August 18 happens to be the feast of St. Helena: empress, convert and finder of the relics of Christ’s cross. I won’t recount in detail the story of her life and how the cross was recovered — you can find plenty online, like this 2019 article in Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. But something striking to me is that, in her time, a cross was an ugly, terrible, painful thing to be looking for.
Crucifixion as a means of tortuous punishment — and of making a public example of someone in the Roman Empire — would’ve been fresh in people’s minds (though Helena’s son Constantine did ban the practice as the first Christian emperor), and a ‘Christian culture’ wasn’t yet prevalent.
For the average guy, looking for a cross would seem nuts. For Christians, it may have been bittersweet to recall brethren who also died in this way, but also a consolation to find and be able to touch and see and remember the meaning of Christ’s cross. God became man, lived like us, suffered for us and brings us meaning and hope of heaven.
There are a number of terrible crosses in our world lately — deadly fires in Maui, persecution of Christians in Iraq, increasing rates of suicide and more — that we’ve written about this week. Sometimes all you and I can do is bring our troubled world to the foot of the cross. There are also concrete ways we can help out our neighbors — through monetary gifts, donated material goods or volunteer hours. Or simply by being present for someone.
I hope that the selection of this week’s stories below not only informs you of news and issues in the world today, but also inspires you to go live the Gospel both in and out of the pews.
Mother Teresa’s essential lessons for living
FAITH FORMATION: When we reflect on Mother Teresa’s life, we are really seeing how any of us — if we allow God to fill our hearts and guide us — can change the world, one life at a time.
Village in Poland prepares for Ulma family’s beatification, tells story of their heroism in face of Nazis
With the Ulma family beatification coming up Sept. 10, the people of Markowa are busy telling the story of their ancestors and preparing for what is, for them, the event of the century.
Catholics recall 19 ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’ giving lives to fight 2013 Arizona wildfires
Ten years ago, Claretian Father Darrin Merlino had just become a first-time pastor. Within two weeks, he found himself ministering to people affected by one of the greatest tragedies to hit the town in which Sacred Heart is the only Catholic church: The Granite Mountain Hotshots lost almost their entire crew — 19 of 20 men — battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.
In mental health care, faith can help, say therapists and those coping with depression, anxiety
“Counseling is not a replacement for the need for God,” explained Catholic psychologist Joseph Molitor. “It’s not like you do therapy and forget your spiritual life. Working at a natural level can pave the way for a better spiritual life. It’s helpful for Catholics to see the integration between the two.”
In Colombia, priests and lay workers will help monitor ceasefire
The Colombian bishops’ conference has welcomed the beginning of a six-month ceasefire between the nation’s military and the largest remaining rebel group in the country, and began to train dozens of priests and lay workers from different parts of the country on how to help monitor the truce.
Appeals court overturns lower court, revives pro-lifers’ suit over arrest for chalk messages
A panel of judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Aug. 15 revived a 2020 suit filed by pro-life activists who alleged the city acted unconstitutionally when police arrested them for drawing anti-abortion messages in chalk on a sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in the nation’s capital.
With evictions growing, housing situation for many Americans seen growing more precarious
“We’re dealing with families; we’re dealing with children — who need this affordable housing,” Donaldson explained. “They’re working multiple jobs — but housing is so expensive.”
New Orleans Archdiocese pushes back as investigative report alleges mishandled abuse cases
The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond are pushing back against a newspaper’s investigative report claiming they mishandled several claims of clerical abuse.
Catholic leaders, pro-life groups take positions over PEPFAR reauthorization
Looming debate over the reauthorization of PEPFAR has some pro-life advocates raising alarm about the potential for some funding going to abortion, while others say safeguards are in place to prevent such spending.
Q&A: A priest with grandchildren and a question on tattoos
Interestingly, although the church doesn’t have any official doctrine on tattoos, there are a few instances where tattoos are part of a broader cultural Catholic tradition.