in 1976 — as archbishop of Kraków. As pope, he visited the U.S. seven times, including two brief stopovers in Alaska. His five significant visits were packed with joy, drama and record-setting crowds. In his addresses, John Paul extolled the founders’ vision of freedom and self-rule, but he also reminded Americans of the responsibility that comes with liberty.

Pope John Paul II waves to the crowd in Yankee Stadium in New York Oct. 2, 1979. During his first papal visit to the United States, he called on Americans to use their wealth to help the poor. (CNS photo/Chris Sheridan, Catholic New York) (March 20, 2014) See stories SAINTS- to come.

“Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought,” he said on a 1995 visit to Baltimore. “Catholics of America! Always be guided by the truth — by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for a glorious fulfillment in the Kingdom to come. Always be convincing witnesses to the truth.”

All told, the globe-trotting Polish pontiff made 104 foreign trips, touching down in 129 countries (two-thirds of all nations on the planet). He logged more than 775,000 miles — the equivalent of circling the globe more than 30 times. America and her people were always close to his heart. In fact, of his travels outside of Italy, he only visited France and Poland more times than the U.S.

Poignantly, it was during his six-city 1979 visit that he best expressed his love and challenge for the United States. During that trip, he made the unusual choice of visiting Living History Farms on the outskirts of Des Moines after receiving a handwritten letter from Iowa farmer Joe Hayes. The event drew the largest crowd in the state’s history — a whopping 350,000 pilgrims.

“To all of you who are farmers and all who are associated with agricultural production, I want to say this: The Church highly esteems your work,” he said. “You support the lives of millions who themselves do not work on the land, but who live because of what you produce. … Farmers everywhere provide bread for all humanity, but it is Christ alone who is the bread of life.”

His 1979 visit also included a visit to the White House (a first), a Mass in front of 80,000 at Yankee Stadium, a youth rally at Madison Square Gardens in New York, a Mass on the National Mall and a ticker-tape parade in Philadelphia.

On his visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., he commended the United States to the Mother of God with a special prayer: “Today, as I thank you, Mother, for this presence of yours in the midst of the men and women of this land — a presence which has lasted two hundred years — giving a new form to their social and civic lives in the United States, I commend them all to your Immaculate Heart.”

In Boston, he lauded the country’s virtues: “America has opened her heart to me. And on my part, I come to you — America — with sentiments of friendship, reverence and esteem. I come as one who already knows you and loves you, as one who wishes you to fulfill completely your noble destiny of service to the world. Once again I can now admire firsthand the beauty of this vast land stretching between two oceans; once again I am experiencing the warm hospitality of the American people.”

John Paul’s 1987 visit included stops in Miami, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco, Detroit and Columbia, South Carolina. He returned for a rock star welcome in Denver for World Youth Day in 1993, followed by a brief stop in St. Louis in 1999 for what proved to be his final U.S. visit. His farewell addresses always contained a challenge to greater faith and responsibility.

“America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take toward the human person,” he said in 1987. “The ultimate test of your greatness [is] in the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.”

When he departed New York in 1979, he said, “My final prayer is this: that God will bless America so that she may increasingly become, and truly be and long remain, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”


Michigan’s Big Show: Meeting a saint… five times

6 May

LANSING, Michigan. (May 6, 2020) — Patrick Novecosky, editor of this blog, was a guest on Michigan’s Big Show this morning.

During the 20-minute segment, host Michael Patrick Shiels asked Novecosky about his new book, 100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World, and his five meetings with the sainted Polish pontiff. They discussed Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and John Paul II’s role in the collapse of Soviet-style communism in Russia and Eastern Europe

CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview. (19 minutes 20 seconds)

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.

How the Oscars got grouchy: In your face politics

26 Feb

by Patrick Novecosky

(February 26, 2019) — When Jack Palance stood up to collect his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1992, I distinctly remember thinking, “I bet the old guy has a heart attack by the time he hits the third step.”

Jack Palance with his Academy Award in 1991

Palance did, indeed, drop to the floor. Not because he went into cardiac arrest, but to execute three one-handed push-ups – and one more with two hands to top off the performance. He checked his politics at the door.

Those were the days.

Over the past couple decades, the Academy Awards’ prestige — along with viewership of the live broadcast — has waned. It hit an all-time low last year when Jimmy Kimmel took a turn as host. The 26.6 million people who tuned in to the ceremony were the fewest to do so since Nielsen began estimating the program’s viewership in 1974.

Last night’s numbers weren’t much better, up a modest 2.1 million.

Why the Oscars Are Dying

Philip Bump at The Washington Post blames the slump on people not actually seeing the nominated films, therefore having no interest in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood’s biggest night.

Using statistical analysis, Bump makes some good points. The more popular the nominated films, the more popular the Oscar broadcast. Make sense.

But there’s something deeper going on here. Politics.

It’s Getting Too Shrill

Actors have always worn their politics on their sleeves. Humphrey Bogart organized a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1947 against what he perceived to be the House Un-American Activities Committee’s harassment of Hollywood screenwriters and actors. Jane Fonda blasted the U.S. military’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1970s, and a bevy of stars — from Mark Ruffalo to Meryl Streep  — lined up to support Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their 2016 bids for the White House.

But that’s on their own time.

Americans are free to tune out celebs’ activism (and they do) at the push of a button. While Fonda’s shrill rants against most of America’s war efforts are annoying, most of us are able to palate her on-screen performances. As annoying as I find Susan Sarandon’s liberal politics, it didn’t dissuade me from watching Thelma and Louise for the third time.

Marlon Brando famously refused his Best Actor statue in 1973 for his role in The Godfather, sending Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his stead. On stage, Littlefeather cited “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

Brando’s stunt was an exception to what was generally an entertaining awards program.

Crashing America’s Party

Michael Moore delivers a rant against President George W. Bush at the Oscars in 2003 (Getty)

The last couple of decades, however, have seen an excessive number of stars use the Oscar pulpit to lecture Americans on how to vote, how to spend their money, and which causes to embrace.

In his acceptance speech for winning the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Cider House Rules in 2000, John Irving gave a nod to “everyone at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights League” and thanked the Academy “for this honor to a film on the abortion subject.”

Three years later, Michael Moore delivered a blistering speech, lambasting President George W. Bush only four days after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!” Moore shouted, drawing boos and groans from the audience, as well as some soft applause.

When Leonardo DiCaprio accepted the Best Actor award for his role in The Revenant in 2016, he lectured America:

Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

Spike Lee channels Prince at the 2019 Oscars

And last Sunday, Spike Lee (dressed as Prince), took a not-so-veiled swipe at President Trump. “The 2020 election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize and be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”

Americans don’t mind lectures from qualified experts. But they don’t have much patience for overpaid entertainers posing as authorities on anything but entertaining. Maybe if they’d take a page from Jack Palance’s playbook, we would give the Oscars a second chance.

Patrick Novecosky is a Florida-based media relations professional, founder of this blog and NovaMedia. This article originally appeared on Feb. 26, 2019, at The Stream.

The general and the cardinal: Separated at birth?

18 Nov

AVE MARIA, Florida (November 18, 2016) — In scanning the news this morning, I noticed that President-elect Donald Trump has asked Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Army, Retired), 57, to be his national security adviser. I also took note that Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, 67, will receive his red hat from Pope Francis this weekend. It’s a monumental weekend for both men.

And I couldn’t help but notice that from a certain angle they look very much alike. A Google search for them pulled up zero mentions that they are brothers or perhaps twins separated at birth. The cardinal-elect should be flattered. He’s a full decade older than the general. Further, no one else has pointed out the striking similarity. Your thoughts?