Monthly Archives: October 2013

Father Pablo Straub (1932-2013)

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The following is a guest blog from Elizabeth Boyle-Contreras, member of the Catholic Women’s Conference Steering Committee.

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Fr. Pablo Straub was a very special and holy priest from the order of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the Redemptorists.  He was a priest for 55 years, and could be seen on EWTN hosting a variety of series and retreats.

Fr. Pablo was especially well known for two things: his voice – recognized all over the world for its one of a kind tone, quality and accent – and carrying a large crucifix wherever he went.

I was blessed to hear him speak in 2006 at the EWTN 25th anniversary celebration here in San Antonio.  I did not get to meet him that day, but just hearing him speak left such an impression on me.  From that day forward I followed him on EWTN whenever I could, and his voice always made me feel at peace, loved by Jesus. 

Doug Keck, President & COO of EWTN, said this about him:

“Father Pablo carried the cross of Christ with him throughout a life spent professing our Lord’s all-merciful love to the multilingual Catholic masses of the Americas.”

Anna Latesta, a personal friend of Fr Pablo, said,

“He personified mercy. He was so radiant with the love of Christ.  And he exuded joy. He had that childlike quality even though his teachings were profound.  He had that twinkle in his eye that made you want to be in his presence.  You had that wonderful realization that you were in the presence of Jesus.”

The following is a prophetic statement that he gave during an interview in the late nineties. For those of us who knew about him, these words will allow you to hear his voice one more time. For those who did not know him, these words will allow you to see the holy priest that he was:

“The glorious strengthening of the Church is going to happen quite soon in history. We must love the Church and work in and for Her.  We must believe in the Holy Father.  We must believe in the Holy Father, the bishops and the priests and know that the Church shall engender, give birth, in the world, to a new civilization, a civilization of life and of truth and of love.  It may not be in my lifetime but I see its stirrings already. Her beauty shall be seen and Her voice shall be heard and it shall be a more magnificent beauty and clearer voice than has ever been heard in history before.”

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The Importance of Beauty and Art in Evangelization

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Beauty has been important to the Church throughout its history – in the desire for beautiful churches, artwork, music, vestments, and as a setting for the Holy Mass.  But it is unjustly criticized by some as a display of man’s wealth and, in some cases, has been systematically removed from the Church – leaving a tragic void.

Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox are, as this is published, leading a pilgrimage in Italy – a country steeped in history, beauty and art.  I, too, have gazed in awe at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel; stood in wonder at the architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica;  and been entranced by Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.

Such beauty transcends words and reaches the depths of my soul, drawing me into contemplation of something higher than myself; opening my heart to the message within the work of art.  It is a window that enables me to perceive God in the physical world.

On a local level, I recently had the privilege of viewing the Saint John’s Bible – the first handwritten and illuminated Bible produced by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years.

While the artwork is contemporary, the Saint John’s Bible was created in the tradition of handwritten medieval manuscripts.  And, for me, the experience was a meeting of scripture through art.  I would have liked to have spent quiet time reflecting on some of the images that seemed to draw me into dialogue.

Beauty is a priceless gift that the Church offers the world.  Though we live in a throw away culture, what is truly beautiful lasts the span of time.  Art is a tool for evangelization and pivotal in bringing God to secular society.

As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so eloquently stated,

“Works of art always speak, at least implicitly, of the divine, of the infinite beauty of God…. Sacred images, with their beauty, are also a Gospel proclamation and express the splendor of the Catholic truth….”

An Encounter With John Paul II

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JP II Relic
I often tell friends that I have had the honor to be blessed by four Popes! Pope Paul VI in 1963, John Paul II four times, Benedict XVI twice and now we are looking forward to our Year of Faith Pilgrimage beginning on Monday, October 14th to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo and Rome, most especially to seeing and hearing Pope Francis in person!

The Ministry of Pilgrimages offers pilgrimages to Rome and other shrine locations pertaining to the history of our Church. It’s an exciting Ministry in many ways.  Meeting people and making new friends is always a blessing, and traveling with that “new family” adds comfort and assurance.

John Paul II is a person I admired and loved. He was one with the people, wasn’t afraid of traveling to various parts of the world to proclaim the Good News, and was concerned for all.

During one of our pilgrimages to Rome, a married couple and dear friends wanted to stay a couple of extra days in Rome to visit additional sites and simply enjoy the eternal city! It was a blessing for Tom and I also, since we would be ready to relax with friends and enjoy Rome. One morning, our friends decided they wanted to go up to the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica. Tom and I had already experienced this and didn’t want to climb the 320 steps! (Even though you can take an elevator part of the way.) We decided to wait for our friends in St. Peter’s Basilica, so we could have time for “spiritual rest” – we were quite exhausted after leading the pilgrimage.

Upon entering St. Peter’s Basilica, we stopped at the Tomb of John Paul II, which was surrounded by crowds: some taking photos, praying youth, Religious Sisters with their rosaries, some just staring at the entombed remains of a man that so many admired. I, too, took advantage of the moment – I asked John Paul to intercede for us and our Evangelization Ministry. After all, he coined the phrase “New Evangelization,” a phrase that became a proclamation to all the faithful to be renewed in the faith and share it with others. My prayer was one from the depth of my heart – Tom and I were seeking guidance for the ministry.

Our next stop was the Chapel. Upon entering, it was as if you were entering Heaven on earth; it was so peaceful, so quiet. We were all there for the same thing – to adore God, to take time to be silent in His Presence.

We realized that we still had time before we met up with our friends, and as we walked to one side of St. Peter’s, we noticed an area set aside for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Vatican guard welcomed us and asked in which language we would prefer. English!  As he walked around the individual wooden Confessionals, he returned stating English-speaking priests were not available. Then all of a sudden a priest at one of the  confessionals waved the guard and said he would take us, explaining, however, that his English was very poor. Fine!

After my confession, the priest asked me a couple of questions– was I married? Children?  In fact, I found his English to be very good, which was quite interesting since he said he didn’t speak English very well.  After his blessing, he gave me a card with the picture of John Paul II and what appeared to be a “relic” on one corner. I noticed the cloth was white and asked the priest –is this a piece of John Paul’s cassock? He replied that it was, and so it was a second-class relic (something that belonged to the saint). Remarkable!

I was so excited and happy to have received this gift and KNEW it was John Paul II acknowledging my prayers. I KNEW this was an encounter with him. You can imagine how I felt. Tom and I walked out of St. Peter’s exuberant and filled with much joy and hope.

That card is framed and sits on my desk as a reminder of my encounter with John Paul II and his prayers for our evangelization ministry.

The Vatican has set the date for his canonization – April 27, 2014.  He and Pope John XXIII will be canonized on that day.  Go ahead – ask John Paul II to pray for you and your intentions.  He is a member of the Communion of Saints.