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‘The Chosen’ actor Paras Patel says portraying Matthew has ‘given me my purpose’

Actor Paras Patel as Matthew in the hit series “The Chosen.” / Credit: “The Chosen”

CNA Staff, Jun 12, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

[Editor’s note: The following article may contain spoilers.]

Season 4 of the hit series “The Chosen” has been officially released for streaming exclusively on “The Chosen” app, and fan-favorite Paras Patel, who portrays Matthew in the series, recently spoke to CNA about his role in the show and how it has impacted him as a person. 

The actor said that being able to portray Matthew, specifically as someone who has autism, and have so many people share how his portrayal has touched their lives has “really given me my purpose as an artist.”

“The Chosen” is the first-ever multi-season show about the life of Jesus and became the most successful crowdfunded TV series or film project in history. 

Season 4 focuses on the time leading up to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and includes important biblical moments such as the raising of Lazarus and the healing of the Roman Centurion’s servant.

Jesus and his disciples during Season 4 of "The Chosen." Credit: The Chosen/Mike Kubeisy
Jesus and his disciples during Season 4 of "The Chosen." Credit: The Chosen/Mike Kubeisy

After many episodes of tension between Matthew and Simon Peter, a heartfelt scene of forgiveness between the two serves as a reminder of Jesus’ message to forgive “not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). 

Patel explained that his character started his “apology tour” in Season 3 when Matthew reconciled with his parents. 

“Matthew, knowing who he is and becoming the person that he is, he always wants to make right of his wrongs — he feels the guilt and the shame,” he said. “So that carries into Season 4.”

He added: “That’s something that I love when I portray Matthew, because it really teaches us as the audience of what that can look like and kind of helps us want to do the right things in our lives with obstacles that have come our way.”

Fans of the show highlight the growth witnessed in Matthew since Season 1. Patel likes to describe the growth as Matthew becoming “activated.”

“I like to say that Matthew, when he was at the tax booth, was not activated, meaning nobody saw anything in him. Nobody valued him, people just ignored him. They spit on him. They didn’t give him his worth,” he said. “And it took one person that kind of shined a light straight into his heart and gave him the confidence he needed to make him into one of the most famous scribes in history.”

Patel said he has “learned so much” from playing Matthew and pointed out that “it’s so rare to have a character really impacting you.”

“Matthew teaches me so much about just… honestly, it sounds simple… but it’s just listening,” he shared. “Listening to one another, hearing other people’s thoughts, giving them space to feel comfortable, giving them a safe space to be open.”

He added: “I learn about not judging others so easily. I learn about respecting one another and just really trying to hear someone else out and hear their heart and not judge a book by its cover.”

Patel has shared that fans around the world send him messages thanking him for his portrayal of someone with autism because it gives them or their children someone they can relate to. Because of this, Patel has become a proud advocate for the autism community.

“It means a lot because a lot of times when you’re working in this industry, you’re just kind of doing job to job,” Patel said. “So, being an ambassador for the autism community has been so special for me because I never thought that I would be kind of the face of it through our show, and it’s something that I am very passionate about.”

While doing press in Brazil for Season 4, Patel told CNA that he encountered several people thanking him for his portrayal of Matthew and thanking him for providing a term for his behaviors because they previously did not have a word for autism. 

“Several times when I was there, I was thanked for the show. They said, ‘Thank you for letting us know what this is. We didn’t know the word is autistic for this behavior,’” he recalled. “They didn’t know the word for it until they watched the show. So that is literally the impact that the show has had globally and it’s very moving to be a part of.”

The highly anticipated release of Season 4 comes after a delay due to legal issues between “The Chosen” and Angel Studios. 

After episode one was released on June 2, the show’s app climbed to the No. 1 overall app in the Apple TV app store and to the No. 2 free app in the mobile iOS App Store. 

The season premiere had an impressive 3.5 million streams following the release of Episode 1 and 4.2 million streams across households in the U.S. over the first three days. During the first 72 hours, the stream on YouTube and the app alone yielded more than 2.5 million total viewers.

CNA's full interview with Patel can be viewed in full below.

Republicans nix amendment to spending bill that restricted abortion pill access 

Hundreds of pro-life and pro-abortion demonstrators hold rallies alongside each other as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the high-stakes abortion pill case Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration, March 26, 2024. / Credit: Peter Pinedo/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 11, 2024 / 18:55 pm (CNA).

Republican lawmakers chose not to include language in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) spending bill that would restrict the abortion pill mifepristone — but are continuing with other pro-life efforts in some of its appropriations proposals.

The House Appropriations Committee, led by Republicans, unveiled its agriculture funding proposal for fiscal year 2025 on Monday, June 10. Lawmakers did not include language that would have prohibited pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS from dispensing the abortion pill mifepristone, even though that had previously been one of the caucus’ priorities. It also left out language that would have reversed the FDA’s approval of dispensing the abortion pill via the mail, another earlier priority.

Those provisions had been included in the Republican funding proposals the previous year. However, the effort fell apart because of Democratic opposition. To become laws, the spending proposals need to pass the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden. 

The FDA changed its regulations on mifepristone in December 2021 to allow prescriptions to be received through the mail. It again changed its regulations in January 2023 to allow retail pharmacy chains to provide the abortion pill to patients who have a prescription. The new rules were part of efforts in Biden’s administration to expand abortion access. 

Mifepristone regulations allow doctors to prescribe the drug to abort an unborn child up to 10 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, at which point the child has a fetal heartbeat, brain activity, and partially developed eyes, ears, lips, and nostrils. The drug works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which cuts off the unborn child’s supply of oxygen and nutrients. A second pill, misoprostol, is taken shortly thereafter to expel the body.

Rather, the nearly $25.9 billion bill focuses on support for farmers and ranchers, funding for agriculture research, deregulation, rural broadband funds, and food and drug safety among other things. The proposal is nearly $2.7 billion less than Biden’s proposal, leaving out his requests for funding for climate hubs, pay hikes for federal employees, and other funding priorities.

“This … bill prioritizes U.S. agriculture, food security, and a safe medical supply,” Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican, said in a statement.

“It strengthens our rural communities by investing in broadband and vital nutrition programs,” Cole said. “Safeguards to protect our farmlands from being ceded to foreign adversaries are also included. The legislation supports our food supply, producers, and American families.”

Pro-life efforts in separate appropriation bill

Although Republican lawmakers sidestepped pro-life language in the agriculture appropriation bill, the caucus did back pro-life language in legislation to fund the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The legislation provides funding for the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and related agencies.

The legislation includes the Hyde Amendment, which would prohibit agencies that receive funding through the bill from using any taxpayer funds to support abortion. It has exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. This prohibition on tax-funded abortion has been included for decades; however, Biden removed the text in his fiscal year 2025 proposal and numerous Democrats have called for its exclusion from the bill this year.

Under current VA policy, the department is allowed to provide abortions when there is a health risk to the mother; however, “health” is not clearly defined. The Republican proposal would add a definition, allowing abortions in the cases of rape, incest, and “where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.”

Biden has threatened to veto the legislation as written. 

The legislation would provide more than $147.5 billion in total funding, including nearly $18 billion for defense, which is $412 million higher than Biden’s defense proposal.

PHOTOS: Nearly 5,000 brave heat for largest Eucharistic procession in Denver history

Archbishop Samuel Aquila leads the Eucharistic procession down Colfax Avenue in Denver on June 9, 2024. / Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Denver, Colo., Jun 11, 2024 / 17:30 pm (CNA).

In the glaring hot sun, nearly 5,000 filled the streets of downtown Denver in a Eucharistic procession on Sunday, June 9, in what was likely the largest Eucharistic procession in the city’s history.

The most recent stop in the Junipero Serra Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, the attendees of the procession increased the population of downtown Denver, which is about 16,000, by nearly a third for the day.

Led by Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, the procession began with a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax Avenue and Logan Street, where attendees were lining the walls, cramming the aisles, and filling even the baptistry area around the baptismal font. Voices boomed across the cathedral as participants prayed the Mass in unison.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila processes into Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila processes into Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“Every time you and I gaze upon the Eucharist, every time you and I see the Eucharist, what we see is bread and wine,” Aquila said in his homily. “But what we believe is [strange to the world]. It is truly the body, blood, soul, divinity of Jesus Christ.”

Aquila encouraged attendees to consider what lens through which they look at the world, whether it’s ideological or through “the eyes of Jesus.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila concelebrates the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila concelebrates the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

As the archbishop, bishop, priests, seminarians, and altar servers processed out with the Eucharist, attendees in the back squeezed to the side and filtered out the side doors to make room for Jesus to pass through.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila prepares the monstrance for the procession at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila prepares the monstrance for the procession at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the Eucharist out of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the Eucharist out of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Four Knights of Columbus carried a canopy over the monstrance, while the many priests leading took turns carrying the monstrance. Two security guards manned the front of the parade while police blocked the flow of traffic, allowing participants to flood into Denver’s normally crowded streets.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the monstrance down Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the monstrance down Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the monstrance down Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila carries the monstrance down Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The Denver Eucharistic procession leaves the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The Denver Eucharistic procession leaves the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Despite the shock to the ordinary flow of traffic, onlookers mostly viewed the procession with respect or, at worst, a quiet confusion. 

One participant, Regina Gravrok, a 22-year-old who recently moved to Denver, said she noticed people stopping, watching, and taking photos and videos.

The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage holds a procession in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The National Eucharistic Pilgrimage holds a procession in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

“I never saw any negative reactions,” she said. “There were a few people honking because some people had a ‘Honk for Jesus’ sign — so we got some audience participation that way. But most of the people I saw were just curious.”

“You can’t just look past a large group of people walking downtown, walking behind a gold monstrance,” Gravrok continued. “You notice, and you wonder what it’s about.”

An onlooker takes a photo of the Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
An onlooker takes a photo of the Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Onlookers quietly watch the Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Onlookers quietly watch the Eucharistic procession in downtown Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Three women kneel and pray as the Eucharistic procession goes up Broadway in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Three women kneel and pray as the Eucharistic procession goes up Broadway in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Sister Mary Rose Chinn, a sister of the Handmaids of the Triune God, has been following the Eucharistic pilgrimage from its start in California, camping in state parks along the way as she chases down the Eucharistic pilgrimage van. 

“The opportunity of a pilgrimage, for me, is like a microcosm of daily life, where you really have to listen and just trust in God’s providence for the next step,” Chinn told CNA. “You can make your plans … but then you turn your plans over to the Lord and see how he works out the day — that’s how it’s been.”

Sister Mary Rose Chinn (in foreground), a sister of the Handmaids of the Triune God, walks in the Eucharistic procession through Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Sister Mary Rose Chinn (in foreground), a sister of the Handmaids of the Triune God, walks in the Eucharistic procession through Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Chinn explained that she has been bringing prayer intentions with her across the many miles of the pilgrimage from her town, Ventura, California, all the way to Denver and onward — and whenever she meets someone new, she offers to pray for them.   

Jack Krebs, a “Perpetual Pilgrim” who has spent his summer so far in a van with Jesus and several other Perpetual Pilgrims, said the National Eucharistic Revival inspired him to draw nearer to Christ in the Eucharist.  

“I think it just made my prayer become a lot more relational,” he told CNA. “I’ve been coming to know the gift that the Eucharist is a lot deeper.”

Jack Krebs (center) and other National Eucharistic Procession pilgrims attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Jack Krebs (center) and other National Eucharistic Procession pilgrims attend Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Over his time on pilgrimage, he saw a fruit of bringing Jesus across the nation when a photographer who was following the pilgrimage for a week shared that he was going to start RCIA that week. 

“It’s not just people showing up for this nationwide movement being like, ‘Yay,’ and then going home and going on with life,” Krebs said. 

Participants sang hymns in English, Spanish, and Latin as the Eucharist made its way through Denver. 

“For this is God, the very God who hath both men and angels made,” the participants sang as they followed the Eucharist along the street.

A deacon spreads incense during the Eucharistic procession, facing the monstrance, while another priest leads him in front of the Colorado state capitol on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
A deacon spreads incense during the Eucharistic procession, facing the monstrance, while another priest leads him in front of the Colorado state capitol on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

But for much of the procession, people were simply quiet, bearing the hot day, carrying their prayer intentions with them, or having meaningful conversations and offering to pray for one another.

Members of the Denver Eucharistic procession pray and sing. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Members of the Denver Eucharistic procession pray and sing. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

More than halfway through, the procession stopped in front of the Colorado state capitol building, over which hung a pride flag. The archbishop raised the monstrance in Benediction as attendees stopped to watch and pray.

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Archbishop Samuel Aquila blesses the state capitol of Colorado as participants watch and pray on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila blesses the state capitol of Colorado as participants watch and pray on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Finally, the pilgrimage reached Holy Ghost Church, a church of mosaic and marble. The original parish building was dedicated in 1924. One hundred years later, the parish, now a Spanish and Italian Renaissance-inspired building, stands firm, guarded by sentinel skyscrapers as it faces the buzz of daily traffic.

The Eucharistic procession arrives after a long, hot day in the sun at Holy Ghost Church in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The Eucharistic procession arrives after a long, hot day in the sun at Holy Ghost Church in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

Holy Ghost participants awaited the approaching monstrance outside the Church, patiently awaiting Christ’s arrival.

Two women wait for the approaching monstrance outside Holy Ghost Church on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Two women wait for the approaching monstrance outside Holy Ghost Church on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
One man kneels in prayer with his family as the Eucharist reaches Holy Ghost Church in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
One man kneels in prayer with his family as the Eucharist reaches Holy Ghost Church in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

After the long day, the weary sunburned pilgrims received Benediction from Archbishop Aquila, then slowly drifted into the cool building, praying quietly in adoration.

“It was really beautiful to feel the difference between the discomfort of walking on the procession and then the comfort of stepping into the church, out of the sun, into the coolness, and then resting in adoration for a little bit,” Gravrok noted. “That contrast, I think, made it even more beautiful.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila blesses the crowd of processors as they stand and kneel outside Holy Ghost Church at the end of the Eucharistic procession in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
Archbishop Samuel Aquila blesses the crowd of processors as they stand and kneel outside Holy Ghost Church at the end of the Eucharistic procession in Denver on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The crowd following the Eucharistic procession stands and kneels outside Holy Ghost Church in Denver at the end of the procession on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA
The crowd following the Eucharistic procession stands and kneels outside Holy Ghost Church in Denver at the end of the procession on June 9, 2024. Credit: Kate Quiñones/CNA

When asked about how the procession affected her, Gravrok said it reminded her of the importance of “liv[ing] our faith unabashedly and in the open, [but] not in an aggressive way.” 

“The procession is not loud. It’s not loud, it’s not shouting or throwing it in anyone’s face,” she said. “It’s just reverently living your life, but making sure to do so in a public, observable way so that your life can be a silent witness for the faith.”

U.S. bishops invite Catholics to ‘pray, reflect, and act’ to promote religious freedom

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CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic bishops of the United States are inviting Catholics to observe a week dedicated to prayer, reflection, and action related to religious freedom with topics such as church vandalism, blasphemy laws, and Christian persecution in India as particular areas of focus. 

Marking Religious Freedom Week, which begins June 22, the feast day of St. Thomas More and John Fisher, the bishops invited Catholics to reflect on a particular topic related to religious freedom for each day of the week.

Here’s a breakdown of the days of Religious Freedom Week 2024, which runs from June 22–29. 

June 22: Sacred spaces

On this day, Catholics are asked to pray that all people of faith would be free to gather in houses of worship without fear.  

The bishops have tracked more than 320 instances of vandalism against Catholic entities since 2020, including against Catholic churches, pro-life pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and other pro-life organizations across the country. These attacks have taken the form of vulgar graffiti, property damage, threats, theft, and arson. In addition, data show that antisemitic incidents have surged since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

“The very nature of a sacred space is that it is set apart from other spaces as a place to seek communion with the divine and thus should be treated with respect. In a pluralistic society such as ours, respect for sacred spaces is especially vital for the sake of civil peace, which is part of the common good,” the bishops said. 

June 23: Blasphemy and apostasy laws

Catholics on this day are asked to pray for all people of faith who live in fear of persecution under unjust blasphemy laws as well as those living under laws criminalizing apostasy. 

Blasphemy laws exist in nearly 40% of the world’s countries. Christians in countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria in recent years have faced conviction and sometimes even mob violence for apparent violations of the countries’ blasphemy laws, which often criminalize any criticism of Islam.

“Penalties for blasphemy vary considerably, ranging from fines to prison sentences to executions. Seven countries have the death penalty for blasphemy — Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia,” the bishops noted. 

The bishops urged Catholics to support the work of Aid to the Church in Need, a papal charity that works to support persecuted Christians worldwide. 

June 24: Freedom to speak the truth

On this day, the bishops asked that Catholics pray that the Holy Spirit “would give us the courage to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, even in the face of social and legal pressure.”

“All baptized Christians are called to share the joy of the Gospel with others. But in numerous settings — schools, the workplace, health care — individuals are being pressured to conform to the orthodoxy of gender ideology,” the bishops said. 

“Under the current administration, government agencies are proposing regulations that, in the name of prohibiting harassment, would chill or prohibit speech that upholds the nature of conjugal marriage, the bodily reality of human beings, and even the sanctity of life.”

“We certainly should approach people who disagree with us on these issues with tenderness and compassion, but that does not mean we should be forced to speak untruthfully. And in a pluralistic society, the government should afford ample space for people of different backgrounds and worldviews to be able to work together,” the bishops concluded. 

The bishops promoted as a resource a new website, Love Means More, which is designed to “bring clarity and compassion” to issues surrounding love, marriage, and sexuality by addressing “hidden assumptions about love.”

June 25: Service to immigrants

Catholics on this day are asked to pray that “the Lord would protect all migrants and refugees and that all those who work with people on the move would be free to serve.”

“As part of their duty to uphold the common good, civil authorities are responsible for ensuring public order, including by maintaining national borders. At the same time, the Church is commanded by Jesus Christ to serve vulnerable populations, including migrants and refugees, and recognize their God-given dignity,” the bishops said. 

“The Church has long sought to serve the needs of ‘people on the move,’ from providing for basic needs to assisting with refugee resettlement to offering legal services to help newcomers navigate the expectations of their receiving country.”

The bishops criticized what they called “attacks” on Catholic charitable organizations helping migrants, some of which have faced public criticism in recent years. 

“Sadly, in recent years, Christian services to migrants have faced vile attacks by both media personalities and political leaders seeking to make a point about current immigration trends. Debates about immigration and borders are simply part of American political life, and Christians should do their part to make those discussions healthy and productive,” the bishops concluded. 

The bishops urged Catholics to join in their efforts to advocate for bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.

June 26: India

Catholics are urged to pray for “our Christian brothers and sisters in India, who face harassment and violent attacks.”

In recent years, Christians in India have decried an apparent rise in anti-Christian violence and Hindu extremism. Hindu mobs — often fueled by false accusations of forced conversions — have attacked Christians, destroyed churches, and disrupted religious worship services.

A U.S. religious freedom watchdog recently urged the Biden administration to add the government of India to a list of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, citing India’s “increased transnational targeting of religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf.”

The bishops promoted the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926 as “an instrument of love and a sign of hope for those in need scattered throughout the historic but unstable lands of the ancient Eastern churches — the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India, and Eastern Europe.”

June 27: Faith at work

Pray that business leaders would be free to promote a culture of life in their workplaces, the bishops urged. 

Specifically, the bishops discussed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to accommodate women for workplace limitations that arise from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions and which had the full support of the USCCB when lawmakers considered the bill in 2022. However, regulations issued by President Joe Biden’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this year have interpreted the related medical conditions covered in the law to include abortion.

The U.S. bishops last month filed a lawsuit that asks a court to strike down the abortion accommodation rule.

“[R]eligious employers should honor the pro-woman, pro-life intent of the law Congress passed and grant pregnant employees reasonable accommodations that allow them to have healthy pregnancies,” the bishops concluded.

June 28: Civility

On this day, Catholics are urged to pray that “God would give us the grace to remember the dignity of all and invite others to do the same.”

“As a Church and a nation, we are polarized and divided. But as Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti, we can seek ‘a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good,’” the bishops wrote.

“We can see ourselves as members of one family. We can seek to encounter and to grow. We can identify common values. We can listen to understand. We can seek the truth together. We can jointly come up with creative solutions to the problems that face our world.”

To this end, the bishops promoted an initiative formed in 2021 called “Civilize It,” designed to promote civility amid political polarization, appealing to Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

June 29: Catholic health care

Pray today that governments will respect the consciences of all individuals and institutions that care for the sick and vulnerable, the bishops said. 

“For centuries, Christians have carried on the healing ministry of Christ by building institutions dedicated to medicine and accompaniment of the dying. However, Catholic hospitals and medical professionals face numerous challenges to their mission today,” the bishops said. 

Among these challenges, they said, are an erosion of conscience protections under the Biden administration for medical professionals who object to practices and procedures such as abortion and transgender surgeries. 

In the face of this, Catholics are asked to pray that governments will respect the consciences of all individuals and institutions that care for the sick and vulnerable. The bishops also asked that Catholics sign up to receive alerts on new opportunities to let government agencies know that they “support the Church’s right to operate her institutions in accordance with her faith in Jesus Christ.”

Massachusetts launches ‘first-in-the-nation’ effort to target pregnancy resource centers

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2024 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

The Massachusetts state government this week announced what it billed as a “first-in-the-nation” effort to discredit — and steer pregnant women away from — pregnancy resource centers in the state. 

The state’s Department of Public Health said in a press release on Monday that it was launching what it described as an “education campaign” to highlight “the dangers and potential harm” of crisis pregnancy centers.

Those organizations offer aid and support to pregnant women, particularly women in desperate situations and who may be considering abortion.

Pro-abortion advocates have regularly criticized such centers for what they claim are misleading tactics that steer women away from having abortions. The Massachusetts government on Monday said those organizations “often mislead [women] about their options if they are pregnant and dissuade them from accessing abortions.”

The government’s campaign will “amplify how anti-abortion centers provide misinformation about abortion services to prevent people from making an informed choice about their care,” the Department of Public Health said. 

‘Extreme abortion agenda’

Pro-life advocates in Massachusetts criticized the state government’s campaign after it was announced this week.

In a statement to CNA, the Pregnancy Care Alliance of Massachusetts — which works to educate the public about pregnancy centers — said the state’s network of pregnancy centers “provides millions of dollars in no-cost support and care for thousands of women annually who face planned and unplanned pregnancies.”

“The women served by pregnancy resource centers overwhelmingly report a positive experience” the statement said. “Yet the [Gov. Maura] Healey administration and other politicians in the state are furthering their extreme abortion agenda by using a taxpayer-funded campaign to discredit our centers.”

The “politically motivated campaign,” the alliance said, “will negatively impact women the most, specifically the many women who want to parent and rely on the free assistance we provide.”

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Citizens for Life — which founded the Pregnancy Care Alliance group — said in a statement shared with CNA that the campaign will spread “multiple inaccurate claims” about pregnancy resource centers.

The organization said that in recent years pregnancy resource centers “have faced mounting pressure from the state, hindering their ability to effectively offer a life-affirming choice to women.”

“There is one reason why: Pregnancy resource centers threaten abortion industry bottom lines,” the group said.

The group’s president, Myrna Flynn, told CNA on Tuesday that “honoring the dignity of the human person is as central to the pro-life movement as it is to Catholic social teaching.” 

“In their commitment to support vulnerable women by offering a myriad of cost-free, life-affirming services, Massachusetts’ pregnancy resource centers elevate and seek to preserve a woman’s dignity above all else,” she said.

Flynn noted that in Massachusetts there have been “no complaints of merit filed against our PRCs [pregnancy resource centers]” and that for decades “tens of thousands of Bay State women received the help they desired inside these critical community treasures.”

“So for Gov. Healey, who describes herself as a Catholic, to direct $1 million of taxpayer money to an effort that is strategically designed to steer women away from PRCs and into abortion clinics instead effectively conveys one message: In this state, politically-generated abortion revenue matters more than women, their dignity, and the very lives of their children,” she said. 

In the state’s announcement, Healey claimed the campaign is “an important way to provide accurate information so residents can make informed decisions about reproductive care that are right for them.”

The campaign, which will “appear on social media platforms, billboards, radio, and transit,” was funded “through a $1 million investment” from the Massachusetts Legislature, the government said.

Flynn, meanwhile, indicated to CNA that pregnancy resource providers will work to counteract the government’s pro-abortion campaign. 

Massachusetts Citizens for Life “intends to inform citizens of our state about the truth of Healey’s aim and, in tandem, the truth about PRCs,” she said.

Tech-savvy Catholics embrace Carlo Acutis: ‘Saintliness is possible in this modern era’

A scene from “Digital Disciple: Carlo Acutis and the Eucharist” written by Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics & Publishing. / Credit: Courtesy of Voyage Comics & Publishing

CNA Staff, Jun 11, 2024 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis late last month formally recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Carlo Acutis, paving the way for the young Italian, who died of leukemia at age 15, to become the first canonized saint from the millennial generation. 

If you know anything about Carlo Acutis, you probably know that he loved going to Mass and helping the poor and downtrodden he encountered. A boy of strong faith despite not having grown up in a particularly religious household, Carlo was also known to spend hours adoring Christ in the Eucharist. 

But you may have also seen him described as the Catholic Church’s first “tech-savvy” saint. And for good reason.

Carlo was born in 1991 — the same year the World Wide Web came online in all its snail’s-pace, dial-up glory. And like so many of his generational peers, Carlo quickly embraced the internet’s possibilities, despite the technology still being relatively in its infancy; Google wasn’t even founded until Carlo was 7. But Carlo’s mother remembers the young whiz kid proudly describing himself as a “computer scientist” — well before he got his first computer as a gift around the year 2000.

Carlo Acutis. Credit: carloacutis.com
Carlo Acutis. Credit: carloacutis.com

Carlo’s mother, at her child’s pleading, got him textbooks on coding, which he devoured. He taught himself the basic coding languages of C, C++, and Java. Carlo’s uncle, whose work involved computers, gave him access to software such as Adobe Suite and the 3D rendering software Maya, which he eagerly made use of on his desktop computer. 

He was known for helping friends with computer problems — including, amusingly, a local order of nuns — and was known also to use the internet to find Mass times when the family traveled to new places.

(It wasn’t just desktop computing that interested Carlo; he was an avid player of video games, though he limited his playing to two hours a week so as not to lose himself in virtual worlds.)

The internet, of course, exploded rapidly during Carlo’s childhood and adolescence. By 2005, Wikipedia was already a popular reference site, and YouTube and Facebook were poised to take the world by storm. Unlike so many of his peers, who fell into the distractions, vices, and prideful pursuits that the burgeoning internet had to offer, Carlo used the internet for good. 

He helped a local computer engineering student create a website for his parish, Santa Maria Segreta. And perhaps Carlo’s most enduring tech-related legacy is a website he created with the help of his family displaying information and images of Eucharistic miracles around the world — a website that remains online to this day. 

In recent years — especially since his beatification in 2020 — Carlo’s embrace and masterful use of technology as a part of his holy life has inspired many young Catholics working in the fields of science and technology.

Mary Regina Boland is an assistant professor of data science at Saint Vincent College, a Benedictine Catholic school in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. A millennial “just a few years older” than Carlo herself, Boland said his use of his computer programming skills to create an exhibit on Eucharistic miracles is something that a lot of young students can connect with, especially the students she teaches in the data science program. 

Mary Regina Boland, an assistant professor of Data Science at Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. Credit: Photo courtesy of Mary Regina Boland
Mary Regina Boland, an assistant professor of Data Science at Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. Credit: Photo courtesy of Mary Regina Boland

Carlo died in 2006, when most of Boland’s students were still very young, and technology has only grown more powerful and sophisticated since his passing, she noted. 

“My hope is that with his canonization, he will become more widely known and his story of witnessing to the faith, guiding others to conversion, and his interests in technology will be spread more broadly,” Boland told CNA. 

“I think his witness can help draw more young people into the faith and also empower those who are Catholic to develop methods to make their faith more accessible in a world that is driven by technology and data.”

Boland said she sees a connection between her field — data science — and Carlo’s efforts to use technology to make Eucharistic miracles more known. 

“Data science, the field I teach and work in, is a field that utilizes data to derive knowledge, validate our understanding of scientific principles, and gain novel insights,” she continued.

“Carlo’s use of data and visualization techniques to bring the story of Eucharistic miracles to those whose knowledge of their faith is limited (or nonexistent) is a perfect example of an application that would fall under the realm of ‘data science’ today. Methods that use data science to shed light on aspects of Catholicism are very much needed today.”

Credit: PureSolution/Shutterstock.
Credit: PureSolution/Shutterstock.

Modestly describing himself as “mildly tech-savvy,” Nathaniel Hanson, who works in high-level robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, told CNA that Carlo’s use of his technological skills to further God’s kingdom demonstrated that “you can use technology as a means to glorify God and to make the world a better place, and that can be a path to a saintly life.”

For his part, much of Hanson’s work focuses on using his skills in robotics to create systems that help victims of natural disasters, which Hanson sees as a way of living out his faith’s call to respect the God-given dignity of every person and using “technology to elevate their dignity.”

Nathaniel Hanson, a technical staff member in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Credit: Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Hanson
Nathaniel Hanson, a technical staff member in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Credit: Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Hanson

Hanson, 27, is a few years younger than Carlo. He said faith is not regularly discussed in the tech-focused circles he works in, but he has occasionally encountered surprise from colleagues when they find out he’s Catholic. 

“Sometimes in intellectual circles, there can be this idea that the natural progression of intellect leads you to atheism or agnosticism,” he explained. 

In light of this, it’s “really exciting to have the first computer scientist saint being named” — for Catholics at large but for scientific-minded Catholics especially, he said. 

“Because of the pressures of the sciences and the disciplines, it is important that they see and point to someone who, even though he was so very young when he died, still dedicated his life to using technology to build the kingdom on Earth. I think that’s a very important call that we, as scientists and engineers, need to see.”

In Boston, where Hanson lives and works, many current and former Catholics take a dim view of the Church, in part because of the abuse scandals. In light of this, Hanson said he hopes Carlo’s canonization will provide “a good conversation starting point” to draw tech-minded people closer to the faith. 

Other young Catholic professionals working in scientific fields similarly said they appreciate Carlo’s public witness to the fact that faith and science are not mutually exclusive but rather harmonious. 

David Ramirez, an assistant professor of chemistry at Brescia University, a Catholic college in Kentucky, told CNA that he had heard of Carlo Acutis years ago but didn’t delve deeper into his story until recently when he learned about Carlo’s aptitude for computer programming, “which I had come to embrace as part of my graduate studies.”

David Ramirez, an assistant professor of chemistry at Brescia University, a Catholic college in Kentucky. Credit: Photo courtesy of David Ramirez
David Ramirez, an assistant professor of chemistry at Brescia University, a Catholic college in Kentucky. Credit: Photo courtesy of David Ramirez

“I was amazed how passionate he was to spread devotion to the Eucharist and used modern tools available to reach his goal,” Ramirez recalled.

Ramirez said in his experience, it’s rare to encounter a young person who has both a “religious” and a “scientific” inclination; many young people have an inclination to one or the other but not both, he said.

“My hope is that having Blessed Carlo canonized [will] indeed help more people come to grasp how science and technology can help us interact with and better communicate the truths that faith makes available to us,” he concluded. 

Josephine Kalshoven, who recently completed her doctorate in biomedical engineering at Brown University, recalls how Carlo first captured her attention when, during the pandemic, she attended the virtual gathering of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Learning about the young tech-savvy saint while attending an event made possible by the internet felt appropriate to her, she said. 

Josephine Kalshoven, a biomedical engineer. Credit: Photo courtesy of Josephine Kalshoven
Josephine Kalshoven, a biomedical engineer. Credit: Photo courtesy of Josephine Kalshoven

“I think there is a tendency to see the saints as people who lived in a time and place so far removed from our current era that it can be hard to map the lessons of their lives onto our own daily experiences,” Kalshoven told CNA.

“However, as an engineer and a young person myself, as someone who grew up making websites and playing video games, Carlo Acutis’ life parallels my own. The fact that he seems like he could so easily be ‘just some kid’ that I knew does not diminish his saintliness but rather demonstrates that saintliness is possible in this modern era for modern youth living modern lives.”

Carlo also showed, Kalshoven continued, that Catholics need not eschew modern technology in their pursuit of holiness. At the same time, the prudence and moderation he showed with his use of technology also provided a “shining example” in an era of myriad distractions. 

Moreover, she said, Carlo demonstrated that technology can be used for good, an insight “particularly appealing to people in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] fields like myself.”

“[H]e beautifully demonstrated that technology can be used to glorify God and to bring hope and truth to the world… to see a saint who used his technological skills to glorify God is a reminder that we are all called to glorify God in our own work, whatever that may look like,” Kalshoven concluded. 

“There are so many ways to become a saint and live for God here and now. I am thrilled by the canonization of Carlo Acutis … I believe it will only amplify attention to a particularly powerful witness to the faith in this modern era.”

Note: Many of the details about Carlo’s life come from the book “Blessed Carlo Acutis: A Saint in Sneakers” by CNA Rome correspondent Courtney Mares.

Pew study shows Biden and Trump supporters deeply divided on life and family issues

null / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2024 / 18:15 pm (CNA).

A new study examining some of the most contentious issues being considered by the electorate ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has found that voters remain highly divided on hot-button issues such as abortion, gender, the role of the family in society, and immigration. 

Here are the topics covered in the June 6 Pew study, which polled some 8,000 registered voters, including top lines of what the researchers found as well as Catholic angles as they relate to several of the applicable topics.

Family

A relatively large minority of voters overall, 39%, think society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, while 59% say society is just as well off if people have other priorities.

Trump supporters were roughly three times as likely as Biden supporters to say society is better if people prioritize marriage and family. Nearly half of Trump supporters overall — 56% of men and 37% of women — say it is bad for society that people are having fewer children.

Abortion

As in the past, relatively few Americans (25%) say abortion should be legal in all cases, while even fewer (8%) say it should be illegal in all cases. (Separate, previous polling by EWTN has found that even among Catholics, just 9% of U.S. Catholic voters hold the view that abortion should be fully illegal, despite the Church’s teaching that abortion is a grave evil and is never acceptable at any stage of pregnancy.)

About two-thirds of Americans do not take an absolutist view: 38% say it should be legal in most cases, and 28% say it should be illegal in most cases, the report continues. Support for legal abortion is higher among Black (73%) and Asian (76%) adults compared with white (60%) and Hispanic (59%) adults.

Broken down, about 9 in 10 Biden supporters (88%) say abortion should be legal in most (46%) or all (42%) cases. Just 11% of Biden supporters say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, has made the expansion of abortion a cornerstone of his presidency. 

Gender and sexuality

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters (65%) say a person’s gender is determined by “the sex assigned to them at birth,” or biological sex, up from 53% in 2017. About a third (34%) say gender can be different from their sex at birth. (The Catholic Church teaches that people are born as body-soul composites and that a person’s sex cannot be changed.)

Nine in 10 Trump supporters and about 4 in 10 Biden supporters say sex at birth determines if someone is a man or a woman, the report says. About 6 in 10 Biden supporters say a person’s gender can be different from their sex at birth, something only 9% of Trump supporters say. 

Biden supporters are more than three times as likely as Trump supporters to say they are comfortable with the use of “they/them” pronouns.

IVF and artificial birth control

Seventy-three percent of all voters — including majorities of Biden (83%) and Trump supporters (64%) — say access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a good thing. The Catholic Church opposes the use of IVF as “morally unacceptable,” though polling has suggested few U.S. Catholics view IVF as morally wrong.

Similarly, a majority of voters — 93% of Biden supporters and 66% of Trump supporters — say it is good for society that birth control is widely available. Despite the Church’s longtime opposition to artificial birth control, large majorities of Catholics report using condoms and hormonal birth control.

Religion in society

A large majority of voters (71%) believe that religion should be “kept separate from government policies”; just 28% say government policies should support religious values and beliefs. Larger shares of Trump supporters than Biden supporters say religion — and particularly the Bible — should have influence on government policy.

Of Trump supporters, 36% say the Bible should have “a great deal” of influence on government policy, while 53% of Biden supporters say it should have no influence. Another 22% of Trump backers would like the federal government to declare Christianity the official religion of the U.S., while just 6% of Biden backers say this.

Fifty-nine percent of Trump supporters say that the federal government should not declare Christianity the official religion but it should promote Christian moral values — 34% of Biden supporters say the same.

A large share of voters (80%), including sizable majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters, say they are comfortable with someone they don’t know saying they will keep them in their prayers.

Criminal justice and gun control

A majority of voters overall (61%) say the criminal justice system is generally “not tough enough on criminals.” Just 13% say the system is too tough, while 25% say it treats criminals about right. 

Trump supporters (81%) are about twice as likely as Biden supporters (40%) to say the criminal justice system is not tough enough on criminals; older voters are also more likely to say this overall. 

Roughly 8 in 10 Biden supporters (83%) say the increase in guns in the U.S. is at least somewhat bad for society and those voters prioritize gun control by wide margins. Relatively few Trump supporters (21%) view the growing number of guns negatively; more say it is a good thing for society (40%) or neither bad nor good (38%).

Artificial intelligence

There is “broad skepticism” about the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) in daily life, with roughly half of both Trump and Biden supporters saying the increased use of AI is “bad for society,” the report suggests. Pope Francis and the Vatican have weighed in repeatedly on the ethical use of artificial intelligence, with the pope set to attend the G7 summit this month to speak about the topic.

Race and diversity

Among registered voters, 8 in 10 Biden supporters say that white people benefit at least a fair amount from advantages in society that Black people do not have. By contrast, only 22% of Trump supporters say this.

Most Biden supporters (79%) say the historical practice of slavery in the U.S. continues to have at least a fair amount of impact. Among Trump supporters, a far smaller share (27%) say slavery’s legacy continues to affect Black people in the U.S.

Eighty-two percent of Biden voters say diversity strengthens society and 4% say it weakens it; this contrasts with about half (49%) of Trump voters who say diversity strengthens American society, while 19% say it weakens it. 

Immigration

Roughly 6 in 10 Trump supporters (63%) say there should be a national effort to deport undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., while just 11% of Biden supporters hold this view. 

By contrast, Biden supporters overwhelmingly (85%) say undocumented immigrants should be eligible to stay legally if certain requirements are met — including 56% who say this should include a path to applying for citizenship. About a third of Trump supporters (32%) say undocumented immigrants should be eligible for legal status, including just 15% saying there should be a way for them to apply for citizenship.

While a 59% majority of voters say that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, this is a substantial drop compared with June 2020, when 74% of voters said that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay legally, the report says. 

Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters under 50 say they’re comfortable hearing a language other than English in their community, with Trump supporters 50 and older slightly less so. Ninety-two percent of Biden supporters under 50 and 76% of those 50 and older express comfort with hearing languages other than English in public places.

Areas of agreement

Despite shining a light on myriad differences in opinion between Trump and Biden voters, the poll also found that both cohorts mostly support the discussion of “America’s historical successes, as well as its flaws.”

To that end, nearly identical shares of Biden (74%) and Trump supporters (71%) say it is extremely or very important to “have public discussions about the country’s historical successes and strengths,” while 78% of Biden supporters and 60% of Trump supporters say it is at least very important to “have public discussions about the country’s failures and flaws.”

In addition, voters, regardless of party affiliation, are very positive about more open discussions of mental health. More than 8 in 10 voters overall (87%) say that more people openly discussing mental health and well-being is good for society. This includes large majorities of both Biden (94%) and Trump supporters (79%).

‘Come join us!’: Washington, DC’s ‘Little Rome’ hosts 1,200 for Eucharistic procession

The Seton Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage makes it way from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception toward the Brentwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. / Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard

Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2024 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

More than 1,200 filled the streets of the neighborhood known as “Little Rome” in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to pay witness to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament as part of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

After Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Evelio Menjívar-Ayala, the crowd of faithful filed out of the church and spilled into the streets to follow the procession.

Armed with tote bags provided by the Archdiocese of Washington that were filled with everything needed for the day’s sojourn — water, a snack, a map of the procession route, and rosary beads — the pilgrims set out for a morning of fellowship, prayer, and time spent in proximity to Jesus in the Eucharist.

The two-mile-long procession route bordered the basilica and the Catholic University of America and traveled through Brookland, a densely populated neighborhood with a lively business district that is home to residences of several religious orders.

The June 8 procession through this corner of the nation’s capital was part of the broader National Eucharistic Pilgrimage, an initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival intended to foster a greater understanding and devotion to the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. 

While those who live and work in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington are not strangers to the rhythms of Catholic life there (the basilica’s church bells mark the hours to the tune of “Ave Maria”), the sheer numbers of faithful in the streets drew the attention of dozens of curious onlookers. They stood on their front lawns, apartment balconies, or roofs to get a closer look as the procession passed by their homes.

“Come join us!” one procession-goer beckoned onlookers who watched the proceedings. 

Two laborers working on the roof of a house under construction smiled and waved back as they paused to watch the Eucharist and the crowd pass.

A group of people sitting outside a coffee shop stopped their conversation to take pictures of the procession as the faithful sang hymns and prayed the rosary, alternating between English and Spanish.

Sister Margaret Regina of the Little Sisters of the Poor told CNA: “It’s the first time I’ve seen [something like this] in the area.” The sister said she was happy to see so many people of different backgrounds at the procession.

There is a “need to profess our faith” and tell people: “This is what I believe,” she said. “We need this peace that only [Christ] can bring because our hearts have to change and be like him.” 

The procession brought a diverse group of Catholics together to celebrate the Eucharist: a few communities of religious sisters, dozens of priests, and hundreds of laypeople from various backgrounds speaking, praying, and singing in different languages.

It took more than three hours for the procession to slowly wend its way from the basilica to the John Paul II Shrine, making stops at the “Angels Unaware” statue at Catholic University, at the home of the Nashville Dominicans, the Dominican House of Studies, and the offices of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At each stop, the priests carrying the monstrance and its canopy and young people following with candles held high stopped as speakers read reflections on the Gospel (alternating between English and Spanish). The crowd, young and old alike, knelt on the hot asphalt for a moment to adore the Eucharist.

Young people lead the way as the procession travels through "Little Rome" in Washington, DC. Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard
Young people lead the way as the procession travels through "Little Rome" in Washington, DC. Credit: Mihoko Owada/The Catholic Standard

“[The Eucharist] strengthens us, unites us with the body of Christ, and equips us to carry on his mission in the world,” Father Robert Hitchens, administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, told pilgrims as they gathered near the Basilica Rosary Walk and Garden.

In emphasizing the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, Hitchens said the Blessed Sacrament “is not merely a symbol” but rather “a banquet.”

When the procession reached its final destination of the day for Benediction — the St. John Paul II National Shrine — children threw rose petals on the ground ahead of the procession. Some of the older attendees, including religious sisters, who were not able to walk for the whole procession were given chairs to watch the procession’s closing stop at the shrine. Some, with the help of aides, rose from their seats to stand in reverence as the procession neared.

Young boys throw rose petals on the ground as the procession approaches. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA
Young boys throw rose petals on the ground as the procession approaches. Credit: Zelda Caldwell/CNA

Sister Mary Vincent of the Little Sisters of the Poor told CNA the procession “was a gift to this area” and said the reverence, with so many Catholics kneeling in the streets to adore Christ in the Eucharist, was “absolutely beautiful.” She said it can help strengthen faith “when you see everyone around you adoring him.”

The pilgrimage, which began on Pentecost, has four routes: from the north, south, east, and west, all heading to Indianapolis for the July 17–21 National Eucharistic Congress.

The Washington, D.C., procession was part of the Seton Route, which began on the East Coast in New Haven, Connecticut. The route has brought Christ through the streets of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore along with other communities in the northeast. The route will continue into southwest Pennsylvania before heading into Ohio and then Indiana. 

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, celebrated a solemn Mass for the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage in the upper church of the basilica at noon on Sunday, June 9, the day after the procession. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the next-door Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, was a concelebrant.

Los Angeles County gives fire captain partial religious exemption in gay pride flag dispute

null / Credit: Maxim Studio/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Jun 10, 2024 / 12:08 pm (CNA).

A Los Angeles County fire captain has received a partial religious exemption in his dispute with the county over the raising of a gay pride flag, although the captain’s lawyers say the accommodation is “not nearly enough.”

Capt. Jeffrey Little alleged in a May lawsuit that the Los Angeles County Fire Department violated his religious freedom when it ordered him to raise the so-called “Progress Pride” flag at the beach lifeguard station where he worked.

Little, a Christian, had requested a religious exemption to the rule. The lawsuit, filed in part by lawyers with the Thomas More Society, alleged that Little was suspended from his role in a department unit due to the dispute and subjected to an internal investigation.

It also alleged that Little’s superiors breached his privacy by informing unauthorized persons about his request for a religious accommodation, which led to him receiving a death threat in the mail.

In a press release, the Thomas More Society said the fire department had “agreed to partially accommodate” Little’s request to not fly the flag at the lifeguard station. 

The fire department “has made assurances that Little would not be personally responsible for the raising or lowering of the Progress Pride flag because he either will be assigned to stations that are unable to fly the Progress Pride flag throughout June or he will be able to trade shifts to such stations,” the legal group said.

Paul Jonna, who serves as special counsel for the Thomas More Society, told CNA earlier this month that Little’s accommodation request was “extremely narrow,” essentially asking the department to “please have someone else” raise or lower the flag.

Yet the county “continues to refuse to give Little a full and complete religious accommodation,” the group said in its press release. The exemption would include “granting a standing religious accommodation to permanently and comprehensively protect Little’s religious liberty rights.”

Little “must still ensure that his subordinates comply with this objectionable mandate,” the Thomas More Society noted; he will also be required to “renew his request annually and go through the same accommodation request process every year.”

The Thomas More Society said it would be applying for both preliminary and permanent injunctions on Little’s behalf in response to the partial exemption. 

In the statement, Little said that he hoped the lawsuit “encourages productive dialogue between employees of faith and their employers.” 

“No employee should be expected to abandon their faith when entering the workplace,” he said, arguing that he “felt backed into a corner where my faith was incompatible with the requirements of my job.” 

“My prayer is that people of faith will flourish in the workplace and not feel as if they need to hide that part of themselves in order to be successful in their job,” Little said.

The Humanality movement: ‘creating new rituals’ to use technology ‘with intention’

Humanality club members at Franciscan University. / Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

CNA Staff, Jun 9, 2024 / 07:00 am (CNA).

When Catholic musician Andrew Laubacher decided to quit social media in 2018, drained from a music career that had him on social media constantly, he couldn’t foresee that five years later he would be helping to lead a movement dedicated to encouraging others to break their own tech addictions.

“I just was not happy with how all these platforms were just becoming so all-consuming,” Laubacher told CNA in a phone call. “So [in] 2018, I decided to give up all my social media and go back to a flip phone. I told my record label and management at the time I was going to do that. They were like, ‘That’s a horrible decision. You’re not going to get any events.’”

“I just knew God was calling me to do it,” he explained. “I did it and deleted everything, went to a flip phone, and just experienced so many amazing things in regards to my relationships, my mental health, my spiritual health.”

Andrew Laubacher, executive director of Humanality, speaks at a Humanality Club event at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Andrew Laubacher, executive director of Humanality, speaks at a Humanality Club event at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

Laubacher thought he’d be leaving his music career in the dust but found he could still be successful in music without social media. He then met married couple Hope and Justin Schneir, who had a similar mindset about tech and had founded Humanality, a movement dedicated to “helping people discover freedom through an intentional relationship with technology.” 

Laubacher is now executive director of Humanality, working alongside the Schneirs, who launched Humanality after successfully establishing the “Unplugged Scholarship” at Franciscan University of Steubenville — their alma mater — which awarded 30 students with funding for agreeing to give up their phones for a year.

Who needs Humanality? 

As a mental health crisis persists in the U.S., Laubacher noted that spikes in anxiety and depression, increased loneliness, and widespread cultural addiction to pornography have coincided with the launch of the iPhone and social media platforms.

The percentage of adults with depression has risen from 10% in 2015 to 29%, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. According to a report by Common Sense Media, nearly 3 out of 4 teens have consumed pornography. 

The Humanality Club at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The club hosted a no-phones concert at the end of the school year to help students experience life without phones. Credit: Photo courtesy of Andrew Laubacher
The Humanality Club at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The club hosted a no-phones concert at the end of the school year to help students experience life without phones. Credit: Photo courtesy of Andrew Laubacher

“Essentially, since 2010, there’s just been exponential upticks in suicide, self-harm, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression — especially amongst teen girls, directly correlated to the front-facing screen that came out on the iPhone and your Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, et cetera,” Laubacher said. 

One Pew study from 2023 found that suicidal ideation among high schoolers in the U.S. has increased from 16% in 2011 to 22% in 2021, with young women being more at risk, at 30%. 

“Looking at the sociological data, I think everyone’s pretty aware of the issue and most people are willing to admit — we’re all addicted to our devices in some way,” Laubacher continued. 

“Living with a smartphone is like living with a Frodo’s ring in your pocket, and the more addictions we crave through it, the stronger the pull, and the heavier the burden becomes,” Justin Schneir told CNA in an email. 

“Humanality really is the solution,” Laubacher explained. “We’re a movement that’s trying to cultivate more human interaction, and what we’re calling ‘human flourishing.’”

Addicted to tech? Join the club

“At the heart of our tech addictions is a legitimate desire for connection,” Hope Schneir told CNA. “Many young people want to move toward a more unplugged lifestyle, but they are afraid to do it alone.”

Humanality now has clubs on six different Catholic college campuses and provides resources for seminarians. 

Students enjoy a Humanality Club concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Students enjoy a Humanality Club concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

“Young people, at this point, are aware of the detriment because they’re experiencing it,” Laubacher added. “They’re looking for a group of people to do this together.” 

Humanality clubs on college campuses promote a variety of “levels” that students can commit to — for example, with “Monk Mode” a student commits to no cellphone at all, relying instead on campus wifi, a laptop, and analog alarm clocks. In the more practical “Rebel Mode,” students use light phones to get off of their smartphones, making their less-accessible laptops their primary mode of digital communication. 

Monthly meetings help keep students on track while building the in-person community that technology has sifted out of our culture. Speakers, phone-free hikes, campfire nights, and an end-of-the-year concert all help students experience life without phones.  

“By establishing communities of people journeying together toward a more human, free lifestyle, we can inspire and embolden young people and families to live more human and free lives, engaging with reality and creation that God himself declared good,” Hope told CNA. 

Humanality also helps students build a “digital plan of life” for the final meeting of the school year, giving students a framework for how they’ll interact with technology once they leave college. 

In addition to clubs, Humanality has a variety of ways to reach students and help them build a healthy relationship with technology. 

A Humanality club member at Franciscan University. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
A Humanality club member at Franciscan University. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

At a seminary in Denver, the organization provided 14 seminarians with light phones — Kindle-esque phones that are solely functional, with no social media or bright colors — as well as analog alarm clocks and GPS for their cars.

“I really think humanality is a way of life, and we’re going to be helping people heal in many different ways,” Laubacher said. “But it’s really discovering, ‘What does it mean to be human and how do we really flourish?’”

Humanality is for humans

Humanality is for all — religious or not, Laubacher said. While secular colleges have reached out to Humanality, the organization’s next steps include going to high schools and K–8 schools to help the next generation achieve a healthy relationship with technology.

The group is also developing “Family Chapters” to pilot in 2024. Hope Schneir told CNA that the chapters will be designed to help families “meet and journey together toward a more tech-lite lifestyle.”

“I think people in our clubs … they’re going to create some of the greatest new novels, the greatest new art, the greatest new songs, be the best … as lawyers, physicians, teachers … because ... they have certain gifts and interests that they didn’t [realize],” Justin Schneir said. “Before, when they were on all these platforms every waking moment, [they] just turn[ed] to the device to scroll. [Now] they’re learning guitar, or they’re learning how to cook new meals, and they’re having in-person interaction that’s just radically transforming their day-to-day.”

Members of the Humanality Club enjoy a concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria
Members of the Humanality Club enjoy a concert at Franciscan University in 2023. Credit: Video shot by Charles Longoria

Laubacher noted that Humanality doesn’t mean cutting out all technology. It’s more like making a financial plan to “invest” your time wisely and intentionally. 

“There’s always going to be the internet; there’s no point anytime soon I foresee these companies making these devices any less addictive,” he said. “There’s always going to be addiction and people needing to get out of addiction with technology and know how to use it with intention.”

Though Humanality can be applied to anyone, its founders take inspiration from Catholic anthropology.

“We’re all living out liturgies throughout our day,” Laubacher explained. “We wake up, we check the phone. We go to the bathroom, we check the phone. We’re at a stop light, we check the phone. Go to sleep, we check the phone,” 

“[Humanality is about] creating new rituals and new liturgies in our day that are more human [that] are really going to help our mental well-being, our spiritual well-being,” he continued. 

“God has given us this gift of time,” he concluded. “And I’d say most of us are wasting these little moments and time through these different platforms and devices, when time is sacred and how we use it really matters.”