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Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia elevated to basilica  

The Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia was elevated by the Vatican to the status of basilica this week. / Miraculous Medal Shrine

Washington D.C., Jan 29, 2023 / 06:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican recognized the Miraculous Medal Shrine, located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, as the city’s second basilica, elevating its status to a minor basilica this week.  

The shrine, created by the Vincentians in 1927 under the leadership of Father Joseph Skelly, is now known as the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. The Marian title is based on apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in Paris in 1830. The medal includes a depiction of Mary, the Mother of God, with the prayer “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” encircling her.

“It is an esteemed honor to be recognized by the Vatican as a Minor Basilica,” Father Timothy Lyons, the shrine’s rector, said in a statement. “We are both overjoyed and humbled by this recognition. This historic proclamation marks the next chapter in the Shrine’s history and recognizes the significant role it has played in the Catholic Church, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and the Shrine community.” 

According to a news release from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the elevation to a basilica grants the shrine certain privileges and responsibilities, such as the celebration of the feast of the Chair of St. Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul; and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry.  

Basilicas also have the authority to grant plenary indulgences, which remove all temporal consequences of one’s sin. This is distinct from a partial indulgence, which only removes part of the temporal consequences. The designation also recognizes the shrine as a historic landmark, according to the archdiocese.  

“I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for bestowing this tremendous honor on the Miraculous Medal Shrine,” Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez said in a statement. “This moment is one of great joy for the entire Church in Philadelphia. The Miraculous Medal Shrine is a great gift drawing souls closer to Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. I congratulate the Vincentians and all those working to sustain the Shrine and its ministry. May their work continue to bear great fruit.” 

The shrine had applied for the status of basilica for several years before Pope Francis granted the recognition. The city’s only other basilica is the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is on the east side of Logan Square. There are 91 other basilicas in the United States. The shrine was the first American church to be granted the title this year; there were two churches granted the recognition of basilica last year.

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Catholic speaker Leah Darrow combines life on the farm with cultivating one’s faith

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. / UST MAX Studios

Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Nestled within the countryside of Fordland, Missouri, a town of 800 people, is an 80-acre farm filled with chickens, cattle, vegetable gardens, pumpkins, and a whole lot of faith called the Big Family Farm. This is where Catholic speaker, mother of six, and former model Leah Darrow and her family reside.

In a new video series called “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation,” created by University of St. Thomas Houston’s MAX Studios, Darrow welcomes viewers into her home and shares what inspired her family to leave the hustle and bustle of the city for the peace and tranquility of the farm.

Raised on a cattle farm in Oklahoma, Darrow was brought up in the farm lifestyle and would share stories about the farm with her husband, Ricky. He, on the other hand, was raised on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. Their family of eight was living a life in St. Louis that Darrow described as “incredibly comfortable” thanks to the accessibility of having groceries delivered to their front door, Amazon, Uber, and more.

The married couple began to ask themselves, “‘Do you think that this life is how God is calling us to live? Are we living the life God is calling us to live right now?” Darrow said in an interview with CNA.

A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. UST MAX Studios
A behind-the-scenes photo of the Darrows filming “The Cultivation of Purpose with Leah Darrow: Faith, Farming and Vocation” on their Missouri farm. UST MAX Studios

“And then we began to say, ‘Where could we raise saints the best?’” she added. “And we just realized that it was in a place where we had more space, and we had more quiet, and we had more nature, and we had more time for contemplation, and we had more time just to be together as a family.”

She also emphasized that the couple knew they wanted their lives to be a “little bit more uncomfortable and inconvenient” — a life where it was necessary to plan ahead to account for the 45-minute drive to get groceries.

“We have our milk dropped off to us by our farmer down the road every week. That’s probably the most convenient thing that we have right now in our life,” she joked.

Darrow shared that part of the driving force behind their move was a desire to create something for families where they could come together as one. This led them to plant a 3-acre pumpkin patch on the farm, which now hosts an event called Pumpkin Days during the month of October.

“We did want to create an opportunity for families to come together and spend time outside in nature and just connect themselves back to the land and ideally back to their Creator,” she explained. “So, what could we do to bring people here? What could we do to have an opportunity where families could get out instead of doing something inside or being on screens all day? And we decided to have a pumpkin patch.”

Darrow discussed how moving to the farm also impacted not only how she sees God’s creation in nature but also how her prayer life has changed. Now, when she sits down at her kitchen table, she knows where everything came from — whether it be vegetables from their garden, eggs from their chickens, milk from their neighbor, or meat from animals they raised.

“It’s a very different relationship with the land, with respect to nature, with the weather — obviously all this leads to God willing all of this,” she shared. “My prayers have never included rain as much as they have after becoming a farmer.”

Leah Darrow and her husband, Ricky, during the Pumpkin Days event held on their farm in Fordland, Missouri. UST MAX Studios
Leah Darrow and her husband, Ricky, during the Pumpkin Days event held on their farm in Fordland, Missouri. UST MAX Studios

Through this video series, Darrow hopes that people will be inspired to look at their lives and ask themselves where God is calling them to be a little bit more uncomfortable.

She explained: “We want to create a deeper awareness of asking ourselves, where am I comfortable? Is this where God’s calling me? And where could I begin to branch out and seek something in a more natural state?”

Life on the farm and the purpose behind the video series also offer a segue into Darrow’s new personal development program called Power Made Perfect. This program is a Scripture-based course for women that focuses on human formation. The 14-week course is split into two sections: restoration, looking inward; and resurrection, looking outward. Its purpose is to empower Christian women to reach their full potential and embark on a transformative journey, done through faith in Jesus, in order to experience true change from within.

“The goal of Power Made Perfect is to really help a person live in a state of possibility with God,” Darrow said.

Together through the video series and her personal development program, Darrow hopes to “increase awareness” among people so that they begin to develop a growth mindset and are willing to ask themselves the hard questions about where God is truly calling them.

“There’s something to be said about growth, and we grow when we have those difficult moments in life. That’s where we’re really growing,” she said. “And if life is incredibly comfortable, if we have everything we need at literally a drop of a hat … if we’re in a place where we’re not looking up and connecting with people and connecting with nature and what God is providing, we really miss out on something greater.”

How the ‘satanic’ New York City courthouse statue is all about abortion

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander. / Credit: Ben Shapiro/YouTube

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

An unusual new 8-foot-tall golden statue standing on top of a New York City courthouse has sparked controversy, with many across the country reacting to its unveiling with shock and disgust. One media outlet even called it a “satanic golden medusa.” 

According to the artist who created the statue, it’s a symbol of women’s empowerment and an expression of support for abortion. The “satanic” imagery so many have pointed out closely resembles that employed by a pro-abortion group dedicated to banning religion from the public square. 

What does the artist say?

The golden-horned female statue titled “NOW” was made by Pakistani-born artist Shahzia Sikander.

Sikander, 53, has been an influential New York City artist for years, serving on the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers in New York in 2017. A self-described “citizen of the world,” Sikander says her work is meant to take classical and Indo-Persian styles and imbue them with modern feminist inflections.

According to the artist, the statue was commissioned as part of “cultural reckoning” to better represent “21st-century social mores” in public spaces, the New York Times reported.

She described her statue as a “fierce woman” and a “form of resistance.”

The title “NOW” is meant to call attention to Sikander’s belief that fierce female resistance is needed now, after the death of the first female Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and since the national right to abortion was eliminated with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The goat-like horns

Atop the head of the courthouse statue are large braids that curl in on themselves to form goat-like horns. According to Sikander, the horns signify “sovereignty” and “autonomy.”

On Fox News, commentator Tucker Carlson decried the statue as “demonic.” 

The horned statue does bear a resemblance to the image of the goat-like “Baphomet,” used by The Satanic Temple (TST), a self-described “non-theistic” religious organization that frequently engages in political protests of expressions of religion in the public square. 

The Satanic Temple, while employing satanic imagery, states in a FAQ on their website that they do not believe in Satan.

In recent years, TST has sued states with significant abortion restrictions, saying these laws violate the group’s “religious right” to practice its “abortion ritual.” The organization has also protested prayer in school and Christian-themed imagery displayed on public space.

The lace collar

The statue wears a lace collar around its neck, which Sikander has explained is meant to resemble the collar worn by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg, who died in 2020 and sat on the Supreme Court for 27 years, has come to be seen by many abortion activists, such as the group “Ruth Sent Us,” as a symbol of female empowerment and even abortion itself.

The “Ruth Sent Us” website states its mission is to fight what it calls “a racist and misogynistic theocracy” Supreme Court. The group has organized protests at Supreme Court justices’ homes and inside Catholic churches during Mass.

An ‘anti-monument’ monument

Since 1900, the New York City courthouse has displayed a collection of statues of men significant to the development of law, including Moses, Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and Confucius. The New York Times ran a glowing feature of the new statue, titled “Move Over Moses and Zoroaster: Manhattan Has a New Female Lawgiver.”

By depicting a naked, horned female image, Sikander said she meant to break from tradition.

“I have always had an affinity for the anti-monument in my practice,” Sikander explained in an artistic statement released on Madison Square Park Conservancy’s website.

Explaining the figure’s nakedness, Sikander said “the body is a powerful tool that carries its social construction. It can also function as a site of resistance.”

The statue rises atop a lotus flower, which Sikander described as “alluding to perception as illusion” and signifying “a deeper truth beyond its form.”

The sister statue ‘Witness’

The courthouse statue is one piece of a pair, with its sister statue “Witness” displayed in nearby Madison Square Park. The park statue is identical to its partner save for a hooped skirt, which is meant to resemble the dome of the New York City courthouse.

Along the figure’s hoop skirt are mosaic swirls that spell the word “Havah.” A Hebrew, Arabic, and Urdu word, translations for “Havah” vary.

To Sikander, translations of “Havah” as “to breathe,” “to be,” and the name “Eve” all fit her intention.

To her, “Havah” means “to breathe, to add air, to change a narrative.” The Art Newspaper reported that Sikander said she hopes her statues will be icons of resistance, saying, “Eve is also the first law-breaker, right?”

The two statues will remain in New York until June, when they will be placed on exhibit in Houston.

Skull of St. Thomas Aquinas unveiled at 700th anniversary of his canonization

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Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2023 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas has arrived at the Dominican Convent of Toulouse, France, and placed in a new reliquary.

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