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What did Pope Francis REALLY Say? News Sources to Accurately Follow Our Holy Father

What did Pope Francis REALLY Say? Accurate Catholic News Sources for Following Our Holy Father from @ACatholicNewbie

As Catholics and non-Catholics alike get ready to welcome the leader of our worldwide Church here on American soil, the media is literally going ga-ga. Headlines and cartoons and analysts galore are filling the airwaves with all sorts of anticipation of what Pope Francis might say or do as he meets President Obama, speaks to Congress and visits the United Nations. Is he going to allow gay marriage? Divorce? Condemn capitalism?

But, reader, tweeter, listener, watcher … beware! The non-Catholic media wants to turn Pope Francis into a man who is going to turn the Catholic church on its head. But, as Teresa Tomeo likes to say: “Newsflash, the Pope is still Catholic” — and he’s not going to change a thing about Catholic church teaching, which has been held since Jesus walked the earth. We can speculate and infer and twist his words to our culture’s liking all we want, but it just isn’t happening.

I say all this to encourage everyone — Catholics and non-Catholics — to get your news about Pope Francis’ visit straight from the source … and that would be The Vatican. Go to and READ FOR YOURSELF what Pope Francis said. Please don’t read what the New  York Times or ABC News or NPR said he said. Nine times out of 10 they get it flat wrong.

There are lots of other great Catholic-based media sources that will also provide you with accurate information from experts and journalists who are well versed in Catholic teaching, who have covered popes for decades and who understand Church law and history.

Here are a few Catholic news sources I recommend during Pope Francis’ U.S. visit:

  • EWTN — It doesn’t get any better for television or radio than the Eternal Word (ie Jesus) Television Network. They will have around the clock coverage of the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis’ whereabouts and the Synod on the Family. Find out what’s on when here.
  • Teresa Tomeo — One of my favorite journalists for telling it like it is, but with a sense of humor :). She’ll be broadcasting her Ave Maria Radio/EWTN Radio show Catholic Connection LIVE from the World Meeting of Families this week 8-10 a.m. Eastern on Catholic radio stations. You can also stream it live via the EWTN app, tune to Sirius-XM 130 or listen online.
  • Al Kresta – Al hosts a weekday afternoon drive time show on EWTN/Ave Maria Radio from 4-6 p.m. called Kresta in the Afternoon. He’ll provide a recap of the news of Pope Francis’ visit each day.
  • The Catholic Channel on Sirius-XM 129 – They are changing themselves to Pope Radio this week. 🙂 Lots of great shows airing all day long.
  • Catholic News Agency – Continually updated coverage on all things Pope Francis and the Vatican
  • Joan Lewis – As the Rome correspondent for EWTN, Joan knows about everything there is to know about the Pope and the Vatican. Follow along on her blog.
  • Aleteia – A fairly new website with a more contemporary slant newly edited by Elizabeth Scalia. They sponsored the adorable Popemojis (emoticons & emojis for your smartphone) and will provide more youthful coverage of the Pope’s visit.
  • National Catholic Register – Solid Catholic news coverage online and in newspaper format.

What did I miss? What are your favorite Catholic news sources that get Pope Francis right and provide fair and balanced coverage?

Remember, take non-Catholic news coverage with a grain of salt and read the REAL story for yourself so you can make informed judgments and commentary on Pope Francis’ historic visit to America.



How to Read Pope Francis’ Laudato Si

Laudato Si Reading Plan via @ACatholicNewbie

OK, Catholics (and ALL people for that matter), you already know this, but I’m here to remind you that you NEED to read Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ new encyclical letter On Care for Our Common Home. Why? Sure, you can read everyone else’s summaries, but you need to read Pope Francis’ words for yourself, rather than accept someone else’s interpretation.

You want to be especially careful you are not accepting the interpretations of secular media, who so frequently take Pope Francis’ comments out of context, turning them into something they are not. Teresa Tomeo posted a great list of reliable Catholic sources on her blog.

Format Options

How can you read Laudato Si? Here are some format choices:

1) Laudate App on your smartphone – Download the free app, then select Vatican Documents, scroll to Encyclical Letter and select the top one, Laudato si’. Easy as pie!

2) Vatican website – Read it directly online here.

3) Read as a book – You can buy Laudato Si in book format from Amazon.

4) Read it as an ebook – Download Laudato Si as an ebook to your Kindle or other e-reader.

Now you know HOW to read it, let’s put together a plan to actually read it. Because it’s divided into 246 parts and, as a book, is 176 pages, plus the fact that it’s written by a pope, can make it a bit intimidating to delve into. But I’m here to tell you, I’ve started reading it, and you don’t need a doctorate to get through it. Sure, you’ll need to concentrate, but you won’t need to whip out a dictionary to understand it.

My Reading Plan

My suggestion is to make it as easy as possible to read by having it on your phone, carrying your Kindle with you, packing the book in your bag, etc., so when you get a free moment, you can pop it out and read it. Having it in multiple formats can be helpful as well, so you can switch between ereading on your phone or Kindle to the physical book.

Tackle it in bits of 12-15 parts per day. At a rate of 15 parts, you’ll be done in 17 days, and at a rate of 12 parts, you’ll be done in 21 days — either way, you’ll have read it in less than a month in free bits of time here and there.

Great Quotes from Laudato Si Thus Far

I’m just at the beginning, but I’ve already found so many wonderful things in Laudto Si. Here are just a few samplings to inspire you to read (note: my favorite parts are in bold):

  • Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. (Part 6)
  • [Patriarch Bartholomew] asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” (Part 9)
  • “It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet” (Part 9, quoting Patriarch Bartholomew, I believe) — How amazingly well written is that sentence?!
  • What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. (Part 12)

Let us not waste the wise words of our wonderful Pope Francis by failing to read them! Now, let’s get started…

Are Catholic Bishops Living too Lavishly? CNN says so…


Catholic Bishops Living Lavishly
Over the weekend, I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. The CNN Belief blog lists the residences of many of America’s prominent Catholic bishops, noting their size and value, which they define as “lavish.” It made me think about the morality of how a bishop should live.

Recently, Pope Francis, who is known for his humble ways, warned seminarians and nuns to avoid the temptation of thinking “the latest smartphone, the fastest moped and a car that turns heads” will make them happy. He even recommended riding a bike, or if you have to drive a car, to just “get a humbler one.”

But because this CNN article was not from the Catholic Church, rather from secular media, I knew there had to be more than meets the eye, so I asked some lay folks, priests, well-known Catholic personalities and Catholic authors to weigh in along with my thoughts.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Patti Armstrong, a prominent Catholic writer and author, noted that while the article pointed out the size and value of these residences, it did not consider HOW the bishops live in these residences. It is quite likely that they live humbly within the walls.

“People are judging by the building,” she said. “No one has been able to point to opulent living. You can’t judge by the cover and a house is just a cover.” She notes that St. Thomas Moore was a martyr whose position with King Henry VIII afforded him luxurious living. “The residence that comes with a position does not indicate necessarily how one lives,” she said.

Additionally, these residences are not the bishops’ personal homes but rather belong to the diocese.

A Matter of History

There is also the issue of the importance and magnificence of some of these buildings. Just as the Vatican holds a treasury of incredible artwork, written works, gorgeous historic cathedrals and ancient “lavish” artifacts, so may some of these American cathedrals and structures be historically or architecturally significant – now or down the line.

“Imagine if all of the Vatican treasures had been sold off, all that history,” said Armstrong. “There would be nothing for us to see today.” In caring for these buildings, opening them for public use and appreciation, and passing them down from bishop to bishop from priest to priest and from parish to parish, the Church is being a good steward of precious possessions. After all, if we are judging things by size and value, the size of St. Peter’s is several football fields and contains priceless works of art and no one thinks that should be sold!

Teresa Tomeo, host of Catholic Connection on EWTN radio and popular Catholic author, noted, “A lot of these homes have been in the various dioceses for decades or even longer and are attached or very close to the cathedrals.” A great article over at also notes that many of these residences were built over a century ago so the church is not paying mortgages. They also write that many of the buildings written about in the article are in some of the largest metropolitan areas with the highest property values.

But what about the newer homes built specifically for these bishops? “Many have been donated or built by the people and most are used as places for other clergy to stay when they come to town,” said Tomeo.

Meeting the World Where It Is

The need for meeting space and accommodations for overnight guests is another reason for the size of some of these residences. Many may house several priests or even staff in addition to the bishop. The argument can also be made that bishops must entertain prominent individuals who might not be accustomed to such humble surroundings as dictated by the Catholic Church. While that may be the case, would anyone, even royalty, have demanded that Mother Teresa meet them in a more lush space?

Father Christopher Roberts of the Lafayette, Ind., diocese and blogger at For Christ and the Church also noted that “The Church has always tried to engage the world in order to convert it,” and that, in fact, Peter and Paul went to Rome for that reason. “Sharing the Gospel in the modern world will often mean the Church has to adopt modern business practices and technology.” But the question is, to what extent?

What Does the Church Teach About This?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says “The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. All Christ’s faithful are to ‘direct their affections rightly lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty.’” (2544-2545)

Thanks to Father Roberts for directing me also to the PRESBYTERORUM ORDINIS document from Vatican II. It echoes Father’s sentiments about working in the world when it says, “Their ministry itself, by a special title, forbids that they be conformed to this world; (20) yet at the same time it requires that they live in this world among men. (21)” Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter I, No. 3, 20-21

Here is more from this document that directs us on the morality of a priest’s and bishop’s use of “goods”:

 “Ecclesiastical goods, properly so called, according to their nature and ecclesiastical law, should be administered by priests with the help of capable laymen as far as possible and should always be employed for those purposes in the pursuit of which it is licit for the Church to possess temporal goods-namely, for the carrying out of divine worship, for the procuring of honest sustenance for the clergy, and for the exercise of the works of the holy apostolate or works of charity, especially in behalf of the needy.(45) Those goods which priests and bishops receive for the exercise of their ecclesiastical office should be used for adequate support and the fulfillment of their office and status, excepting those governed by particular laws.(46) That which is in excess they should be willing to set aside for the good of the Church or for works of charity. Thus they are not to seek ecclesiastical office or the benefits of it for the increase of their own family wealth.(47) Therefore, in no way placing their heart in treasures,(48) they should avoid all greediness and carefully abstain from every appearance of business.” – Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter III, Section 2, No.17, 45-48

And “A certain common use of goods, similar to the common possession of goods in the history of the primitive Church, (52) furnishes an excellent means of pastoral charity… Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even the most humble, fear to visit them.” – Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis, Chapter III, Section 2, No. 17, 52 & 53

Here’s what stands out to me:

  • All excess should be set aside for the good of the Church or works of charity.
  • They should avoid all greediness.
  • They should carefully abstain from every appearance of business.
  • Let them arrange their homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone.

Not Size, but Intention

I think we need to view this from the perspective of not how big is the rectory and how much is it worth, but how are the bishops “addressing their affections,” or in other words, what is their intention in having these large, valuable properties? Where is their heart?

If their intentions are to serve Christ and they believe this is the most effective means of doing so, then they are following His directive and living out His Word. If they are being tempted into luxury and greed or attracted to worldly things to maintain such properties and they could carry out their tasks without these items, they are not.

But this is next to impossible for an outsider, especially secular media, to know, and we can be certain we will be judged by the same measure with which we judge others. Who among us is not attached to worldly goods?

What Can We Learn from This?

One important lesson I see is remembering that the Church is not perfect, as it’s made up of imperfect humans – priests, bishops, lay people, nuns, monks, deacons – in a fallen world and has done wrong in the past, as have we all. It does not hurt to take a close look at what the Church is doing to look for ways to improve.

This is an area, in my humble opinion, where I believe the Church can probably do better. I’m sure there are many cases where maintaining a more valuable, large rectory is warranted and the most efficient means of pastoring a flock, but I’m also sure there are cases where it is not.

Let’s all challenge ourselves as followers of Jesus, with our bishops, to more closely follow the narrow path to which Christ has called us and look at the intentions of our hearts when it comes to worldly goods. Where it’s possible, let’s downsize and give, not just out of our abundance, but out of our need like the widow. Jesus told the rich man – and the apostles – to give away everything and follow Him. The Church is not perfect, but it can strive to be, as Jesus calls us, and in following Pope Francis’ lead.

As Father Roberts said, “I admire Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s decision to live at the Cathedral Rectory in Boston. I hope more bishops, priests and lay people follow his lead.” Me, too.

Note: I reached out to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to see if they had an official response to this CNN article.  They did respond, saying they did not.

Let God Mess Up Your Plans and You Just Might Get Some Unexpected Surprises

Teresa Tomeo

Me and Teresa at St. Boniface in Lafayette, Indiana

I wanted to share with all my readers one amazing example of God’s blessings that have poured down on me since beginning the process of Total Consecration to Mary. Although it’s been only a few months, I still am flabbergasted by this one event.

I am a writer and public relations professional by trade and run my own business. I’ve been through many ups and downs with my business, and I am now seeing it wasn’t until I let go of MY plans for my life and career that God began his work in me. I once had aspirations of growing and running a large company with many employees, but situation after situation has revealed to me that’s not what would bring me happiness or fulfillment.

Around this time last year, I came to grips with what God was trying to show me. I took a big step and handed over some current work that was not fulfilling or bringing me joy to a fellow co-worker to instead focus on the things that were fulfilling and bringing me happiness. It’s not easy to GIVE UP work, let me tell you. But I felt very called to do so, and as soon as I did it, I knew it was the right thing. Slowly, I’ve delved more into work that aligns with my Catholic values and that I feel called to do.

Earlier this summer, I began in earnest to get to know Our Lady better and I came across a pamphlet for Total Consecration in our Blessed Sacrament chapel. I was curious, so I looked up St. Louis de Monfort and read a couple of his books. After much study and hearing Gary Zimak on Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo mention he was going to lead a group through Consecration via his podcast, I was sold. Even before we started the preparation, I began daily, as a trial, offering up the merits of all my actions, goods and works to Mary for her safekeeping and distribution.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been listening to Catholic Radio Indy and came to really enjoy Teresa Tomeo’s drive time (9-10 a.m.) show every morning. As soon as I dropped my kids off at school, I’d tune in and listen to a Catholic perspective on the news of the day and learn about new books and Catholic teachings from all the great people she interviewed.

One day, I went to her website and saw she had her own PR/communications firm… Hmmm… So all summer long, I toyed with the idea that maybe I should try to email her just to see if she might need any freelance help. But I thought that was a total long shot. Well, finally in August, the calling was so strong, I just up and did it. Lo and behold, she emailed me back within the hour, saying yes indeed they needed some help and they were especially interested in my experience working with non-Catholic media and particularly with travel journalists. That was a hole her team was just saying they needed to fill!

I about fell off my chair.  (Side note: I prayed to Mary before sending the email and praised God when I got this response back. Never hurts to send an important email off with a prayer attached!) After talking with the head of her team of communications professionals, they added me to their team and I am now working on projects that match my values and further the spread of the Catholic faith. What a blessing!! Every project is bathed in prayer for whomever we are working with and we get to share and talk about topics that we’d be discussing anyway. I can’t think of any other work I’d rather be doing.

Just last weekend, Teresa spoke at a parish in Lafayette, Ind., near mine and so I had the opportunity to meet her in person, hear her entire story live and assist her with selling, signing books and more throughout the day. I still cannot believe I was helping Teresa Tomeo, whom I listen to on the radio every day! I’ll share more about her talk in a future blog, as it was incredibly inspiring.

So my point here is this. Give your life up to God and amazing things will happen. It’s not all going to be pleasant, because we all know that God calls us to suffering, as well, but it will all be satisfying and fulfilling and likely bring you things beyond your imagining.

As Pope Francis recently said: “God always surprises us, he overturns our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!” This was certainly one of God’s joyful surprises for me. Thanks for messing up my plans, God :).

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