Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pope Benedict's Camauro on eBay

~the seller "sacerdote" has the goods!






A wonderful gift for any person who collects ecclesiastical finery, and very affordable with NO reserve!

If you require any further information, please email me!
Check out the before and after pictures! (hat tip....or dare I say, camauro Bill Cork)

Congratulations to the Fighting Sioux!

~Three cheers to the University of North Dakota "Fighting Sioux" for beating the Dartmouth and St. Lawrence Universities hockey teams in a politically-correct charged pre-game dust-up!! Powerline quotes a blog reader:
There may be a message in the game's 4-1 outcome for Dartmouth's PC-sensitivity mongers. If so, I suspect that message will be lost on them. People whose sense of their own moral superiority is premised on projecting concern for the victim status of others are wont to give that up, least of all to those (like the good-spirited UND folks) whose sense of identity is built of healthier stock than cultivated feelings of inferiority, grievance and being perpetually offended.

Cheers, and a blessed New Year to you all.

Archive of Fr. Altier's homilies and teachings

~A reader sent the following links to Fr. Robert Altier's archives of homilies and also his "Fundamentals of the Catholicism" series. Fr. Altier is a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Text and Audio of Homilies arranged by year (2001-2006)

Fundamentals of Catholicism, 12-part catechesis

Angelus: Holy Family is the prototype for each family


~from Asia News

Before tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI dedicated the Angelus of the last Sunday of 2006 to the value of the family and marriage, calling for the protection of Mary and Joseph to resist that “prompting towards disintegration of certain [traits of] modern culture that undermines the very basis of the institution of the family.”

The liturgy falling on the Sunday between Christmas and the New Year celebrates the Holy Family of Nazareth. The pope first greeted “families of the world, wishing them peace and love that Jesus gave us, coming among us at Christmas.” Then he explained that “in the Gospel, we do not find speeches about the family but an event that is worth more than any word: God wanted to be born and grow up in a human family. In this way, he consecrated it as the first and ordinary path of his encounter with mankind.”

All the values of family life – obedience, social and religious education, mutual dedication – are found in the Holy Family. “In the life spent in Nazareth, Jesus honoured the Virgin Mary and the just Joseph, submitting to their authority for all the time of his childhood and adolescence (cfr Lk 2:51-52). In this way, he highlighted the primary value of the family in the education of the person. Jesus was introduced to the religious community by Mary and Joseph, going to the synagogue of Nazareth. With them, he learned to undertake the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as narrated by the gospel passage proposed by today’s liturgy for our meditation. When he was 12, he stayed in the Temple and his parents took three days to find him. With this gesture, he made them understand that he had to ‘tend to his Father’s business’, that is, the mission entrusted to him by God (cfr Lk 2:41-52).”

Taking his cue from the gospel passage, Benedict XVI underlined that the family should take great care in “accompanying each of its members in the journey of discovery of God and in the plan He has in his or her regard. Mary and Joseph educated Jesus above all by their example: in his Parents, He knew all the beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as for the demands of justice that find fulfillment in love (cfr Rm 13:10). From them, he learned in the first place that God’s will be done and that spiritual ties are worth more than blood ties.”

The pope added: “The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the ‘prototype’ of each Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of marriage and fed by the Word and by the Eucharist, is called to realize the stupendous vocation and mission of being a living cell not only of society but of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for all mankind.”

The pontiff said: “Let us invoke the protection of the most Holy Mary and St Joseph for each family, especially for those in difficulties. May they support them so that they will be able to resist the prompting towards disintegration of certain [traits of] modern culture that undermines the very basis of the institution of the family. May they help Christian families to be, in every part of the world, a living image of the love of God."

Feast of the Holy Family

Marriage is too often conceived as the sacrament which unites a man and a woman to form a couple. In reality, marriage establishes a family, and its purpose is to increase the number of the elect, through the bodily and spiritual fecundity of the Christian spouses.

1. Every marriage intends children. Although Mary and Joseph were not united in a carnal way, their marriage is a true marriage: an indissoluble, exclusive union, wholly subordinated to the child. Mary and Joseph are united only in order to bring Jesus into the world, to protect and raise him. They have only one child, but he contains the whole of mankind, even as Isaac, an only child, fulfilled the promise made to Abraham of a countless progeny.

2. The purpose of every marriage is to establish a Christian family. The Holy Family observed the religious laws of Israel; it went in pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year with other Jewish families (Lk. 2:41). Jesus saddens and amazes his father and his mother because to their will and company he prefers "to be in his Father's house". Thus it may happen that God's will obliges the family to make disconcerting sacrifices. Yet every Christian family must live in harmony and in prayer, which are the pledges of joy and union.

3. "He remained obedient to them." Jesus was God. And through the fullness of grace Mary stood above Joseph. Nevertheless — if we except the event in the Temple — Joseph remained the head of the family; he took the initiative (as when the Holy Family fled to Egypt), and in Nazareth Jesus obeyed his parents.

~from Bread and the Word, A.M. Roguet

Joseph's Obedience

~by Don Marco of Vultus Christi on this Feast of the Holy Family.
Look closely at the obedience of Saint Joseph, his obedience in the dark night of faith. Joseph’s obedience allows the whole mystery of Israel — the going down into Egypt and the back up — to be revealed and completed in Christ. In some way the “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) of the Last Supper is made possible by Joseph’s obedience to another commandment delivered in the night: “Do this in memory of Israel.”

Twice Saint Joseph obeys the word of the angel who visits him by night. Twice Saint Matthew uses the very same formula to evoke the obedience of Saint Joseph: “And Joseph rose and too the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2:14); and again, “And he rose and took the child and his mother and went into the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).

Where is the source of Saint Joseph’s obedience? Is it in the word of the Angel? The Angel appears in a dream. Is anything more fleeting than a dream? If we remember our dreams at all in the morning, we do so in a vague and hazy way. Rarely do we find in our dreams the strength to make great changes in our lives. Dreams may sow suggestions in the imagination; rarely do we translate them into action, especially when they ask of us what Saint Benedict calls “things that are hard and repugnant to nature in the way to God” (RB 58:8).

The Viaticum of Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph finds the strength to obey in the Infant Christ, his Viaticum. He finds it in the presence of “the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51). He gazes upon the Child held against the breast of the Virgin, and from that contemplation draws the strength and the courage to pass from dreams to action — to obey. The Infant Christ was the Viaticum of Saint Joseph: his food for the journey.
Read more

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Housework ample exercise

~from BBC. Who knew? Now you don't need to pay the exorbitant gym fees. Just stay home and do housework!
Women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

The research on more than 200,000 women from nine European countries found doing household chores was far more cancer protective than playing sport.

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming was also better than having a physical job.

The women in the Cancer Research UK-funded study spent an average of 16 to 17 hours a week cooking, cleaning and doing the washing.
More on this amazing discovery! Ah, but it's only for post-menopausal women.

Anti-Tridentine Mass petition a flop

~via Fr. Z.
There is a report on ANSA today that the internet petition AGAINST the derestriction of the "Tridentine" Mass has been a flop. More
Some of the signatories include Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Donald Duck. Now really, Donald, you've gone quackers.

Click here to see who signed it. Very amusing.

First the French, then the Italians, now the Polish

...sign the Tridentine Manifesto. Via Rorate Cæli.
Declaration on the use of the Traditional Liturgy

In light of ever more frequent statements of close associates of the Holy Father, who confirm his intention of restoring the right and freedom of use of the traditional liturgy in the Latin rite, as faithful laymen of the Roman Catholic Church we wish to express our hope and gratitude.

We would also like to affirm our solidarity with the Pope, mindful that for many years prior to taking up his seat as the Apostolic Successor of Saint Peter, he took up efforts to ensure that reverent liturgical forms passed on in a long tradition and confirmed officially by Saint Pius [V] "according to the rites and customs of the Roman Church" (Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum, Pope St. Pius V, July 14th 1570) were preserved so as to "hand on this treasure for the Church of today and tomorrow" (Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressing liturgical conference, held over 22 to 24 July 2001, convened under the patronage of the Abbey of Fontgombault).

We understand the expected promotion of the traditional liturgy, otherwise termed the classical Roman rite, to involve the affirmation of the principle which is mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ratified by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, which quotes the words of the Second Vatican Council: "that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way." (CCC, 1203; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 4). The then-Cardinal Ratzinger also reminded us of this principle, stating that "the Council ordered a reform of the liturgical books, but it did not prohibit the former books." (Ten Years of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger).

...In these days of expectation we therefore wish to join those voices of support and gratitude, which are already being directed toward the Holy Father by public figures in the Christian community, and we willingly hereby declare our support and gratitude to the Holy Father Benedict XVI for his will to remove the practical discrimination of the traditional liturgy, which has served throughout the ages as a worthy instrument for the sanctification of many and as a great monument of our spiritual culture.

Bishop Burbidge to visit Tridentine Mass parish

~Next Sunday, January 7 at 4 PM, Bishop Michael Burbidge will be worshiping with the Sacred Heart parish of Dunn, NC in the Traditional Latin Rite. This is the indult parish of the Diocese of Raleigh. There will be a reception afterwards to greet the Bishop.

Ignited by Truth 2007

~Edmund C. sent me details of the conference just before Christmas. Here's the speaker lineup. Sign up early to get a discount. Last year, we had George Weigel and Alice von Hildebrand.
get ignited!

5th Annual Ignited By Truth Catholic Conference

Saturday, February 17, 2007
8:30am – 6:00pm

Cardinal Gibbons Catholic High School
1401 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh, NC (across from the RBC Center)

Peter Kreeft
“What Does Catholicism Call Us to Be”

Mark Shea
“Incarnational Evangelism : Bearing Witness to Faith in More than Words”

Sr. Anna Laura
Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation
“Building a Solid Foundation of Prayer”

Rev. Leo E. Patalinghug S.T.L.
“Mortal Combat”

Carol Restaine
“Answering the Call of Christ”

Closing Mass Celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

Free Friday evening workshops!

Student programs!
Here's the Ignited by Truth website where you can register. This conference was founded by a couple of homeschooling soccer moms!

A busy year coming up for Pope Benedict

~from CNS

A new Vatican calendar features photos of Pope Benedict XVI relaxing, but the pope's own agenda for 2007 leaves little time for repose.

The Vatican will be a busy place throughout the year, with hundreds of papal meetings, liturgies and other events already scheduled and several documents in the pipeline.

The pope will make at least two foreign trips, including his first intercontinental journey, and sometime during the year is likely to name another batch of new cardinals.

The year begins with a spate of traditional papal Masses and meetings, including a "state of the world" address to the world's diplomatic corps in mid-January.

The diplomats speech is prominently covered by the international media. That is not true of more routine papal meetings that also gear up in January, including "ad limina" visits by groups of bishops from around the globe.

The "ad limina" visits have undergone a quiet revolution in recent years, and it's evident in the pope's 2007 schedule. Canon law says the visits, by heads of dioceses to report on the status of their dioceses, should take place every five years, but that interval is now anywhere from six to nine years; many of the bishops coming in 2007 made their last visits eight years ago.

There are several reasons for the change. One is the simple fact that the number of the world's bishops has approximately doubled over the last 50 years. Another is that when Pope John Paul II was ill during the last years of his pontificate, he was unable to keep up the pace of "ad limina" meetings, and a backlog developed.

Today, even with a healthy pope, it's doubtful the Vatican can get back to the five-year schedule, one Vatican source said. The pope would have to meet with 540 bishops a year; last year, he met with 360.

The year 2007 will see "ad limina" visits by bishops from places on four continents, including Italy, Ukraine, Slovakia, Portugal, Serbia, Kenya, Togo, Benin, Gabon, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea and Laos.

Pope Benedict plans to travel to Brazil in mid-May to open a meeting of the Latin American bishops' council, or CELAM, and to Austria in September for a Marian pilgrimage. The Brazil trip is his first across an ocean, and Vatican planners are doing all they can to keep it short and sweet.

There's also a chance the pope may visit the United Nations. An informal invitation has been floated and the pope is said to be considering it -- the most likely hypothesis would be a visit in late September to address the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

"The door is open, and the idea is circulating, but nothing's been decided yet," one Vatican official said.

By the end of the year, Vatican sources said, an important dossier may also land on the pope's desk. Following preliminary approval by commissions of historians and theologians, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes are expected to examine the cause of Pope Pius XII, whose role during World War II has long been hotly debated between church officials and some Jewish groups.

After sifting through the documentation, the congregation will offer its definitive opinion, sending it on to the pope for a final decision.

Nine underground priests arrested in China

~from Asia News

Police of the northern province of Hebei arrested nine unofficial priests of the diocese of Baoding on 27 December.

The nine priests are: Fr Wen Daoxiu; Fr Li Shujun; Fr Li Yongshun; Fr.Wang Quanjun; Fr Wang Qiongwei; Fr Pang Yongxing; Fr Pang Haixing; Fr Dong Guoyin and Fr Liu Honggeng.

The group had met to study in a place around 30km south of Baoding. The reason for their arrest is unknown. It is likely that they were arrested just because they were meeting for a time of prayer during the Christmas season in a place unknown to the government.

Hebei is the region with the highest number of Catholics (1.5 million), most of them belonging to the underground Church that refuses to be subject to the control of the Patriotic Association (PA), an organization set up by the Communist Party that aims to build a church detached from Rome. The PA has launched a campaign of arrests of bishops, priests and believers of Hebei in a bid to subdue them. According to information of AsiaNews, at least six underground bishops of Hebei disappeared after arrest. Among them is the Ordinary of the diocese of Baoding, James Su Zhimin, 73 years, who was arrested in 1996.

The auxiliary bishop of Baoding, Mgr Francis Shuxin, was released on 24 August by the Chinese authorities after 10 years imprisonment.

Electing a Pope

~Fr. Z has a link to a poll voting for Person of the Year in Germany. His header certainly is catchy: Would you like to elect a Pope?

Sixth day in the Octave of Christmas

God became Man. Utterly incomprehensible is this truth to our puny human minds! That the eternal God whom heaven and earth cannot contain, who bears the world in His hand as a nutshell, before whom a thousand years are as one day — that this eternal, omnipotent God should become Man! Would it not have been a tremendous condescension if for the redemption of mankind He had simply sent an angel? Would it not have proven His loving mercy had He appeared for a mere moment in the splendor of His majesty, amid thunder and lightning, as once on Sinai? No, such would have shown far too little of His love and kindness. He wanted to be like us, to become a child of man, a poor child of poorest people; He wished to be born, in a cave, in a strange land, in hostile surroundings. Cold wind, hard straw, dumb animals — these were there to greet Him. The scene fills us with amazement; what other can we do than fall down in silence and adore!

In heaven only will we comprehend the profound implications of Christ's redemptive acts, surely one of the exquisite joys of celestial blessedness. But some points Mother Church allows us to anticipate here below. She, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, is ever the recollected woman "who meditates on all the words of God and keeps them in her heart." She tells us: God became Man that we might share His divine nature. Isn't that mankind's long-cherished dream? "You shall be as God, knowing good and evil," Satan whispered into man's ear in paradise; and his whisper was believed. What a miserable betrayal! Indeed, man experienced good and evil, but he had not turned divine. Thousands upon thousands of years of dreadful distance from divinity, with nought but failure in scanning the skies! Not by pride can man become God, but by submission, humility.

Bethlehem gave the great revelation. God put on the beggar's garb, became a tiny, crying Babe in order to show man how to become divine. In paradise a fallen angel had promised: Eat of this fruit and you will be like God. He ate and became a prisoner of hell. On Christmas night another angel (the Church) stands before man, offers him a Good and says: Eat of this and you will be like God. For the divine Food, the Flesh of the incarnate Son of God, makes us "partakers of the divine nature."

~from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

The word made flesh makes us divine

~by St. Hippolytus

Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.
The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he re-fashioned our fallen nature. We know that his manhood was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.

No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own manhood as the first fruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.

When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine.

Whatever evil you may have suffered, being man, it is God that sent it to you, precisely because you are man; but equally, when you have been deified, God has promised you a share in every one of his own attributes. The saying Know yourself means therefore that we should recognise and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognised and acknowledged by our Maker.

So let us not be at enmity with ourselves, but change our way of life without delay. For Christ who is God, exalted above all creation, has taken away man’s sin and has re-fashioned our fallen nature. In the beginning God made man in his image and so gave proof of his love for us. If we obey his holy commands and learn to imitate his goodness, we shall be like him and he will honour us. God is not beggarly, and for the sake of his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.

Friday, December 29, 2006

In the Holy Land for Christmas

~JP of Orbis Catholicus is spending Christmas in the Holy Land. Check out his posts on the shepherds' field and the place where Jesus was born.

St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr

Today is the fifth day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. He was born in London and after studying in Paris, he first became chancellor to the king and then in 1162 was chosen Archbishop of Canterbury. He went from being "a patron of play-actors and a follower of hounds" to being a "shepherd of souls." He absorbed himself in the duties of his new office, defending the rights of the Church against Henry II. This prompted the king to exile him to France for six years. After returning to his homeland he endured many trials and was murdered by agents of the king.

~from Catholic Culture
+ + +

Thomas Becket was born in 1118 of a merchant family. He studied in London and Paris, entered the service of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, became Lord Chancellor under King Henry II in 1155, and in 1162 Archbishop of Canterbury. Till then a submissive courtier, he now initiated a fearless struggle against the king for the freedom of the Church and the inviolability of ecclesiastical property, occasioning his imprisonment, exile, and finally martyrdom (December 29, 1170). Canonization came quickly (1173); in 1539 King Henry VIII ordered his remains burned.

Formerly the Breviary included this summary of the saint's last days: "Calumniators informed the king that the bishop was agitating against him and the peace of the realm; and the king retorted that with one such priest he could not live in peace.

Hearing the royal displeasure, several godless courtiers agreed to do their sovereign a favor by assassinating Thomas. Secretly they traveled to Canterbury and fell upon the bishop while he was attending Vespers. His priests rushed to his aid and tried to bar the church door; Thomas opened it himself with these words: The house of God may not be defended like a fortress. I gladly face death for the Church of God. Then to the soldiers: I command it in the Name of God: No harm may be done to any of mine. Thereupon he cast himself on his knees, commended his flock and himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis and other holy patrons of his church, and with the same heroic courage with which he had withstood the king's laws, he bowed his holy head to the sacrilegious sword on December 29, 1170."

With all the strength that is given us for the defense of God's rights, we must resist those who seek to subject the Church to their power, even if they are those to whom on other grounds we owe service. In St. Thomas of Canterbury the Church celebrates one of her great bishops; by applying to him the Gospel of the Good Shepherd she venerates in him the true pastor of Christ's flock who gave his life for his sheep.

In the fullness of time there came also the fullness of God

~by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed. Thanks be to God, through whom we receive such abundant consolation in this pilgrimage, this exile, this distress.

Before his humanity appeared, his kindness lay concealed. Of course it was already in existence, because the mercy of the Lord is from eternity, but how could men know it was so great? It was promised but not yet experienced: hence many did not believe in it. At various times and in various different ways, God spoke through the prophets, saying I know the plans I have in mind for you: plans for peace, not disaster.

What reply did man make, man who felt the affliction, and knew nothing of peace? ‘How long will you keep saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace?’ And so the angels of peace weep bitterly saying Lord, who has believed our report?
But now at last let men believe their own eyes, because all God’s promises are to be trusted. So that it cannot escape the notice of even troubled eyes, He has set up his tabernacle in the sun. Behold, peace is no longer promised, but conferred; no longer delayed, but given; no longer predicted, but bestowed. Behold, God has sent down to earth a bag bulging with his mercy, a bag that, at the passion, is torn open so that our ransom pours out of it onto us. A small bag, perhaps, but a full one: for it was a small child that was given to us, but in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.

After the fulness of time had come, there came too the fulness of the Godhead. He came in the flesh, so that at least he might make himself manifest to our earthly minds, so that when this humanity of his appeared, his kindness might also be acknowledged. Where the humanity of God appears, his kindness can no longer be hidden. In what way, indeed, could he have better commended his kindness than by assuming my flesh? My flesh, that is, not Adam’s, as it was before the fall.

What greater proof could he have given of his mercy than by taking upon himself that very thing which needed mercy? Where is there such perfect loving-kindness as in the fact that for our sake the Word of God became perishable like the grass? Lord, what is man, that you make much of him or pay him any heed?

Let man infer from this how much God cares for him. Let him know from this what God thinks of him, what he feels about him. Man, do not ask about your own sufferings; but about what God suffered. Learn from what he was made for you, how much he makes of you, so that his kindness may show itself to you from his humanity.

The lesser he has made himself in his humanity, the greater has he shown himself in kindness. The more he humbles himself on my account, the more powerfully he engages my love. The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour appeared says St Paul. The humanity of God shows the greatness of his kindness, and he who added humanity to the name of God gave great proof of this kindness.

In transit

...traveling home today.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Scientists create molecule-size keypad lock

~from Live Science

Scientists have created a keypad lock a single molecule in size. This lock only activates when exposed to the correct password, a sequence of chemicals and light.

Researchers suggest their device could in the future lead to a new level of safeguards for secret information. This lock might also serve to recognize when certain sequences of chemicals are released in the body--for instance, after exposure to Sarin or another deadly chemical or biological weapon.

Organic chemist Abraham Shanzer and his colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovat, Israel, began with a molecule named FLIP. At its core is a component dubbed a "linker" that mimics a bacterial compound that binds to iron. Attached to it are two molecules that respectively can glow either blue or green.

There are essentially three "buttons" that scientists can use with this molecular kedypad lock. These are an acidic molecule, an alkaline compound, and ultraviolet light.

When the lock is exposed to one sequence of chemicals and light--the alkaline molecule, followed by ultraviolet light--it will emit blue light. When the lock is given another "password"--the acid, then the alkaline, and finally ultraviolet light--it will glow green.

These reactions only take place if each input is given within three minutes of each other, or the lock will essentially reset. Any other combination will have relatively little to no effect. In essence, this keypad resembles a simple ATM banking machine authorized for two different passwords, the researchers said.

Mozart piano score discovered in Salzburg

~from Yahoo News

A hitherto unknown piano score extremely likely to be by the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been discovered in the composer's birthplace Salzburg, Austrian broadcaster ORF said.

The score's facsimile will be officially presented and played by clavichordist Florian Birsak on Friday, it said.

Some time ago, the archives of the city's episcopal office were offered unsigned keyboard works, including an "Allegro di Wolfgango Mozart". Detailed tests led experts to conclude that the piece was indeed written by the master, when he was between six and 10 years old.

A second score in the collection could also be by Mozart.

Mozart was born 250 years ago, and Austria has been abuzz with events marking the occasion all year long.

Ahmadinejad on charm offensive

Tehran (AsiaNews) – The content of a letter Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad solemnly sent yesterday to the Pope has not yet been revealed, but what is known is that it was Iran’s Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki who personally travelled to Rome to deliver the missive bypassing the Vatican Nunciature in Tehran.

A spokesman for the Iranian president stated yesterday in the Iranian capital that Ahmadinejad’s letter was “non political”, that it focused on the “shared teachings of the prophets” and the need for “close collaboration” between the religions against unjust relations that exist in the world.

Recently, the focus on Christian-Muslim cooperation was made clear in the Iranian president’s Christmas message, which in itself was almost a “Christmas miracle” in the country considered to be the “land of the Magi”.

As his style, Ahmadinejad spoke about Jesus Christ as “a divine prophet” and of the “Holy Mary” as “a great model for women”.

Surprisingly for a Shia who is still waiting for the reappearance of the 12th imam, he expressed eschatological expectations about Christ whose return “will offer all the beauty and goodness to human kind”.


Asian cities most polluted

~from Asia News

The most polluted cities in the world are in Asia. The metropolitan centres of this continent have pollution levels that are five times higher than those of Paris, London and New York, exceeding by five or six times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This data emerged at the 2006 Better Air Quality Conference that closed in Yogyakarta last week. Meanwhile, a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has predicted that greenhouse gas emissions in Asia will treble within 25 years.

Big cities are saturated with microscopic dust that embeds itself in the lungs causing respiratory disease and cancer. According to ADB data for 2005, the most polluted city is Beijing with 142 micrograms of particles of pollution dust per cubic meter, compared to Paris with 22, London 24 and New York 27. It was such findings that prompted the International Olympic Committee to warn the Chinese capital that it “risks losing the Games if it doesn’t do something to improve its air quality.”

New Delhi and other big cities of China and India are also more polluted than western cities. Between 30 and 70% of pollution is attributable to motor vehicles, which are projected to increase in number. Leilei Liu, the program manager of China's Urban Sustainable Transportation Research Centre, said 99% of the Chinese population does not own a car, while in the United States there are 77 cars per 100 people.


I thought it was the evil US cities that were contributing the most to global warming?

Attendance statistics at papal audiences and special audiences

~from the Vatican

Total number: 3,222,820
General audience: 1,031,500
Angelus: 1,295,000
Liturgical celebrations: 539,200
Special audiences: 357,120

Feast of the Holy Innocents

During this octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighborhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod. Sacrificed by a wicked monarch, these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children; already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men. But the persecutors are powerless, for Christ came to perform a work of salvation that nothing can prevent; when He fell into the hands of his enemies at the time chosen by God it was to redeem the world by His own Blood.

Our Christmas joy is tempered today by a feeling of sadness. But the Church looks principally to the glory of the children, of these innocent victims, whom she shows us in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.

~from Catholic Culture

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Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today's feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven's blessing stream down upon them.

"Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers' womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod's cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers' bosom, are justly hailed as "infant martyr flowers"; they were the Church's first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.

— St. Augustine

Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ

~by St. Quodvultdeus (d. 450 AD)

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Western Kazakhstan’s first bishop installed

~from Asia News. God bless him.

Bishop Janusz Kaleta, first bishop of the westernmost apostolic administration in Kazakhstan, was installed on December 17. With his installation as head of the Apostolic Administration of Atyrau, all of the country's four Church jurisdictions now have a bishop. Atyrau is about 2,000 kilometres west of Astana, the capital.

Pope John Paul II divided the one Apostolic Administration of Kazakhstan into four parts on July 7, 1999, creating the diocese of Karaganda and the apostolic administrations of Almaty, Astana and Atyrau. The late pope later raised Astana to the status of archdiocese and Almaty to that of diocese on May 17, 2003.

In Rome, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's former Secretary of State, led the November 23 Episcopal ordination of Bishop Kaleta, who had been apostolic administrator of Atyrau since its creation.

During his installation at Transfiguration of Our Lord Church in Atyrau, the new prelate thanked Catholics among the assembly of about 200 people, saying that “if there were no parishioners, neither parishes nor bishop would be needed here.”

Ukrainian Mgr Vasiliy Hovera, Greek Catholics’ ecclesiastical superior in Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asia, opened the ceremony by reading the papal announcement of Bishop Kaleta's appointment.

For his part, Mgr Tomasz Peta, archbishop of Astana, said that “it is necessary to note that so important an event is happening during celebrations for the 15th-year anniversary Kazakhstan's independence”. In fact, the Central Asian nation became independent from the former Soviet Union on December 16, 1991.

“Due to independence and freedom of religion,” he added, “we now have five bishops.” And the diocese of Karaganda has both a bishop and auxiliary bishop.

Bishop Henry Theophilus Howaniec of Almaty and Bishop Jerzy Maculewicz, apostolic administrator of neighbouring Uzbekistan, also concelebrated the ceremony.

“I regard my appointment as approval of what has been done over the past seven years,” Mgr Kaleta said. “I hope to invite more priests and nuns to come here.”

Seven priests and three nuns presently serve 2,600 Catholics in seven parishes in the apostolic administration, which is home to 2.2 million people. In terms of Catholic population, Atyrau is the smallest of Kazakhstan's Church jurisdictions. The country has a total of 250,000 Catholics.

Bishop Kaleta was born in Łazy, Poland, on October 11, 1964, and was ordained a priest on June 4, 1989, in the town of Tarnów, also in Poland. Before becoming apostolic administrator of Atyrau, he worked in various parishes in Poland, and also studied at the Papal Theological Academy in Krakow, Poland, and at the theological faculty in Innsbruck, Austria.

Atyrau, situated by the Caspian Sea on the delta of the Ural River, is about 20 metres below sea level but is Kazakhstan's main harbour. Oil is the area's largest industry, and since many foreigners are engaged in oil production, masses are provided in English, Italian and Russian.

General Audience: God’s glory, peace and man’s salvation in Christmas

~from Asia News

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s meeting is taking place in a Christmas atmosphere full of intimate joy for the birth of the Saviour. We just celebrated the other day this mystery whose echo extends to the liturgy of every day. It is a mystery of light that men of every age can relive in faith. The words of the John the Evangelist, whom we celebrate today, still echo: "Et Verbum caro factum est – And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1, 14).

As God at Christmas came to live among us and stay with us, one question crosses the two thousand year span of Christian history: “Why did he do it? Why did God become man?”

The chant the angels began singing in the grotto—“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Lk 2, 14)—can help answer this question. The canticle of the night before Christmas, which is now in the Gloria, belongs to the liturgy as do the other three canticles from the New Testament which refer to Jesus’ birth and infancy: the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis.

Whilst these are included respectively in the morning Lauds, the evening Vesper prayer, and the nightly Compline, the Gloria found its place in the Holy Mass. To the angels’ words a few acclamations were added: "We praise You. We bless You. We adore You. We glorify You. We give You thanks for Your great Glory.” Later “Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. You who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” were added to form an ariose hymn of praise that was sung the first time during Christmas mass and then in all feast days. Included at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, the Gloria underscores the existing continuity between and the birth and the death of Christ, between Christmas and Easter, which are indissoluble aspects of the one and the same mystery of salvation.

The Gospel says that the angelic multitude sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will”. The angels announced that the birth of Christ to the shepherds “is” glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth. Therefore, these angelic words are conveniently placed on the grotto to explain the mystery of Christmas that is fulfilled in the nativity scene. The word “gloria” (doxa) indicates the splendour of God that his grateful creatures’ praise elicits. Paul said that it is “the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ” (2 Cor 4, 6). “Peace" (eirene) summarise the fullness of the messianic gift, salvation, as the Apostle puts it, which is identified with Christ himself. “For he is our peace," (Eph 2, 14). There is, finally, a reference to men “of good will”. “Good will” (eudokia) would ordinarily make one think of men’s “good will”, but here it refers to God’s, boundless, “good will” towards men. Hence the Christmas message means that with the birth of Jesus, God has shown his good will towards all.

Let us get back to question “Why did God become man?” St Irenaeus said: “The word became the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men [. . .]. For the glory of God is a living man—vivens homo—; and the life of man consists in beholding God.” (Adv. Haer. IV, 20, 5.7).

God’s glory manifests itself in the salvation of man whom God loved so much, wrote John the Evangelist, “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life,” (Jn 3, 16). Love is therefore the ultimate reason for Christ’s incarnation. Theologian H.U. von Balthasar’s reflection on the matter is eloquent. He wrote that “God is not, first of all, absolute power, but rather absolute love whose sovereignty does not manifest itself in keeping what is his, but in giving it up” (Mysterium paschale I, 4). The God that we see in the nativity scene is God-Love.

At this point the angels’ announcement sounds to us like an invitation: “Let there be” glory to God in the Highest, “let there be” peace to His people on earth”. The only way to glorify God and build peace on earth lies in humbly and trustingly welcome the gift of Christmas: love. The angels’ song can then become a prayer to repeat often, not only during the Christmas period. A hymn of praise to God in the highest and a fervent invocation of peace on earth that may turn into a concrete commitment to build it with our own life. This is the commitment Christmas gives us.

Bishop Bruskewitz to be besieged

~from Off the Record

Brace yourself, Bishop B. You've been "targeted" by the power hitters at National Call To Action, who intend to bombard you with fragrant and well-spelled letters indicting you for failure to comply with the alternative sexualities audit conducted by the Office of Child & Youth Protection. And not only that, but the CTA folks are ratting you out to Bishop William Skylstad, whose own diocese -- so punctilious are its pastors -- has complied itself into receivership.

The NCR reports:
Nicole Sotelo, codirector of national Call to Action, said her organization intends to mount a letter-writing campaign to Lincoln, Neb., Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, with copies to Bishop William Skylstad, bishop of Spokane, Wash., and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The letters will protest Bruskewitz's refusal to comply with the bishops' conference policies on child abuse by clergy, she said. Asked about the timing of the campaign, just after an announcement that the Vatican has upheld the excommunication of the Lincoln chapter of Call to Action, she said it would counter Bruskewitz’s "attempts to silence" the organization. "Justice cannot be silenced," she said.

Next Archbishop of Westminster?

~from Off the Record. Betting has begun on who the next Archbishop will be. Cardinal O'Connor turns 75 next year. The only one I know on the list is Fr. Aidan Nichols who is at 5-1 at the moment.

Feast of St. John the Evangelist

Today is the third day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the Feast of St. John, apostle and evangelist. Born in Bethsaida, he was called while mending his nets to follow Jesus. He became the beloved disciple of Jesus. He wrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles and the Apocalypse. His passages on the pre-existence of the Word, who by His Incarnation became the light of the world and the life of our souls, are among the finest of the New Testament. He is the evangelist of the divinity of Christ and His fraternal love. With James, his brother, and Simon Peter, he was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration. At the Last Supper, he leans on the Master's breast. At the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusts His Mother to his care. John's pure life kept him very close to Jesus and Mary in years to come. John was exiled to the island of Patmos under Emperor Domitian.

~from Catholic Culture

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St. John, the Evangelist, who is styled in the Gospel "the beloved disciple", was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to St. James the Greater, both of whom were fishermen. The two were called by Jesus to be disciples as they were mending their nets by the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus showed St. John particular instances of kindness and affection above all the rest. He had the happiness to be present with Peter and James at the Transfiguration of Christ, and was permitted to witness His agony in the Garden. He was allowed to rest on Our Savior's bosom at the Last Supper, and to him Jesus confided the care of His holy Mother as He hung dying on the Cross.

St. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death.

It seems that St. John remained for a long time in Jerusalem, but that his later years were spent at Ephesus, whence he founded many churches in Asia Minor. St. John wrote his Gospel after the other Evangelists, about sixty-three years after the Ascension of Christ; also three Epistles, and the wonderful and mysterious Book of the Apocalypse or Revelation. He was brought to Rome and, according to tradition, was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. Like the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, he was miraculously preserved unhurt.

He was later exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he wrote the Apocalypse, but afterwards returned to Ephesus.

In his extreme old age he continued to visit the churches of Asia, and St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: "My dear children, love one another".

St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the third year of Trajan (as seems to be gathered from Eusebius' history of the Saint) that is, the hundreth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ, St. John then being about ninety-four years old, according to St. Epiphanus.

~ from Heavenly Friends, St. Paul Editions

The flesh revealed Life itself

~by St. Augustine

We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us”.

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Angelus: Entrusting to Mary all the martyrs and the persecuted for the Gospel

Pope Benedict XVI, framed by the decorations of the Christmas tree placed in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, blesses faithful during his Angelus prayer, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

~from Asia News

With an indirect reference to the Church in China (and in part to the Church in Vietnam), the Pope today expressed his “spiritual closeness” to “those Catholics who maintain their loyalty to the See of Peter without making compromises, sometimes at the cost of great suffering”.

It is especially in China that the relationship with the Pope is a reason for persecution by the government and the patriotic associations that want to set up a national church, separate from the Pope.

A few weeks ago, China saw a bishop’s ordination without the Holy See’s permission. For the Vatican such ordinations are “a serious violation of freedom of religion”.

Benedict XVI entrusted Chinese Catholics and all those who are persecuted to Mary, Mother of Jesus, “who experienced the joy of the birth and the torment of the death of her Divine Son”.

He said that “the entire Church admires their example and is praying that they may have the strength to persevere, knowing that their tribulations are a source of victory even though that may seem now to be a failure”.

Every year 150,000 adults are baptised in China. Many do so inspired by the great example provided by those who are persecuted and defy the desire for calm and acquiescent compromise.

The Pope spoke about those who are persecuted in today’s Angelus which comes on the feast Day of Saint Stephen, first martyr in the history of the Church, whose celebration follows right after the joyful solemnity of Christmas.

“At a first glance,” the Pontiff said, “the association of the memory of the ‘Protomartyr’ to that of the birth of the Redeemer can be surprising because of the contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the tragedy of Stephen, stoned to death in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church. In reality, the apparent disparity disappears if we consider in greater depth the mystery of Christmas. The Baby Jesus, who lies in the manger, is God’s only son who became man. He shall save human kind by dying on the Cross. We now see him in his infancy. After his crucifixion we see him his sepulchre. It is no accident that Christmas iconography sometimes represents the divine newly-born babe on top of a small sarcophagus to show that the Redeemer was born to die and give his life for the redemption of all. Saint Stephen was the first one to follow Christ on the path of martyrdom. Like the divine Teacher, he died forgiving his killers and praying for them (cf Acts 7, 60)”.

Benedict XVI then said that within the Church martyrdom is not a reason to be sad but one of “spiritual enthusiasm”.”
”In the first four centuries of Christianity,” he said, “all the venerated saints of the Church were martyrs. It is an innumerable group that the liturgy calls martyrum candidatus exercitus, the ‘candid crowd of martyrs’. Their death did not strike fear or cause sadness but spiritual enthusiasm amongst new Christians. For believers, the day of death and even more so they day of martyrdom is not the end of everything but rather a “transition” to eternal life; it is the day of one’s final birth, in Latin one’s dies natalis. It is understandable that there is a link between Christ’s and Saint Stephen ‘dies natalis’. If Jesus had not come to earth, men could not be born to the Heaven. Christ was born so that we may be ‘reborn’!”

At the end of the Angelus prayer Benedict XVI repeated his best wishes of a Merry Christmas in various languages.

At least 15,000 people were gathered in the square.

Feast of St. Stephen

Yesterday, after solemnly celebrating Christ's Birth, today we are commemorating the birth in Heaven of St Stephen, the first martyr. A special bond links these two feasts and it is summed up well in the Ambrosian liturgy by this affirmation: "Yesterday, the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in Heaven" (At the breaking of the bread).

Just as Jesus on the Cross entrusted himself to the Father without reserve and pardoned those who killed him, at the moment of his death St. Stephen prayed: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"; and further: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (cf. Acts 7:59-60). Stephen was a genuine disciple of Jesus and imitated him perfectly. With Stephen began that long series of martyrs who sealed their faith by offering their lives, proclaiming with their heroic witness that God became man to open the Kingdom of Heaven to humankind.

In the atmosphere of Christmas joy, the reference to the martyr St. Stephen does not seem out of place. Indeed, the shadow of the Cross was already extending over the manger in Bethlehem.

It was foretold by the poverty of the stable in which the infant wailed, the prophecy of Simeon concerning the sign that would be opposed and the sword destined to pierce the heart of the Virgin, and Herod's persecution that would make necessary the flight to Egypt.

It should not come as a surprise that this Child, having grown to adulthood, would one day ask his disciples to follow him with total trust and faithfulness on the Way of the Cross.

Already at the dawn of the Church, many Christians, attracted by his example and sustained by his love, were to witness to their faith by pouring out their blood. The first martyrs would be followed by others down the centuries to our day.

How can we not recognize that professing the Christian faith demands the heroism of the Martyrs in our time too, in various parts of the world? Moreover, how can we not say that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, there is a high price to pay for consistently living the Gospel?

Contemplating the divine Child in Mary's arms and looking to the example of St Stephen, let us ask God for the grace to live our faith consistently, ever ready to answer those who ask us to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

Angelus Message, Pope Benedict XVI, December 26, 2005.

The armour of love

~by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.

Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

~Merry Christmas, dear friends!

Pope Benedicts XVI's Christmas Blessing

"Salvator noster natus est in mundo" (Roman Missal)

"Our Saviour is born to the world!" During the night, in our Churches, we again heard this message that, notwithstanding the passage of the centuries, remains ever new. It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for "a great joy" has come "to all the people" (Lk 1:10). It is a message of hope, for it tells us that, on that night over two thousand years ago, there "was born in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Angel of Christmas announced it then to the shepherds out on the hills of Bethlehem; today the Angel repeats it to us, to all who dwell in our world: "The Saviour is born; he is born for you! Come, come, let us adore him!".

But does a "Saviour" still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium? Is a "Saviour" still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvellous codes of the human genome? Is a Saviour needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village? This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs.

So it would seem, yet this is not the case. People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all. And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere? How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?

How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help? It is Christmas: today "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1:9) came into the world. "The word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John. Today, this very day, Christ comes once more "unto his own", and to those who receive him he gives "the power to become children of God"; in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem. Today "our Saviour is born to the world", for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his "heart", that man always needs to be "saved". And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Saviour all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Saviour of the world?

"Salvator noster": Christ is also the Saviour of men and women today. Who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth? Who will work to ensure the recognition, protection and promotion of the integral good of the human person as the condition for peace, respecting each man and every woman and their proper dignity? Who will help us to realize that with good will, reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and instead to find fair solutions? With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life. I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.

"Salvator noster": this is our hope; this is the message that the Church proclaims once again this Christmas day. With the Incarnation, as the Second Vatican Council stated, the Son of God has in some way united himself with each man and women (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, as Pope Saint Leo the Great noted. In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ’s mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Saviour is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.

A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body. Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Saviour before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfilment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).

Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!

Hymn on the Nativity

~by St. Ephrem the Syrian

Blessed be that Child, Who gladdened Bethlehem today! Blessed be the Babe Who made manhood young again today! Blessed be the Fruit, Who lowered Himself to our famished state! Blessed be the Good One, Who suddenly enriched our necessitousness and supplied our needs! Blessed He Whose tender mercies made Him condescend to visit our infirmities!

Praise to the Fountain that was sent for our propitiation. Praise be to Him Who made void the Sabbath by fulfilling it! Praise too to Him Who rebuked the leprosy and it remained not, Whom the fever saw and fled! Praise to the Merciful, Who bore our toil! Glory to Your coming, which quickened the sons of men!

Glory to Him, Who came to us by His first-born! Glory to the Silence, that spoke by His Voice. Glory to the One on high, Who was seen by His Day-spring! Glory to the Spiritual, Who was pleased to have a Body, that in it His virtue might be felt, and He might by that Body show mercy on His household's bodies!

Glory to that Hidden One, Whose Son was made manifest! Glory to that Living One, Whose Son was made to die! Glory to that Great One, Whose Son descended and was small! Glory to the Power Who did straiten His greatness by a form, His unseen nature by a shape! With eye and mind we have beheld Him, yea with both of them.

Glory to that Hidden One, Who even with the mind cannot be felt at all by them that pry into Him; but by His graciousness was felt by the hand of man! The Nature that could not be touched, by His hands was bound and tied, by His feet was pierced and lifted up. Himself of His own will He embodied for them that took Him.

Blessed be He Whom free will crucified, because He let it: blessed be He Whom the wood also did bear, because He allowed it. Blessed be He Whom the grave bound, that had [thereby] a limit set it. Blessed be He Whose own will brought Him to the Womb and Birth, to arms and to increase [in stature]. Blessed He whose changes purchased life for human nature.

Blessed He Who sealed our soul, and adorned it and espoused it to Himself. Blessed He Who made our Body a tabernacle for His unseen Nature. Blessed He Who by our tongue interpreted His secret things. Let us praise that Voice whose glory is hymned with our lute, and His virtue with our harp. The Gentiles have assembled and have come to hear His strains.

Glory to the Son of the Good One, Whom the sons of the evil one rejected! Glory to the Son of the Just One, Whom the sons of wickedness crucified! Glory to Him Who loosed us, and was bound for us all! Glory to Him Who gave the pledge, and redeemed it too! Glory to the Beautiful, Who conformed us to His image! Glory to that Fair One, Who looked not to our foulnesses!

Glory to Him Who sowed His Light in the darkness, and was reproached in His hidden state, and covered His secret things. He also stripped and took off from us the clothing of our filthiness. Glory be to Him on high, Who mixed His salt in our minds, His leaven in our souls. His Body became Bread, to quicken our deadness.

Praise to the Rich, Who paid for us all, that which He borrowed not; and wrote [His bill], and also became our debtor! By His yoke He broke from us the chains of him that led us captive. Glory to the Judge Who was judged, and made His Twelve to sit in judgment on the tribes, and by ignorant men condemned the scribes of that nation!

Glory to Him Who could never be measured by us! Our heart is too small for Him, yea our mind is too feeble. He makes foolish our littleness by the riches of His Wisdom. Glory to Him, Who lowered Himself, and asked; that He might hear and learn that which He knew; that He might by His questions reveal the treasure of His helpful graces!

Let us adore Him Who enlightened with His doctrine our mind, and in our hearing sought a pathway for His words. Praise we Him Who grafted into our tree His fruit. Thanks to Him Who sent His Heir, that by Him He might draw us to Himself, yea make us heirs with Him! Thanks to that Good One, the cause of all goods!

Blessed He Who did not chide, because that He was good! Blessed He Who did not spurn, because that He was just also! Blessed He Who was silent, and rebuked; that He might quicken us with both! Severe His silence and reproachful. Mild His severity even When He was accusing; for He rebuked the traitor, and kissed the thief.

Glory to the hidden Husbandman of our intellects! His seed fell on to our ground, and made our mind rich. His increase came an hundredfold into the treasury of our souls! Let us adore Him Who sat down and took rest; and walked in the way, so that the Way was in the way, and the Door also for them that go in, by which they go in to the kingdom.

Blessed the Shepherd Who became a Lamb for our reconcilement! Blessed the Branch Who became the Cup of our Redemption! Blessed also be the Cluster, Fount of medicine of life! Blessed also be the Tiller, Who became Wheat, that He might be sown; and a Sheaf, that He might be cut! [Blessed be] the Architect Who became a Tower for our place of safety! Blessed He Who so tempered the feelings of our mind, that we with our harp should sing that which the winged creatures' mouth knows not with its strains to sing! Glory to Him, Who beheld how we had pleased to be like to brutes in our rage and our greediness; and came down and was one of us, that we might become heavenly!

Glory be to Him, Who never felt the need of our praising Him; yet felt the need as being kind to us, and thirsted as loving us, and asks us to give to Him, and longs to give to us. His fruit was mingled with us men, that in Him we might come nigh to Him, Who condescended to us. By the Fruit of His stem He grafted us into His Tree.

Let us praise Him, Who prevailed and quickened us by His stripes! Praise we Him, Who took away the curse by His thorns! Praise we Him Who put death to death by His dying! Praise we Him, Who held His peace and justified us! Praise we Him, Who rebuked death that had overcome us! Blessed He, Whose helpful graces cleansed out the left side!

Praise we Him Who watched and put to sleep him that led us captive. Praise we Him Who went to sleep, and chased our deep sleep away. Glory be to God Who cured weak manhood! Glory be to Him Who was baptized, and drowned our iniquity in the deep, and choked him that choked us! Let us glorify with all our mouths the Lord of all creatures!

Blessed be the Physician Who came down and amputated without pain, and healed wounds with a medicine that was not harsh. His Son became a Medicine, that showed sinners mercy. Blessed be He Who dwelt in the womb, and wrought therein a perfect Temple, that He might dwell in it, a Throne that He might be in it, a Garment that He might be arrayed in it, and a Weapon that He might conquer in it.

Blessed be He Whom our mouth cannot adequately praise, because His Gift is too great for skill of orators [to tell]; neither can the faculties adequately praise His goodness. For praise Him as we may, it is too little.

And since it is useless to be silent and to constrain ourselves, may our feebleness excuse such praise as we can sing.

How gracious He, Who demands not more than our strength can give! How would Your servant be condemned in capital and interest, did he not give such as he could, and did he refuse that which He owed! Ocean of glory Who needest not to have Your glory sung, take in Your goodness this drop of praise; since by Your Gift You have supplied my tongue a sense for glorifying You.

Christian, remember your dignity

~by Pope St. Leo the Great

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.
Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

O magnum mysterium

O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio:
O beata Virgo, cuius viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum.

+ + +

O great mystery
and wonderful sacrament,
that beasts should see the new-born Lord
lying in a manger.
O blessed Virgin, whose womb was deemed worthy
to carry our Lord Jesus Christ.

Music marathon continues

...for us church musicians. Last night's vigil Mass was beautiful in its spareness. My boys chanted Rorate cæli and everyone chanted the choir parts of the ordinary of the Mass. We ended with Picardy, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. I was very grateful to have a break from the standard GIA/OCP fare. One observation I keep making whenever we chant is that even without instruments (especially without the choir/cantor overamplification), the congregation chants with more animation. In three hours, it's back to the chancel with a changing cast of ensembles and singers. Won't see my bedroom until 2:30 in the morning.

Angelus: Let us prepare ourselves to meet Jesus

~from Asia News

As Christmas draws near, the pope has called upon all Christians to rediscover the richness of the mystery that will be celebrated tonight and not to marginalize and forget Him, “the protagonist” of the feast that we are about to hold.

Speaking during the Angelus prayer to pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI outlined diverse aspects about Christmas of the Christian faith. “Our salvation is made manifest in the divine newborn who we will set down on the crib. In God who becomes man for us, we all feel loved and welcome; we discover that we are precious and unique in the eyes of the Creator. The Christmas of Christ helps us to become aware of the value of human life, the life of each and every human being, from his first moment to his natural sunset. To those who open their hearts to this ‘child wrapped in swaddling clothes’ and lying ‘in a manger’ (cfr Lk 2:12), he offers the opportunity of looking at daily reality with new eyes. He may taste the power of the inner captivation of God’s love, which succeeds in turning even sorrow into joy.”

The feast of Christmas is also at the root of brotherhood among mankind. The pope said: “Let us prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, the Emmanuel, God with us. Born in the poverty of Bethlehem, He wants to be the travelling companion of each one of us. In this world, since He Himself desired to put his ‘tent’, no one is a foreigner. It is true, we are but passing through, but it is precisely Jesus who makes us feel at home on this earth sanctified by his presence. However, he asks us to turn it into a place that welcomes everyone. The amazing gift of Christmas is just this: Jesus came for each one of us and he made us all brothers in him. Our corresponding commitment should be to overcome our preconceptions and prejudices more and more, to knock down the barriers and eliminate the contradictions that divide us, or worse, that pit individuals and peoples against each other, so that we may build a world of justice and peace together.”

The concern of Benedict XVI is that one should prepare for Christmas with a change of heart, “preparing spiritually to welcome the Child Jesus.” And just as if he was correcting the consumeristic emphasis that surrounds this feast: “He will come for us in the heart of night. However it is his desire to come in us too, that is, to live in the heart of each one of us. For this to come about, it is indispensable that we are available and that we get ready to receive him, ready to make space within ourselves, in our families, in our cities, May his birth not find us taken up with celebrating Christmas and forgetting that He is the protagonist of the feast! May Mary help us to keep the state of inner meditation that is necessary to savour the deep joy that the birth of the Redeemer brings. It is to her that we turn now with our prayer, thinking especially about those who are getting ready to spend Christmas in sadness and in solitude, in sickness and in suffering: may the Virgin bring comfort and consolation to all.”

The Realism of Liturgy

~Don Marco writes about the realism of liturgy.
You may have noticed that the Collects of Advent, as well as the Prayers Over the Offerings and the Postcommunions, make frequent mention of sin. Like heavy chains bound to our feet, sin impedes our going forward to meet the Lord. This is the realism of the liturgy. The Church never pretends that we are not engaged at every moment in spiritual combat. The joy of Advent is not about denying the things that keep us from God; it is the acknowledgement of those things and, then, their surrender to the all-powerful mercy of the Word made flesh.
Read more at Vultus Christi

Fourth Sunday of Advent

~by Father Cantalamessa via Zenit

He has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness

The last Sunday of Advent is the one that must prepare us immediately for Christmas. By now we should be done with our shopping and be more open to also think about the religious meaning of this festive time.

Today's Gospel is the one that recounts Mary's visit to Elizabeth, which ends with the Magnificat: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness."

With the Magnificat Mary helps us to take in an important aspect of the Christmas mystery on which I would like to insist: Christmas as the feast of the lowly and as the ransoming of the poor.

Mary says: "He has cast down the powerful from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty."

In today's world there are two new emerging social classes which are no longer the ones we knew in the past. On one hand, there is the cosmopolitan society that knows English, that moves easily in the airports of the world, that knows how to use computers and to "navigate" the internet. For this group the world is already a "global village."

On the other hand, there is the great mass of those who have just left the country of their birth and have limited and only indirect access to the great means of social communication. It is these two groups which today are, respectively, the new "powerful" and the new "lowly."

Mary helps us to put things right again and to not let ourselves be deceived. She tells us that often the deepest values are hidden among the lowly; that the more decisive events in history (such as the birth of Jesus), takes place among the lowly and not on the world's great stages.

Today's first reading tells us that Bethlehem was "a little one among the towns of Judea," and yet in her the Messiah was born. Great writers, like Manzoni and Dostoyevsky, have immortalized, in their works, the values and stories of the "lower class."

The "preferential option" for the poor was something that God decided on well before the Second Vatican Council. Scripture says that "the Lord is on high but cares for the lowly" (Psalm 138:6); he "resists the proud but gives his grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5).

In revelation God continually appears as one who pays attention to the wretched, the afflicted, the abandoned and those who are nothing in the eyes of the world. All of this contains a lesson that is extremely relevant for us today. Our temptation is to do exactly the opposite of what God does: to want to look to those who are on top, not at those who are on the bottom; to those who are prosperous, not to those who are in need.

We cannot be content just remembering that God considers the lowly. We ourselves must become little, humble, at least in our hearts.

The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem has only one entrance, and you cannot pass through it without bending down. Some have said that it was built this way so that the Bedouins could not enter seated on their camels. But there is another explanation that has always been given, and which, in any case, contains a deep spiritual truth. This door is supposed to remind pilgrims that in order to penetrate the deep meaning of Christmas it is necessary to humble oneself and become little.

In the days that follow we will hear our old Italian carol sung: "Tu scendi dalle stelle, o re del cielo…" (You descend from the starry skies, O King of heaven…). But if God has descended "from the starry skies," should we not also come down from our pedestals of superiority and power and live together as brothers reconciled?

We too must climb down from the camels to enter into the stable of Bethlehem.