Angelus News | April 19, 2024 | Vol. 9 No. 8

On the cover: On March 30, more than 30 seniors from Mexico reunited with relatives they hadn’t seen in decades at a special event hosted by St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. On Page 10, Theresa Cisneros has the inside story of the cross-border team effort between community and church leaders that made the improbable reunions happen just in time for Easter.

On the cover: On March 30, more than 30 seniors from Mexico reunited with relatives they hadn’t seen in decades at a special event hosted by St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. On Page 10, Theresa Cisneros has the inside story of the cross-border team effort between community and church leaders that made the improbable reunions happen just in time for Easter.


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After decades apart,<br />

families reunite<br />

at LA parish<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> <strong>Vol</strong>. 9 <strong>No</strong>. 8

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong><br />

<strong>Vol</strong>. 9 • <strong>No</strong>. 8<br />

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On March 30, more than 30 seniors from<br />

Mexico reunited with relatives they hadn’t<br />

seen in decades at a special event hosted by<br />

St. Frances X. Cabrini Church. On Page 10,<br />

Theresa Cisneros has the inside story of the<br />

cross-border team effort between community<br />

and church leaders that made the improbable<br />

reunions happen just in time for Easter.<br />



Workers carry out operations <strong>April</strong> 4 at the site where a<br />

building collapsed following a 7.4 magnitude earthquake near<br />

Hualien, Taiwan. At least nine people died when the quake<br />

struck <strong>April</strong> 3, and more than 1,000 people were injured. In a<br />

telegram to the island’s bishops, Pope Francis assured all those<br />

affected of his “heartfelt solidarity and spiritual closeness” and<br />

prayed for “all the divine blessings of consolation and strength.”


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 />

18<br />

20<br />

22<br />

26<br />

28<br />

30<br />

Photos: Holy Week <strong>2024</strong> in downtown Los Angeles<br />

John Allen: The paradox of Pope Francis’ ‘empty chair’ phase<br />

Mike Aquilina on how Christianity changed the world’s view of widows<br />

A disability advocate’s concerns about California’s new mental health law<br />

Robert Brennan spends Palm Sunday among the Catholics of Silver Lake<br />

‘Irena’s Vow’ pays tribute to Catholic heroism in the Holocaust<br />

Heather King: Dante, purgatory, and a poem worth dying for<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 1


Jesus is our Pasch<br />

The following is adapted from the<br />

Holy Father’s homily at the Easter<br />

Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica the evening<br />

of March 30.<br />

The women go to the tomb at<br />

daybreak, yet they still feel the<br />

darkness of night. A stone has<br />

sealed the fate of Jesus. Yet once they<br />

arrive, they are taken aback when they<br />

see the amazing power of the Easter<br />

event: “When they looked up, they<br />

saw that the stone, which was very<br />

large, had already been rolled back”<br />

(Mark 16:4).<br />

The question troubling their grieving<br />

hearts was: “Who will roll away the<br />

stone from the tomb?” That stone<br />

marked the end of Jesus’ story, now<br />

buried in the night of death. That<br />

stone, an overwhelming obstacle, symbolized<br />

what the women felt in their<br />

hearts. It represented the end of their<br />

hopes, now dashed by the obscure<br />

and sorrowful mystery that put an end<br />

to their dreams.<br />

It can also be that way with us.<br />

There are times when we may feel<br />

that a great stone blocks the door of<br />

our hearts, stifling life, extinguishing<br />

hope, imprisoning us in the tomb of<br />

our fears and regrets. We encounter<br />

such “tombstones” on our journey<br />

through life in all the experiences<br />

and situations that rob us of enthusiasm<br />

and of the strength to persevere.<br />

When we experience these disappointments,<br />

do we also have the sensation<br />

that all these dreams are doomed<br />

to failure, and that we too should ask<br />

ourselves in anguish: “Who will roll<br />

away the stone from the tomb?”<br />

Yet the same women who bore this<br />

darkness in their hearts tell us something<br />

quite extraordinary: “When they<br />

looked up, they saw that the stone,<br />

which was very large, had already<br />

been rolled back.” This is the Pasch<br />

of Christ, the revelation of God’s<br />

power: the victory of life over death,<br />

the triumph of light over darkness,<br />

the rebirth of hope amid the ruins<br />

of failure. It is the Lord, the God of<br />

the impossible, who rolled away the<br />

stone forever. Even now, he opens our<br />

hearts, so that hope may be born ever<br />

anew.<br />

We too, then, should “look up” to<br />

him. Raised up by the Father in his,<br />

and our, flesh, in the power of the<br />

Holy Spirit, he turned a new page in<br />

the history of the human race. From<br />

now on, if we allow Jesus to take us by<br />

the hand, no experience of failure or<br />

sorrow, however painful, will have the<br />

last word on the meaning and destiny<br />

of our lives. Henceforth, if we allow<br />

ourselves to be raised up by the Risen<br />

Lord, no setback, no suffering, no<br />

death will be able to halt our progress<br />

toward the fullness of life.<br />

Jesus is our Pasch. He is the One<br />

who brings us from darkness into<br />

light, who is bound to us forever, who<br />

rescues us from the abyss of sin and<br />

death, and draws us into the radiant<br />

realm of forgiveness and eternal life.<br />

Let us welcome Jesus, the God of<br />

life, into our lives, and today once<br />

again say “yes” to him. Let us lift our<br />

eyes to him, the Risen Lord, and press<br />

forward in the certainty that, against<br />

the obscure backdrop of our failed<br />

hopes and our deaths, the eternal life<br />

that he came to bring is even now<br />

present in our midst.<br />

Papal Prayer Intention for <strong>April</strong>: We pray that the dignity and<br />

immense value of women be recognized in every culture,<br />

and for the end of discrimination that they experience in<br />

different parts of the world.<br />

2 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>



Under the sign of our salvation<br />

This Easter, we welcomed nearly<br />

3,600 new Catholics to the family<br />

of God here in Los Angeles,<br />

including more than 2,000 catechumens<br />

who were baptized at the vigil<br />

Masses across the archdiocese, and<br />

more than 1,500 candidates who were<br />

newly confirmed in the faith.<br />

Of course, these are not statistics.<br />

Each is a precious soul, a brother or<br />

sister who by grace has found joy and<br />

life in Jesus Christ. Praise God!<br />

As I’ve been praying for these new<br />

Catholics and their families, I find<br />

myself reflecting on the beautiful rites<br />

of initiation that we use for adults<br />

preparing to enter the Church.<br />

There is a powerful moment in the<br />

welcoming ceremonies when the priest<br />

traces the sign of the cross on the foreheads<br />

of catechumens and candidates;<br />

in some celebrations, they may also be<br />

“signed with the cross” on their hearts<br />

and hands, as well as on their eyes,<br />

ears, nose, and mouth.<br />

This practice is thought to date back<br />

to the first baptisms performed by the<br />

apostles, who Jesus commanded to<br />

baptize “in the name of the Father and<br />

of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”<br />

St. Paul said to the newly baptized<br />

in Ephesus: “In him you … who have<br />

heard the word of truth, the gospel of<br />

your salvation, and have believed in<br />

him, were sealed with the promised<br />

Holy Spirit.”<br />

Catechumens are signed with the<br />

cross to signify the “seal” that the Holy<br />

Spirit places upon our souls in baptism.<br />

The sign is the “imprint of Christ.” It<br />

means our lives belong now to Jesus.<br />

It assures us that by his sacrifice on the<br />

cross, we can have salvation.<br />

In the Bible’s final book, the redeemed<br />

are identified by the sign of the<br />

cross — called “the seal of God” or<br />

“his Father’s name” — written on their<br />

foreheads.<br />

The cross is the great sign of Our<br />

Lord’s victory of love over sin and<br />

death, the great sign of the paschal<br />

mystery of his passion, death, and<br />

resurrection that we celebrate during<br />

these 50 days of Easter.<br />

And Easter is a good time for us to renew<br />

our practice of this ancient prayer.<br />

For many of us, this is the first prayer<br />

that our parents taught us when we<br />

were young. And I know many of you<br />

are teaching this prayer to your own<br />

children now.<br />

With this simple gesture we invoke<br />

the most holy name of the triune God<br />

— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — and<br />

we recognize that we live now under<br />

the sign of the Lord’s cross.<br />

The early Christians would begin and<br />

end their prayers with the sign of the<br />

cross, as we still do.<br />

They would cross themselves many<br />

times during the day to remember the<br />

Lord’s love and to sanctify all their chores<br />

and duties. Still today, making this<br />

sign can be a powerful way to remind<br />

ourselves that everything we do, we<br />

should do for the glory of God.<br />

St. Cyril of Jerusalem said in the<br />

fourth century, “Let us make the sign of<br />

the cross … in all circumstances: when<br />

we eat, and when we drink, when we<br />

come in and when we go out, before<br />

we sleep, when we lie down and when<br />

we arise. Here is a great protection.”<br />

Catholics have always made the sign<br />

of the cross to seek strength to overcome<br />

their temptations, to ask God’s<br />

protection against evil, and to help<br />

them in their daily struggles against sin<br />

and selfishness.<br />

It is a holy sign, so we should always<br />

make it slowly, thoughtfully, reverently.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t casually or in a hurry.<br />

“Make a large cross, taking time, thinking<br />

about what you do,” the Servant<br />

of God Romano Guardini recommended.<br />

“Let it take in your whole being<br />

— body, soul, mind, will, thoughts,<br />

feelings, your doing and not-doing.”<br />

As you trace the sign of the cross from<br />

your forehead to your heart and across<br />

your shoulders, remember that by this<br />

sign Jesus gave his life for you.<br />

“When you make it,” St. John Chrysostom<br />

said, “remember what has been<br />

given for your ransom, and you will be<br />

the slave to no one.”<br />

By making the sign of the cross we<br />

are declaring our love for Jesus and our<br />

identity as Catholics. We are saying yes<br />

once again to his call to take up our<br />

own cross and follow his way for our<br />

lives.<br />

Pray for me in this holy season, and I<br />

By making the sign of the cross, we are saying yes<br />

once again to his call to take up our own cross<br />

and follow his way for our lives.<br />

will pray for you.<br />

And as we thank Jesus for the gift<br />

of new life that we receive by our<br />

baptism, let us remember the sign of<br />

the cross.<br />

May holy Mary our mother help us to<br />

live from the cross, as her Son showed<br />

us: as sons and daughters of the Father,<br />

sealed with his Spirit, and strengthened<br />

by his love until the day of our<br />

redemption.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 3

WORLD<br />

■ Shroud to Turin not<br />

a European forgery,<br />

researchers say<br />

The Shroud of Turin was woven out<br />

of Middle Eastern flax, a new study<br />

shows, strengthening its claim to be<br />

the burial shroud of Jesus.<br />

Though many Catholics hold the<br />

shroud to be authentic, skeptics have<br />

long claimed it to be a medieval<br />

forgery. But a recent series of isotope<br />

tests run on this sample of the cloth<br />

have revealed that the flax used to<br />

weave the shroud likely originated in<br />

Israel, Lebanon, or the western parts<br />

of Jordan and Syria.<br />

“With a probable Near Eastern<br />

origin, new doubts must be raised<br />

about interpreting the shroud as<br />

A contrast enhanced facial image from the Shroud of<br />



simply a fake relic made in medieval Europe,” William Meacham, an American<br />

archaeologist who commissioned the study, told the Catholic Herald, “and new<br />

questions arise about what the image on the cloth signifies.”<br />

■ Pope’s ambassador to UN: Ban child surrogacy<br />

The Vatican’s representative at the United Nations repeated Pope Francis’ recent<br />

call for an international ban on child surrogacy.<br />

Surrogacy, which usually involves a woman agreeing to carry another woman’s<br />

child, created via in-vitro fertilization in exchange for money, “has far more in<br />

common with trafficking, of both women and children, than its proponents are<br />

willing to admit,” said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Holy See’s permanent<br />

observer to the U.N.<br />

Caccia made the remarks at a March <strong>19</strong> panel event about faith-based organizations<br />

promoting women’s leadership. Among the other speakers was Olivia<br />

Maurel, a woman who was born via surrogacy and now speaks out against it.<br />

“There is no ethical way of selling children, like there is no ethical way to rent a<br />

woman’s body,” said Maurel. “Women and children pay way too much of a price.”<br />

■ Chaldeans pull back on Easter celebrations in Iraq<br />

Tensions with Iraq’s government led the Chaldean Catholic Church to cancel<br />

all nonliturgical Easter events.<br />

“The Chaldean Patriarchate announces the cancellation of all festivities,<br />

media coverage, and receptions of government officials on the occasion of<br />

Easter,” read a March 25 statement from the Chaldean Church, “opting instead<br />

for prayers, in solidarity with our Father, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, who has<br />

been staying away from his historical headquarters in Baghdad for six months<br />

now.”<br />

Since 2013, Sako has been the leader of the Chaldean Church, one of 23<br />

autonomous Eastern churches in communion with Rome.<br />

But last July, Iraqi president Abdul Latif Rashid issued a decree that revoked<br />

Sako’s civil recognition as leader of the church, removing his ability to administer<br />

the church’s assets and other civil privileges. In response, Sako went into a<br />

self-imposed exile to the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.<br />

■ Vatican clergy chief:<br />

Married priests won’t lead<br />

to more vocations<br />

Solving the Church’s crisis in vocations<br />

to the priesthood is not as simple<br />

as ending clerical celibacy, a top<br />

Vatican cardinal said.<br />

In a March 21 interview with the<br />

Irish Catholic, Cardinal Lazzaro You<br />

Heung-sik, prefect for the Dicastery<br />

of the Clergy, explicitly dismissed the<br />

idea that solving the shrinking number<br />

of priests is as simple as letting<br />

priests marry.<br />

“If that were the case, take for example<br />

the Orthodox Church, they would<br />

be flourishing in terms of vocations,<br />

but we have to look at the reality,” said<br />

the South Korean cardinal, who pointed<br />

out that the Orthodox Church is<br />

also experiencing declines in priestly<br />

vocations, despite the ability for priests<br />

to marry.<br />

“I say to the lay faithful to have more<br />

children and to promote vocations in<br />

their families and among their children,”<br />

the cardinal said.<br />

Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik. | LORENZO IORFINO/<br />


4 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

NATION<br />

■ Pennsylvania Catholic school<br />

district gets a police force<br />

To boost school security and mentorship opportunities<br />

at its schools, a diocese in Pennsylvania<br />

has a surprising plan: employing retired<br />

police officers.<br />

“Our goal is to have a full-time officer<br />

assigned to each building, because then they<br />

become a member of that school community,”<br />

Lt. Ryan Maher, a 25-year veteran of law<br />

enforcement and director of security for the<br />

Diocese of Greenburg, told Catholic <strong>News</strong><br />

Agency.<br />

“We don’t want a hard-nosed law enforcement<br />

officer in there with blouse pants that’s<br />

walking around like the Gestapo,” he said. “We<br />

want that person that’s going to be a mentor to<br />

the kids and be a part of that community. So<br />

it took a while to find the right folks to fill the<br />

positions.”<br />

The initiative involved formally filing the<br />

diocese as a private police force, giving police<br />

full authority on diocesan property. It began in<br />

2022 and has grown to 18 retired officers, each<br />

with at least 20 years’ experience, now working<br />

at the diocese’s 12 Catholic schools.<br />

Father Roger Landry in 2022. | CNS/GREGORY A.<br />


■ New York priest to<br />

walk 1,500 miles for<br />

Eucharistic pilgrimage<br />

Each of the four routes of the<br />

upcoming National Eucharistic<br />

Pilgrimage will be walked by a<br />

rotating contingent of priests. But<br />

so far, only one priest has signed up<br />

to walk an entire route himself.<br />

Father Roger Landry, a priest of<br />

the Archdiocese of New York and<br />

chaplain at Columbia University, is<br />

scheduled to walk the entire 1,500<br />

miles planned for the Seton Route<br />

(named after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton)<br />

from New Haven, Connecticut<br />

to Indianapolis, where the <strong>2024</strong><br />

Eucharistic Congress will be held.<br />

“To be really the only priest who’s<br />

going to be able to accompany the Eucharistic Pilgrimage from beginning<br />

to end is just an extraordinary gift of the Lord and source of gratitude for<br />

me,” Father Landry told Catholic <strong>News</strong> Agency.<br />

Twenty-four lay “Perpetual Pilgrims” have also committed to walking the<br />

entirety of each of the four routes, which begin in San Francisco; Brownsville,<br />

Texas; and Lake Itasca, Minnesota. All four routes end in Indianapolis.<br />

Rebuilding together — Lora Hargrove, interfaith outreach director for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore<br />

and a parishioner of St. Bernardine Church in West Baltimore, shakes the hand of Baltimore City<br />

Police Lt. Col. Nicholas Edwards at a March 26 Mass at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore.<br />

The Mass of healing was celebrated for those affected by the collapse of the city’s Francis<br />

Scott Key Bridge earlier the same day. | OSV NEWS/KEVIN J. PARKS, CATHOLIC REVIEW<br />

■ Washington cardinal calls<br />

Biden a ‘cafeteria Catholic’<br />

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington,<br />

D.C., referred to President Joe Biden as a “cafeteria<br />

Catholic” during a March 31 interview on<br />

national TV.<br />

“I would say that he’s very sincere about his<br />

faith,” Gregory said in reply to a question about<br />

the president’s religious beliefs. “But like a number<br />

of Catholics, he picks and chooses dimensions<br />

of the faith to highlight while ignoring or<br />

even contradicting other parts.”<br />

“There is a phrase that we have used in the<br />

past — a ‘cafeteria Catholic’: You choose that<br />

which is attractive, and dismiss that which is<br />

challenging,” he said.<br />

The comments followed controversy after the<br />

president’s office announced that the “International<br />

Transgender Day of Visibility,” which<br />

was created in 2009 and is observed on March<br />

31, would be officially celebrated at the White<br />

House on Easter Sunday.<br />

Though Biden also released an Easter message,<br />

the White House instructed participants<br />

at its traditional Easter egg art contest to refrain<br />

from designs with religious symbols or themes.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 5

LOCAL<br />

■ USC parish wins national<br />

award for campus ministry<br />

USC’s Caruso Catholic Center team will<br />

receive the prestigious Father Bob Beloin<br />

Award from the Catholic Campus Ministry<br />

Association this year.<br />

The award, given “for creativity, collaboration,<br />

and innovation in the field of campus<br />

ministry,” was named for Father Bob<br />

Beloin, Yale University’s longtime chaplain<br />

until his death in 2018.<br />

“Winning the Father Bob Beloin Award<br />

is a significant accomplishment and a<br />

well-deserved recognition of your team’s<br />

talents and expertise,” said Rosie Chinea<br />

Shawver, CCMA’s executive director.<br />

“Your passion and drive inspire us all to<br />

reach greater heights and strive for excellence<br />

in everything we do.”<br />

The Caruso Center’s team, led by Father<br />

Richard Sunwoo, Father Joe Kim, and<br />

President Jamie Cappetta, will be honored<br />

during CCMA’s national conference,<br />

CALLED24, during its banquet dinner on<br />

June 5 in College Station, Texas.<br />

An encouraging Easter — Pat and Jane McDade, left, pose with employees of the nonprofit Many<br />

Mansions after parishioners, school families, and supporters at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Westlake<br />

Village donated 778 Easter baskets for organizations that assist needy children, including Many Mansions,<br />

Moorpark Catholic Charities, Harbor House, Kids and Families Together, RAIN, and Friends of Fieldworkers.<br />


■ Archdiocese<br />

welcomes increase<br />

in new Catholics<br />

on Easter <strong>2024</strong><br />

The Archdiocese of<br />

Los Angeles had more<br />

than 2,000 catechumens<br />

baptized into the Catholic<br />

faith, the biggest number<br />

since at least 2016. The<br />

archdiocese also had the<br />

second-most candidates<br />

since 2016 entering into<br />

full communion with the<br />

Catholic Church.<br />

The archdiocese had<br />

A catechumen is baptized at the Cathedral<br />

2,075 catechumens at Easter<br />

Vigil liturgies this year,<br />

Easter vigil on March 30. | JOHN RUEDA<br />

of Our Lady of the Angels during the <strong>2024</strong><br />

a 38% increase since 2016,<br />

when there were 1,508.<br />

There were also 1,521 candidates in <strong>2024</strong>, a 20% increase since 2016, and a<br />

67% increase in total candidates since a pre-pandemic low in 20<strong>19</strong>.<br />

Since 2016, the archdiocese had a high of 1,7<strong>19</strong> total candidates in 2023.<br />

Catechumens are adults or children who have never been baptized, while<br />

candidates are those who have been baptized, but receive the sacrament of<br />

confirmation and the Eucharist during the Easter Vigil.<br />

■ Catholic Charities San<br />

Diego gets mobile hot<br />

shower units for homeless<br />

Catholic Charities’ San Diego chapter<br />

recently welcomed new portable<br />

shower units for the use of the homeless<br />

population it serves.<br />

Each unit, which can be towed to a<br />

location, features three compartments<br />

with walk-in showers, dressing areas,<br />

mirrors, sinks, and paper towel dispensers.<br />

Propane tanks power the showers<br />

to produce hot water. The units are<br />

supplied by water tanks that can serve<br />

up to 250 individuals per day, or more if<br />

connected to a water supply at a parish,<br />

business, or participating location.<br />

“This is a dream for Catholic Charities<br />

to work along with our parishes to<br />

provide care for those who are out on<br />

the streets,” said Appaswamy “Vino”<br />

Pajanor, executive director of Catholic<br />

Charities Diocese of San Diego.<br />

In addition to helping the homeless,<br />

Pajanor said the showers could also be<br />

deployed to help people displaced by<br />

natural disasters.<br />

Y<br />

6 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

V<br />


Letters to the Editor<br />

Courage on Palm Sunday<br />

I was overjoyed to read Robert Brennan’s column on the Palm Sunday<br />

procession in Silver Lake online <strong>April</strong> 3 (also in this issue on page 26)<br />

and see that some parishes are not cutting corners on this beautiful tradition.<br />

There’s been more emphasis in recent years on doing Eucharistic processions,<br />

which are good and important. But the Palm Sunday procession is the oldest one<br />

in the Church’s history (technically, Jesus himself started it) and one of the very<br />

few actually in the liturgical books.<br />

Sadly, this procession is often skipped or done in a parish parking lot to save time<br />

and effort. Bravo to St. Teresa of Avila Church for making this public profession of<br />

faith in the most challenging of circumstances.<br />

— Anonymous priest, <strong>No</strong>rthern California<br />

Abortion and the president<br />

Contesting Francis X. Maier’s criticism of President Biden in the March 22 issue,<br />

Claire Marmion begins by saying, “Joe Biden is a man of faith” (Letters to the<br />

Editor, <strong>April</strong> 5). But is Biden’s faith ours?<br />

St. Pope John Paul II, addressing the U.S. bishops in Los Angeles in <strong>19</strong>87, criticized<br />

the “tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence<br />

to the Church’s moral teachings.”<br />

In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life), John Paul affirmed that<br />

procured abortion is murder, and that lawmakers who promote and approve laws<br />

permitting them are among those who are morally responsible for them.<br />

We have a grave and clear obligation to oppose abortion laws by conscientious<br />

objection. It is not licit to campaign or vote for them, except to make permissive<br />

abortion laws more restrictive so as to limit the number of authorized abortions.<br />

— Steve Serra, St. Nicholas Church, Laguna Woods<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 />

An Easter miracle<br />

“Easter is a difficult mystery,<br />

not so much because of the<br />

difficulty of the dogma, but<br />

because of our difficulty in<br />

welcoming it and living it.”<br />

~ Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin patriarch of<br />

Jerusalem, in his homily for Holy Thursday.<br />

“Their work should earn<br />

respect and admiration, not<br />

demonization.”<br />

~ Kerry Alys Robinson, president and CEO of<br />

Catholic Charities, on the rising number of antiimmigrant<br />

threats made against Catholic Charities<br />

staffers around the U.S.<br />

“It’s like preparing for your<br />

deathbed.”<br />

~ Scott Berman, founder of Sky Cave Retreats, in a<br />

March 26 Outside article on dark-cave retreats.<br />

“To be awakened, let us first<br />

be sleepers.”<br />

~ Nell O’Leary, in a March 30 Word on Fire<br />

commentary on allowing God to silence our lives<br />

and be reawakened to him.<br />

“The problem is, fish don’t<br />

pay for water.”<br />

~ Duane Winter, charter boat captain, in a March<br />

31 LA Times article on the struggling salmon<br />

population in California.<br />

Organizers and volunteers receive a round of applause for their efforts at the conclusion of an event at St. Frances X.<br />

Cabrini Church in South LA on March 30 that reunited families from Mexico that hadn’t seen one another in decades.<br />

See the full story on Page 10. | VICTOR ALEMÁN<br />

View more photos<br />

from this gallery at<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 />

“I was young enough to not<br />

even understand that death<br />

was part of my world.”<br />

~ Roxanne Olson, in an <strong>April</strong> 1 NPR article on a<br />

stranger who helped her after her father died.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</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 />

God’s silence in the face of evil<br />

Theologians sometimes try to<br />

express the meaning of Jesus’<br />

resurrection in one sentence: In<br />

the resurrection, God vindicated Jesus,<br />

his life, his message, and his fidelity.<br />

What does that mean?<br />

Jesus entered our world preaching<br />

faith, love, and forgiveness, but the<br />

world didn’t accept that. Instead, it<br />

crucified him and by that seemingly<br />

shamed his message. We see this most<br />

clearly on the cross when Jesus is taunted,<br />

mocked, and challenged: If you are<br />

the son of God, come down from there! If<br />

your message is true, let God verify that<br />

right now! If your fidelity is more than<br />

plain stubbornness and human ignorance,<br />

then why are you dying in shame?<br />

What was God’s response to those<br />

taunts? Seemingly nothing, no commentary,<br />

no defense, no apologia, no<br />

counterchallenge, just silence. Jesus<br />

dies in silence. Neither he nor the God<br />

he believed in tried to fill that excruciating<br />

void with any consoling words or<br />

explanations challenging people to look<br />

at the bigger picture or to look at the<br />

brighter side of things. <strong>No</strong>ne of that.<br />

Just silence.<br />

Jesus died in silence, inside God’s<br />

silence and inside the world’s incomprehension.<br />

And we can let ourselves<br />

be scandalized by that silence, just as<br />

we can let ourselves be scandalized by<br />

the seeming triumph of evil, pain, and<br />

suffering in our world.<br />

God’s seeming silence in the face of<br />

evil and death can forever scandalize<br />

us: in the Jewish holocaust, in ethnic<br />

genocides, in brutal and senseless wars,<br />

in the earthquakes and tsunamis which<br />

kill thousands of people and devastate<br />

whole countries, in the deaths of countless<br />

people taken out of this life by cancer,<br />

and by violence, in how unfair life<br />

can be sometimes, and in the casual<br />

manner that those without conscience<br />

can rape whole areas of life seemingly<br />

without consequence. Where is God in<br />

all of this? What’s God’s answer?<br />

God’s answer is the resurrection, the<br />

resurrection of Jesus and the perennial<br />

resurrection of goodness within life<br />

itself. But resurrection is not necessarily<br />

rescue. God doesn’t necessarily rescue<br />

us from the effects of evil, nor even<br />

from death. Evil does what it does,<br />

natural disasters are what they are, and<br />

those without conscience can rape even<br />

as they are feeding off life’s sacred fire.<br />

<strong>No</strong>rmally, God doesn’t intervene.<br />

The parting of the Red Sea isn’t a<br />

weekly occurrence. God lets his loved<br />

ones suffer and die, just as Jesus let his<br />

dear friend Lazarus die, and God let<br />

Jesus die. God redeems, raises us up<br />

afterwards, in a deeper, more lasting<br />

vindication. Moreover, the truth of that<br />

statement can even be tested empirically.<br />

Despite every appearance to the contrary<br />

at times, in the end, love does triumph<br />

over hatred. Peace does triumph<br />

over chaos. Forgiveness does triumph<br />

over bitterness. Hope does triumph<br />

over cynicism. Fidelity does triumph<br />

over despair. Virtue does triumph over<br />

sin. Conscience does triumph over<br />

callousness. Life does triumph over<br />

death, and good does triumph over evil,<br />

always.<br />

Mohandas K. Gandhi once wrote:<br />

“When I despair, I remember that all<br />

through history, the way of truth and<br />

love has always won. There have been<br />

murderers and tyrants, and for a time<br />

they seem invincible. But in the end<br />

they always fall. Think of it, always.”<br />

The Resurrection, most forcibly,<br />

makes that point. In the end, God<br />

has the last word. The resurrection of<br />

Jesus is that last word. From the ashes<br />

of shame, of seeming defeat, failure,<br />

and death, a new, deeper, and eternal<br />

life perennially bursts forth. Our faith<br />

begins at the very point where it seems it<br />

should end, in God’s seeming silence in<br />

the face of evil.<br />

And what does this ask of us?<br />

First, simply that we trust in the truth<br />

of the Resurrection. The Resurrection<br />

asks us to believe what Gandhi affirmed,<br />

namely, that in the end evil will<br />

not have the last word. It will fail. Good<br />

will eventually triumph.<br />

More concretely, it asks us to roll the<br />

dice on trust and truth, namely, trusting<br />

that what Jesus taught is true. Virtue<br />

is not naive, even when it is shamed.<br />

Sin and cynicism are naive, even when<br />

they appear to triumph. Those who<br />

genuflect before God and others in<br />

conscience will find meaning and joy,<br />

even when they are deprived of some of<br />

the world’s pleasures.<br />

Those who drink in and manipulate<br />

sacred energy without conscience will<br />

not find meaning in life, even when<br />

they taste pleasure. Those who live in<br />

honesty, no matter the cost, will find<br />

freedom. Those who lie and rationalize<br />

will find themselves imprisoned in selfhate.<br />

Those who live in trust will find<br />

love. God’s silence can be trusted, even<br />

when we die inside of it.<br />

We need to remain faithful in love,<br />

forgiveness, and conscience, despite<br />

everything that suggests they are naive.<br />

They will bring us to what is deepest<br />

inside of life. Ultimately, God vindicates<br />

virtue. God vindicates love. God<br />

vindicates conscience. God vindicates<br />

forgiveness. God vindicates fidelity. Ultimately,<br />

God vindicated Jesus and will<br />

vindicate us too if we remain faithful.<br />

8 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>


They hadn’t seen their relatives from Mexico in decades. On Easter<br />

weekend, a South LA parish hosted their improbable reunion.<br />


A reunited family tearfully hugs after seeing<br />

one another for the first time in decades<br />

during a special event at St. Frances X.<br />

Cabrini Church in South LA on March 30.<br />

10 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Twenty-two years ago, Maria Perez<br />

Cardenas’ 16-year-old son set out<br />

from their hometown in Jalisco,<br />

Mexico, to find work in the United<br />

States.<br />

His quest was successful, and over the<br />

years he got married, had children, and<br />

carved out a life for himself in a new<br />

country.<br />

Cardenas kept in touch with him as<br />

best as she could through phone calls<br />

and video chats. But seeing him in<br />

person was out of the question: She<br />

lacked the legal documents to visit<br />

him in California, and he lacked legal<br />

documents to return to Mexico.<br />

After several failed attempts, she recently<br />

secured a visa through a special<br />

program that helps seniors from Jalisco<br />

reconnect with their families in the<br />

U.S.<br />

The heart-stirring moment finally<br />

came on March 30, Holy Saturday, at<br />

a special reunification ceremony at St.<br />

Frances Cabrini Church in South Los<br />

Angeles.<br />

“We tried so many times but were unsuccessful,”<br />

she said, her eyes brimming<br />

with tears. “Thanks to God and to these<br />

people who have helped us, we are<br />

here today.”<br />

Cardenas was among 33 seniors who<br />

received visas through the program<br />

— led by the Asociación de Clubes<br />

Jalisciences de California (California’s<br />

Association of Jalisco Clubs) — and<br />

made the 2,500-mile journey on Good<br />

Friday so that they would arrive in time<br />

to celebrate Easter Sunday alongside<br />

their families. Participants were expected<br />

to stay with their loved ones for three<br />

weeks before returning home.<br />

The reunion — nearly two years in<br />

the making — was the fruit of efforts<br />

from community and church leaders<br />

on both sides of the border. Organizers<br />

said they felt compelled to assist the<br />

visitors as a way to answer Christ’s calls<br />

to unity, compassion, and service, and<br />

to help them share in the joy of Christ’s<br />

resurrection by reuniting with their<br />

long-lost relatives for Easter.<br />

After landing at LAX early on Holy<br />

Saturday, participants were shuttled<br />

to the church hall, where about 20<br />

parishioners had spent several hours<br />

preparing for their<br />

arrival by cleaning,<br />

decorating, cooking<br />

breakfast, and praying<br />

for all involved.<br />

The seniors were<br />

reunited with their<br />

Los Angeles Auxiliary<br />

Bishop Matthew<br />

Elshoff, right, stands<br />

with several of the<br />

organizers who<br />

helped put on the<br />

reunification event.<br />

kin during a 10 a.m. ceremony in the<br />

hall, which began with remarks from<br />

organizers and a welcome from Auxiliary<br />

Bishop Matthew Elshoff, on behalf<br />

of Archbishop José H. Gomez.<br />

“Your presence with us is a privilege as<br />

we start the Easter season,” Elshoff told<br />

the crowd. “It’s a time of joy and hope,<br />

and we are experiencing the resurrection<br />

of the Lord in this moment as you<br />

are here with us and with your families<br />

once again.”<br />

Javier Wenceslao, the association’s<br />

president, took to the mic to thank the<br />

church community for its hospitality,<br />

drawing a parallel to its namesake.<br />

Traveling to a new country can be<br />

scary for some, he said, but the hospitality<br />

the group received from the parish<br />

and the archdiocese made them feel<br />

right at home.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 11

Bishop Matthew Elshoff welcomes the seniors<br />

from Mexico when they arrived from the<br />

airport prior to reuniting with their families.<br />

“It’s a great honor for us to be welcomed<br />

into this church named for the<br />

missionary saint St. Cabrini who, like<br />

us, also came here as an immigrant,”<br />

he said.<br />

Then, finally, the moment everyone<br />

was waiting for: One by one, the travelers<br />

walked up to the front of the hall,<br />

where they were received by multiple<br />

generations of relatives carrying balloons,<br />

flowers, and other gifts.<br />

The families spent a few tear-filled<br />

minutes embracing in front of a crowd<br />

of about 150, then made their way<br />

together to their seats.<br />

Jose Toscano was among those who<br />

reconnected with their parents during<br />

the event. He’d been separated from<br />

his mom, Alicia Rafael Bernabe, for<br />

decades, and although the two communicated<br />

regularly through Facebook, he<br />

still couldn’t wait to see her.<br />

“Seeing her on a video call is not the<br />

same as being able to hug her in person,”<br />

he said, with his arm around his<br />

mom’s shoulder. “We’ve been waiting<br />

for 20 years for this moment.”<br />

Like Cardenas and Bernabe, many of<br />

the participants’ children made the trek<br />

to the U.S. 15, 20, or nearly 30 years<br />

ago, but for various reasons were not<br />

able to return home to their parents.<br />

For Antonia Bernardino Toscano, it<br />

had been 23 years since she’d seen her<br />

daughter and 20 years since she’d seen<br />

her son. The native of San Andres,<br />

Jalisco, said she found out about the<br />

program through Facebook and spent<br />

nearly two years completing the steps to<br />

obtain her visa.<br />

She said she was so excited to see her<br />

adult children again that she stayed<br />

awake all night on the plane ride, and<br />

hoped to spend the next few weeks<br />

reminiscing with them and making up<br />

for lost time.<br />

“I am so thankful to my God in heaven<br />

for getting us to this step,” she said.<br />

For some participants, the years spent<br />

apart from their children also brought<br />

chronic illnesses, the death of a spouse,<br />

and other unexpected situations.<br />

Many of the reunited<br />

families had children<br />

who left Mexico for the<br />

United States decades<br />

ago and hadn’t seen one<br />

another in person since.<br />

For Juana Seda<br />

Vazquez, 27 years<br />

had passed since<br />

she last saw her<br />

oldest son, who<br />

came to the U.S.<br />

at age 13. Although<br />

her vision<br />

is nearly gone<br />

now, the thought<br />

of seeing her<br />

four children in<br />

person — instead<br />

of on a phone<br />

screen — was almost too much.<br />

“I give thanks to God for allowing me<br />

to come and see them,” said Vazquez,<br />

who had never been on an airplane<br />

before. “I feel like maybe I’m not going<br />

to be able to handle it.”<br />

Gladys Oliver, who led the ceremony<br />

and reception planning, said she and<br />

other parishioners got involved to help<br />

unify families across borders, evangelize<br />

through hospitality, and heed Christ’s<br />

call to put themselves at the service of<br />

others.<br />

“As long as we have life and Christ<br />

lives in us, we will be able to serve our<br />

brothers,” she said. “Just as the gospel<br />

tells us, we need to become one.”<br />

Looking to the future, Wenceslao told<br />

the crowd that his group will work to<br />

reunite more families going forward.<br />

“There is much need and many more<br />

people to help,” he said. “We will continue<br />

doing what we can to make a little<br />

bit of a difference so that others like you<br />

can be reunited with their parents, so<br />

that there is hope for families.”<br />

Theresa Cisneros is a freelance journalist<br />

with 24 years of experience in the<br />

news industry. She is a fourth-generation<br />

Southern California resident and lives in<br />

Orange County with her husband and<br />

four children.<br />

12 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

A WEEK<br />

WITH<br />

JESUS<br />

Massgoers with blessed palm fronds<br />

prepare to process into the cathedral on<br />

Palm Sunday March 24.<br />

Special moments from<br />

Holy Week <strong>2024</strong> at<br />

the Cathedral of Our<br />

Lady of the Angels.<br />



Archbishop José H. Gomez pours balsam<br />

into the chrism oil as he blesses the oils<br />

used for sacraments throughout the year<br />

during the March 25 Chrism Mass.<br />

14 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Faithful pray before the<br />

Blessed Sacrament in St.<br />

Vibiana’s Chapel after<br />

Mass on Holy Thursday.<br />

Archbishop<br />

Gomez washes<br />

the feet of one of<br />

12 people during<br />

the bilingual<br />

Mass of the<br />

Lord’s Supper on<br />

Holy Thursday,<br />

March 28.<br />

People had the opportunity to<br />

venerate the cross and receive<br />

holy Communion during the<br />

Good Friday liturgy March 29.<br />

Archbishop Gomez and other priests lay<br />

prostrate before the cross during the Good<br />

Friday liturgy March 29.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 15

Blocks away from the cathedral, Archbishop Gomez blessed goats, dogs, and all kinds of animals at the annual<br />

Blessing of the Animals at Placita Olvera Church on Holy Saturday, a tradition that has gone on since <strong>19</strong>30.<br />

A catechumen smiles after being baptized in the cathedral’s<br />

baptismal font at the Easter Vigil March 30. More than<br />

2,000 catechumens were baptized and received into the<br />

Catholic Church around the archdiocese this year.<br />

Thousands prayed with candles lit from<br />

the paschal candle during the Easter<br />

Vigil on Holy Saturday March 30.<br />

16 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>


As he scales back his schedule, Francis’ hands-on<br />

governance style matters more than ever.<br />


Workers remove the chair that had been set<br />

up for Pope Francis atop a hillside overlooking<br />

the Colosseum in Rome, after the Vatican announced<br />

at the start of the ceremony March<br />

29 that the pope would follow the event from<br />

home. | CNS/LOLA GOMEZ<br />

ROME — Such is the frenetic nature of the Pope<br />

Francis papacy that even though Good Friday was less<br />

than a week ago, just a few days later it was hard to<br />

remember that it actually produced news. In the meantime,<br />

of course, we’ve had not only the pontiff’s traditional Easter<br />

activity but his latest tell-all interview book, once again, for<br />

a moment, transforming the papacy into a species of reality<br />

TV.<br />

In this instance, Francis lifted the veil on the inner workings<br />

of two conclaves, those of 2005 and 2013, and also<br />

dished on his predecessor’s top aide, German Archbishop<br />

Georg Gänswein, claiming that he lacks “nobility and humanity”<br />

for the way in which he allegedly tried to pit Pope<br />

Benedict XVI against Francis.<br />

As Italian journalist Massimo Gramellini put it, “At<br />

bottom, Bergoglio [the pope’s given name] is no more than<br />

a man of his times. We live in an era in which, some more<br />

and some less, we’re all exhibitionists, devoured by an insatiable<br />

need to make our lives public, in the hope of being<br />

appreciated and understood.”<br />

Despite all that, it’s still worth returning to Good Friday<br />

for a moment, because it produced an iconic image of the<br />

late stages of the Francis papacy: an empty white chair at<br />

Rome’s Colosseum, where the pontiff had been scheduled<br />

to preside over the traditional Way of the Cross procession,<br />

but where he ended up being a no-show at the last minute<br />

due to health concerns.<br />

In a way, it was odd that anyone ever seriously entertained<br />

the idea that the 87-year-old pope would physically attend<br />

the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) on a chilly yet humid<br />

Roman evening, exactly the wrong conditions for someone<br />

struggling to kick the after-effects of a series of colds, flu,<br />

and bronchitis. In all probability, it was likely Francis’ determination<br />

that kept the possibility alive until the very last<br />

18 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

moment, and which led to the specter of his empty chair<br />

having to be carted away in front of live TV cameras.<br />

To be sure, Francis promptly bounced back, as he has after<br />

multiple health scares before. He presided over the Easter<br />

Vigil Mass Saturday evening, the Easter morning Mass on<br />

Sunday, and then delivered his traditional Urbi et Orbi message<br />

(“to the city and to the world”), all 1,300 words of it, in<br />

his own voice. All in all, it did not seem like the specter of a<br />

pope on death’s door.<br />

Yet, the empty chair of Good Friday remains as a reminder<br />

that, more and more, the price of Francis being able to<br />

perform in key moments as he did on Easter is scaling back,<br />

or skipping altogether, other aspects of his usual activities.<br />

Where that gradual withdrawal will be most obvious to<br />

the naked eye will be missed public moments: General<br />

Audiences he decides to shorten or skip, for instance, or<br />

international trips he doesn’t take, or traditional liturgical<br />

celebrations he hands off to someone else.<br />

Yet there’s a sense that the pope’s being out of the public<br />

eye is only the tip of the iceberg, because a limited Francis<br />

will translate quickly into limited Church governance.<br />

We’ve seen<br />

popes publicly<br />

decline before,<br />

most recently<br />

during the final<br />

years of St. Pope<br />

John Paul II. His<br />

increasing frailty<br />

had consequences<br />

for ecclesiastical<br />

administration,<br />

most<br />

notably with<br />

regard to the clerical<br />

sexual abuse<br />

crisis, which<br />

erupted into full<br />

public view in<br />

the United States<br />

in 2002. Vatican<br />

officials from that<br />

era will tell you<br />

important decisions<br />

sometimes<br />

were either delayed or resolved with only half-measures, on<br />

the basis that “we can’t bother the pope with this right now.”<br />

Yet in a routine sense, you almost wouldn’t have known<br />

that the pope was struggling. Bishops continued to be appointed<br />

around the world, teaching documents continued<br />

to be issued (including the encyclical letter “Ecclesia de<br />

Eucharistia” (“The Church from the Eucharist”) in 2003),<br />

legal decrees were promulgated, disciplinary decisions were<br />

made, and in general the ecclesiastical trains continued<br />

running on time.<br />

To a great extent, that was because John Paul was never<br />

terribly interested in internal governance, even when he<br />

was in the flush of health. He was a decidedly ad extra pope,<br />

engaged in the broad human questions of his time, and had<br />

relatively little patience for the minutiae of management. As<br />

a result, he delegated.<br />

He had a powerful priest secretary, Archbishop (later Cardinal)<br />

Stanislaw Dziwisz; a commanding Secretary of State,<br />

Cardinal Angelo Sodano; and his key intellectual potentate<br />

in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He also had stocked the Vatican<br />

with strong department heads, each capable of moving<br />

the levers of power in the general direction the pope desired<br />

but without requiring his input on the particulars.<br />

Things are quite different today, as Francis very much<br />

wields the reins of governance himself.<br />

Francis has clipped the wings of his Secretary of State,<br />

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, making him more of a diplomatic<br />

mouthpiece than a genuine prime minister. He essentially<br />

dissolved the role of the priest-secretary, having two or three<br />

clerics handle pieces of the job rather than entrusting it all<br />

to one central figure, and rotating them in and out every<br />

few years. Francis also works around the established departments<br />

of the Vatican at least as much as he does through<br />

them, lessening their capacity to take up the slack someday<br />

if needed.<br />

This is both the<br />

Pope Francis delivers his Easter blessing<br />

“urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”)<br />

from the central balcony of St. Peter’s<br />

Basilica March 31. | CNS/LOLA GOMEZ<br />

blessing and the<br />

curse of a highly<br />

engaged pope:<br />

<strong>No</strong>body has<br />

to guess who’s<br />

really pulling the<br />

strings, but equally,<br />

there’s no one<br />

else to pull them<br />

when the pope’s<br />

hand is missing.<br />

Whether a<br />

slowdown in<br />

governance as<br />

Francis’ limits<br />

become more<br />

pronounced<br />

is positive or<br />

negative may<br />

depend, as with<br />

most things, on<br />

point of view. If<br />

you’re the kind of<br />

Catholic who believes the Church has been on Mr. Toad’s<br />

Wild Ride for the past 11 years and could do with a breather,<br />

you may welcome a slowdown; if you’re a Francis aficionado<br />

anxious to see him nail down as much of his legacy as<br />

possible, then all of a sudden his do-it-yourself-style papacy<br />

may seem a drawback rather than a strong suit.<br />

However one chooses to look at it, the bottom line seems<br />

the same: As Francis increasingly leaves his chair empty,<br />

the Vatican — and the broader Church — will slow down.<br />

Some of that’s inevitable no matter who’s in charge, but the<br />

effect will be more pronounced on his watch, which is a<br />

natural byproduct of his imminently hands-on approach.<br />

John L. Allen is the editor of Crux.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • <strong>19</strong>

Widows’ Might<br />

Christianity gave widows a<br />

social dignity they didn’t have<br />

before. Culturally, the change<br />

was revolutionary.<br />


“The Widow’s Mite,” by Ignaz Dullinger, 1803-<br />

1878, Austrian. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS<br />

Through all the years of my<br />

childhood, widows were just<br />

next door. The lady in the<br />

apartment behind us was very old,<br />

lived alone, spoke no English, and<br />

always wore black, but I don’t recall<br />

ever seeing her without a smile. Based<br />

entirely on her expression, I have to<br />

assume the things she said to me were<br />

kind. I couldn’t understand a word of<br />

Italian.<br />

When I was in fifth grade, we moved<br />

to a proper house, and a widow<br />

occupied the tidy place next to ours.<br />

She had lost her husband many years<br />

before in the mining disaster that was<br />

legendary in our town. Her yard was<br />

immaculate, her house well kept.<br />

When I was hawking stuff for school<br />

fundraisers, I could count on her to be<br />

my first customer. When I shoveled<br />

her walk, I knew she would pay me<br />

well.<br />

The widows of my childhood were<br />

generous like the widow of Zarephath<br />

and like the Gospel widow who put<br />

her two small coins into the treasury.<br />

In that sense, they confirmed the data<br />

of revelation. But only in that sense.<br />

Almost everywhere else in the Bible,<br />

widows appear as a symbol of misery.<br />

In the Law of Moses, you’ll find<br />

frequent reference to “the sojourner,<br />

the fatherless, and the widow” (e.g.,<br />

Deuteronomy 27:<strong>19</strong>). These are classes<br />

of people who have no stable home<br />

or regular means of support.<br />

In both the Old Testament and the<br />

New, widowhood is a synonym for<br />

poverty, social isolation, and vulnerability.<br />

They are a protected class in<br />

the law — but we can assume that<br />

their legal protection was routinely<br />

ignored, because the prophets raged<br />

often against this particular injustice<br />

(Ezekiel 22:7, Malachi 3:5).<br />

Even in the New Testament, just<br />

moments after the founding of the<br />

Church, the first Christians settled<br />

into the customary neglect of widows<br />

(Acts 6:1).<br />

So why didn’t any of our neighborhood<br />

widows look oppressed or<br />

destitute?<br />

It has everything to do with the<br />

Christian revolution. In the beatitudes,<br />

the constitution for his<br />

kingdom, Jesus took conditions that<br />

were formerly accursed and declared<br />

them now to be blessed: “Blessed are<br />

20 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

the poor … Blessed are those who<br />

mourn” (Matthew 5:3–4). These<br />

were, in fact, the defining conditions<br />

of widows in Jesus’ time. They were<br />

bereft and impoverished. Jesus knew<br />

this because he was the only son of a<br />

widow, and his choice to be a wandering<br />

rabbi would have dire implications<br />

for his mother’s life.<br />

Yet his mother never faulted him<br />

for this. In fact, she left behind the<br />

poverty she had known and took up<br />

the more radical poverty of her son,<br />

who had “nowhere to lay his head”<br />

(Matthew 8:20).<br />

We have no record of her complaining<br />

about her lot. In fact, she seems<br />

serene as she provokes the launch of<br />

Jesus’ ministry. She simply observes,<br />

in a moment of crisis, “They have<br />

no wine” for the wedding feast; and<br />

then she says to the bystanders, “Do<br />

whatever he tells you.”<br />

As the Gospel unfolds, the widow<br />

Mary emerges as the model disciple.<br />

She is close to Jesus to the last.<br />

Like the other heroic widows of the<br />

Bible — like the widow of Zarephath<br />

and the widow in the treasury — she<br />

has little, but she gives everything she<br />

has. And, as the beatitudes promise,<br />

she is blessed: the Blessed Virgin<br />

Mary, the Blessed Widow Mary.<br />

The sacred writings bear witness to<br />

the Church’s concern for widows.<br />

Visit them in their affliction, says<br />

St. James (1:27). But that’s really no<br />

different from the Old Testament<br />

commands, which were ignored.<br />

What’s revolutionary in the New<br />

Testament is the choice for widowhood.<br />

What’s new is the existence of a<br />

consecrated order within the Church<br />

of women who voluntarily bore the<br />

hardships of widowhood. The Apostle<br />

to the Gentiles urges widows to take<br />

up this life with gusto “and remain<br />

single as I do” (1 Corinthians 7:8). In<br />

the First Letter to Timothy, we find<br />

this life described and prescribed in<br />

detail. It is a life of constant prayer,<br />

work, and hope.<br />

This must have arrived as scandalous<br />

in the Gentile world. It had not been<br />

long since Caesar Augustus had enacted<br />

laws requiring widows to remarry,<br />

for the good of the state. <strong>No</strong>w came<br />

Christianity declaring that widows<br />

“The Crucifixion,” by Master of<br />

Guillaume Lambert, active about<br />

1475-1485, French. | J. PAUL GETTY<br />

MUSEUM<br />

should freely do as God<br />

bid them to do.<br />

This order of widows<br />

seems to have been<br />

extremely popular. It<br />

appears often in the<br />

documentary record of<br />

the early Church. St.<br />

Ignatius of Antioch, writing<br />

around A.D. 107,<br />

referred to its members<br />

as “the virgins known as<br />

widows,” so renowned<br />

were they for their chastity.<br />

His contemporary<br />

St. Polycarp of Smyrna<br />

compared them to “the<br />

altars of God.” Indeed,<br />

the third-century “Didascalia<br />

Apostolorum,”<br />

which, among other<br />

things, sets out the duties<br />

and responsibilities<br />

of laypeople, bishops, and widows, decreed<br />

that widows should be revered<br />

like “the altar of sacrifice.”<br />

The great Fathers — Sts. Basil, Ambrose,<br />

Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom<br />

— wrote letters of counsel to consecrated<br />

widows. In Rome and Antioch<br />

(two cities for which we have reliable<br />

statistics) the order of widows counted<br />

thousands of members.<br />

It was liberating. Traditional Roman<br />

society offered women no place of<br />

their own. A pagan woman found her<br />

identity in the men in her life: her<br />

father, her husband, and her sons. If<br />

she had no man, she was no one. She<br />

had no face before the law. She could<br />

not even testify in court. There was<br />

no flourishing of women in classical<br />

antiquity.<br />

In the Church, however, the most<br />

abject of women — widows — found<br />

themselves at the forefront of great<br />

social movements. They were leaders.<br />

Some, like Fabiola and Olympias,<br />

were among the first founders of<br />

hospitals. Others, like Monica and<br />

Macrina, were teachers and formators<br />

of the intellectual giants of their age.<br />

Still other widows, in fact the majority<br />

of them, quietly did the work that<br />

keeps the Church moving forward:<br />

catechesis, sacramental preparation,<br />

and charitable programs.<br />

The history of the Church could be<br />

convincingly told as the story of such<br />

women. They were refreshingly free<br />

of the clericalist mindset that would<br />

see their lives as less because they<br />

lacked holy orders.<br />

In their poverty, and even in their<br />

grief, they lacked nothing because<br />

they possessed Christ, and they could<br />

fulfill the most heroic ambitions<br />

because they did so in Christ.<br />

Knowing the widows of my childhood,<br />

I have no trouble believing<br />

Christianity’s historical record.<br />

Knowing the historical record, I recall<br />

the widows of my childhood, and I see<br />

no incongruity between the constant<br />

black dress and the constant smile. I<br />

see perfect consistency between the<br />

poverty and the perfectly maintained<br />

house.<br />

Mike Aquilina is a contributing editor<br />

to <strong>Angelus</strong> and the author of “St. Patrick<br />

and His World” (Scepter, $15.99).<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 21




Recently approved Proposition 1<br />

will steer billions toward California’s<br />

mental health and homelessness<br />

crisis. But does it go too far?<br />


A homeless person in San Francisco<br />

sits on a corner in this 2021 file photo. |<br />


Last month, California voters<br />

narrowly approved Proposition 1,<br />

a measure that expands the state’s<br />

mental health and substance abuse<br />

treatment infrastructure by authorizing<br />

$6.4 billion in bond money toward<br />

building treatment facilities and housing<br />

for the homeless.<br />

While supporters have hailed the<br />

measure as an important step in<br />

addressing California’s homelessness<br />

crisis, not everyone is convinced.<br />

Meghan Schrader is an instructor and<br />

mentor at the E4Texas (Texas Center<br />

for Disability Studies) program at the<br />

University of Texas at Austin and is on<br />

the board of the Euthanasia Prevention<br />

Coalition USA. Her experience growing<br />

up with a learning disorder inspired<br />

her to serve on the governing board<br />

of the Boston Autistic Self Advocacy<br />

Network in 2015 and to volunteer as<br />

an education advocate for disabled<br />

students in foster care.<br />

In an interview with <strong>Angelus</strong>, Schrader<br />

shared her concerns about Proposition<br />

1’s potential effects on the mentally<br />

disabled and her thoughts on how<br />

Catholics can help advocate for their<br />

protection.<br />

There is a lot going on in California<br />

at the moment, much of which is<br />

concerning to disabled populations.<br />

What are your thoughts, in particular,<br />

about Proposition 1?<br />

Proposition 1 was sold to the public as<br />

a way to increase housing and treatment<br />

for people with severe mental<br />

illnesses. In reality, California has been<br />

given an inappropriately high level<br />

of latitude to institutionalize people<br />

against their will.<br />

Involuntary treatment was already legal<br />

for hard cases, but now the process<br />

of placing people in institutions has<br />

been streamlined and ramped up. This<br />

will subject people with psychiatric<br />

disabilities to various forms of abuse,<br />

both systemically and interpersonally,<br />

and will intersect with other forms of<br />

oppression, such as racism and poverty.<br />

The motivation behind this program<br />

is not necessarily humane, even if it’s<br />

sold as such. We certainly need better<br />

community options for homeless<br />

people experiencing mental illness,<br />

but Gov. Gavin <strong>News</strong>om proposed this<br />

law to make homeless people disappear<br />

from sight.<br />

He’s not alone in his support for what<br />

disability advocates call “Modern Ugly<br />

Laws;” New York politician Andrew<br />

Yang suggested that homeless New<br />

Yorkers with psychiatric disorders<br />

should be institutionalized so they do<br />

not harm tourism or property values.<br />

President Trump suggested institutionalizing<br />

mentally ill people to stop gun<br />

violence. These sorts of policies stigmatize<br />

and undermine civic equality for<br />

people with psychiatric disorders.<br />

How do you think this would have unfolded<br />

differently if they had listened<br />

to the voices of the disabled? What<br />

are better ways of addressing the very<br />

real problems here?<br />

22 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Institutionalization has a strong historical<br />

link to the eugenics movement,<br />

which still influences contemporary<br />

public policy. Proposition 1 fits into<br />

our country’s deep history of killing,<br />

sterilizing, and confining persons with<br />

disabilities, and I think that if people<br />

listened to the disabled community’s<br />

knowledge about this history, efforts like<br />

Proposition 1 would be less popular.<br />

Complicating the issue is that deinstitutionalization<br />

efforts have sometimes<br />

been abused as a way to save money<br />

instead of a way to redirect or improve<br />

community treatment. Andrew Cuomo<br />

closed a lot of New York’s mental<br />

institutions but never properly<br />

funded or oversaw the community<br />

alternatives.<br />

When President Kennedy<br />

signed the Community Mental<br />

Health Act in <strong>19</strong>63, he promised<br />

federal funding for the alternatives<br />

that were never effectively<br />

provided or overseen. There’s<br />

a pattern of the powers that be<br />

spending the money they save<br />

with deinstitutionalization on<br />

things other than community<br />

support, so that no matter what<br />

system is being used, people<br />

with severe mental illnesses are<br />

ignored and abused.<br />

Unfortunately, this pattern of<br />

setting disabled people’s interests<br />

aside is not unique to mental<br />

health care; it affects all systems<br />

that serve people with disabilities.<br />

Even people interested in social<br />

justice for the able-bodied members of<br />

other disenfranchised groups have been<br />

resistant to redressing these dynamics.<br />

That’s what “systemic ableism” is: a<br />

group of systems intersecting in a way<br />

that favors able-bodied people’s preferences<br />

with grave consequences for people<br />

with disabilities. If disability justice<br />

were more culturally visible, things like<br />

Proposition 1 would be less likely.<br />

I can personally speak to the issue of<br />

inadequate mental health support. I<br />

have experienced episodes of severe<br />

psychiatric disability since my teens.<br />

High-quality treatment facilities can<br />

Meghan Schrader. |<br />


be critically important places of respite<br />

and care, while other psychiatric facilities<br />

can be microcosms of hell; other<br />

facilities being a mixture of both.<br />

The risk of hospitalization is one<br />

of the reasons why community treatment<br />

is so necessary, but the process<br />

of accessing community support is so<br />

dysfunctional that people who need it<br />

never participate. Between 20<strong>19</strong> and<br />

2021, I tried to qualify for Austin, Texas’<br />

assertive community treatment program,<br />

which provides robust, structured<br />

support for people with severe mental<br />

illnesses who are living on their own.<br />

I called 10 different people who<br />

were listed as being associated<br />

with the program. <strong>No</strong>ne of them<br />

even knew what the program<br />

was, so I eventually gave up.<br />

I have also tried to qualify for<br />

services for people with my<br />

neurological disabilities, which<br />

would significantly reduce the<br />

environmental stressors that exacerbate<br />

symptoms of my bipolar<br />

disorder. At the end of a complicated<br />

process, I was disqualified<br />

because my IQ was above the<br />

state cutoff for those services.<br />

These wasteful, bureaucratic dynamics<br />

exist no matter what state<br />

disabled people live in. We need<br />

to fix the dysfunction that exists<br />

for accessing voluntary treatment<br />

and support.<br />

Some in California are trying<br />

to expand physician-assisted<br />

What’s a Catholic to make of Proposition 1?<br />

The passing of Proposition 1 represents the most important<br />

update to California’s mental health care system<br />

in more than 20 years. In addition to the billions in<br />

bond money, it also places strict requirements on how counties<br />

can spend on housing and drug treatment programs.<br />

But its ultimate outcome is hard to predict, said Kathleen<br />

Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic<br />

Conference (CCC). She said the CCC, which represents<br />

the state’s Catholic bishops, did not take a position on the<br />

proposition “due to the many unclear specifications surrounding<br />

the measure.”<br />

Domingo told <strong>Angelus</strong> that organizations that “truly help<br />

the homeless and those with mental illness” weighed in on<br />

both sides of the Prop 1 debate. In addition, because of “clear<br />

evidence that previous attempts to address the homeless crisis<br />

have been futile” and “the excessive amount of funding” that<br />

Prop 1 required, California’s bishops “were not convinced<br />

this new plan would be effective or successful,” she said.<br />

“There is clearly a great need to assist our homeless<br />

brothers and sisters in California, many of whom struggle<br />

with untreated or undertreated mental illness,” Domingo<br />

added. “We will be watching carefully as Prop 1 rolls out in<br />

communities, keeping in mind both the bodily autonomy<br />

of individuals and the call to provide adequate assistance to<br />

those in need.”<br />

— Pablo Kay<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 23

killing to include those who are not<br />

dying. Disabled populations are mentioned<br />

in particular as eligible under<br />

the new law. That law is bad enough<br />

on its own, but what would it mean to<br />

have these two laws together?<br />

Forced institutionalization will amplify<br />

the ugly impact of assisted suicide<br />

on the lives of people with disabilities.<br />

Making suicide a “treatment” for people<br />

with disabilities is abusive enough.<br />

But, some people with “grievous and<br />

irremediable” medical conditions who<br />

also have severe mental illnesses will<br />

absolutely choose to kill themselves<br />

rather than be placed in an institution.<br />

Disabled people living in institutions<br />

will choose to kill themselves just to get<br />

out of there, and staff will encourage<br />

them to do it. This is already in play in<br />

Canada, which legalized forced transfers<br />

of disabled patients to institutions<br />

far away from their families at the same<br />

time that it legalized MAiD (Medical<br />

Assistance in Dying) for disabled people.<br />

So, California is setting the stage<br />

to follow in Canada’s violent, ableist<br />

footsteps.<br />

Increasing forced institutionalization<br />

while expanding assisted suicide to people<br />

with disabilities furthers able-bodied<br />

supremacy. This combination of laws<br />

allows disabled people to have the<br />

unfettered “choice” of suicide, but not<br />

community support. Disabled people<br />

will be eliminated, reflecting our societal<br />

indifference to — and often hatred<br />

of — disabled people.<br />

What are some ways that individual<br />

Catholics and Catholic institutions<br />

can resist the cultural forces pushing<br />

in these terrible directions?<br />

Catholics must recognize that<br />

Proposition 1 and laws facilitating<br />

assisted suicide are the final blow after<br />

a lifetime of abuse and oppression.<br />

Early Christians and Jews took the<br />

lead in opposing the pagan practice of<br />

infanticide for disabled babies. Today’s<br />

Catholics must nurture the longstanding<br />

overlap between Christian ethics<br />

and disability justice, and they should<br />

collaborate closely with the disability<br />

justice movement’s broader goals.<br />

Catholics must not help the disabled<br />

community fight assisted suicide and<br />

then vote for things like Proposition 1<br />

— they should defeat both.<br />

They must keep James 2:3 in mind<br />

and welcome people with severe<br />

mental illnesses into their communities,<br />

even if that process feels uncomfortable.<br />

And they should consider<br />

Christ’s statement in John 10:9-11<br />

that he came to give people “life more<br />

abundantly.” Providing robust support<br />

for disabled people is a way of making<br />

that a reality.<br />

Lastly, they should think about<br />

fighting institutionalization, assisted<br />

suicide, and ableist bias in terms of Isaiah<br />

61:1: “He has chosen me and sent<br />

me to bring good news to the poor, to<br />

heal the broken-hearted, to announce<br />

release to captives and freedom to<br />

those in prison.”<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.<br />

24 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

AD REM<br />


Palms that speak in Silver Lake<br />

Altar servers lead the way in St. Teresa of Avila<br />

Church’s Palm Sunday procession through the streets<br />

of Silver Lake on March 24. | MIKE GOULDING<br />

It is hard to imagine what the Silver<br />

Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles<br />

looked like in <strong>19</strong>21, the year that St.<br />

Teresa of Avila Church was founded.<br />

The Glendale Freeway offramp that<br />

faces the church doors today wasn’t<br />

there. It was most assuredly a lot quieter<br />

then, without the constant drone of car<br />

traffic. And there were certainly no hipsters<br />

— or the pricey homes they live<br />

in — surrounding St. Teresa’s in <strong>19</strong>21.<br />

Other terms often associated with Silver<br />

Lake, such as “gentrification” and “yuppies,”<br />

had not yet been minted, and<br />

Silver Lake was far from trendy.<br />

The century that has passed since has<br />

seen a lot of change — and challenge<br />

— for St. Teresa’s.<br />

In many respects this small parish is a<br />

microcosm of the Archdiocese of Los<br />

Angeles in general. The Silver Lake<br />

of today is much more culturally and<br />

ethnically diverse than it was when<br />

the church’s cornerstone was laid, and<br />

probably less family oriented.<br />

There has also been another important<br />

demographic upheaval that challenges<br />

all parishes. In <strong>19</strong>21, the U.S.<br />

birthrate was 3.29 children per woman.<br />

In 2021, the rate was 1.78.<br />

Those changes, together with the<br />

increasing financial burden on many<br />

parents, surely led to the difficult<br />

decision a few weeks ago to close St.<br />

Teresa’s school. The parish’s roster of<br />

registered families is just under 200.<br />

Yet, like so many other parishes across<br />

the archdiocese, St. Teresa abides, and<br />

in doing so becomes a mirror of the<br />

faith universal.<br />

Many of the homes clustered around<br />

St. Teresa’s probably don’t boast the<br />

square footage of a studio apartment,<br />

but still command price tags north of a<br />

million dollars. If there are families that<br />

26 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</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 />

attend St. Teresa who live in some of<br />

these homes, it is probably because they<br />

have done so for decades and now, like<br />

a lot of us, live in a home they could<br />

not possibly afford to buy if they were in<br />

the market today.<br />

Despite what appears to be an<br />

insurmountable challenge, parish<br />

administrator Father Chidi Ekpendu is<br />

determined to revitalize his parish.<br />

Along with his associate at St. Teresa,<br />

Father Pedro Valdez, the strategy is to<br />

keep the current parish membership<br />

engaged, active, and inspired while<br />

at the same time looking outward to<br />

draw new people in. In just the past few<br />

months, they say, they’ve seen evidence<br />

for hope.<br />

“I see new faces at Mass,<br />

and it feels we are moving<br />

in the right direction,<br />

even if it is only one step<br />

at a time,” Ekpendu told<br />

me.<br />

These priests are not<br />

basing their hopes on a<br />

miraculous demographic<br />

shift in their neighborhood,<br />

or a sudden baby<br />

boom — although I am<br />

sure they would not be<br />

averse to that kind of intervention.<br />

In the meantime,<br />

Ekpendu believes<br />

there are other important<br />

“steps” he can make, and<br />

they include taking the<br />

words of Pope Francis —<br />

“I want the Church in the<br />

street” — to heart. This<br />

Palm Sunday gave him<br />

a chance to put Francis’<br />

words into action and<br />

show his Silver Lake neighbors that “a<br />

lively church makes for a lively faith.”<br />

The 11 a.m. Mass of the passion of<br />

Our Lord started to the sound of the<br />

peals of church bells. I found myself in<br />

a large contingent outside the church,<br />

all of us with palms in our hands. After<br />

the blessing of the palms, it began: a<br />

procession not inside the Church, not<br />

in and around the Church parking lot,<br />

but out on the streets of Silver Lake for<br />

all to see.<br />

Ekpendu’s message was as basic as it<br />

gets. “Our goal is to let people know in<br />

our neighborhood that we are here, that<br />

we are joyful and that we proclaim the<br />

good news of Jesus.”<br />

That message may be a tough sell<br />

in one of the most secular enclaves<br />

found in the increasingly secular city<br />

of Los Angeles. But you would not<br />

have known that on this Palm Sunday,<br />

walking in procession with this joyful<br />

and faith-filled bunch of people.<br />

As I walked amid the throng up the<br />

steep hills this part of Silver Lake is<br />

renowned for, we encountered several<br />

onlookers along the way. There were a<br />

few people out walking their dogs who<br />

stopped and smiled at us. I even noticed<br />

someone recording the procession<br />

from their kitchen window. I wondered<br />

Father Chidi Ekpendu, administrator at<br />

St. Teresa of Avila, blesses palms before<br />

the procession. | MIKE GOULDING<br />

if some of the bystanders thought we<br />

were part of a Horticulturists of the<br />

World Unite march. But this march<br />

had no signs, no angry slogans, only<br />

songs of praise and a beautiful sense of<br />

worship.<br />

Ekpendu realizes that apart from<br />

the disaffected Catholics (which can<br />

be found anywhere), Silver Lake is a<br />

place with a substantial population of<br />

“nones”: those with no religious affiliation<br />

whatsoever.<br />

He sees it as missionary territory.<br />

Maybe the person with the chihuahua<br />

in the baby stroller saw this procession<br />

and was briefly taken back to a time<br />

when she would attend Mass on Easter.<br />

Maybe the person recording the procession<br />

on her phone through her kitchen<br />

window was reminded of a childhood<br />

that included the Triduum.<br />

Or as Ekpendu put it: “If only one person<br />

sees the procession and comes to<br />

see what St. Teresa of Avila is all about,<br />

that will be a win.”<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 27



Eighty years later, the little-known story of a Catholic woman’s<br />

Holocaust heroics gets the treatment it deserves.<br />

Sophie Nélisse in a scene<br />

from the film “Irena’s Vow.”<br />

| IMDB<br />


Soon after the Nazis invaded Poland<br />

in <strong>19</strong>39, they set out to make<br />

it a “Jew-free” territory. Between<br />

<strong>19</strong>39 and <strong>19</strong>45, German officers<br />

oversaw the imprisonment, deportation,<br />

and eventual murder of approximately<br />

3 million Jews.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t all Poles turned their back on<br />

their fellow countrymen. There were<br />

families like that of Józef and Wiktoria<br />

Ulma and their seven children, Catholics<br />

who chose to shelter Jewish friends<br />

in their own home and were eventually<br />

executed by the Nazis for doing so. Last<br />

year, the Ulmas were declared martyrs<br />

by Pope Francis and beatified.<br />

Despite the terror that such episodes<br />

were meant to instill in the Polish population,<br />

many heroic men and women<br />

continued to hide Jewish fugitives until<br />

the end of World War II. Among them<br />

was Irena Gut, whose incredible life<br />

story is told in the new film “Irena’s<br />

Vow,” playing in theaters <strong>April</strong> 15-16.<br />

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Louise<br />

Archambault, “Irena’s Vow” tells an<br />

inspiring story of courage and self-neglect<br />

with the help of a strong script<br />

by Israeli-American screenwriter Dan<br />

Gordon and authentic performances<br />

from a cast led by Sophie Nélisse (“Yellowjackets,”<br />

“The Book Thief”).<br />

Like the Ulma family (and Oskar<br />

Schindler, the protagonist of Spielberg’s<br />

<strong>19</strong>93 epic historical drama), Gut was<br />

honored as a “Righteous Among the<br />

Nations” by the Israeli Holocaust Commission;<br />

a title given to non-Jews who<br />

risked their lives by saving Jews during<br />

the Holocaust.<br />

St. Pope John Paul II also bestowed a<br />

special blessing on Gut in <strong>19</strong>95. Today<br />

her story is featured in a permanent<br />

exhibit in the United States Holocaust<br />

Memorial Museum in Washington,<br />

D.C.<br />

Gut, a young Polish nurse, was put in<br />

charge of a group of Jews employed as<br />

tailors and seamstresses in a Nazi-run<br />

hotel in her hometown of Radom.<br />

<strong>No</strong>ne of her employees were actually<br />

professional, but like others, had lied<br />

about their abilities and credentials to<br />

escape the first wave of persecution.<br />

She witnessed firsthand the horrors<br />

of the Nazi genocide. In a harrowing<br />

scene, we see her witness the vicious<br />

murder of a Jewish child and mother,<br />

the child crushed to the ground and the<br />

mother shot at point blank as she cries<br />

over her dead child.<br />

Gut’s vow, for which the film is<br />

named, was to never let it happen<br />

again. If she could do anything to save a<br />

Jewish life, she would. Archamabault’s<br />

film depicts how bold, dangerous, and<br />

unrealistic her plan was.<br />

Her boss, Wehrmacht Major Eduard<br />

Rügemer, moved to a large mansion<br />

28 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

equisitioned from a Jewish family and<br />

asked Irena to become his housekeeper.<br />

She accepted and proceeded to hide all<br />

of her 12 Jewish employees in the Nazi<br />

officer’s house.<br />

Over the next two years, Gut succeeded<br />

in hiding her friends until the end<br />

of the German occupation, concealing<br />

them amid countless Nazi parties, a<br />

blackmail scheme, and even the birth<br />

of a child.<br />

During the two years of hiding, one<br />

of the women became pregnant (the<br />

group included married couples).<br />

Delivering the baby while hiding, and<br />

keeping it hidden, seemed impossible,<br />

so one of the Jewish refugees, a doctor,<br />

asked Gut to provide him with the<br />

means to perform an abortion.<br />

Gut refused to do so, citing her Catholic<br />

faith. “I am not going to help Hitler<br />

get another Jewish baby.” “If we don’t<br />

have this baby” she adds, “something<br />

else will die inside of us too.”<br />

The child was born, and miraculously<br />

survived. At the end of the film, you<br />

can see real footage of Gut’s encounter<br />

with him after the war. “This is my<br />

baby,” she says in the clip as she hugs<br />

him.<br />

Gut’s heroic protection of the unborn,<br />

whom she regarded as no less worthy<br />

of risking her life for than the adult<br />

parents, echo Mother Teresa’s timeless<br />

words on abortion.<br />

The late saint regularly reminded<br />

wealthy western countries — particularly<br />

ones that expressed concern for the<br />

death of children from poverty or war<br />

in poorer countries — that they were<br />

forgetting the “war against the child”<br />

waged within their borders, and the<br />

“millions being killed.”<br />

According to Mother Teresa, one has<br />

to be willing to suffer, to risk one’s life<br />

and time, to ensure that the child and<br />

mother are taken care of. “How do<br />

we persuade a woman not to have an<br />

abortion?” she once asked. “As always,<br />

we must persuade her with love and we<br />

remind ourselves that love means to be<br />

willing to give until it hurts.”<br />

Gut was willing to give until it hurts,<br />

and her sacrifice bore much fruit. All<br />

of the Jews she hid survived, and so<br />

did Gut, who after the war married an<br />

American citizen and moved to the<br />

U.S. She died in Orange County in<br />

2003.<br />

As winds of war blow over much of the<br />

world, this film presents an inspiring<br />

example of what it means to live one’s<br />

faith in dramatic times. It is an appropriate<br />

movie for the Easter season, as it<br />

presents us with a woman who followed<br />

to the letter Jesus’ command at the Last<br />

Supper: “This is my commandment:<br />

love one another as I love you. <strong>No</strong> one<br />

has greater love than this, to lay down<br />

one’s life for one’s friends. You are my<br />

friends if you do what I command you.”<br />

Stefano Rebeggiani is an associate<br />

professor of classics at the University of<br />

Southern California.<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 29



Dante and the poem worth dying for<br />

Antonio Fazzini appears as Dante Alighieri<br />

in “Dante: Inferno to Paradise,” streaming on<br />

PBS until <strong>April</strong> 15. | OSV NEWS/TIM CRAGG,<br />


Dante Alighieri (1265-1321),<br />

Italian poet and moral philosopher,<br />

authored “The Divine<br />

Comedy.” His three-part journey<br />

through hell, purgatory, and paradise,<br />

with the Latin poet Virgil as his guide<br />

and the ethereal Beatrice as his muse,<br />

is perhaps the greatest work ever written<br />

on romantic love.<br />

Dante started the “Inferno,” his<br />

description through the nine circles<br />

of hell, in 1307, five years after he was<br />

exiled from Florence on politically<br />

motivated corruption charges.<br />

Reams have been written about this<br />

iconic poem: Dante’s innovative jettisoning<br />

of Latin in favor of the Italian<br />

vernacular, the terza rima (third rhyme)<br />

that makes translating so fiendishly<br />

difficult, the debates over which of the<br />

109 and counting English translations<br />

has remained most faithful to the text.<br />

What we do know is that the poem<br />

was inspired by Dante’s first encounter<br />

with the real-life Beatrice Portinari on<br />

the streets of his native Florence, possibly<br />

when he was only 8 or 9.<br />

In “Religion and Love in Dante:<br />

The Theology of Romantic Love”<br />

(Kessinger Publishing, $18.95), Charles<br />

Williams describes her effect on him<br />

like this:<br />

“The heart, where [to him] ‘the spirit<br />

of life’ dwelled, exclaimed to him, at<br />

that first meeting: ‘Behold, a god stronger<br />

than I, who is to come and rule over<br />

me.’ The brain declared: ‘<strong>No</strong>w your<br />

beatitude has appeared to you.’ And the<br />

liver [where natural emotions, such as<br />

sex, inhabited] said: ‘O misery! How I<br />

shall be disturbed henceforward.’ ”<br />

Heady stuff — but if you’re anything<br />

like me, you’ve read the “Inferno” a<br />

few times, mesmerized by its gruesome<br />

punishments, and more or less skipped<br />

over “Purgatorio” and “Paradiso.”<br />

Enter PBS with a fantastic two-part,<br />

four-hour documentary film called<br />

“DANTE: Inferno to Paradise.”<br />

The series puts this epic poem,<br />

almost universally regarded as one of<br />

the pinnacles of Western literature, in<br />

historical, theological, political, literary,<br />

and very human perspective.<br />

30 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

Heather King is an award-winning<br />

author, speaker, and workshop leader.<br />

Through images, music, dramatic<br />

reenactments, voiceover, and commentary<br />

from scholars around the world, we<br />

learn of Dante’s childhood, adolescence,<br />

and young adulthood.<br />

He entered into an arranged marriage<br />

and his wife bore four children, but<br />

Beatrice — who had also married, and<br />

died in 1290 — never left his mind nor<br />

heart.<br />

Exiled under penalty of death from his<br />

beloved Florence in March 1302, Dante<br />

would roam impoverished, mostly<br />

about Italy, for the rest of his life.<br />

At first, he hoped the vast poem he<br />

had in mind might both confirm his<br />

greatness as a writer and grant him<br />

reentry into Florence.<br />

But when the “Inferno” was published<br />

and circulated around Florence, by<br />

1317, instead the powers-that-be —<br />

many of whom were skewered in its<br />

verses — were enraged. Dante’s exile<br />

was now final and complete.<br />

Christianity had always conceived of<br />

heaven and hell, but purgatory was in<br />

a sense Dante’s invention. Did such a<br />

place of purification exist? If so, where<br />

was it? What was it for? In imagining<br />

such a place in the afterlife, the series<br />

observes, Dante had a huge influence,<br />

however indirect, on the development<br />

of Catholic doctrine.<br />

Good Friday marks the beginning of<br />

Dante’s journey through hell; “Purgatorio,”<br />

the penitential leg of the pilgrimage,<br />

starts on Easter Sunday.<br />

While hell is static, frozen, utterly<br />

stagnant, “Purgatorio” is conceived as<br />

an ascent up a mountain with its souls<br />

in constant movement.<br />

When he finally reaches the top of the<br />

mountain, Dante is faced with walking<br />

through the walls of purifying flames<br />

through which every other traveler<br />

must pass. Beatrice awaits him on the<br />

other side, Virgil reminds him. So he<br />

braves the fire and, in “Paradiso,” meets<br />

her at last.<br />

Just as in real life, the long-anticipated<br />

meeting doesn’t go entirely smoothly<br />

— but if you want to see how things<br />

turn out, watch the series, then read all<br />

three parts of the poem.<br />

“The Divine Comedy” can be interpreted<br />

many different ways: as a journey<br />

from sin to redemption; as an attempt<br />

to resolve the conflict between erotic<br />

and spiritual love; as the movement<br />

from fearful ego-based possessiveness to<br />

the transformed consciousness that at<br />

last allows us to know the “love which<br />

moves the sun and the other stars.”<br />

However you read it, Dante laid down<br />

his life for it. His truest abode became<br />

the poem; the poem became his<br />

destiny.<br />

As a human being, as an artist, and<br />

as a follower of Christ, he saw that his<br />

vocation was to continue to speak the<br />

truth — and so he did, and does, for us.<br />

By 1321, the narrative of the poem<br />

and Dante’s life had converged almost<br />

completely. Hollowed out by the rigors<br />

of exile, and of writing, he completed<br />

his masterwork at last.<br />

In September, he made an ambassadorial<br />

mission to Venice at the request<br />

of his patron, contracted malaria, and<br />

died.<br />

Florence almost immediately regretted<br />

its mistake and tried to reclaim its<br />

native son — though it took the city<br />

council almost 700 years, until June<br />

2008, to rescind the death sentence of<br />

arguably the greatest poet the world has<br />

ever known.<br />

In “Dark Wood to White Rose”<br />

(Morning Light Press, $34.95), Dante<br />

scholar Helen M. Luke observed: “The<br />

man who wrote the last canto of the<br />

‘Paradiso’ knew that we can never come<br />

to this vision by any shortcut. We cannot<br />

bypass the experience of hell; and<br />

still less can we evade the long struggle<br />

of purgatory, through which we come<br />

to maturity in love.”<br />

Or as the series concludes: “Dante<br />

meant the poem to change our lives.<br />

Your life matters. Take care of it.”<br />

<strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 31



Scott Hahn is founder of the<br />

St. Paul Center for Biblical<br />

Theology; stpaulcenter.com.<br />

Joseph and Herod: Parallel lives<br />

There are few subjects so challenging for writers as St.<br />

Joseph. And yet the Church’s calendar presents us<br />

with two feast days in his honor. One is just around<br />

the corner, on May 1. We can hardly avoid saying something,<br />

but what is there to say?<br />

Joseph seems to go out of his way to be uncooperative. In<br />

all the reliable records he is as tight-lipped as an NSA agent.<br />

Christian authors have tended to make up for the dearth of<br />

information by supplying homiletics laced with legends. At<br />

the end of such treatments, Joseph can seem more distant<br />

from us than he was on page one.<br />

Faced with this challenge, my friend Mike Aquilina wrote a<br />

book about Joseph anyway — and he succeeded by doubling<br />

the difficulty. In “St. Joseph and His World” (Scepter Publishers,<br />

$<strong>19</strong>.95),<br />

he composed<br />

“parallel lives” of<br />

a most improbable<br />

pair of<br />

historical figures.<br />

He told the<br />

story of the Holy<br />

Family’s patriarch<br />

alongside the life<br />

of the family’s<br />

arch-nemesis. He<br />

gave an account<br />

of Joseph’s days<br />

as they were<br />

bound up with<br />

the career of one<br />

of history’s vilest<br />

despots: King<br />

Herod the Great.<br />

And this is a<br />

breakthrough because<br />

we cannot<br />

begin to understand<br />

the life of<br />

either man until<br />

we appreciate the<br />

life of the other.<br />

We may not<br />

“Statue of St. Joseph as Carpenter.” Photo by<br />

Dennis Jarvis. | WIKIMEDIA COMMONS<br />

want to spend<br />

time reading<br />

about Herod’s<br />

depravity, but apart<br />

from it we cannot<br />

truly see Joseph’s<br />

virtue. Herod<br />

loomed large in<br />

the life of the Holy<br />

Family. Joseph was<br />

a carpenter; and<br />

Herod was perhaps<br />

history’s most lavish<br />

patron of the craft<br />

of carpentry. Herod<br />

was pretender to the<br />

throne of David;<br />

and Joseph was a legitimate<br />

heir of that<br />

throne. Herod’s daily<br />

decisions affected<br />

the well-being of<br />

Joseph’s village, his<br />

clan, and his trade.<br />

“Herod the Great.” Photo by José Luiz. | WIKIMEDIA<br />


Herod’s programs and whims exercised a profound influence<br />

on their economy and security.<br />

Joseph must have been concerned about such matters, but<br />

he never shows it in the historical record. What he shows us<br />

is prayer and work. So Aquilina shows us how Joseph prayed<br />

and — in literally nuts-and-bolts terms — how a typical carpenter<br />

worked in those days: what tools he used, what items<br />

he crafted, where he got his training, and how he got to and<br />

from his job sites.<br />

What we discover, between the lines, is that there were, in<br />

the first century B.C., two guiding hands in history. There<br />

was the providential hand of the Lord God. And there was<br />

a demonic hand manipulating the mad king Herod. As a<br />

result, there were two rival accounts of kingship; two rival<br />

ideas of Temple-building; and two rival stories of salvation.<br />

Joseph was not the only Jew to recognize this, but he was<br />

perhaps the most important one. Those who recognized it<br />

were forced to make difficult choices — and face terrifying<br />

consequences.<br />

There is much we will never know about Joseph — or his<br />

wife and Divine Son — unless we come to see them in their<br />

cultural context, and in contrast with the counternarrative<br />

that centers on Herod.<br />

32 • ANGELUS • <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong>

■ SATURDAY, APRIL 13<br />

Along the Way: A Pilgrim Walk. Mary & Joseph Retreat<br />

Center, 5300 Crest Rd., Rancho Palos Verdes, 7 a.m.-1<br />

p.m. 4.8-mile walk through the streets and trails of Palos<br />

Verdes to the sacred grounds of the retreat center. All<br />

ages and faiths welcome. Cost: $40/person, $60/family,<br />

includes picnic lunch. Visit maryjoseph.org/event.<br />

Rummage Sale. St. Barnabas Church, 3955 Orange Ave.,<br />

Long Beach, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Accepting donations. Call James<br />

at 562-221-3296.<br />

Introduction to Bible Study Leadership. Zoom, 9-10:30<br />

a.m. Information session will explain the Catholic Bible<br />

Institute’s three-year process of studying Scripture.<br />

Registration not required. For more, visit lacatholics.org/<br />

catholic-la-events.<br />

Les Petits Chanteurs de France Choir Performance. St.<br />

Bede the Venerable Church, 215 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada<br />

Flintridge, 7 p.m. Internationally renowned French boys’<br />

choir will perform Handel’s Messiah and other wellknown<br />

pieces. Free concert, open to all.<br />

■ SUNDAY, APRIL 14<br />

Diaconate Virtual Information Day. Zoom, 2-4 p.m.<br />

Email Deacon Melecio Zamora at dm2011@la-archdiocese.org.<br />

“La Nuove Musiche: The Baroque Revolution” Concert.<br />

St. Andrew Church, 311 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 7:30<br />

p.m. Performed by world renowned musicians Jordi Savall<br />

and Hesperion XXI. For more information, visit standrewpasadena.org/concerts.<br />


Free Narcan Training. St. Louis of France Church, 13935<br />

E. Temple Ave., La Puente, 2-3:30 p.m. Free English in-person<br />

training led by End Overdose in how to prevent an<br />

opioid overdose. Lunch provided. For more information,<br />

call the parish office at 626-918-8314 or email info@stlof.<br />

org.<br />

Record Clearing Virtual Clinic for Veterans. 5-8 p.m.<br />

Legal team will help with traffic tickets, quality of life<br />

citations, and expungement of criminal convictions. Free<br />

clinic is open to all Southern California veterans who have<br />

eligible cases in a California State Superior Court. Participants<br />

can call in or join online via Zoom. Registration<br />

required. Call 213-896-6537 or email inquiries-veterans@<br />

lacba.org. For more information, visit lacba.org/veterans.<br />

■ SATURDAY, APRIL 20<br />

Blossoming Spring: Cultivating Your Future. Mary &<br />

Joseph Retreat Center, 5300 Crest Rd., Rancho Palos<br />

Verdes, 2-5 p.m. Join on Earth Day to look at phases of<br />

change and growth with exercises in mindfulness, nature<br />

immersion, and spiritual reflection. Visit maryjoseph.org<br />

for more.<br />


Shower of Roses: Cloistered Carmelite Nuns Auxiliary<br />

Annual Benefit Luncheon. San Gabriel Country Club,<br />

350 E. Hermosa Dr., San Gabriel, 10:30 a.m. social hour,<br />

raffle, silent auction, 12 p.m. luncheon and fashion show.<br />

Benefit celebrates 100 years of service for the Cloistered<br />

Carmelite Nuns. Cost: $75/person. RSVP to Kathy<br />

Cardoza at 626-570-9012 by <strong>April</strong> 15, <strong>2024</strong>. Send checks<br />

payable to Cloistered Carmelite Nuns Auxiliary to 710<br />

Lindaraxa Drive South, Alhambra, CA 91801.<br />

■ SATURDAY, APRIL 27<br />

Bereavement Retreat. St. Brigid Church, 5214 S. Western<br />

Ave., Los Angeles, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Register at bereavement.<br />

ministry@yahoo.com. Cost: $60/person, covers all food<br />

and materials. Pay by Zelle to 562-631-8844 by <strong>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>.<br />

■ SUNDAY, APRIL 28<br />

Sunday Afternoon Concert. Padre Serra Church, 5205<br />

Upload Rd., Camarillo, 3 p.m. Dominic McAller, piano,<br />

and Dave Reynolds, guitar, will perform music by Bach,<br />

Carulli, Handel, Haydn, and more. Free and open to the<br />

public; donations accepted.<br />

■ THURSDAY, MAY 2<br />

Bereavement Support Group. St. Mary of the Assumption<br />

Church, 7215 Newlin Ave., Whittier, 7-8:30 p.m.<br />

Five-week support group will meet every Thursday in May.<br />

RSVP by <strong>April</strong> 29 to Cathy at bereavement.ministry@<br />

yahoo.com or text 562-631-8844.<br />

■ FRIDAY, MAY 3<br />

Bereavement Support Group. St. Mary of the Assumption<br />

Church, 7215 Newlin Ave., Whittier, 9-10:30 a.m.<br />

Five-week support group will meet every Friday in May.<br />

RSVP by <strong>April</strong> 29 to Cathy at bereavement.ministry@<br />

yahoo.com or text 562-631-8844.<br />

<strong>No</strong>ah’s Flood: LA Opera. Cathedral of Our Lady of the<br />

Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m. and<br />

May 4, 7:30 p.m. The LA Opera presents the story of<br />

<strong>No</strong>ah’s ark set to music, featuring 300 performers of all<br />

ages. Free admission but advance tickets required. Visit<br />

LAOpera.org/<strong>No</strong>ah.<br />

■ SATURDAY, MAY 4<br />

Remain in My Love: Separated & Divorced Conference.<br />

Christ Cathedral, 13280 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, 9<br />

a.m.-4 p.m. Separated and divorced Catholics are invited<br />

to a conference of spiritual healing, encouragement, and<br />

fellowship. Topics include: self-care, emotional healing,<br />

and parenting children of divorce. Keynote speaker: Joe<br />

Sikorra, LMFT. Cost: $40/person, includes lunch and material.<br />

Register at https://forms.office.com/r/zrK0Ukfnhf.<br />

■ TUESDAY, MAY 7<br />

South Bay Catholic Jewish Women’s Dialogue Conference.<br />

St. Lawrence Martyr Church, <strong>19</strong>40 S. Prospect Ave.,<br />

Redondo Beach, 8:30 a.m. “Are You There, God? It’s Me.<br />

My Relationship with God”: Rabbi Rebeccah Yussman and<br />

Anne Hansen discuss. Visit sbcjwd.com to register. Cost:<br />

$25/person, includes continental breakfast and lunch.<br />

■ WEDNESDAY, MAY 8<br />

St. Padre Pio Mass. St. Anne Church, 340 10th St., Seal<br />

Beach, 1 p.m. Celebrant: Father Al Baca. For more information,<br />

call 562-537-4526.<br />

■ FRIDAY, MAY 10<br />

Bereavement Retreat. St. Mary of the Assumption<br />

Church, 7215 Newlin Ave., Whittier, 6-9 p.m. and<br />

Saturday, May 11, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Register at bereavement.<br />

ministry@yahoo.com. Cost: $75/person, covers all food<br />

and materials. Pay by Zelle to 562-631-8844 by May 3.<br />

■ SATURDAY, MAY 11<br />

Santacruzan Marian Celebration. Cathedral of Our Lady<br />

of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, 2:30 p.m.<br />

Filipino Catholic community will celebrate with a pre-procession<br />

at 2:30 p.m. and Mass at 3 p.m.<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>April</strong> <strong>19</strong>, <strong>2024</strong> • ANGELUS • 33

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