Angelus News | January 26, 2024 | Vol. 9 No. 2

On the cover: High school student Atticus Maldonado smiles between classes at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in Downey. On Page 10, Angelus contributor Steve Lowery has the incredible story of how Maldonado’s school community rallied behind him in prayer — and why his unlikely recovery from a rare cancer may not even be the story’s biggest miracle.

On the cover: High school student Atticus Maldonado smiles between classes at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in Downey. On Page 10, Angelus contributor Steve Lowery has the incredible story of how Maldonado’s school community rallied behind him in prayer — and why his unlikely recovery from a rare cancer may not even be the story’s biggest miracle.


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CHANCE<br />

How his school’s<br />

‘prayer force’<br />

took on cancer —<br />

and won<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> <strong>Vol</strong>. 9 <strong>No</strong>. 2

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong><br />

<strong>Vol</strong>. 9 • <strong>No</strong>. 2<br />

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High school student Atticus Maldonado smiles<br />

between classes at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy<br />

in Downey. On Page 10, <strong>Angelus</strong> contributor Steve<br />

Lowery has the incredible story of how Maldonado’s<br />

school community rallied behind him in prayer — and<br />

why his unlikely recovery from a rare cancer may not<br />

even be the story’s biggest miracle.<br />



The St. Charles Choir performed a free concert at St.<br />

Charles Borromeo Church in <strong>No</strong>rth Hollywood on Jan.<br />

14 with a musical prayer for peace in the Holy Land.<br />

The choir was originally scheduled to perform in the<br />

Holy Land during its pilgrimage, but the Hamas’ attack<br />

on Israel on Oct. 7 canceled the trip.<br />

Sign up for our free, daily e-newsletter<br />

Always Forward - newsletter.angelusnews.com


Pope Watch............................................... 2<br />

Archbishop Gomez................................. 3<br />

World, Nation, and Local <strong>News</strong>...... 4-6<br />

In Other Words........................................ 7<br />

Father Rolheiser....................................... 8<br />

Scott Hahn.............................................. 32<br />

Events Calendar..................................... 33<br />

14<br />

16<br />

18<br />

20<br />

24<br />

<strong>26</strong><br />

28<br />

30<br />

After visiting Auschwitz, LA teacher brings her experience back to students<br />

Here are some <strong>2024</strong> California laws that Catholics should know about<br />

Imprisoned Nicaraguan bishop is freed, along with other jailed priests<br />

Infertility isn’t a Catholic problem. But are there Catholic answers?<br />

Charlie Camosy: What’s behind the ‘deplorable’ tragedy of surrogacy<br />

Robert Brennan asks: Am I the only one who doesn’t have a podcast?<br />

‘Poor Things’: Award season favorite mistakes provocative for interesting<br />

Heather King: LA Natural History Museum’s ‘100 Carats’ exhibit is a jewel<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 1


Hoping hell is empty<br />

While a pope can resign, Pope<br />

Francis said it is not something he is<br />

thinking about or worrying about now.<br />

“It is neither a thought, nor a worry,<br />

nor even a desire; it is a possibility,<br />

open to all popes. But for the moment<br />

it is not at the center of my thoughts,<br />

my worries, my feelings,” he said in an<br />

interview on Italian television Jan. 14.<br />

“As long as I feel I still have the capacity<br />

to serve, I will go on,” the 87-yearold<br />

pope said. “When I can no longer<br />

do it, it will be time to think about it.”<br />

Francis made the comments in an<br />

interview lasting more than 50 minutes<br />

on the program “Che Tempo Che Fa”<br />

on Italy’s <strong>No</strong>ve channel.<br />

He also said that “in August I have<br />

to make a trip to Polynesia” and that<br />

sometime after that, he hopes to go to<br />

Argentina for the first time since his<br />

election in 2013.<br />

Francis was asked how he imagines<br />

hell if he really believes God forgives<br />

everyone who asks.<br />

“It’s difficult to imagine it,” the pope<br />

said. “What I would say is not a dogma<br />

of faith, but my personal thought: I like<br />

to think hell is empty; I hope it is.”<br />

The pontiff was also asked about his<br />

approval of Fiducia Supplicans (“Supplicating<br />

Trust”), the Dicastery for the<br />

Doctrine of the Faith’s declaration that<br />

a priest can offer informal blessings<br />

to gay couples as long as it is clear the<br />

Church is not equating their union to<br />

marriage.<br />

“The Lord blesses everyone who is<br />

capable of being baptized, that is, every<br />

person,” said Francis. “But then people<br />

must enter into conversation with the<br />

Lord’s blessing and see what path the<br />

Lord is proposing for them.”<br />

The pastoral work of the Church, he<br />

said, is to “take them by the hand and<br />

help them to go down that road, not<br />

condemn them from the start.”<br />

“I always tell confessors: Forgive<br />

everything and treat people as kindly<br />

as the Lord treats us. And then if you<br />

want to help people, you can talk and<br />

help them move on, but forgive everyone,”<br />

he said.<br />

Fabio Fazio, the program’s host, asked<br />

the pope about the phrase in the classic<br />

Act of Contrition: “I detest all my sins<br />

because of thy just punishments.”<br />

“Sin deserves punishment,” the<br />

pope said. But he said he believes<br />

the “literary expression” in the classic<br />

version of the prayer “is too harsh given<br />

God’s love. I prefer to say, ‘Because by<br />

sinning I have saddened your heart.’ ”<br />

Francis said that in his 54 years of<br />

priesthood, he’s only denied forgiveness<br />

in confession once, because of the<br />

person’s “hypocrisy.”<br />

“I’ve always forgiven everything even<br />

when I knew the person could fall<br />

again, but the Lord forgives us. He<br />

helps us not to fall or to fall less, but he<br />

always forgives.”<br />

Asked what worries him, Francis<br />

responded that “some things do scare<br />

me. Some things frighten me. For example,<br />

this escalation of war frightens<br />

me.”<br />

With nuclear weapons stockpiled, he<br />

said, one wonders “how will we end<br />

up, like <strong>No</strong>ah’s ark? That scares me,<br />

the capacity for self-destruction that<br />

humanity has today.”<br />

Reporting courtesy of Catholic <strong>News</strong><br />

Service Rome bureau chief Cindy<br />

Wooden.<br />

Papal Prayer Intention for <strong>January</strong>: We pray that the Holy<br />

Spirit may help us to recognize the gift of different charisms<br />

within the Christian community and to discover the richness<br />

of different traditions and rituals in the Catholic Church.<br />

2 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>



OneLife LA — 10 years on<br />

Ten years ago, we founded<br />

OneLife LA with the hope of<br />

starting a new conversation and<br />

encouraging a new way of thinking<br />

about the right to life and the cause of<br />

human dignity in our city and in our<br />

nation.<br />

At that time, Roe v. Wade was the<br />

law of the land. The lives of millions<br />

of unborn children were being taken<br />

in the womb each year as the result of<br />

that 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling,<br />

which claimed to find a “right” to<br />

abortion in the federal constitution.<br />

Catholics and other concerned<br />

citizens had long taken to gathering<br />

on Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v.<br />

Wade, to peacefully march for an end<br />

to abortion and advocate for public<br />

policies that support women, children,<br />

and families.<br />

The pro-life movement is one of the<br />

most diverse and significant initiatives<br />

for nonviolent social change and civil<br />

rights in our nation’s history, and it<br />

is a coalition of conscience rooted in<br />

the prayers and sacrifices of countless<br />

ordinary Americans from every race<br />

and walk of life.<br />

Our aim with OneLife LA is to help<br />

support and broaden this movement<br />

by raising awareness of the beauty and<br />

dignity of every human life, from conception<br />

to natural death. We also want<br />

to recommit ourselves, as Catholics, to<br />

our duty to work for the beautiful Gospel<br />

vision of a culture of life and love.<br />

The Church has always defended the<br />

unborn child’s right to life, since the<br />

first century.<br />

We still believe that abortion is a<br />

grave evil and social injustice, because<br />

it attacks life itself and targets the<br />

weakest, most defenseless members of<br />

our community. We also believe, as the<br />

popes teach, that the right to life is the<br />

foundation of every other human right.<br />

Sadly, even beyond abortion, we see<br />

everywhere in our society the spreading<br />

of an anti-human spirit, a disregard<br />

for the sacredness of human life.<br />

In many ways, our society is forgetting<br />

the beautiful vision of Jesus and the<br />

Church.<br />

Jesus brought into the world a profound,<br />

radically new idea about the<br />

human person.<br />

He taught that everyone is created for<br />

a reason by the Father, who from before<br />

the world’s foundation knows us and<br />

loves us and has a plan and purpose for<br />

our lives.<br />

Every person, from the moment of<br />

conception, is created in God’s own<br />

image to be his own beloved son or<br />

daughter.<br />

Jesus told us that we are so precious<br />

that every hair on our head is numbered,<br />

and that God gives every child an<br />

angel in heaven, to guard and guide<br />

that child.<br />

And to show us how much we are<br />

loved, Jesus offered his own life on the<br />

cross for the redemption of all men<br />

and women, again, without exceptions.<br />

Even secular historians recognize that<br />

these Christian truths marked a “revolution”<br />

in human thought and shaped<br />

the foundation of Western civilization,<br />

changing how we think about women,<br />

children, the family, the poor, and<br />

more.<br />

These truths are the basis of our<br />

country’s founding belief that all men<br />

and women are created equal, with<br />

God-given rights and freedoms, and<br />

that the purpose of government is to<br />

safeguard these rights and freedoms.<br />

OneLife LA is about proclaiming<br />

these truths and restoring this vision of<br />

the human person in our society.<br />

America has changed in these past 10<br />

years. Thanks be to God, Roe v. Wade<br />

has been overturned.<br />

But abortion remains widespread and<br />

threats to unborn life have multiplied<br />

— through embryo research, “surrogate”<br />

motherhood, and a host of new<br />

“reproductive” technologies.<br />

We still face the challenge of building<br />

a society and economy that supports<br />

marriages and families, where every<br />

woman has the help she needs to bring<br />

her child into this world in love.<br />

More than that, we need to keep<br />

working for a society where no one is a<br />

stranger and there is no life that is not<br />

worth living, no life that can be left<br />

behind or thrown away.<br />

That means resisting the growing<br />

pressures for assisted suicide and<br />

insisting that the elderly and disabled<br />

be cared for with true compassion, as<br />

children of God.<br />

That means serving the homeless<br />

and the mentally ill, the immigrant,<br />

and the prisoner. It means confronting<br />

racial and economic injustices, and the<br />

crises of drugs, family breakdown, and<br />

human trafficking.<br />

We need to keep working for a society where no<br />

life can be left behind or thrown away.<br />

Ten years on, OneLife LA continues<br />

to be a dream worth living for. It is the<br />

dream of the world as God intends it<br />

to be.<br />

Pray for me and I will pray for you.<br />

And let us ask our holy Mary, the<br />

mother of life, to help us to build a<br />

world where every life is precious and<br />

sacred, where every person is treated<br />

as a child of God, and where we love<br />

every person as Jesus loves us.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 3

WORLD<br />

■ Lebanon: Bishops warn of larger war ‘time bomb’<br />

As Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza continues, Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic<br />

bishops are sounding the alarm about the risk of a larger war in the region.<br />

National and international authorities must “take serious steps and adopt the<br />

necessary diplomatic and political measures to free Lebanon from this burden that<br />

weighs on its demography, its economy, and its balance,” wrote the bishops in a<br />

nine-point statement Jan. 3.<br />

The bishops focused primarily on conflicts along the Israel-Lebanese border, exacerbated<br />

by Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas, citing casualties and injuries in the<br />

region. They called on Israel to announce “a final ceasefire,” and for negotiations<br />

for a two-state solution in its ongoing war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.<br />

The bishops also warned about a yet-unfelt threat from Syrian refugees in the<br />

country.<br />

“The searches carried out by the military and security forces have shown that the<br />

displaced people are in possession of ammunition and sophisticated weapons,”<br />

the statement said. “This is a time bomb that poses a real threat to the Lebanese<br />

people.”<br />

A nation’s hunger — People displaced by fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State<br />

militants are pictured in a file photo carrying boxes of food aid given by the United Nations World Food Program<br />

at a refugee camp in Ain Issa. The U.N. said it would end its main food assistance program in <strong>January</strong> across<br />

war-torn Syria, where more than 12 million people lack regular access to sufficient food. | OSV NEWS/ERIK DE<br />


■ African bishops say no<br />

to new blessing rules, with<br />

Rome’s thumbs up<br />

The bishops of Africa announced they<br />

would not permit blessings for homosexual<br />

couples within the continent, in<br />

response to the Dec. 18 Vatican declaration<br />

allowing priests to bless couples<br />

in irregular marriages.<br />

Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo of the<br />

Democratic Republic of Congo, president<br />

of the Symposium of Episcopal<br />

Conferences of Africa and Madagascar,<br />

issued a Jan. 11 letter which described<br />

itself as a synthesis of all the African<br />

bishops’ opinions.<br />

He said that, while the bishops “have<br />

strongly reaffirmed their communion<br />

with Pope Francis,” they believe<br />

enabling the blessings proposed by<br />

the Vatican “cannot be carried out in<br />

Africa without exposing themselves to<br />

scandals.”<br />

“The African Bishops’ Conferences<br />

emphasize that people with homosexual<br />

tendencies must be treated with<br />

respect and dignity, while reminding<br />

them that unions of persons of the<br />

same-sex are contrary to the will of<br />

God and therefore cannot receive the<br />

blessing of the Church,” the letter read.<br />

Ambongo told Catholic <strong>News</strong> Agency<br />

that the letter “received the agreement”<br />

of Pope Francis and Cardinal Victor<br />

Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery<br />

for the Doctrine of the Faith.<br />

■ Knights to help renovate<br />

Rome’s most famous canopy<br />

After almost 400 years, the famous 100-foot-tall canopy<br />

standing over the main altar of St. Peter’s will be getting<br />

some much-needed repairs.<br />

Known as a baldachin, Baroque master Gian Lorenzo<br />

Bernini’s 17th-century masterpiece will be covered in scaffolding<br />

for an estimated 10 months.<br />

The project is estimated to cost 700,000 euros ($766,000)<br />

and will be entirely funded by the Knights of Columbus,<br />

which has funded 17 other Vatican restoration projects.<br />

“We’re in union with the Holy See, with the successor of<br />

St. Peter, and so these kinds of projects are very much in<br />

keeping with who we are and our mission,” Patrick Kelly,<br />

supreme knight, told Catholic <strong>News</strong> Service.<br />

Bernini’s baldacchino in St. Peter’s Basilica. | CNS/LOLO GOMEZ<br />

4 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

NATION<br />

■ White House to gut conscience protection rules<br />

The Biden administration announced plans to reverse a 2019 rule that would<br />

have enforced conscience protections for certain health care providers.<br />

The old Trump-era rule, which never took effect due to lawsuits, would have<br />

stripped federal funding from facilities that required workers to provide any service<br />

they objected to, such as abortions, contraception, gender-affirming care, and<br />

sterilization.<br />

The new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rules are scheduled<br />

to go into effect March 11. The HHS said the old rules sometimes undermined<br />

“the balance Congress struck between safeguarding conscience rights and protecting<br />

access to health care.”<br />

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, director of the Conscience Project, told Catholic <strong>News</strong><br />

Agency that the change doesn’t change legal protections for health care workers<br />

with conscience, but makes them harder to enforce.<br />

“[The White House] is incapable of erasing those rights,” she said. “But it looks<br />

like they’re going to do all in their power to make people think that they don’t have<br />

them.”<br />

Martin Scorcese in the 2021 PBS show “The Oratorio:<br />

A Documentary with Martin Scorsese.” | PBS<br />

■ Scorsese sets his<br />

sights on Jesus (again)<br />

Martin Scorsese said he wants to get<br />

rid of the stigma around organized<br />

religion — so he’s making an 80-minute<br />

film about Jesus.<br />

“Right now, ‘religion,’ you say that<br />

word and everyone is up in arms<br />

because it’s failed in so many ways,”<br />

Scorsese told the Los Angeles Times.<br />

“But that doesn’t mean necessarily<br />

that the initial impulse was wrong.<br />

Let’s get back. Let’s just think about it.<br />

You may reject it. But it might make a<br />

difference in how you live your life.”<br />

The director said he has finished a<br />

screenplay, set mainly in the present<br />

day, with writing collaborator Kent<br />

Jones based on “A Life of Jesus” by<br />

novelist Shusaku Endo. This will be<br />

Scorsese’s second adaptation of an<br />

Endo book, following the 2016 film<br />

“Silence.”<br />

Scorsese directed the 1988 film “The<br />

Last Temptation of Christ,” which was<br />

heavily criticized by Catholics at the<br />

time for its depiction of Christ and<br />

rated “morally offensive” by the U.S.<br />

Conference of Catholic Bishops<br />

Scorsese cited meeting with Pope<br />

Francis in 2023 as the inspiration for<br />

the film, which is set to be shot this<br />

year.<br />

■ Illinois teen’s fundraiser to save<br />

Catholic school has unlikely success<br />

A Catholic grade school in Ingleside, Illinois, was brought back from the brink of<br />

insolvency thanks to one high-school-aged alumna.<br />

Susan Lutzke, a 17-year-old who attended St. Bede School as a child, learned<br />

last December that the school was facing closure due, in part, to decreased state<br />

funding. The next morning, she started a GoFundMe campaign.<br />

By Jan. 13, the campaign had raised $380,000 of the $400,000 needed to close the<br />

budget gap.<br />

“It’s pretty crazy. I don’t think I ever really expected it to get where it is,” Lutzke said.<br />

As of press time, neither the school nor the Archdiocese of Chicago had made any<br />

definitive statement about St. Bede’s fate.<br />

Opening a new chapter — Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley greets Carlos Metola, postulator for the sainthood<br />

cause for Servant of God Carmen Hernández, co-initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, at a Jan. 7 event in<br />

Boston to officially introduce the English translation of a book of Hernández’s diaries. Hernández’s sainthood<br />

cause was opened officially in December 2022. Metola confirmed that a medical committee is studying two<br />

reported medical “favors” attributed to Hernandez’s intercession that have occurred in the U.S. since her death in<br />


<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 5

LOCAL<br />

Walking for change — The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet were among many other religious sisters, supporters,<br />

and advocates who participated at the <strong>2024</strong> LA Walk for Freedom to End Human Trafficking on Jan. 13.<br />

Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood hosted the event and was the starting location for the two-mile walk. |<br />


■ Are you ready? LA Congress lineup announced<br />

A local filmmaker will headline the <strong>2024</strong> Los Angeles Religious Education Congress<br />

in Anaheim, set for Feb. 15-18.<br />

Congress keynote speaker Jessica Sarowitz is the founder of Miraflores Films and<br />

executive producer of the 2023 documentary, “With This Light,” on the life of<br />

Maria Rosa Leggol.<br />

This year’s workshop speaker lineup also includes Cardinal Robert McElroy,<br />

who will speak about the Synod on Synodality, <strong>Angelus</strong> contributor John L. Allen<br />

Jr., Archbishop Joseph Nguyen of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Auxiliary Bishop José<br />

Arturo Cepeda of Detroit, and Victims Assistance Ministry Coordinator Heather<br />

Banis for the Archdiocese of LA.<br />

Youth Day on Feb. 15 will include a workshop on “Gaming, God, & the Heroic<br />

Life” and another titled “Awkward: When Following God Gets Uncomfortable.”<br />

Get more information and register at recongress.org.<br />

■ Abbots in Orange<br />

County launch Catholic<br />

fundraising firm<br />

St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange<br />

County has launched a consulting<br />

and fundraising firm to help Catholic<br />

institutions make progress on their<br />

projects.<br />

The firm, the Abbey Group, will<br />

help religious organizations, educational<br />

institutions, and leaders with<br />

“ambitious apostolic endeavors and<br />

strong leadership but are in need of<br />

the financial and temporal resources<br />

to accomplish their objectives,”<br />

Gregory Clark, the strategic planning<br />

director of the Abbey Group, told<br />

Catholic <strong>News</strong> Agency.<br />

The idea for the firm came after the<br />

abbey’s success in raising more than<br />

$150 million for a capital campaign to<br />

build a new monastery.<br />

The Abbey Group doesn’t market its<br />

services but instead relies on word-ofmouth<br />

to allow for effectively vetting<br />

of the organizations and projects it<br />

pursues. The group said they take on<br />

only four projects at a time.<br />

“It is an authentically Catholic<br />

approach to fundraising — one that<br />

is desperately needed in our Church<br />

during this moment in her history,”<br />

said R. Shane Giblin, CEO and<br />

co-founder of the Abbey Group.<br />

Y<br />

■ USC Catholic students attend SEEK Conference in St. Louis<br />

USC students and local seminarians were<br />

among the thousands at the <strong>2024</strong> SEEK Conference<br />

in St. Louis, Missouri, this month.<br />

Organized by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic<br />

University Students), SEEK featured guest<br />

speakers, daily prayer, Eucharistic adoration,<br />

workshops, and live music, plus additional<br />

ways to evangelize, including seminary formation,<br />

missionary opportunities, and volunteer<br />

work.<br />

Guest speakers at the Jan. 1-5 conference<br />

included Father Mike Schmitz, the host of the<br />

popular podcast “The Bible in a Year,” Tim<br />

Glemkowski, CEO of the National Eucharistic<br />

Revival, and Sister Mary Grace, SV.<br />

Next year’s event will be Jan. 1-5 in Salt Lake<br />

City, Utah.<br />

USC students from the Caruso Catholic Center with women religious at<br />

this year’s SEEK conference. | USC CARUSO CATHOLIC CENTER<br />

6 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

V<br />


Letters to the Editor<br />

After Fiducia Supplicans, nothing may be the same<br />

In his article “Explaining to do” in the Jan. 12 issue, John L. Allen Jr.<br />

takes a cautious approach in explaining why Fiducia Supplicans may<br />

be less consequential than media reaction to it might seem. I disagree with this<br />

assessment.<br />

As Allen himself notes, the fact that the prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine<br />

of the Faith had to “clarify” that this document was not “heretical” or “blasphemous”<br />

is unprecedented, and is a clear sign that we have entered a new era in<br />

the Church. The Vatican can now issue purposely ambiguous declarations on<br />

doctrinal matters, issue multiple “clarifications” in the media, and get away with<br />

it. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.<br />

I still don’t know if Fiducia Supplicans is meant to lay the groundwork for<br />

changes to doctrine in the future, or if it’s Pope Francis’ way of trying to keep the<br />

Church together in a difficult time. But let’s not pretend the debate over same-sex<br />

blessings will go away quietly in the future.<br />

— James Stance, East Los Angeles<br />

What about the synod?<br />

I found it concerning that the end-of-2023 summary on <strong>Angelus</strong><strong>News</strong>.com (by<br />

OSV <strong>News</strong>) did not highlight the global Church synodal process, one of the most<br />

significant Church happenings since the Second Vatican Council.<br />

— Barbara Born<br />

Y<br />

Continue the conversation! To submit a letter to the editor, visit <strong>Angelus</strong><strong>News</strong>.com/Letters-To-The-Editor<br />

and use our online form or send an email to editorial@angelusnews.com. Please limit to 300 words. Letters<br />

may be edited for style, brevity, and clarity.<br />

Catholicism in color<br />

Amy Rodriguez is a digital artist from Pasadena. Rodriguez spoke with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on how digital<br />

media can help connect Catholics with God, while not ignoring the in-person relationship with him. Watch Amy’s and<br />

all #LACatholicsStory videos at lacatholics.org/stories. | ADLA<br />

To view this video<br />

and others, visit<br />

<strong>Angelus</strong><strong>News</strong>.com/photos-videos<br />

Do you have photos or a story from your parish that you’d<br />

like to share? Please send to editorial @angelusnews.com.<br />

“This is John Steinbeck,<br />

‘Grapes of Wrath,’ stuff.”<br />

~ Father Dennis Kriz, pastor of St. Philip Benizi<br />

Church in Fullerton, in a Jan. 11 Orange County<br />

Register article on three Catholic churches starting<br />

a mini-loan program to keep people from going<br />

homeless.<br />

“That is our mission: to<br />

give people a taste of the<br />

Gospel even in secular<br />

landscapes.”<br />

~ Msgr. Georg Austen of the German Catholic<br />

charity group “Bonifatiuswerk,” which supported<br />

the December 2023 opening of the northernmost<br />

Trappist monastery church in the world in <strong>No</strong>rway,<br />

in a Jan. 13 National Catholic Register article.<br />

“What the researchers<br />

need to figure out is where<br />

stupidity is harmful.”<br />

~ Selma Šabanović, Indiana University Bloomington<br />

roboticist, in a Jan. 4 Wired article on designing<br />

robots to help people with dementia.<br />

“It’s not an exaggeration to<br />

say behavior on the road<br />

today is the worst I’ve ever<br />

seen.”<br />

~ Capt. Michael Brown, a state police district<br />

commander in Michigan, in a Jan. 10 New York<br />

Times article on why American drivers are so<br />

deadly.<br />

“Even if I have struggled<br />

with these sins for years,<br />

it is never too late to break<br />

free from them, and even if<br />

I fall, Jesus will keep loving<br />

me through it.”<br />

~ Elizabeth Gedra, a sophomore at Auburn<br />

University, in an interview with “The Pillar” on her<br />

experience at the FOCUS SEEK <strong>2024</strong> conference in<br />

St. Louis this month.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 7

IN EXILE<br />


Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father<br />

Ronald Rolheiser is a spiritual<br />

writer; ronrolheiser.com<br />

Piety and humor<br />

Piety is the enemy of humor, at<br />

least whenever something less<br />

than piety is masquerading as<br />

piety. Here’s an example: I once lived<br />

in community with an overly serious<br />

man who, after someone would tell<br />

a colorful joke, would bring us back<br />

to earth with the question, “Would<br />

you tell a joke like that in front of the<br />

Blessed Sacrament?” That not only<br />

deflated the joke and its teller, but it<br />

also took the oxygen out of the room.<br />

There’s a response I would have<br />

liked to have given to his question,<br />

namely, a joke my Oblate novice<br />

master used to tell, one whose irony<br />

exposes false piety. The joke runs<br />

this way: A young woman was getting<br />

married and her family could not<br />

afford a venue for a reception for the<br />

wedding. The parish priest generously<br />

offered them the foyer at the<br />

entrance of the church, telling them<br />

they could bring in a cake and have<br />

a reception there. The father of the<br />

bride asked whether they might also<br />

bring in some liquor. “Absolutely<br />

not,” the priest replied, “you can’t<br />

drink liquor in a church!” “But,” protested<br />

the bride’s father, “Jesus drank<br />

wine at the wedding feast of Cana.”<br />

“But not in front of the Blessed Sacrament!”<br />

replied the priest.<br />

Admittedly, humor can be impious,<br />

crass, offensive, dirty, but whenever<br />

that’s the case the fault normally lies<br />

more in the aesthetics than in the<br />

content of the joke. A joke isn’t offensive<br />

because it is about sex or religion<br />

or any other area we surround with<br />

sacredness.<br />

Humor is offensive when it crosses<br />

a line in terms of respect, taste, and<br />

aesthetics. Humor is offensive when<br />

it is bad art. Bad art crosses a line in<br />

terms of respect, either vis-à-vis its<br />

audience or its subject matter. What<br />

can make a joke offensive or dirty is<br />

when it is told, or how it is told, or to<br />

whom it is told, or the tone in which<br />

it is told, or lack of sensitivity to what<br />

is being told, or the color of the<br />

language as it is being told. Whether<br />

or not it can be told before the<br />

Blessed Sacrament isn’t a criterion.<br />

If a joke shouldn’t be told in front of<br />

the Blessed Sacrament it shouldn’t be<br />

told in front of anyone. There aren’t<br />

two standards of offensiveness.<br />

Still, bad piety is the enemy of<br />

humor. It’s also the enemy of robust,<br />

earthy living. But, that is only the<br />

case for bad piety, not genuine piety.<br />

Genuine piety is one of the fruits<br />

of the Holy Spirit and is a healthy<br />

reverence before all of life. But it’s<br />

a reverence that, while healthily<br />

respectful, is not offended by humor<br />

(even robust, earthy humor) providing<br />

the humor isn’t aesthetically<br />

offensive — akin to nudity, which<br />

can be healthy in art but offensive in<br />

pornography.<br />

False sensitivity that masks itself<br />

as piety also strips all spirituality of<br />

humor, save for the most pious kind.<br />

In doing that, in effect, it makes Jesus,<br />

Mary, and the saints humorless,<br />

and thus less than fully human and<br />

healthy. One of our mentors at our<br />

Oblate novitiate told us young novices<br />

that there is not a single incident<br />

reported in Scripture of Jesus ever<br />

laughing. He told us this to dampen<br />

our natural, youthful, rambunctious<br />

energy, as if this was somehow a<br />

hindrance to being religious.<br />

Humorous energy is not a hindrance<br />

to being religious. To the<br />

contrary. Jesus is the paragon of all<br />

that is healthily human, and he, no<br />

doubt, was a fully healthy, robust,<br />

delightful human person, and none<br />

of those words (healthy, robust,<br />

delightful) would apply to him if he<br />

hadn’t had a healthy, indeed earthy,<br />

sense of humor.<br />

For 15 years I taught a course<br />

entitled The Theology of God to<br />

seminarians and others preparing<br />

for ministry. I would try to cover all<br />

the required bases asked for in the<br />

curriculum — biblical revelation,<br />

patristic insights, normative Church<br />

teachings, and speculative views from<br />

contemporary theologians. But, inside<br />

all of this, like a recurring theme<br />

in an opera, I would tell the students<br />

this: In all your preaching and teaching<br />

and pastoral practices, whatever<br />

else, try not to make God look stupid.<br />

Try not to make God look unintelligent,<br />

tribal, petty, rigid, nationalistic,<br />

angry, or fearful.<br />

Every homily, every theological<br />

teaching, every ecclesial practice,<br />

and every pastoral practice ultimately<br />

reflects an image of God whether<br />

we want it to or not. And if there is<br />

something less than healthy in our<br />

preaching or pastoral practices, the<br />

God who underwrites it will also<br />

appear as unhealthy. A healthy God<br />

does not undergird an unhealthy theology,<br />

ecclesiology, or anthropology.<br />

Hence, if we teach a Jesus who is<br />

humorless, who takes offense at the<br />

earthiness of life, who is uncomfortable<br />

hearing the word sex, who<br />

flinches at colorful language, and<br />

who is afraid to smile and chuckle at<br />

irony, wit, and humor, we make Jesus<br />

appear as rigid and uptight, a prude,<br />

and not the person you want to be<br />

beside at table.<br />

8 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>



A year ago, Atticus Maldonado was facing stage 4 cancer and low odds<br />

of survival. Then his school community’s ‘prayer force’ stepped in.<br />


Atticus Maldonado with St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy<br />

president Christian De Larkin (left) and school principal Claudia<br />

Rodarte during his first week back at school this month<br />

since his cancer diagnosis. | VICTOR ALEMÁN<br />

10 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Miracles are nice but, truth be<br />

told, all Atticus Maldonado<br />

really wanted for Christmas<br />

was to be just another kid.<br />

Though it’s wonderful to know he’s<br />

been on so many people’s minds —<br />

and in their prayers — now all he wants<br />

is to blend back into the St. Pius X-St.<br />

Matthias Academy (PMA) community<br />

that helped to sustain him and his<br />

family for more than a year.<br />

“I’m good with not being in the<br />

spotlight,” he said. “I’d like to be just a<br />

regular student again.”<br />

In December 2022, Maldonado was<br />

diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a<br />

rare and unusually aggressive form of<br />

cancer of the soft tissue.<br />

What was more, and worse, doctors<br />

told him that he was at stage 4 of the<br />

disease, a stage with about a 20% rate of<br />

survival.<br />

The news of his illness spread quickly<br />

through the tightknit community of St.<br />

Pius X-St. Matthias in Downey. Masses<br />

were offered for his health. Friends<br />

made visits. Gifts were given. And an<br />

unknowable amount of time was spent<br />

thinking about him, his family, and<br />

what their struggle meant for the rest<br />

of us.<br />

In that time, he went from the sweet<br />

kid who loved baseball, Hot Wheels,<br />

and being an altar server, to a young<br />

man a whole lot of people were praying<br />

for, rooting for, and shedding tears for.<br />

His fight was theirs now.<br />

“There were moments when I was so<br />

angry about why this happened to my<br />

child, that I couldn’t pray,” his mother<br />

Evelyn Ochoa said. “And when I<br />

couldn’t pray for my own child, they<br />

did. This tribe that came together for<br />

us. I birthed him but, through that<br />

time, he was ours.”<br />

Anna Granados, in many ways the<br />

leader of that tribe, said that whenever<br />

the prayer group she helped found<br />

would turn their attention to Maldonado,<br />

“he became everybody’s kid.”<br />

Fitting since, before his diagnosis,<br />

Maldonado was as typical a Catholic<br />

kid as one could imagine — save for an<br />

exceptionally developed level of faith.<br />

Evelyn admitted her son’s faith has<br />

“always been greater than mine,” and<br />

said that when informed of his cancer<br />

diagnosis “it felt like my whole world<br />

came tumbling down. All I had was<br />

questions, no answers. You know, why?<br />

Why my kid? He’s such a good kid.”<br />

And yet, moments after the diagnosis,<br />

she looked at her son to find him<br />

smiling, seemingly as unconcerned as<br />

if he’d just been diagnosed with a cold.<br />

Confused, she asked him how he was<br />

feeling to which he replied, “OK. God<br />

loves me.”<br />

Around the same time, Granados had<br />

helped start the Parents in Prayer group<br />

Maldonado works during<br />

class. | VICTOR ALEMÁN<br />

at PMA, having felt a calling from the<br />

Blessed Virgin Mary to do so.<br />

“These times are hard for kids, for<br />

our families,” she said. “The rosary is a<br />

weapon for these times. Our youth is<br />

going through so much and we felt the<br />

need to help out, especially because we<br />

are so close here.”<br />

With a student population that hovers<br />

around 500, PMA is the kind of place<br />

where students know not just one<br />

another, but one another’s families,<br />

too. Many arrive in packs from local<br />

parishes and have known one another<br />

since they were young children. <strong>No</strong>t<br />

only is Maldonado friends with Anna’s<br />

kids, but her husband, Jaime, coached<br />

him in sports at a local park.<br />

The prayer group would always dedicate<br />

the first mystery of the rosary to<br />

Maldonado. Anna, whose own mother<br />

was battling cancer, was always there,<br />

rain or shine, along with about 17 core<br />

members of the group. Sometimes<br />

they were joined by Evelyn, who found<br />

herself both strengthened and overwhelmed<br />

by the group’s devotion to her<br />

son and family.<br />

“Many of these women were just<br />

people I’d said hello to and now they<br />

had become a force, a prayer force,”<br />

she said. “Praying for my son like it was<br />

their son.”<br />

<strong>No</strong>ne of which surprised PMA’s president,<br />

Christian De Larkin. Along with<br />

Parents in Prayer, a student campaign<br />

to send Maldonado direct messages got<br />

underway so that he knew he had not<br />

been forgotten. When it was mentioned<br />

how much he missed baseball, he was<br />

invited to sit in the dugout during a<br />

PMA game. When it was discovered<br />

that he was a serious collector of Hot<br />

Wheel cars, Christine Godoy, part of<br />

the prayer force and whose daughter<br />

Eva is a classmate of Maldonado,<br />

mentioned that her husband actually<br />

worked for Hot Wheels.<br />

“So he put together this really cool<br />

collection of limited edition cars and<br />

we took it over to Atticus and when he<br />

saw what it was he almost burst into<br />

tears,” De Larkin said. “This is what<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 11

Maldonado with his mother, Evelyn<br />

Ochoa, and school chaplain Father<br />

Sam Ward at a special school Mass<br />

last September for Childhood Cancer<br />

Awareness Month. | SEMAJ SANDERS<br />

you sign up for in Catholic education.<br />

“You show how much you love each<br />

other, the whole person, including<br />

the spiritual, in tough times and good.<br />

That’s what this wonderful group of<br />

people did, created all these moments<br />

of grace as Atticus went through this<br />

crazy time.”<br />

And during that crazy time, Atticus<br />

remained pretty much Atticus. Evelyn<br />

described him cracking jokes throughout<br />

the process, “making me laugh<br />

while he’s vomiting from the chemo,”<br />

her son sustained by a faith she said she<br />

wishes she could “bottle and drink from<br />

every day.”<br />

His faith was such that he believed<br />

he could not only survive but serve<br />

through his illness. He volunteered to<br />

be part of a rhabdomyosarcoma study.<br />

Though his mom thought he had<br />

enough to worry about just getting better,<br />

the kid who wanted to be an altar<br />

server since he was 7, and had more<br />

recently taken to training younger servers<br />

at his home parish of St. Gertrude<br />

Church in Bell Gardens, said he was<br />

just following a divine plan for him.<br />

“I felt maybe this was a sign from<br />

God, a way I could help others so<br />

that another kid wouldn’t have to go<br />

through what I did,” he said. “This can<br />

help a kid from experiencing the same<br />

speed bump I did, maybe save another<br />

kid’s life.”<br />

Evelyn showed up at the PMA Christmas<br />

Tree Lighting ceremony Dec. 1,<br />

2023, to share the news that her son<br />

was now cancer-free and was now in<br />

the maintenance phase of treatment,<br />

which will continue for another six<br />

months. She thanked all those who<br />

did everything they could to make that<br />

happen. Some people started calling it<br />

the Miracle on Gardendale Street, the<br />

street the school is located on.<br />

Maldonado, of course, was just happy<br />

it meant that he could go back to<br />

school. He did so for the first time in<br />

a long while on Jan. 8, as PMA went<br />

back after Christmas break. He said he<br />

was a little nervous about being able to<br />

keep up with school and homework,<br />

but by the end of the day felt like he<br />

was back in the flow of things.<br />

“He arrived in uniform wearing a<br />

beanie to cover his head and joined us<br />

for our morning assembly,” De Larkin<br />

said. “There he sat among his peers in<br />

the junior section of the<br />

gym and began his first<br />

day of school as a normal<br />

student. It was a beautiful<br />

sight to see.”<br />

Maldonado agreed it was<br />

nice. He said he thought<br />

there might be a lot of<br />

questions from classmates<br />

about what he’d gone<br />

through, but none ever<br />

came.<br />

“<strong>No</strong> one really asked me.<br />

It was pretty good to not<br />

talk about it.”<br />

So perhaps he can find his way back<br />

to normal sooner than later, though<br />

always with a faith his mother calls “out<br />

of this world,” a faith that combines the<br />

innocence of a child with the strength<br />

of a survivor.<br />

“I guess I just feel like if something<br />

bad happens, I’m going to get through<br />

it,” he said. “It’s just a speed bump. Me<br />

and God, I feel like we have a pretty<br />

good connection.”<br />

Steve Lowery is a veteran journalist<br />

who has written for the Los Angeles<br />

Times, the Los Angeles Daily <strong>News</strong>,<br />

the Press-Telegram, New Times LA, the<br />

District, Long Beach Post, and the OC<br />

Weekly.<br />

Maldonado with friends at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy earlier this month. | VICTOR ALEMÁN<br />

12 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Andi ium endam fuga. Nemperiora<br />

qui aceptas pellitatatur alit<br />

eatet eumquis cipiet pos mo<br />

omnim rem. Xero tem invendantio<br />

estium ut officto modipsanis ex elit,<br />

omnimusda aciatur, conecabo. Bor as<br />

ercium re debitis nate erit abo. Nemperfero<br />

blaborum eres siminci andicit<br />

landenimolut optatus minciti aerata<br />

non et harchitatium int in res eum<br />

fuga. Itature pror acepe volest aliciet<br />

optatatecto to magniet expelibus sit<br />

estiorumquid quunt aborupti sum,<br />

volorepudi cori tempori tatur, omnis<br />

sunt volent.<br />

Lorehenihit, que nem re, ipsaepr<br />

atibus voluptat a ped que dit as sunt ea<br />

quam fugiam apient facipsae iureium,<br />

namusam, experspel id quam alisci<br />

occum quos aut etus, to maioriatemo<br />

Credit<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 13


After seeing the Holocaust site close-up, an<br />

LA-area Catholic school teacher is bringing her<br />

experience back to students.<br />

Michelle Herrera poses outside of<br />

the Polin Museum of the History of<br />

Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland, during<br />

a trip as part of the Auschwitz Legacy<br />

Fellowship. | MICHELLE HERRERA<br />


Catholic school teacher Michelle<br />

Herrera never had a<br />

Jewish friend, never stepped<br />

inside a Jewish synagogue, and never<br />

learned much about the Jewish faith.<br />

But after noticing a rise in antisemitism<br />

in recent years, Herrera thought<br />

it was time to better inform herself<br />

and her students. So she joined the<br />

Auschwitz Legacy Fellowship, a<br />

unique program that gives American<br />

teachers academic-focused tours of<br />

the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial<br />

and Museum in Poland. Herrera knew<br />

seeing the concentration and extermination<br />

camps was going to be difficult,<br />

but it was tougher than expected.<br />

“That first night I prayed the most,”<br />

she said. “I wasn’t ready for the emotions<br />

that came up … nothing can<br />

prepare you for it.”<br />

The Auschwitz Legacy Fellowship<br />

is a yearlong intensive education on<br />

the Holocaust, antisemitism, and<br />

Auschwitz-Birkenau, the network of<br />

Nazi-run camps where more than<br />

1 million people, mostly Jews, were<br />

murdered. The Auschwitz-Birkenau<br />

Memorial Foundation (ABMF)<br />

launched the initiative in 2022 so<br />

younger generations would be taught<br />

not only the history of the Holocaust<br />

but its social relevance today.<br />

This year, the ABMF, with partners<br />

like Holocaust Museum LA, invited<br />

teachers from California to apply to<br />

the fully funded program. It includes<br />

in-person and online classes as well as<br />

a weeklong tour of historical sites in<br />

Poland. Herrera, who teaches theology<br />

at Ramona Convent Secondary<br />

School in Alhambra, was one of 20<br />

educators chosen from Southern California<br />

and the only Catholic school<br />

teacher.<br />

“I felt a certain responsibility with<br />

that,” Herrera said. “I thought about<br />

what this history teaches us about<br />

14 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

our faith and how do we enter the<br />

conversation.<br />

“I wanted to receive what I was there<br />

for.”<br />

Herrera visited Poland in 2016 for<br />

World Youth Day, but the mood of<br />

this trip was quite different. As soon<br />

as she arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau,<br />

she felt a “heaviness” in the air. Rain<br />

and gray skies added to the gloominess.<br />

The fellows, accompanied by<br />

representatives like Sarah Klein from<br />

Holocaust Museum LA, toured prisoner<br />

barracks and what remains of the<br />

deadly gas chambers. Herrera had no<br />

words for the latter except to say she is<br />

now a “witness” to atrocity.<br />

Especially chilling, she said, were the<br />

exhibits of personal items seized from<br />

prisoners — including shoes, eyeglasses,<br />

and even a collection of hair that<br />

had been removed to curb the spread<br />

of lice.<br />

“Seeing the amount of hair that was<br />

shaved off people’s heads — that alone<br />

got me,” said Herrera. “I just had to<br />

walk out alone under my umbrella.<br />

I just needed a moment to gather<br />

myself.”<br />

Although nothing could erase those<br />

cruelties from her mind, Herrera<br />

said she found solace in the courage<br />

shown by prisoners like St. Maximilian<br />

Kolbe. In 1941, the Catholic priest<br />

was arrested for hiding Jews from the<br />

Nazis, and while serving his sentence<br />

in Auschwitz-Birkenau, he willingly<br />

accepted another prisoner’s death sentence<br />

so that man could live. Decades<br />

later, Polish-born St. Pope John Paul II<br />

placed a paschal candle in St. Kolbe’s<br />

prison cell.<br />

“That was cool to get to see with my<br />

own eyes,” Herrera said. “I didn’t know<br />

the candle was still there. I think I<br />

needed that in the midst of so much<br />

darkness and intensity.”<br />

The Montebello native said even<br />

though the experience was deeply<br />

emotional, she never forgot why she<br />

was there: her students.<br />

“My teacher hat was definitely on,”<br />

Herrera said. “I took notes, tried to put<br />

it all together for myself, and think<br />

about how I’m going to teach this.”<br />

After the tour, Auschwitz Legacy<br />

Fellows were given school lesson plans<br />

on how to explain the Nazis’ brutality<br />

and the antisemitism that led to it.<br />

Herrera takes on those difficult topics<br />

in her theology classes and allows her<br />

students to weigh in.<br />

“That’s what stuck out to me, how<br />

things evolve over time,” said Iana Anikalumibao,<br />

a sophomore at Ramona.<br />

“(Bias) doesn’t just drop out of the sky.<br />

We should be spreading peace instead<br />

of blind hate.”<br />

Herrera also shares with her students<br />

how imprisoned Jews secretly drew<br />

pictures, wrote poems, and documented<br />

what was happening to them. The<br />

students say hearing those accounts<br />

made the Holocaust more real.<br />

“You could really connect with their<br />

stories,” said Madelyn Macias, a sophomore<br />

at Ramona. “It wasn’t just numbers<br />

you would read in a textbook. You<br />

could tell they were real people.”<br />

Herrera, a product of Catholic<br />

schools herself, has been teaching for<br />

about five years at Ramona, an all-girls<br />

high school sponsored by the Sisters<br />

of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.<br />

She’s also the campus minister.<br />

Ramona officials say by participating<br />

in the Auschwitz Legacy Fellowship,<br />

Herrera is opening her students’ eyes,<br />

and others’ too.<br />

“Michelle is very committed to what<br />

she’s doing here, particularly in the<br />

theology department,” said Sister<br />

Kathleen Callaway, SNJM, president<br />

of Ramona. “She took the initiative to<br />

do this, to enrich her experience as a<br />

teacher. I also hope some of the other<br />

participants were enriched by having<br />

her Catholic perspective.”<br />

Herrera and others involved with<br />

the Auschwitz Legacy Fellowship<br />

are closely following<br />

the ongoing conflict<br />

between Israel and<br />

Hamas militants in<br />

Gaza.<br />

The Oct. 7 attack on<br />

Israel and the retaliatory<br />

strikes in Gaza<br />

have given rise to hate<br />

crimes in the United<br />

States with both Jews<br />

and Muslims being<br />

targeted. Klein noted<br />

the current crisis and<br />

its fallout are exactly<br />

why the fellowship<br />

program exists.<br />

“I want to make it<br />

clear that hatred for American Jews is<br />

never OK and blaming them for the<br />

activity of the Israeli government is an<br />

old anti-Jewish trope,” said Klein, senior<br />

manager of museum education at<br />

Holocaust Museum LA. “The Jewish<br />

people persevere, not only persevere<br />

but thrive. A lot of that, I think, comes<br />

from remembering who we are, our<br />

past, and then using that to create a<br />

better future so we can live in peace<br />

and safety.”<br />

As an Auschwitz Legacy Fellow and a<br />

Catholic, Herrera feels called to help<br />

with that effort.<br />

“I feel a change and a transition from<br />

the experience,” Herrera said. “As<br />

people of faith, we are called to be<br />

witnesses, allies, and advocates when<br />

we see hate rising, especially with<br />

our Jewish brothers and sisters with<br />

whom we share a common spiritual<br />

heritage.”<br />

Herrera also wants to empower her<br />

students to act as “bridge builders”<br />

who can change the world for the<br />

better.<br />

“I feel called to invest into this next<br />

generation of faith leaders and particularly<br />

here at Ramona, young female<br />

faith leaders,” said Herrera. “I really<br />

love my students.”<br />

Natalie Romano is a freelance writer<br />

for <strong>Angelus</strong> and the Inland Catholic<br />

Byte, the news website of the Diocese of<br />

San Bernardino.<br />

Madelyn Macias, left, and Iana Anikalumibao are both<br />

sophomores at Ramona Convent Secondary School<br />

in Alhambra, where Michelle Herrera is helping teach<br />

her students about the Holocaust and antisemitism. |<br />


<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 15

The California State Capitol<br />

building. | SHUTTERSTOCK<br />


Many new California laws for <strong>2024</strong> will leave Catholics<br />

in the state either satisfied or concerned.<br />


With <strong>2024</strong> underway, several<br />

new California laws have<br />

taken effect — or will soon<br />

— that would be of interest to Catholic<br />

residents in the state and beyond.<br />

Here are just some of the hundreds<br />

of laws being put into action in <strong>2024</strong>.<br />

Read or search for all bills at leginfo.<br />

legislature.ca.gov.<br />


Several bills related to abortion were<br />

signed into law by California Gov.<br />

Gavin <strong>News</strong>om. Said <strong>News</strong>om: “The<br />

right to an abortion is enshrined in<br />

California’s Constitution. We will<br />

continue to protect women and health<br />

care workers who are seeking and<br />

providing basic care.”<br />

SB 345: Crafted by state Democrat<br />

Sen. Nancy Skinner, this law would<br />

protect health care professionals who<br />

perform or provide abortions and<br />

gender-affirming care in California<br />

from punishment by states where these<br />

procedures are illegal. The bill would<br />

also safeguard any out-of-state patients<br />

who came to California to receive this<br />

care.<br />

AB 352: The bill would require<br />

companies and institutions that<br />

manage electronic health records from<br />

protecting, separating, and shielding a<br />

patient’s data as it relates to abortion,<br />

contraceptives, and gender-affirming<br />

care. The bill, authored by state<br />

Democrat Assemblywoman Rebecca<br />

Bauer-Kahan, would also prohibit<br />

healthcare providers from releasing<br />

medical information that would identify<br />

someone who received those specific<br />

services. Companies need to comply<br />

by July 1.<br />

SB 385: State Senate President Pro<br />

Tem Democrat Toni Atkins generated<br />

this bill that would allow physician<br />

assistants to be trained beyond their<br />

normal instruction to perform certain<br />

abortions without the supervision of a<br />

physician or surgeon. The goal of the<br />

bill is to expand the number of health<br />

care providers who have the ability to<br />

perform abortions.<br />

HEALTH<br />

Several bills increased health care<br />

services and health-related leave for all<br />

California residents, including more<br />

for undocumented immigrants. Said<br />

<strong>News</strong>om: “We’re making it known that<br />

the health and well-being of workers<br />

and their families is of the utmost importance<br />

for California’s future.”<br />

Expanding Medi-Cal to immigrants:<br />

With this new bill, California made<br />

history, becoming the first state in the<br />

U.S. to provide health care coverage<br />

to undocumented immigrants of all<br />

16 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

ages. The state had already provided<br />

coverage to those under <strong>26</strong> years old<br />

and for immigrants over 50. This law<br />

is expected to cost $4 billion annually,<br />

but a new bill has already been<br />

introduced attempting to repeal it. The<br />

move brings California closer to its<br />

goal of providing health care coverage<br />

to all of its residents.<br />

SB 616: California Democrat Sen.<br />

Lena Gonzales initiated this bill that<br />

would guarantee eligible workers in<br />

the state receive at least five days of<br />

paid sick leave. After five days, employers<br />

can control how many more days<br />

the employee could accrue. The new<br />

law increased the minimum number<br />

of sick days from the three that were<br />

approved in 2015. “Too many folks are<br />

still having to choose between skipping<br />

a day’s pay and taking care of themselves<br />

or their family members when<br />

they get sick,” <strong>News</strong>om said.<br />

SB 848: Under this new law, an employee<br />

would be granted up to five days<br />

of leave for a “reproductive loss,” which<br />

includes miscarriages, in vitro fertilization,<br />

or failed adoption or surrogacy.<br />

The bill, sponsored by state Democrat<br />

Sen. Susan Rubio, would apply to both<br />

parents.<br />


SB 4: It’s no secret that California<br />

has continually fallen short in creating<br />

housing for its growing population,<br />

especially affordable housing. Several<br />

bills were passed in the latest legislative<br />

session meant to spur housing construction<br />

by removing some of the red<br />

tape. SB 4, dubbed the “Yes in God’s<br />

Backyard” bill, is one of those laws,<br />

allowing religious institutions, colleges,<br />

and universities to build affordable<br />

housing on their land without having<br />

to go through lengthy rezoning processes<br />

and environmental reviews.<br />

A church, for example, could have<br />

unused land that it could develop for<br />

affordable housing, and would have<br />

the ability to build the project “by<br />

right” — without needing a discretionary<br />

approval process.<br />

The bill does have restrictions on affordable<br />

housing — requiring a 55-year<br />

commitment for rentals and a 45-year<br />

commitment on owned units — and<br />

distance from industrial or refinery<br />

sites.<br />

“The era of saying no to housing is<br />

coming to an end,” said state Democrat<br />

Sen. Scott Wiener, who authored<br />

the bill. “We’ve been planting seeds<br />

for years to get California to a brighter<br />

housing future.”<br />

A pro-abortion rally in downtown<br />

Los Angeles on May 14,<br />

2022. | SHUTTERSTOCK<br />

LGBT<br />

California continues to introduce<br />

policies for those who identify as<br />

“LGBT” that <strong>News</strong>om said “will help<br />

protect vulnerable youth, promote<br />

acceptance, and create more supportive<br />

environments in our schools and<br />

communities.”<br />

AB 5: Dubbed the “Safe and Supportive<br />

Schools Act,” state Democrat<br />

Assemblyman Rick Zbur authored this<br />

bill, which would require the California<br />

Board of Education to develop an<br />

online training curriculum to support<br />

LGBT cultural competency training<br />

for teachers and other certificated<br />

employees, starting with the 2025–<strong>26</strong><br />

school year. At least one hour of<br />

training would be required annually for<br />

teachers of students in grades 7-12.<br />

SB 760: Introduced by state Democrat<br />

Sen. Josh Newman, this law would<br />

require schools to provide at least one<br />

gender-neutral bathroom by July 1,<br />

20<strong>26</strong>. The law applies to all public<br />

and private schools with students in<br />

grades 1-12. The bill does not apply to<br />

transitional kindergarten or kindergarten<br />

classes.<br />


SB 2: Controversial, and already challenged<br />

in court, the law would prohibit<br />

someone from carrying a firearm into<br />

specific locations, including places of<br />

worship, schools, and other “sensitive<br />

areas.” The law, authored by state<br />

Democrat Sen. Anthony Portantino,<br />

would also amend several requirements<br />

to allow a person to carry a concealed<br />

firearm. A federal appeals court<br />

had allowed for the law to go into effect<br />

on Jan. 1, but a special appellate panel<br />

blocked it on Jan. 6 until the case can<br />

be heard again in April. Beyond the<br />

law, <strong>News</strong>om has previously called for<br />

the U.S. Constitution to be amended<br />

to include gun safety measures.<br />

AB 645: Introduced by state Democrat<br />

Assembly Members Laura Friedman<br />

and Phil Ting, this bill allows<br />

six California cities — including Los<br />

Angeles, Glendale, and Long Beach<br />

— to install “speed cameras” near<br />

schools or areas where high-velocity<br />

incidents have occurred. Drivers will<br />

receive a warning in the first 60 days of<br />

installing the cameras and then fines<br />

ranging from $50-$500 will be assessed<br />

depending on how far over the speed<br />

limit. The law is a pilot program that<br />

will last until Jan. 1, 2032.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 17

FREE BUT<br />

IN EXILE<br />

In a surprise<br />

development, a<br />

Nicaraguan bishop<br />

and several other<br />

churchmen were<br />

sent to Rome thanks<br />

to some behindthe-scenes<br />

Vatican<br />

diplomacy.<br />


MEXICO CITY (OSV <strong>News</strong>)<br />

— Bishop Rolando Álvarez<br />

of Matagalpa was released<br />

from prison after more than 500 days<br />

of detention and sent into exile along<br />

with 18 imprisoned churchmen as the<br />

Nicaraguan government expelled its<br />

most prominent critic, whose presence<br />

behind bars bore witness to the<br />

Sandinista regime’s descent into totalitarianism,<br />

along with its unrelenting<br />

persecution of the Catholic Church.<br />

Vatican <strong>News</strong> confirmed Jan. 14 that<br />

with the exception of one priest who<br />

remained in Venezuela, all released<br />

priests, including Álvarez and Bishop<br />

Isidoro Mora of Siuna, have arrived in<br />

Rome “in the last few hours” and are<br />

“guests of the Holy See.”<br />

Photographs circulated on X,<br />

formerly Twitter, showed the two<br />

freed bishops concelebrating Mass in<br />

Rome and the churchmen meeting<br />

with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican<br />

secretary of state.<br />

Independent Nicaraguan media<br />

reported Jan. 14 that the churchmen<br />

had departed Nicaragua on a flight for<br />

Rome after the government reached<br />

an agreement with the Vatican for<br />

their release and exile. Auxiliary<br />

Bishop Silvio José Báez of Managua<br />

— who left the country in 2019<br />

— also confirmed the news at his<br />

weekly Mass in Miami, and was visibly<br />

moved.<br />

“This is the power of the people of<br />

God’s prayers,” he said. “The criminal<br />

Sandinista dictatorship of [President]<br />

Daniel Ortega has not been able to<br />

defeat the power of God.”<br />

The Nicaraguan government acknowledged<br />

the churchmen’s release<br />

in a Jan. 14 statement, which “deeply<br />

thanked” Pope Francis and Parolin<br />

“for the very respectful and discreet<br />

coordination carried out to make possible<br />

the Vatican trip of two bishops,<br />

15 priests, and two seminarians.”<br />

The statement continued: “They<br />

have been received by Vatican authorities,<br />

in compliance with agreements of<br />

good faith and goodwill, which seek to<br />

promote understanding and improve<br />

Nicaraguan Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa<br />

walks outside a Catholic church in Managua in 2022.<br />

Álvarez, who had been the Nicaraguan government’s<br />

most prominent critic, was flown to Rome along with<br />

18 other imprisoned churchmen on Jan. 14. | OSV<br />


communication between the Holy See<br />

and Nicaragua, for peace and good.”<br />

The statement struck an unusually<br />

respectful tone — far from the<br />

government’s frequent accusations of<br />

terrorism and coup mongering against<br />

Church leaders, who attempted to<br />

unsuccessfully facilitate a national<br />

dialogue after mass protests erupted<br />

demanding Ortega’s ouster. The Nicaraguan<br />

government also severed relations<br />

with the Vatican and expelled<br />

the nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar<br />

Stanislaw Sommertag, in 2022. The<br />

Vatican subsequently closed its embassy<br />

in March 2023.<br />

“We recognize the chance for direct,<br />

18 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Photos circulated on social media showed Bishop Rolando Álvarez and Bishop Isidoro Mora<br />

celebrating Mass and being greeted by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. | X.COM<br />

prudent, and very serious dialogue, a<br />

responsible and careful dialogue,” the<br />

government statement said.<br />

The release of 19 churchmen — including<br />

Mora and more than a dozen<br />

priests detained during a wave of<br />

detentions over the Christmas period<br />

— provoked reactions of joy among<br />

Nicaraguans in exile, along with statements<br />

of defiance.<br />

“ ‘Get up quickly.’ The chains fell<br />

from his wrists,” Báez said on X, quoting<br />

Acts 12:7.<br />

“With great joy, I thank God that my<br />

brother bishops, priests, and seminarians<br />

are out of prison. Justice has<br />

triumphed. The power of the prayer of<br />

God’s people has been displayed.”<br />

Ambassador Brian A. Nichols, assistant<br />

secretary for Western Hemisphere<br />

Affairs in the U.S. Department of<br />

State, said on X that the regime “expelled<br />

19 unjustly detained Catholic<br />

clergy, including Álvarez.”<br />

“We are reassured to see the release<br />

of these religious leaders. All people<br />

have the right to worship at home and<br />

abroad. We continue to call for the<br />

release of all those unjustly detained<br />

and the restoration of the fundamental<br />

freedoms of the Nicaraguan people,”<br />

Nichols emphasized.<br />

Álvarez has become the face of resistance<br />

in Nicaragua, raising his voice<br />

against the increasing intolerance of<br />

the Sandinista regime, which has subdued<br />

the business community, forced<br />

the free press out of the country, and<br />

attempted to control the Catholic<br />

Church.<br />

The bishop spent more than 500 days<br />

in custody after police arrested him in<br />

August 2022 during a pre-dawn raid<br />

on his diocesan curia, where he had<br />

been holed up protesting the seizure<br />

of Catholic media outlets. In February<br />

2023, he was sentenced to <strong>26</strong> years in<br />

prison on charges of conspiracy and<br />

spreading false information — one day<br />

after he refused to leave the country.<br />

Álvarez refused subsequent attempts<br />

at exiling him — as expulsion or refusing<br />

priests reentry to the country after<br />

traveling abroad became a common<br />

tactic.<br />

“The dictatorship feels safer or more<br />

comfortable with religious people<br />

outside the country than inside the<br />

country,” Arturo McFields Yescas, a<br />

former Nicaraguan diplomat in exile,<br />

told OSV <strong>News</strong>.<br />

“When they are inside [the country]<br />

they consider them a threat, a danger,<br />

a counterweight to their official<br />

narrative. And when they are outside,<br />

[the regime] feels that they no longer<br />

have that critical voice, or that voice of<br />

truth, which spoke to the people and<br />

people listened to,” he said.<br />

David Agren writes for OSV <strong>News</strong><br />

from Mexico City.<br />

What’s next?<br />

The release and exile of Bishop Rolando Álvarez and<br />

18 other churchmen from Nicaragua to Rome was<br />

a welcome surprise for those who have been praying<br />

and pleading for his release.<br />

But the news has done little to relax concerns about violations<br />

against religious freedom in the country, and left the<br />

Catholic Church there in a weakened state.<br />

Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa reported Jan. 15 that<br />

among those exiled by the Ortega government were two<br />

priests from Álvarez’s Diocese of Matagalpa, who had been<br />

kidnapped by police over the Christmas holidays, later<br />

released, and then again detained and taken to Managua’s<br />

airport to be flown away with the other exiles.<br />

“Matagalpa is left without ecclesiastical authorities,”<br />

tweeted Nicaraguan human rights activist Yader Morazan<br />

in response to the news.<br />

The government continues to threaten priests who speak<br />

out publicly against the Ortega regime with arrest or expulsion.<br />

There are still believed to be several Catholic priests<br />

in custody, and an estimated 15% of Nicaragua’s Catholic<br />

clergy are believed to be in exile.<br />

— Pablo Kay<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 19



Infertility isn’t a<br />

Catholic problem. But<br />

as it becomes more<br />

common, a growing<br />

number of couples are<br />

turning to the Church<br />

for help.<br />


Cassie Taylor and her husband,<br />

Michael, were married in<br />

2016. She was 27 and in the<br />

midst of a reversion to the faith; her<br />

husband, 31, had discerned out of<br />

religious life because he felt a strong<br />

desire to be a husband and father.<br />

Two years into marriage, Cassie was<br />

diagnosed with ovarian and uterine<br />

cancer and had to undergo a hysterectomy.<br />

“From the time we found out I was<br />

sick to the time of the surgery, it was<br />

only three months,” Cassie remembered.<br />

“We had to come to terms very<br />

quickly with the reality that we were<br />

never going to have our own biological<br />

children.”<br />

Her oncologist proposed getting a<br />

surrogate. Friends asked if she wanted<br />

to freeze her eggs. Cassie wanted to explain<br />

her commitment to the Church’s<br />

position against the use of technology<br />

which separates procreation from<br />

sexual intercourse and endangers<br />

embryonic life, but the pressure to find<br />

any solution was palpable.<br />

“There’s only so much you can do to<br />

defend the faith from the exam table,”<br />

she laughed. Then her tone turned<br />

somber. “At that point, I just wanted a<br />

place to talk about my grief.”<br />

***<br />

“Like every young Catholic couple<br />

… we thought we were going to look at<br />

each other and get pregnant,” Matthew<br />

Marcolini shared in a video reflection<br />

for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.<br />

20 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

After months of failed pregnancy tests,<br />

surgery, and the reality of infertility<br />

setting in, his wife, Elizabeth, experienced<br />

a spiritual desolation.<br />

“It’s hard to believe that a God who<br />

loves you wouldn’t want to give his<br />

daughter everything that she’s asking<br />

for,” she confided in a friend.<br />

Matthew struggled watching his wife<br />

suffer such profound disappointment.<br />

The couple thought back to a conversation<br />

they had in marriage prep in<br />

which they both shared they were open<br />

to adoption. “That was a hypothetical<br />

conversation, but a providential one,”<br />

Elizabeth said.<br />

Five years into marriage, after prayers<br />

and pilgrimages in search of peace,<br />

they got a phone call from a friend who<br />

had heard an announcement at daily<br />

Mass: a local woman was two weeks<br />

away from giving birth and looking<br />

for adoptive parents for her child with<br />

medical needs.<br />

Matthew told his wife that someone<br />

had found their baby.<br />

***<br />

Catholic couples like the Taylors<br />

and Marcolinis are used to hearing<br />

about the need to be “open to life” and<br />

forsake personal comfort for having a<br />

larger family than the social ideal.<br />

But a growing number are struggling<br />

with the opposite: not being able to<br />

conceive or bear children at all.<br />

They are part of a statistically significant<br />

number of people across the<br />

world experiencing infertility, broadly<br />

defined as the inability to conceive<br />

after one year of unprotected sex for<br />

women under 35 and six months for<br />

women 35 and older.<br />

According to a report issued by the<br />

World Health Organization, 1 in 6 people<br />

worldwide — between 60 and 80<br />

million couples — experience infertility<br />

during their reproductive years.<br />

In the U.S., 1 in 5 married women between<br />

the ages of 15-49 with no prior<br />

births have difficulty conceiving. Miscarriage<br />

moves that rate up to 1 in 4.<br />

Common causes of infertility include:<br />

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which<br />

impedes ovulation; improper functioning<br />

of the thyroid, pituitary gland, and<br />

hypothalamus; structural abnormalities<br />

or growths in reproductive organs;<br />

endometriosis, in which uterine lining<br />

grows outside of the uterus; poor sperm<br />

quality and count; and sexually transmitted<br />

infections.<br />

Additionally, delayed childbearing<br />

is driving up rates. More women are<br />

waiting until their mid-late 30s and<br />

early 40s to try to conceive.<br />

According to Caroline Gilbert, a certified<br />

nurse practitioner at University<br />

of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Divine<br />

Mercy Women’s Health, “Fertility<br />

drops a little after 30 but takes a nose<br />

dive after 40.”<br />

“I don’t think a lot of women want<br />

to be getting married later, especially<br />

my Catholic female patients,” she said.<br />

“But that’s just the way the world is.”<br />

The default assumption within the<br />

medical community is that individuals<br />

and couples will use artificial means of<br />

procreation — from donor gametes to<br />

IVF to surrogates — to have biologically<br />

related children. Insurance companies<br />

today are more likely to provide<br />

coverage for these services but not for<br />

alternative treatments. And the proliferation<br />

of celebrities using these means<br />

of reproduction is shifting cultural perceptions<br />

about everything from success<br />

rates to moral acceptance.<br />

***<br />

The challenge the Church faces is to<br />

help an increasing number of Catholics,<br />

many who suffer in silence, to<br />

discern God’s plan for their marriage<br />

and pursue avenues to be fruitful that<br />

respect God’s plan for life and love.<br />

Therese Bermpohl, director of the<br />

Office of Family Life for the Diocese<br />

of Arlington, Virginia, said she was<br />

receiving call after call from priests<br />

asking what they could do for couples<br />

in their parishes who felt unseen and<br />

needed support.<br />

“I think as a Church we tend to minimize<br />

the loss and grief associated with<br />

infertility and miscarriage.”<br />

Her office launched Our Fruitful<br />

Love, a website that “provides practical<br />

resources, testimonials, Church teaching,<br />

and a community that stands with<br />

people in their sorrow and grief.”<br />

One of their<br />

most popular<br />

initiatives has<br />

been an annual<br />

novena<br />

concluding on<br />

A doctor is pictured in a<br />

file photo preparing eggs<br />

and sperm for an attempt<br />

at artificial insemination. |<br />



the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.<br />

Bishop Michael Burbidge, who leads<br />

the diocese, offers a private Mass for<br />

participants at its conclusion.<br />

While she encourages participants to<br />

pray for miracles, she’s always moved<br />

when people let her know it helped<br />

them come to “complete peace” about<br />

God’s plan for their marriage.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 21

Bermpohl established a mentorship<br />

program which pairs up more experienced<br />

couples with those new to<br />

grief, expectation, and disappointment.<br />

“Community is key,” she said.<br />

Chris O’Neill, director of the Office<br />

of Marriage and Family Life for the<br />

Diocese of New Orleans, said his team<br />

tries to address infertility in marriage<br />

preparation.<br />

“We try to emphasize how a child is a<br />

gift,” he said. “We share with couples<br />

that you love each other and attend<br />

to a life that you share together, and<br />

that life starts to bear fruit. It may<br />

or may not include children. The<br />

commitment is not to build the life<br />

you want — it’s to love each other with<br />

everything you have and to let the marriage<br />

take the shape that God grants.”<br />

How and when the Church speaks<br />

about infertility is a topic which Melissa<br />

Moschella, associate<br />

professor of philosophy at<br />

The Catholic University of<br />

America, thinks a good deal<br />

about.<br />

“The places where the<br />

Church talks most directly<br />

about infertility are in documents<br />

concerning ethical<br />

issues about reproductive<br />

technologies,” she noted,<br />

citing Donum Vitae (“The<br />

Gift of Life”) and Dignitas<br />

Personae (“The Dignity of<br />

the Person”).<br />

Moshcella believes there<br />

are limitations to that<br />

treatment, because infertility<br />

is never explored as its<br />

own topic. And while the<br />

Church expresses sympathy<br />

for couples who desire to<br />

have a child, it has not yet<br />

offered a comprehensive<br />

theological look at marital<br />

fruitfulness outside of<br />

forming a family through<br />

procreation or adoption.<br />

In her courses exploring<br />

the ethics of reproductive technologies,<br />

Moschella has begun presenting students<br />

with information about fertility<br />

awareness-based methods of family<br />

planning. “Most of my female students<br />

have never heard of these. Most don’t<br />

understand how their cycles work or<br />

what the signs of fertility are,” she said.<br />

“The fact that things can actually be<br />

treated is new to them.”<br />

***<br />

The good news is that Catholic physicians<br />

have been advancing treatment<br />

for infertility for decades.<br />

Gilbert is a part of a health care practice<br />

that specializes in Naprotechnology,<br />

an approach to fertility pioneered<br />

by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, the director<br />

of the Saint Paul VI Institute for the<br />

Study of Human Reproduction and the<br />

National Center for Women’s Health<br />

in Omaha, Nebraska.<br />

With colleagues at the St. Louis<br />

University and Creighton University<br />

Schools of Medicine, he developed<br />

what is known as the Creighton Model<br />

FertilityCare System. Beyond helping<br />

to address infertility, this method<br />

is used to treat repeat miscarriage,<br />

postpartum depression, premenstrual<br />

symptoms, and preterm birth.<br />

Unlike mainstream endocrinology<br />

and fertility medicine, which uses a<br />

standard 28-day cycle to evaluate hormonal<br />

imbalances in women, Naprotechnology<br />

looks at each individual<br />

woman’s biomarkers to create what<br />

Gilbert calls a “total hormonal profile.”<br />

“Standard fertility medicine will<br />

spend three months prescribing<br />

medicine to strengthen ovulation and<br />

then move onto IVF,” Gilbert said.<br />

“Naprotechnology seeks to restore<br />

fertility by getting to the root cause of<br />

the problem.”<br />

The practice involves an analysis of<br />

all of the hormones involved in a women’s<br />

cycle (not only those related to<br />

ovulation), robust testing of the thyroid,<br />

surgical interventions, and identifying<br />

causes of inflammation or insulin<br />

resistance.<br />

Gilbert noted that physicians are starting<br />

to acknowledge that the Western<br />

diet and lifestyle is contributing to the<br />

issue.<br />

“As far as male infertility is concerned,<br />

alcohol, drugs, high blood<br />

pressure, and cholesterol can all contribute,”<br />

she said. “For women, there<br />

are a lot of endocrine disruptors<br />

in our diet, cosmetics,<br />

and the containers we drink<br />

and eat out of.”<br />

Gilbert says the widespread<br />

prescription of the birth<br />

control pill to girls, who<br />

often stay on it until they<br />

are ready for childbearing, is<br />

contributing to the problem.<br />

Some studies indicate<br />

that the pill interferes with<br />

the production of cervical<br />

mucus, which is important<br />

for fertilization.<br />

But a bigger issue is that the<br />

pill is widely prescribed to<br />

relieve painful symptoms of<br />

menstruation, which are often<br />

indicative of underlying<br />

issues like endometriosis. Because<br />

the condition advances<br />

even when symptoms are<br />

Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, ameliorated, women come<br />

director of the Pope Paul off the pill after a decade or<br />

VI Institute on the Study of more to find that they had<br />

Human Reproduction. | CNS been unknowingly masking<br />

an underlying condition.<br />

While not all of her<br />

patients conceive, Gilbert finds satisfaction<br />

that almost all of them say that<br />

they are thankful to have “found someone<br />

to take them seriously, listen to<br />

them, and give them a real diagnosis.”<br />

***<br />

Many women report that they simply<br />

want someone to acknowledge they<br />

22 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

exist and to hear what it feels like to<br />

have their body fail them.<br />

A turning point for Cassie Taylor<br />

was registering for an online retreat<br />

focused on infertility and grief, hosted<br />

by a ministry called Springs in the<br />

Desert. She was relieved to hear they<br />

were “Christ-focused, not conception-focused.”<br />

Springs in the Desert was born from<br />

the personal experience of Ann Koschute,<br />

who began to observe common<br />

feelings about identity, vocation,<br />

and isolation in her conversations with<br />

other Catholic women experiencing<br />

infertility.<br />

“We’re all kind of hidden,” she said.<br />

“The ministry started out of necessity,<br />

because we needed accompaniment.”<br />

Springs in the Desert has become<br />

one of the leading ministries for<br />

Catholic couples experiencing infertility,<br />

offering retreats, educational and<br />

pastoral resources, a podcast, small<br />

groups, and online events.<br />

Taylor now manages its social media<br />

accounts and hosts its podcast. The<br />

demand is increasing, evidenced by<br />

the growing body of podcast listeners,<br />

engagement with social media, and<br />

the number of dioceses promoting its<br />

work.<br />

Koschute hopes they can help facilitate<br />

some changes in the way Catholics<br />

approach the topic and those<br />

affected by it.<br />

“Within the Catholic space, there is<br />

often an idolizing of the child and the<br />

big Catholic family, which is the flip<br />

side of the contraceptive mentality and<br />

a culture focused on self-fulfillment.<br />

But it can create a culture that says the<br />

way to holiness is producing children.<br />

“We need to be reminded that our<br />

marriages are life-giving, that they are<br />

powerful witnesses in a world where<br />

people so easily give up on theirs<br />

because they don’t get what they want<br />

or don’t feel personally fulfilled,” she<br />

said.<br />

Her ultimate hope for the ministry is<br />

that couples will better come to know<br />

Christ as the wellspring in what she<br />

calls the “desert of infertility.”<br />

Marcolini wishes Catholics would<br />

refrain from making assumptions<br />

about childless couples, couples with a<br />

small number of children, or couples<br />

who have adopted, saying that it’s impossible<br />

to know what anyone is going<br />

Dr. Anne <strong>No</strong>lte, right, a family physician with the<br />

National Gianna Center for Women’s Health and<br />

Fertility in New York, follows Catholic teaching and<br />

guidelines for health care in her practice. | CNS/<br />


through or what has gone into their<br />

discernment.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w a mother of two adopted<br />

daughters, Zelie, 2, and Gianna, 6<br />

months, Elizabeth said her experience<br />

“has been a deeper invitation into the<br />

mystery of divine love since we are all<br />

adopted sons and daughters of God.”<br />

She and her husband share their story<br />

with other couples preparing for marriage<br />

in their diocese.<br />

When asked what she would say to<br />

others facing infertility, Elizabeth said<br />

to pray for what you desire, but not to<br />

spend your marriage and life waiting<br />

for something that is not promised.<br />

“Receive what God has for you today.<br />

God is a God of the present, not of the<br />

past or the future,” she said. “So live<br />

right now.”<br />

Elise Italiano Ureneck is a communications<br />

consultant writing from Rhode<br />

Island.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 23

OF WOMBS<br />


Pope Francis’ recent condemnation of<br />

surrogacy was needed. But can we talk<br />

more about what’s driving the practice?<br />


In his annual foreign policy address<br />

to diplomats accredited to the Holy<br />

See, Pope Francis this month made<br />

some striking remarks on a topic not<br />

typically associated with foreign policy.<br />

“The path to peace calls for respect<br />

for life, for every human life, starting<br />

with the life of the unborn child in the<br />

mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed<br />

or turned into an object of trafficking.<br />

In this regard, I deem deplorable<br />

the practice of so-called surrogate<br />

motherhood, which represents a grave<br />

violation of the dignity of the woman<br />

and the child, based on the exploitation<br />

of situations of the mother’s material<br />

needs. A child is always a gift and never<br />

the basis of a commercial contract.<br />

Consequently, I express my hope for an<br />

effort by the international community<br />

to prohibit this practice universally. At<br />

every moment of its existence, human<br />

life must be preserved and defended;<br />

yet I note with regret, especially in the<br />

West, the continued spread of a culture<br />

of death, which in the name of a false<br />

compassion discards children, the<br />

elderly, and the sick.”<br />

The Holy Father often tries to do two<br />

things at once: (1) hold fast to traditional<br />

doctrine (if often in ways that<br />

are intentionally and helpfully nonpolitical)<br />

and (2) emphasize the pastoral<br />

value of mercy. This is evident in his<br />

description of the Church as a field<br />

hospital which tries to stabilize deeply<br />

wounded people.<br />

It is striking and can be disorienting<br />

when he does one without the other, or<br />

when certain people or groups emphasize<br />

one without the other. Here, when<br />

it comes to his engagement on surrogacy,<br />

he emphasizes Church teaching<br />

without referencing mercy — as he<br />

does in so many other contexts, including<br />

abortion and irregular relationships.<br />


Thus his remarks, though powerful<br />

and needed, get only two cheers from<br />

me.<br />

In a culture like ours, where surrogacy<br />

is an unquestioned good — especially<br />

(but not only) in contexts of infertility<br />

and same-sex marriage — speaking in<br />

such morally and legally clear terms is<br />

admirable and even brave. One hopes<br />

that his allies, including some who<br />

accept and promote surrogacy, will be<br />

given the grace to hear what he’s saying.<br />

The Holy Father is speaking from<br />

his central moral theological commitment:<br />

resisting Western-style consumer<br />

throwaway culture. Instead of seeing<br />

God’s creation — including human<br />

beings — as merely products to be used<br />

and discarded, he wants us to recognize<br />

their proper value.<br />

The global surrogacy consumer<br />

network not only exploits vulnerable<br />

women, but also treats children as items<br />

for purchase. Tragically, in most cases<br />

of IVF, the “excess” human beings are<br />

often discarded as if they are waste.<br />

And it is doing so on a growing scale.<br />

An estimated 18,400 infants were born<br />

in the U.S. via surrogates from 1999 to<br />

2013, according to one study. But now,<br />

with the advances in surrogacy-related<br />

technology and growing popularity<br />

24 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

in the media, the global industry is<br />

expected to become worth $129 billion<br />

in the next decade (up from $14 billion<br />

in 2022).<br />

The desire to have a biological child<br />

is, for many, one of the most powerful<br />

desires in nature. But that desire cannot<br />

change the truth — a truth Christians<br />

like the Holy Father are bound to<br />

proclaim — that no one has a right to<br />

a child. Children are gifts from God to<br />

which we can be open, but can never<br />

demand.<br />

If everyone has the right to purchase a<br />

child on the open market (or even the<br />

“right to procreate” via the financial<br />

support of the government), this feeds<br />

the consumerist throwaway culture<br />

about which the Holy Father rightly<br />

warns us.<br />

But what about mercy and the<br />

Church as a field hospital? My wife<br />

and I — along with so many others —<br />

know firsthand the incredible pain of<br />

infertility. I wish the Holy Father had<br />

acknowledged that this pain is in part<br />

driving the demand for surrogates.<br />

Those bearing the pain of infertility as<br />

well as those who have used surrogates<br />

and are now beginning to question<br />

what they have done are among<br />

those who are hurting. They need the<br />

Church to be a field hospital which<br />

emphasizes God’s mercy on the way to<br />

speaking the truth in love.<br />

And they need a Church which focuses<br />

on other ways faithful Christians<br />

can be fruitful. Our spiritual father, St.<br />

Joseph, certainly provides a primordial<br />

example in his fatherhood of Jesus. (He<br />

was a foundational inspiration — and<br />

remains an ongoing help — for and<br />

with our three adopted children.)<br />

But let’s move even beyond adoption.<br />

The Church must do a much better job<br />

making space for childless people in<br />

the Church, both single and married.<br />

Far too often, one of the first questions<br />

I hear from Catholics I meet is, “How<br />

many children do you have?” Can you<br />

imagine how such a question hits for<br />

those bearing the pain of infertility?<br />

Having biological children is a wonderful<br />

gift to be given by God, and we<br />

must continue to make cultural space<br />

for these gifts, especially in a culture<br />

that is often hostile to children. But let<br />

us also make space for the wounded<br />

people in the Church bearing the pain<br />

of not having been given this gift —<br />

The global surrogacy consumer network not only<br />

exploits vulnerable women, but also treats children<br />

as items for purchase.<br />

and let us do so in ways which make it<br />

clear we value the gifts they bring to the<br />

table just as much.<br />

Charlie Camosy is professor of medical<br />

humanities at the Creighton University<br />

School of Medicine. In addition, he<br />

holds the Monsignor Curran Fellowship<br />

in Moral Theology at St. Joseph Seminary<br />

in New York.

AD REM<br />


Why don’t I have a podcast?<br />


Remember that bygone era when<br />

there were only three on-air<br />

national broadcast networks<br />

and — here in Los Angeles — another<br />

four local television stations? Current<br />

consumers of digital television would<br />

consider that a primitive state equivalent<br />

to cave paintings.<br />

But I actually pine for them every now<br />

and then.<br />

It was not a perfect system. Because<br />

of limited platforms, it was harder to<br />

find your niche either on the news or<br />

entertainment side.<br />

If you were a musician, you worked<br />

in dingy clubs and high school sock<br />

hops for years until you got your break.<br />

An actor may have worked for years<br />

parking cars or waiting tables and doing<br />

local theater only to get one guest spot<br />

on “Bonanza.” Many talented people<br />

never got a break of any kind, yet some<br />

of the most talented artists and news<br />

reporters still managed to burst forth<br />

from this cauldron.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w everyone is a star. And it seems<br />

I am the last person on the planet who<br />

does not have a podcast. There are<br />

literally tens of thousands of podcasts<br />

on every topic under the sun and many<br />

topics that do not deserve to see the<br />

light of day. It does not take much. If<br />

you have about 40 bucks you can get<br />

yourself a cool-looking microphone<br />

at an electronics box store, a little<br />

lighting from the same store and maybe<br />

a bookshelf behind you to give you<br />

gravitas and voila: you are a podcaster<br />

(obviously, you need a good internet<br />

connection, too).<br />

Podcasters have a tendency to take<br />

themselves very seriously with anchorman<br />

desks like they were working at<br />

CNN, but they come off looking more<br />

like Ron Burgundy. I have watched<br />

podcasters that are comical, intentional<br />

and unintentional, but most of the ones<br />

I have found are trivial and listening to<br />

them has not proven an effective use of<br />

time.<br />

And yet, they are legion.<br />

I wish I could say the advent of<br />

technology and its ability to distribute<br />

information so quickly and cheaply<br />

would be a boon for the Church and<br />

her adherents. But when I look at the<br />

Catholic blogosphere that dream vaporizes<br />

like when rubidium makes contact<br />

with water.<br />

It seems anyone with a microphone,<br />

free time, and a copy of the Vatican<br />

II documents, is now an ecclesiastical<br />

expert who needs to be heard. Before<br />

<strong>26</strong> • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Robert Brennan writes from Los Angeles, where<br />

he has worked in the entertainment industry,<br />

Catholic journalism, and the nonprofit sector.<br />

this technology got so far ahead of us,<br />

before a person with limited income<br />

could use the internet to have his or her<br />

very own “channel,” the economics of<br />

media was a natural roadblock to too<br />

many people with too many opinions.<br />

You had to be really good on camera<br />

and have something positive to<br />

say — like Bishop Fulton Sheen — to<br />

be granted paid time on television.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w, if you get enough “likes” or your<br />

subscription numbers on YouTube are<br />

good enough, you can actually pay<br />

your utility bills off a podcast dedicated<br />

solely to how terrible things are in the<br />

Church today. The more anger, the<br />

more controversy, the more likes and<br />

the more clicks.<br />

It is a feeding frenzy but unfortunately,<br />

we are eating our own. Taking a random<br />

sampling of your average Catholic<br />

blog, you would surmise that the<br />

Church is on her last legs. It is a world<br />

of gloom and doom with prophetic<br />

warnings about the End Times and the<br />

coming of the AntiChrist.<br />

The hosts of Catholic-themed podcasts<br />

run the gamut from laymen and<br />

laywomen, priests and religious, and<br />

everything in between. There are good<br />

ones more interested in lighting candles<br />

against the night than relishing in<br />

the darkness, and there are far too many<br />

podcasts that mislead and all to readily<br />

rely on anger as their fuel. If you put<br />

14 of these podcasters in a room you<br />

will get 14 opinions on what is wrong<br />

with the Church, what is right with the<br />

Church, and what needs to be done in<br />

the Church.<br />

At the risk of sounding like a podcaster<br />

myself, I know what needs to be done:<br />

Stop listening to podcasts.<br />

If you are troubled by the way things<br />

are, say a rosary or pray a novena.<br />

Take solace in the irrefutable fact, not<br />

opinion, that Jesus promised to be with<br />

his Church forever. It is not always easy,<br />

it is not always pretty, but the Church<br />

traveling in its prison of time and space<br />

will do remarkable things and not so<br />

remarkable things.<br />

And as flawed as his bride may be, the<br />

consistency of Christ’s promise must be<br />

our focus, and not how many “likes”<br />

we can get by yelling fire in a crowded<br />

cathedral.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 27



Awards season favorite ‘Poor Things’ turns a<br />

Frankenstein bride into a sorority girl<br />

Emma Stone and Mark<br />

Ruffalo in “Poor Things.”<br />

| IMBD<br />


Often in the English language<br />

there are words mistaken for<br />

synonyms while nestling adjacent<br />

or even opposed to one another.<br />

For instance, anyone who has ever had<br />

their heart broken quickly learns the<br />

chasm between “affection” and “love.”<br />

Many more then have their heart’s<br />

shards snapped further by a waiter<br />

conflating the merits of Coca-Cola and<br />

Pepsi.<br />

But more notable and more relevant<br />

to this review is the difference between<br />

“provocative” and “interesting.” It’s<br />

easy to reach the former, and even easier<br />

to mistake it for an achievement.<br />

Thus is the quandary with Yorgos<br />

Lanthimos’s “Poor Things,” fresh off its<br />

Golden Globes wins earlier this month<br />

for Best Comedy and Best Actress in a<br />

Comedy for Emma Stone.<br />

Stone plays Bella, a Victorian woman<br />

resurrected from the dead by mad<br />

scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter, played by<br />

Willem Dafoe. Though perhaps resurrection<br />

is again one of those adjacent<br />

but conflicting synonyms: When Godwin<br />

finds her floating under the bridge,<br />

he places the brain of her unborn child<br />

into her dead mother’s skull. I’m sure<br />

the more squeamish have tapped out at<br />

that alone. But that is what they want,<br />

and we cannot let them win. Who<br />

“they” and “we” are, and what indeed<br />

what “winning” entails, is irrelevant to<br />

the mission at hand.<br />

Bella is quite literally a child trapped<br />

inside an adult woman’s body. She<br />

staggers about like a marionette at the<br />

mercy of a drunk puppeteer, and in<br />

true toddler fashion makes up for her<br />

limited vocabulary in violence with<br />

the words she does possess. Unable<br />

to pronounce his full name, she calls<br />

her creator “God.” It’s the most blatant<br />

of the blunt symbolism throughout,<br />

which I’m sure Lanthimos would<br />

insist is tongue-in-cheek. But it’s ironic<br />

turtles all the way down, and at the<br />

bottom of the stack is still a character<br />

called God.<br />

28 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Bella is cared for by Godwin’s kindly<br />

assistant Max (Ramy Youssef), who<br />

with Godwin’s permission, bordering<br />

on insistence, proposes marriage. But<br />

even childlike Bella recognizes it is<br />

“God’s” attempt to keep her at home<br />

away from a wider world which he<br />

fears and she longs for.<br />

(While allowing for curiosity, I think<br />

the film overestimates a child’s mind<br />

for new experience. Children are<br />

natural reactionaries; ask them to<br />

sample new food other than chicken<br />

fingers and they’ll respond with all the<br />

liberality of a Russian czar.)<br />

With his permission she instead<br />

runs off with Duncan Wedderburn<br />

(Mark Ruffalo). A caddish lawyer (at<br />

the risk of sounding redundant) he<br />

takes advantage of Bella’s naiveté and<br />

whisks her off on a lover’s holiday.<br />

Bella’s accelerated mental progression<br />

now finds her in the thick of adolescence,<br />

so if Duncan uses her, she is<br />

an enthusiastic accomplice.<br />

But we are back again to the great<br />

divide of provocation and interest. In<br />

the longest stretch of the film we are<br />

shown in great detail the particulars<br />

of Bella’s sexual awakening, sequences<br />

that most readers of this magazine<br />

would find lewd and indecent.<br />

But throughout all this extracurricular<br />

activity my eyes averted from the<br />

screen not from prudishness but boredom.<br />

Sexuality is indeed part of growing<br />

up, but it isn’t the skeleton key of<br />

adulthood. Lanthimos takes Bella into<br />

the wider world, but his focus on this<br />

one aspect of her person shrinks it.<br />

She wants to see the pyramids, but she<br />

must settle for the ceiling.<br />

It even puts him at odds with his own<br />

thesis. Bella is an Edenic creature, her<br />

innocence putting her at odds with<br />

a fallen society. It would certainly<br />

explain her comfort with nudity. She<br />

eats sloppily, dances merrily, and lacks<br />

the patience for innuendo in polite<br />

conversation. Most importantly, she<br />

doesn’t fathom the absurd strictures<br />

her society places on women, and<br />

like most children ignores what she<br />

doesn’t understand.<br />

But Lanthimos groups her freewheeling<br />

sexual liberation in with<br />

her burgeoning feminism, a pairing<br />

that fell out of fashion somewhere<br />

between Rocky II and Rocky IV. It’s<br />

a retrograde feminism, not respecting<br />

women in all their baffling facets but<br />

to the extent to which they please the<br />

drooling patriarchy.<br />

In fairness, the film recognizes the<br />

abuses. For all his talk of spurning<br />

convention, Duncan grows more<br />

possessive the wider Bella’s perspective<br />

expands. He says he wants to show<br />

her the world, but we realize along<br />

with her that a narcissist thinks the<br />

world ends at his sightline. He tricks<br />

her onto a cruise ship where she can’t<br />

leave him, but that is only prolonging<br />

the inevitable. Rid of his dead weight,<br />

she later takes up a brief residency<br />

in a brothel, a rose-colored vignette<br />

on sex work where her sex positivity<br />

goes over like gangbusters. After her<br />

adventures she finally returns and is<br />

reconciled to her fiancé and “God,”<br />

her wild oats sufficiently sown.<br />

Perhaps as a Catholic I should<br />

endorse such a tidy resolution, but<br />

I have never found myself more<br />

offended at a film coming full circle.<br />

It meant all its provocations were for<br />

nothing, even its postures of defiance<br />

ultimately subjugated to conventional<br />

mores. What we watched for the last<br />

two hours was not a young woman<br />

bucking the absurdities of our society,<br />

but a sorority girl on a gap year<br />

abroad.<br />

In other words, “Poor Things” is<br />

about controlled rebellion, the cinematic<br />

equivalent of Woodstock hippies<br />

who went on to work for weapon<br />

manufacturers. I have more genuine<br />

respect for sticking to a principle, even<br />

in violation of my own, than dabbling<br />

in revolution only to embrace the cog.<br />

God can forgive any sins, but I can’t<br />

forgive you for wasting my time.<br />

Editor’s note: “Poor Things” is rated R<br />

for strong and pervasive sexual content,<br />

graphic nudity, disturbing material,<br />

gore, and language.<br />

Joseph Joyce is a screenwriter and freelance<br />

critic based in Sherman Oaks.<br />

Willem Dafoe in “Poor Things.” | IMDB



Large and in charge<br />

Los Angeles’ Natural History Museum<br />

is mounting a super-duper<br />

show in Exposition Park through<br />

the spring.<br />

The museum recently unveiled “100<br />

Carats: Icons of the Gem World,”<br />

an exhibition of some of the highest<br />

quality rare gems on earth, including<br />

the world-famous Jonker I diamond,<br />

which has not been viewed publicly<br />

for decades.<br />

The centerpiece of<br />

the exhibit, the Jonker<br />

I Diamond. | AARON<br />




“Right this way!” you can almost hear<br />

the carnival barker’s cry.<br />

Says Lori Bettison-Varga, the museum’s<br />

president and director: “Gems of<br />

such magnificent size and quality have<br />

never been displayed before in this<br />

quantity in one exhibition.”<br />

The 125-carat Jonker I, one of the<br />

largest cut diamonds in the world, is<br />

the centerpiece of the exhibition.<br />

The Jonker, found by a South African<br />

farmer in 1934, was at the time the<br />

fourth-largest uncut gem ever discovered.<br />

At 7<strong>26</strong> carats — a little over<br />

five ounces — it was later cut into 13<br />

smaller stones, the Jonker I being the<br />

largest.<br />

Far more interesting than the stone’s<br />

size, to my mind, is the intrigue surrounding<br />

it.<br />

From Wikipedia: “In 1949, King Farouk<br />

of Egypt purchased the Jonker I,<br />

but after he was deposed and exiled in<br />

1952, the gem was lost. After a number<br />

of years, the gem reappeared in the<br />

ownership of Queen Ratna of Nepal.<br />

The last known location of the Jonker<br />

I was in Hong Kong in 1977 when it<br />

was sold to an anonymous buyer for<br />

$2,259,000.”<br />

Lost? Wouldn’t you give anything to<br />

know how the gem made its way from<br />

Egypt to Nepal? Whoever the anonymous<br />

buyer was in 1977, today the<br />

Jonker I is owned — and on loan to<br />

the NHS — by Ibrahim Al-Rashid. <strong>No</strong><br />

further details given.<br />

In its 80 years of existence, the<br />

diamond has never been on display in<br />

a museum. Which just goes to show,<br />

really, what can you do with this exquisite<br />

jewel except put it in a safe?<br />

But the exhibition includes way more<br />

than the Jonker I. Other treasures<br />

include a 241-carat emerald known<br />

as “The Crown of Colombia,” a deep<br />

aquamarine beryl called “The <strong>No</strong>rthern<br />

Light,” an exquisite blood-red<br />

rubellite tourmaline, “The Princess<br />

Pink Sapphire,” and “The Ukrainian<br />

Flag Topaz.” Every stone in the exhibit<br />

is at least 100 carats (a carat weighs<br />

.007 of an ounce), which in the gem<br />

world is gigantic.<br />

“Every gem is a minor geologic miracle,”<br />

the museum notes.<br />

Think mountains, volcanoes, tectonic<br />

30 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Heather King is an award-winning<br />

author, speaker, and workshop leader.<br />

plates, and mysterious movements<br />

deep within the earth’s surface. After<br />

millions of years, these brilliant, sparkling<br />

gems emerge (helped along by<br />

master cutters, polishers, and jewelry<br />

designers like Robert Procop, who<br />

figures prominently in the exhibit).<br />

But gems also have a sinister side.<br />

They’re mostly worn by women. At<br />

this level, they’re insanely expensive:<br />

in 2015, a “perfect” 100-carat diamond<br />

sold at Sotheby’s for $22 million. Put<br />

the two together and mayhem, at some<br />

point, is bound to result.<br />

Having spent most of my own<br />

unglamorous life reading rather than<br />

boning up on carats, the phrase “iconic<br />

gems” evokes any number of juicy<br />

stories, novels, and films where the lust<br />

for jewels has led to ruin.<br />

Anthony Trollope’s 1871 novel “The<br />

Eustace Diamonds,” for example, in<br />

which gold digger and pathological liar<br />

Lizzie Greystock marries the sickly Sir<br />

Florian Eustace knowing he will soon<br />

die and leave her a wealthy widow.<br />

The diamonds are a family heirloom<br />

that Lizzie coolly refuses to relinquish.<br />

Romantic hijinks and interminable<br />

litigation ensue, the upshot being that<br />

Lizzie, satisfyingly,<br />

gets just what Stained-glass windows<br />

she deserves.<br />

depicting the Parable<br />

Guy de Maupassant’s<br />

1884<br />

of the Hidden Treasure<br />

(left) and the Parable of<br />

the Pearl (right) in Scots’<br />

short story “The Church, Melbourne. |<br />

Necklace” is a<br />


cautionary tale<br />

about a woman<br />

who disdains her loving, faithful<br />

husband and prefers to live in fantasy.<br />

When they’re invited to a fancy ball,<br />

she borrows an expensive diamond<br />

necklace from a friend, a move that<br />

results in one night of ecstasy and a<br />

lifetime of abject misery.<br />

That’s not even counting the German-born<br />

film director Max Ophuls’<br />

“The Earrings of Madame de…”<br />

(1953), a romantic drama that ends<br />

with a duel and an implied suicide.<br />

But far be it for me to be a wet blanket.<br />

The once-in-a-lifetime show runs<br />

through April 21. So go. Ooh and aah<br />

at these wonders of nature. Gasp at the<br />

brilliance, the vivid colors, the perfection.<br />

Ponder the fact that such gems<br />

occur nowhere else in the solar system.<br />

Let’s not forget, however, that Jesus<br />

also knew about jewels. “Again, the<br />

kingdom of heaven is like a merchant<br />

seeking beautiful pearls, who, when<br />

he had found one pearl of great price,<br />

went and sold all that he had and<br />

bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46).<br />

Here’s the distinction: the kingdom of<br />

heaven is not reducible to a stone. The<br />

kingdom of heaven, for which we’re<br />

willing to give up everything we own,<br />

can’t be bartered, bought, traded, or<br />

sold. It’s beyond price.<br />

And you never have to keep it in a<br />

safe.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 31



Scott Hahn is founder of the<br />

St. Paul Center for Biblical<br />

Theology; stpaulcenter.com.<br />

In Crete our faith<br />

Around this time every year, my mind returns to the<br />

island of Crete. Around a dozen years ago I led a<br />

pilgrimage there, in the midst of a cruise “in the<br />

footsteps of St. Paul.”<br />

There’s no detailed scriptural account of the apostle’s<br />

visit there. All we know is that he “left” his disciple Titus<br />

on Crete (Titus 1:5),<br />

ordaining him to lead<br />

the Church there. He<br />

had surely “laid hands”<br />

on Titus, as he had on<br />

Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6).<br />

Both men had received<br />

the grace of holy orders,<br />

and then they lived up to<br />

it. Thus we honor them<br />

together on the feast they<br />

share, <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>.<br />

In a letter to Titus, Paul<br />

aims an insult at the people<br />

of Crete: “Cretans,”<br />

he says, “are always liars,<br />

evil beasts, lazy gluttons”<br />

(Titus 1:12).<br />

Ouch. That hurts, even<br />

after 2,000 years. But Paul<br />

was quoting a Cretan<br />

poet when he said it.<br />

The poet’s name is Epimenides<br />

— a pagan! —<br />

and Paul actually quotes<br />

him more than once in<br />

the New Testament. He<br />

even refers to him as a<br />

prophet.<br />

Epimenides was a<br />

semi-mythical, semi-historical<br />

figure who lived on<br />

Crete in the sixth or seventh<br />

century before Christ. He was a shepherd who one day,<br />

according to legend, fell asleep in a cave and awoke 57 years<br />

later. He emerged transfigured, filled with supernatural gifts.<br />

His fame spread far, even to Athens, some 214 miles away.<br />

Athenians, centuries later, remembered Epimenides for<br />

delivering their city from a curse. They had been suffering<br />

“St. Paul,” by Hans Baldung Grien, 1484-1545, German. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS<br />

from a series of calamities, so they called upon the poet-prophet<br />

for help. He suggested that perhaps there was a<br />

god yet unknown to them, who would be willing and able<br />

to help if appropriate sacrifices were offered. So the people<br />

of Athens built altars to this nameless deity all over the city,<br />

and the legacy of Epimenides in Athens was an aggregation<br />

of altars dedicated “to an<br />

unknown god.”<br />

Paul spoke about such<br />

an altar when he was<br />

preaching in the city<br />

(Acts 17:23).<br />

In the same speech, Paul<br />

also quoted one of the<br />

poems of Epimenides.<br />

The poem said of a certain<br />

god: “In him we live<br />

and move and have our<br />

being” (see Acts 17:28).<br />

Paul apparently saw this<br />

line as a prophecy of the<br />

divine life that Christians<br />

experience through<br />

baptism.<br />

His citation is no<br />

happenstance. In fact,<br />

the line comes from the<br />

same poem from which<br />

he drew the insult that<br />

appears in his Letter to<br />

Titus. He knew the poem<br />

well.<br />

And he knew well what<br />

he was doing when he<br />

left Titus on Crete. Paul<br />

gave the island something<br />

better than the legendary<br />

Epimenides. He gave the<br />

Cretans a priest after the<br />

image of Jesus Christ. He gave them a bishop who would<br />

lead them away from lying and gluttony — a saint they<br />

would honor forever. When I visited his church in Crete, I<br />

saw his relics encased in silver.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w his feast is upon us. We’re not in Crete, but we can<br />

invoke his intercession. Please join me in doing so.<br />

32 • ANGELUS • <strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

■ FRIDAY, JANUARY 19<br />

Praise and Worship Mass and Healing Prayers. St. Frances<br />

of Rome Church, 501 E. Foothill Blvd., Azusa, 6 p.m. Celebrant:<br />

Father Parker Sandoval. Music by Clarissa Martinez.<br />

OneLife LA Holy Hour. St. Teresa of Avila Church, 2216<br />

Fargo St., Los Angeles, 7-8 p.m. Visit onelifela.org/holy-hour<br />

for more.<br />


Embracing the Winter of Life: Aging to Saging. Mary & Joseph<br />

Retreat Center, 5300 Crest Rd., Rancho Palos Verdes,<br />

9 a.m.-12 p.m. Workshop will help connect with your inner<br />

sage to the divine to help you age in comfort and health.<br />

Areas covered include spirituality, mental, geographical,<br />

financial wellness, and more. Email MarkMitchellSpeaks@<br />

gmail.com.<br />

100th Celebration. St. Sebastian Church, 1453 Federal<br />

Ave., Los Angeles, 10 a.m. Mass. Celebrant: Bishop Matthew<br />

Elshoff. Reception to follow. Email stsebastianoffice@<br />

gmail.com.<br />

OneLife LA. LA State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St., Los<br />

Angeles, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Join Archbishop José H. Gomez on<br />

a walk for life through downtown Los Angeles, followed by<br />

a festival with speakers, music, and food. Theme: “10 Years<br />

Together As One.” For more information, visit onelifela.org.<br />

Requiem Mass for the Unborn. Cathedral of Our Lady of<br />

the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 5 p.m. Archbishop<br />

José H. Gomez will celebrate the annual Mass for<br />

the Unborn to end OneLife LA.<br />

■ SUNDAY, JANUARY 21<br />

Feast of Santo Niño Mass. Cathedral of Our Lady of the<br />

Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 3 p.m. procession,<br />

3:30 p.m. Mass. Principal celebrant: Bishop Brian Nunes.<br />

Hosted by the Santo Niño Cruzada (SNCU) organization.<br />

Bring statues of Santo Niño for a special blessing.<br />

■ MONDAY, JANUARY 22<br />

Mass and Healing Service. St. Rose of Lima Church, 1305<br />

Royal Ave., Simi Valley, 7 p.m. Celebrant: Father Michael<br />

Barry, with Deacon Pete Wilson. Call 805-5<strong>26</strong>-1732.<br />


LACBA Family Law Clinic. Virtual, 2-5 p.m. Covers child<br />

support, custody, divorce, and spousal support. Open to LA<br />

County veterans. Registration required. Call 213-896-6537<br />

or email inquiries-veterans@lacba.org.<br />


The Indwelling Wholeness of the Trinity. St. Andrew<br />

Church, 538 Concord St., El Segundo, 9:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m.<br />

Retreat focuses on a contemplative experience to prayerfully<br />

enter the inner sanctum of the heart in the art of attention.<br />

Cost: $25/offering, includes continental breakfast<br />

and lunch salad bar. RSVP by Jan. 20. Contact nbstjames@<br />

gmail.com.<br />

■ SUNDAY, JANUARY 28<br />

Mass Honoring Sisters of Mercy. St. Pius X School, 10855<br />

S. Pioneer Blvd., Santa Fe Springs, 10 a.m. St. Pius X parish<br />

and school will celebrate 33 years of service by the Sisters<br />

of Mercy with a special Mass and dedication. Call 562-234-<br />

1165.<br />

Religious Jubilarian Mass. Cathedral of Our Lady of the<br />

Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 3:30 p.m. Religious<br />

sisters, brothers, and priests from the Archdiocese of Los<br />

Angeles will celebrate jubilee anniversaries.<br />

■ MONDAY, JANUARY 29<br />

End of Life Preparation. St. Bruno Church, 15740 Citrustree<br />

Rd., Whittier, 9-10:30 a.m. or 7-8:30 p.m. RSVP to<br />

Cathy by Jan. 10 at 562-631-8844.<br />


Nun Run, 5K, 1-Mile, and Community Service Fair. La<br />

Reina High School, 106 W. Janss Rd., Thousand Oaks,<br />

8 a.m. 10th annual Nun Run, hosted by Sisters of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame, will raise proceeds for local and global outreach.<br />

Visit nun.run.<br />


Rite of Election. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555<br />

W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 3 p.m. The Rite of Election<br />

is the final required step for anyone preparing to receive<br />

the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the holy<br />

Eucharist on the Easter Vigil. Email Leticia Perez at LPerez@<br />

la-archdiocese.org.<br />


Changing Seasons: Lent to Palm Sunday. Zoom, 7-8:30<br />

p.m. Class led by Father Felix Just, SJ, will explore Bible<br />

readings for Lent to Palm Sunday. Visit lacatholics.org/<br />

events.<br />


Valentine’s Dinner. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church,<br />

23233 Lyons Ave., Newhall, 12 p.m. Hosted by the Italian<br />

Catholic Club of SCV, includes complimentary glass of<br />

wine. Cost: $45/person. RSVP to Anna Riggs at 661-645-<br />

7877 by Feb. 5.<br />

Malta World Day of the Sick Mass. Cathedral of Our Lady<br />

of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 12:30 p.m.<br />

Hosted by the Western Association of the Order of Malta,<br />

all are welcome, especially those who are suffering in body<br />

or spirit. Blessing and anointing of the sick will be administered.<br />


Memorial Mass. San Fernando Mission, 15151 San<br />

Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills, 11 a.m. Mass is<br />

virtual and not open to the public. Livestream available at<br />

CatholicCM.org or Facebook.com/lacatholics.<br />


Youth Day: RECongress. Anaheim Convention Center,<br />

200 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Young<br />

people will enjoy a general session, keynote speech, two<br />

workshops, and Eucharistic liturgy. Speakers include Baby<br />

Angel, Chris Estrella, and Maggie Craig. Cost: $40/person.<br />

Register at recongress.org.<br />


Religious Education Congress. Anaheim Convention<br />

Center, 200 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim. Events run Feb.<br />

16-18, and include speakers, sacraments, films, and<br />

workshops. Keynote speaker: Jessica Sarowitz, founder of<br />

Miraflores Films. Cost: $85/person. For more information,<br />

visit recongress.org.<br />


Anniversary Mass for Bishop David O’Connell. San Gabriel<br />

Mission, 429 S. Junipero Serra Dr., 10 a.m. Celebrant:<br />

Archbishop José H. Gomez. Blessing of memorial exhibit to<br />

follow after Mass.<br />

Items for the calendar of events are due four weeks prior to the date of the event. They may be emailed to calendar@angelusnews.com.<br />

All calendar items must include the name, date, time, address of the event, and a phone number for additional information.<br />

<strong>January</strong> <strong>26</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 33

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