Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Holy and Blessed Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a holy and blessed Christmas.

I pray that the blessings of the Savior of the world may be bestowed on you and your family on this holy day.

"Urbi et Orbi", Christmas Day 2004

The Holy Father's Urbi et Orbi Message for Christmas
1. Christus natus est nobis, venite, adoremus!
Christ is born for us: come, let us adore him!
On this solemn day we come to you,
tender Babe of Bethlehem.
By your birth you have hidden your divinity
in order to share our frail human nature.
In the light of faith, we acknowledge you
as true God, made man out of love for us.
You alone are the Redeemer of mankind!

2. Before the crib where you lie helpless,
let there be an end to the spread of violence in its many forms,
the source of untold suffering;
let there be an end to the numerous situations of unrest
which risk degenerating into open conflict;
let there arise a firm will to seek peaceful solutions,
respectful of the legitimate aspirations of individuals and peoples.

3. Babe of Bethlehem, Prophet of peace,
encourage attempts to promote dialogue and reconciliation,
sustain the efforts to build peace,
which hesitantly, yet not without hope, are being made
to bring about a more tranquil present and future
for so many of our brothers and sisters in the world.
I think of Africa, of the tragedy of Darfur in Sudan,
of Côte d’Ivoire and of the Great Lakes Region.
With great apprehension I follow the situation in Iraq.
And how can I fail to look with anxious concern,
but also invincible confidence,
towards that Land of which you are a son?

4. Everywhere peace is needed!
You, Prince of true peace,
help us to understand that the only way to build peace
is to flee in horror from evil,
and to pursue goodness with courage and perseverance.
Men and women of good will, of every people on the earth,
come with trust to the crib of the Saviour!
"He who bestows the Kingdom of heaven
does not take away human kingdoms" (cf. Hymn for Vespers of Epiphany).
Hasten to meet him;
he comes to teach us
the way of truth, peace and love.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

How to Find Christmas Peace

Some great quotes and insights:

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you. As she cooked meals in her Nazarene home, as she nursed her aged cousin, as she drew water at the well, as she prepared the meals of the village carpenter, as she knitted the seamless garment, as she kneaded the dough and swept the floor, she was conscious that Christ was in her; that she was a living Ciborium, a monstrance of the Divine Eucharist, a Gate of Heaven through which a Creator would peer upon creation, a Tower of Ivory up whose chaste body He was to climb "to kiss upon her lips a mystical rose."

As He was physically formed in her, so He wills to be spiritually formed in you. If you knew He was seeing through your eyes, you would see in every fellowman a child of God. If you knew that He worked through your hands, they would bless all the day through. If you knew He spoke through your lips, then your speech, like Peter's, would betray that you had been with the Galilean. If you knew that He wants to use your mind, your will, your fingers, and your heart, how different you would be. If half the world did this there would be no war! 

"King of Kings yet born of Mary
As our Lord on earth He stood
Lord of Lords in human vesture
In the body and the blood
He will give to the faithful
His own self for heavenly food,"

- from "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent" (French Carol)

"The Eucharist began at Bethlehem in Mary's arms. It was she who brought to humanity the Bread for which it was famishing, and which alone can nourish it. She it was who took care of that Bread for us. It was she who nourished the Lamb whose life-giving Flesh we feed upon,"

- St. Peter Julian Eymard

"When we worship you in the form of bread... we always see you as an adult. But every year at Christmas, you reveal yourself to us as a child born in a crib. We stand in silent amazement...

In silent adoration we stand before the mystery, like Mary when the shepherd came and told her what they had seen and heard: 'She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.'

- Chiara Lubich

"The shepherds - simple souls - came to adore the Infant Savior. Mary rejoiced at seeing their homage and willing offerings they made to her Jesus... How happy is the loving soul when it has found Jesus with Mary, His Mother! They who know the Tabernacle where He dwells, they who receive Him into their souls, know that His conversation is full of divine sweetness, His consolation ravishing, His peace superabundant, and the familiarity of His love and His Heart ineffable,"

- St. Peter Julian Eymard

"Where is the new-born King of the Jews?" inquired the three Magi of Herod, king of Jerusalem. "Where is He?" they repeat in their great desire to find Him. "We have seen His star in the East, and we have come to adore Him. Ah, tell us where He is; we desire so much to see Him; we have made so long a journey in order to become acquainted with Him!"...

But now there is no need of traveling far or of making many inquiries to find Him. He is, as we know by faith, in our churches, not far from our homes. The Magi could find Him in one place only; we can find Him in every part of the world, wherever the Blessed Sacrament is kept. Are we then not happier than those who lived at the time of our Saviour Himself?

- from The Blessed Eucharist, by Fr. Michael Muller, C.S.S.R.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The little town of Bethlehem is taken from two Hebrew words which mean "House of Bread." He Who called Himself "the Living Bread descended from Heaven" was born in the "House of Bread" and was laid in the place of food, the manger. The first temptation Christ had in the beginning of His public life was to become a bread King, and to win men by supplying them with food. On one occasion when they attempted to make Him King after multiplying the bread, He fled into the mountains. Rome once rang with the cry: "Bread and circuses." But the Bread that was brought at Bethlehem was an entirely different kind: "Not by bread alone does man live."

The body has its bread. Shall not the soul have its food too? Those who have nourished themselves solely on the bread of the stomach and ignored the Bread of the soul have cried out with some of the bitter disappointment of the Lord Chesterfield: "I have seen the silly rounds of business and pleasure, and have done with them all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of the world and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss. Their real value is very low; but those who have not experienced them always over-rate them. For myself, I by no means desire to repeat the nauseous dose."

Merry Christmas! A holy night, a silent night with Mother and child, all is calm, all is bright. This inspiring hymn came to us because an organ in Germany broke down about one hundred years ago.

Without an organ the parish priest in this small country church said it would be a "Silent Night". The organist would compose a melody. The priest would write the lyrics and the choir would just sing the soft praises of this hymn for midnight Mass.

That is all it was meant to be, just a simple hymn sung once and forgotten. Then a snowstorm prevented the man who fixed the organ from coming until the snow melted in the spring. After he finished he noticed the music left on the organ since Christmas night and took it back to Munich. The rest is history. "Silent Night" has reverberated throughout the ages. With its quiet sounds of love and peace it has inspired millions and millions, touching the lives of countless people.

It is the same with a holy hour. We leave it in the chapel like the music to "Silent Night," and God turns our hour of prayer into a never-ending stream of graces for His people. A single holy hour of prayer touches more hearts through God’s grace, than all the people who have ever been touched by "Silent Night". From a single holy hour of prayer God’s graces reverberate throughout the world until the end of time and will continue for all eternity.

This is because of the divine appreciation God has for those who love His Son in the Blessed Sacrament. The Father will spend all eternity thanking you and loving you in heaven because you have honored His Son on earth in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is the continuation of Christ’s Incarnation on earth.

Coming to the Blessed Sacrament we find the same humility and gentleness that the shepherds found in "the babe lying in a manger". (LUKE 2:15). The hunger in the heart of God for the love of man is expressed in the profound humility of these two words, Baby Jesus.

How great is God’s desire for intimacy with man! Jesus came as a Babe, because no one is ever afraid to come close to a baby. A baby is lovable in its vulnerability. A baby reaching our for love with open arms is irresistible.

The Sacred Host embodies the Divine Tenderness of the Incarnation. So gentle and humble, so loving and small and vulnerable, the Blessed Sacrament is Jesus saying "Come to Me...for I am gentle and humble of Heart". (Mt. 11:30).

Only the humble hear His voice. Only those with a childlike heart seek His Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why Jesus says: "Let the children come to Me; do not prevent them for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these." (Mk 10:13).

- Excerpts from Letters To A Brother Priest

More can be found here.

C.S.Lewis on the Commercialization of Christmas

Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out— physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself—gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

Excerpted from C.S. Lewis' book, God in the Dock.

Midnight Mass from St Peter's Square

Schedule from EWTN (All times changed to Central Standard Time)

Friday December 24, 2004 5:00 PM LIVE
Saturday December 25, 2004 7:00 AM ENCORE


Join Pope John Paul II for his inspiring Christmas Day message to the world on the celebration of Christ's Birth.

Saturday December 25, 2004 5:00 AM LIVE
Saturday December 25, 2004 9:00 PM ENCORE
Sunday December 26, 2004 2:00 AM ENCORE
Sunday December 26, 2004 9:00 AM ENCORE

Birth of Dissension?

Christians debate circumstances surrounding Mary and the Christ child

Anne Wiser was 22 years old and living in Paris when a young minister, fresh out of seminary, announced during the Christmas service that he did not believe in the virgin birth.
Mary was a young girl who got herself in trouble, and that's the story she told, the minister said.

"I got up and walked out," Wiser remembers.
Congratulations to her for having the courage to distance herself from those who preach a foreign gospel...I have done the same - it's not something one looks forward to doing, but, when one preaches something so completely opposed to the truth, to the teaching of the Church, everyone, in unison, should leave (IMHO).
That was in 1963. Today, Wiser is the Christian education director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma, Ariz., on the eastern edge of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. "All the teachers at St. Paul's teach the virgin birth," she says.

For Wiser, the biblical account of a virgin giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah in a stable in Bethlehem isn't just a sweet story.

"Without the virgin birth, Christianity makes no sense. In order for Jesus to be crucified as a redemption for our sins, he had to be perfect, which means he had to have God as his father."
Here is a smart lady who understands that the truth of these mysteries cannot be rejected without rejecting Christ.
The virgin birth dissenters, however, remain steadfast. To them, it is revisionist history written for a first-century audience of Greeks, Romans and others who were used to hearing such miracles about their gods and kings.

"It's based upon a very ancient mythology," says Harpur, the Canadian who addresses this in his book, "The Pagan Christ." Harpur's book, which was a best seller in Canada and is due to be released in the United States in March, points out several examples of virgin births in mythology that precedes the New Testament by hundreds of years.

"Almost anybody of any importance had either a virgin birth or a supernatural birth," Harpur says.
Fortunately, for Christians, we do not have to rely on people such as these when we have the Fathers of the Church who have written extensively on the subject. And Catholics have the Magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit to teach us. The Virgin Birth has been taught by all the creeds of Christendom. For us, it is an article of faith - a basic norm of Christian orthodoxy.


Gospel for Thursday, Dec 23, 4th Week of Advent

From: Luke 1:57-66

The Birth and Circumcision of John the Baptist

[57] Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. [58] And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. [59] And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, [60] but his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John." [61] And they said to her, "None of your kindred is called by this name." [62] And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. [63] And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John."And they all marvelled. [64] And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. [65] And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; [66] and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.

59. Circumcision was a rite established by God under the Old Covenant to mark out those who belonged to His chosen people: He commanded Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the Covenant He had made with him and all his descendants (cf. Genesis 17:10-14), prescribing that it should be done on the eighth day after birth. The rite was performed either at home or in the synagogue, and, in addition to the actual circumcision, the ceremony included prayers and the naming of the child.

With the institution of Christian Baptism the commandment to circumcise ceased to apply. At the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff), the Apostles definitely declared that those entering the Church had no need to be circumcised.

St. Paul's explicit teaching on the irrelevance of circumcision in the context of the New Alliance established by Christ is to be found in Galatians 5:2ff; 6:12ff; and Colossians 2:11ff.

60-63. By naming the child John, Zechariah complies with the instructions God sent him through the angel (Luke 1:13).

64. This miraculous event fulfills the prophecy the angel Gabriel made to Zechariah when he announced the conception and birth of the Baptist (Luke 1:19-20). St. Ambrose observes: `With good reason was his tongue loosed, because faith untied what had been tied by disbelief" ("Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam. in loc.").

Zechariah's is a case similar to that of St. Thomas, who was reluctant to believe in the resurrection of our Lord, and who believed only when Jesus gave him clear proof (cf. John 20:24-29). For these two men God worked a miracle and won their belief; but normally He requires us to have faith and to obey Him without His working any new miracles. This was why He upbraided Zechariah and punished him, and why He reproached Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (John 20:29).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Antiphon for the 23rd of December

O EMMANUEL, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio Gentium, et Salvator erum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

O EMMANUEL, our King and our Lawgiver, Longing of the Gentiles; yea, and salvation thereof: comes to save us, O Lord our God!

(O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Norms of Catholic Orthodoxy - Rule 1

Previously I had written on couple of St. Ignatius' rules here and here.

I probably should have started with this one, which is Rule Number Uno, but, my minds sometimes wanders:

First Rule. The first: All judgment laid aside, we ought to have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical.
There isn't much to say that has not been said before. There is a great explanation regarding obedience in a letter by St. Ignatius on Obedience. Fr. John Hardon provides the background and analysis on St. Ignatius' letter here.
St. Ignatius' Letter on Obedience which he wrote to the Jesuits in Portugal on March 26, 1553, is justly regarded as "the most admirable of all the letters which came from his pen." [1] In the four centuries since its composition, the letter has been translated into all the major languages in use in modern times. Its teaching is not only "the backbone of the Society of Jesus," but it has become the classic exposition of perfect obedience for most of the religious orders and congregations that have arisen in the Church in the past four hundred years. However, as much as the ideals which it presents have been praised by the Church and admired by unprejudiced historians, there is perhaps no other piece of Jesuit writing that has been more frequently misunderstood or bitterly attacked than the Epistola de virtute obedientiae.
This is well worth the time spent reading it.

Prayers and Devotions for the Christmas Season

The following resources are at Women for Faith and Family:

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Mealtime prayers for the Christmas Season
Blessings for Christmas Tree and Crib - December 24
The Creche
The Christmas Novena
The "O" Antiphons
Christmas Hymns and Carols
Scripture Readings for Christmas Masses
Saint Stephen - December 26
Saint John the Evangelist - December 27
Feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28
Saint Thomas Becket - December 29
The Holy Family
Saint Sylvester I - December 31
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God - January 1
Saints Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen - January 2
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton - January 4
Epiphany - January 6 (traditional date)
Blessed André Bessette - January 6
Saint Raymond Penyafort - January 7
Our Lady of Prompt Succor - January 8
The Baptism of the Lord
This exceptional resource is here.

Also, see Celebrating Advent and Christmas - Family Sourcebook

Antiphon for the 22nd of December

O REX Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unem: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O KING of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof; O Cornerstone, that makest of two one: come to save man, whom Thou has made of the dust of the earth!

(O KING of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth!)

The Great Antiphons

The public prayers of the Church consist not only of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass but also of the Divine Office, the prayers of the priets' Breviary. The Office was at one time chanted daily by the faithful, and is still chanted by some religious Orders. Certain parishes are reviving the custom of having Solemn Vespers on the eve or afternoon of major feasts. The Magnificat or Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary is chanted near the end of Vespers. Starting on December 17 a series of Antiphons are added to Vespers before and after the Magnificat. Just to read these "O Antiphons" each day would be a wonderful part of any Catholic's prepartion for Christmas!

"The...great Antiphons are said entire before and after the Magnificat, from the 17th to the 23rd of December, inclusive. If the Vespers are of a first or second class double, the great Antiphon is said after the prayer of the feast, for the commemoration of Advent."
Taken, in part, from Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei newsletter.

Peoples Republik of Illinois Usurps Parental Rights

Families are furious in Illinois after discovering that the state will screen all children from birth to age 18 for mental health. The passage of the 2003 Children’s Mental Health Act in Illinois created the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP).

The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFCMH), designed by President George W. Bush, sparked the Illinois version. It passed nearly unanimously in the state legislature in 2003 with the purpose of ensuring “appropriate and culturally relevant assessment of young children’s social and emotional development with the use of standardized tools.”

Along with routine mental assessments in all mandated school exams, children’s scores will be stored on an electric scorecard to track information on each child and their social-emotional development. Any child who is not found in good mental standing may be prescribed psychotropic drugs.

The Holy Father speaks about the Mystery of Christmas

John Paul II said that "during these days of preparation for Christmas we pray continually in the liturgy 'Come Lord Jesus'."

"On Christmas," he continued, "we contemplate the great mystery of God becoming man in the Virgin's womb. He is born in Bethlehem to share our fragile human condition! He comes among us and brings salvation to the whole world. His mission will be to reunite all human beings and peoples in the one family of the children of God. We can say that in the mystery of Christmas, we contemplate the 'leap forward' in the history of salvation."
Vatican Information Service.

From Town Talk: Beware, St Stanislaus...

A word of caution

BEWARE, ST. STANISLAUS. Under what name will a proposed irrevocable trust be set up and while you are told the trust will be used for St. Stanislaus and the Polish community, what about the interest earned by this trust? Where will that money end up? If this Canon law was so important, why was it not enforced decades ago? For Archbishop Burke to pull your priest and deny Mass and the sacraments in your own parish does not do much to warrant trust. It just alerts you to be more skeptical as to what kind of person he really is. Remember, Eve was convinced it was OK to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden. Was that her irrevocable trust?
Perhaps, I have not yet had enough coffee or something - but I'm having a difficult time with this...Either that, or this person has had too much of something.

The facts and the details have been explained numerous times, yet some want to continue the tired, old mantra that Archbishop Burke is the bad guy here. It's a shame that this person is confused and doesn't understand what's going on or what has been going on for a number of years.

It's particularly disgraceful to suggest that Archbishop Burke is something he is not. This effort at calumny is, frankly, despicable and uncalled for - the Post does a disservice by printing such nonsense.


Take that, you Grinch!

Parish pulls together to replace stolen gifts for the needy

A local inspirational story in the Post this morning:
With heart the parishioners of Ste. Gen occupied their day,
Securing gifts for those less fortunate than they,
But alas! The parish Giving Tree was invaded by a Grinch,
Who slithered off with 50-odd packages, leaving donors in a pinch.
"You can't stop Christmas!" they cried, and within 48 hours
They had replaced every package in wrapped and stacked towers
That were loaded into cars, vans and the occasional bus
And delivered to the families of St. Liborius.

Like their colleagues in mythical Who-ville, the parishioners of Ste. Genevieve du Bois Catholic Church have demonstrated that the spirit of Christmas may be found within one's heart.
Full story.

Jamie Allman to be Executive Director of Communications for Archdiocese

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has hired television reporter Jamie Allman to be his spokesman. Allman will leave his position as an investigative reporter for KMOV (Channel 4). His final installment of "Extra Edition" aired Saturday.

In a prepared statement, [Archbishop] Burke said Allman's "assistance will be invaluable for conveying the truth about our Catholic faith and life to the people of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and of our community."
On the radio this morning, Jamie sounded excited by this career move. This seems like a good fit for him and the Archdiocese. I have heard him many times on the radio speaking in defense of the Church.

Please keep him and his family in your prayers as he assumes this new position as spokesman for Archbishop Burke and the Archdiocese of St. Louis.


Deanery plan continues to change

Changes in the Northeast County Deanery plan for Catholic parishes north of Interstate 70 continued to be announced in churches this past weekend.

Under the new recommendations, Our Lady of Guadalupe School will remain open.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church also will remain a "territorial" church.

Another change is that parishioners in the St. Christopher parish will join the St. Angela Merici parish.

St. Jerome Church will now be the site of a new parish comprised of St. Jerome, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Pius X and Corpus Christi parishes.

Pope John Paul II elementary school, which was to remain open under the first draft, will consolidate with St. John Neumann.
Highlights of the article are above.

All-Latin concert gives pause for thought

One of the most reliable joys of the Christmas season is the annual Christmas concert by the St. Louis Chamber Chorus. It always arrives on the fourth Sunday of Advent (as opposed to the first Sunday), it's always varied and interesting in its content, and it always encourages thinking, as opposed to a sentimental wallow in a shallow commercial pool.

That was the case with Sunday afternoon's edition, given at Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in St. Louis.
I don't recall seeing anything that promoted this.


Unity of Church and All Is a Priority, Says Pope

Holds Christmas Meeting With Officials of Roman Curia

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2004 ( John Paul II told his aides in the Roman Curia that unity among all people, beginning with believers, is his foremost concern and commitment.

"Unity of the Church and unity of the human race! I read this aspiration to unity in the faces of pilgrims of all ages," the Pope said today when meeting with Curial officials in the traditional meeting to exchange Christmas greetings.

The Holy Father recalled that the Second Vatican Council constitution "Lumen Gentium" stated that the Church has the "mission to be a sign and instrument of profound union with God and of the unity of the whole human race."

He appealed to the cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay people present "to be ever more aware that communion with God and unity among all people, beginning with believers, is our priority commitment."
The article states that this is why he convoked "The Year of the Eucharist." I found the following statement to be of profound significance:
"Believers have a great responsibility, especially to new generations, to which the Christian heritage must be transmitted in an unaltered manner," the Pope said. "For this reason, on several occasions -- especially during the pilgrimage to Lourdes -- I did not fail to encourage European Catholics to remain faithful to Christ."
Indeed, our responsibility demands that we pass on faithfully the fullness of the truth which has been handed on to us - not some pseudo-truth which may make us feel good but the authentic teaching of Christ, His Apostles, and the Church. We fail in our duty if we transmit those truths which have been "altered", rendering them no longer truth but errors or falsehoods.

The Holy Father, echoing the Teaching of Jesus, calls us to be winesses to the truth - to give testimony to the truth, not only in words, but in our actions, in our daily lives - to be an example of one who is a follower of our Lord and Savior. In this way, we can more readily pass on what it is to be a Christian and we can avoid becoming 'stumbling blocks' for others.
To promote unity among men, the Holy Father gave the same charge to cardinals that he left in his message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."


Missouri Supreme Court: No Statute of Limitations in Abuse Case?

The Missouri Supreme Court refused Tuesday to prevent the prosecution of a Catholic priest accused of sodomizing a young boy more than 25 years ago, meaning that other decades-old clergy sex abuse cases across the state can now move forward.

Missouri prosecutors believe the state's law during the 1970s allowed them to file charges at any time. Lawyers on both sides view the [Rev. Thomas] Graham appeal as a test case that could have sweeping effects across the state.

Until the law was replaced on Jan. 1, 1979, it said there was no statute of limitations for crimes that were punishable by "death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary during life."

For Graham, 71, the decision means his case will now move forward in St. Louis Circuit Court.

A New Catholic St Louis Blog...

Rome of the West

A weblog about Catholicism in Saint Louis, Missouri, which was called the "Rome of the West". Topics of interest are the historical Catholic patrimony of our City, the restoration of Catholic culture, manners, and morals, increasing public and private piety, and fostering interest in the fine liturgical arts.
Here is something posted there that I did not know (It's great to learn so many different things):
The famous Serenity Prayer was written by the liberal Lutheran Pastor and theologian, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, who was born in Wright City, Missouri. This prayer gained notice by its inclusion in 1944 in an army chaplins' field book, and later became nearly synonomous with AA....
Dr. Niebuhr was a pacifist during the First World War, a Socialist, and a theologian of the Social Gospel, but became alarmed by the rise of the Nazis.
The blog, by Marcus Scotus, is here.

Explore the Christmas Season...

Catholic Culture offers this section to help you experience the joy of Christmas by keeping a spiritual focus on the season.

Throughout this wonderful time there will always be much hustle and bustle, shopping and baking and gift giving. But we hope you will refer here often for ideas and spiritual nuggets to increase your Christmas joy.

Let us try to celebrate Christmas with the innocence and humility of children always keeping in mind the wonderful birth of the Christ Child.
An excellent resource covering:
* About Christmas
* 12 Days of Christmas
* Prayers, Blessings, and Hymns
* Activities and Customs

See it here

Gospel for Wednesday, Dec 22, 4th Week of Advent

From: Luke 1:46-56

The Magnificat

[46] And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, [47] and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, [48] for He has regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; [49] for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. [50] And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. [51] He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, [52] He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; [53] He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. [54] He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, [55] as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

[56] And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

46-55. Mary's "Magnificat" canticle is a poem of singular beauty. It evokes certain passages of the Old Testament with which she would have been very familiar (especially 1 Samuel 2:1-10).

Three stanzas may be distinguished in the canticle: in the first (verses 46-50) Mary glorifies God for making her the Mother of the Savior, which is why future generations will call her blessed; she shows that the Incarnation is a mysterious _expression of God's power and holiness and mercy. In the second (verses 51-53) she teaches us that the Lord has always had a preference for the humble, resisting the proud and boastful. In the third (verses 54-55) she proclaims that God, in keeping with His promise, has always taken care of His chosen people--and now does them the greatest honor of all by becoming a Jew (cf. Romans 1:3).

"Our prayer can accompany and imitate this prayer of Mary. Like her, we feel the desire to sing, to acclaim the wonders of God, so that all mankind and all creation may share our joy" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 144).

46-47. "The first fruits of the Holy Spirit are peace and joy. And the Blessed Virgin had received within herself all the grace of the Holy Spirit" (St. Basil, "In Psalmos Homilae", on Psalm 32). Mary's soul overflows in the words of the "Magnificat". God's favors cause every humble soul to feel joy and gratitude. In the case of the Blessed Virgin, God has bestowed more on her than on any other creature. "Virgin Mother of God, He whom the heavens cannot contain, on becoming man, enclosed Himself within your womb" ("Roman Missal", Antiphon of the Common of the Mass for Feasts of Our Lady). The humble Virgin of Nazareth is going to be the Mother of God; the Creator's omnipotence has never before manifested itself in as complete a way as this.

48-49. Mary's _expression of humility causes St. Bede to exclaim: "It was fitting, then, that just as death entered the world through the pride of our first parents, the entry of Life should be manifested by the humility of Mary" ("In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").

"How great the value of humility!--"Quia respexit humilitatem.... It is not of her faith, nor of her charity, nor of her immaculate purity that our Mother speaks in the house of Zachary. Her joyful hymn sings: `Since He has looked on my humility, all generations will call me blessed'" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 598).

God rewards our Lady's humility by mankind's recognition of her greatness: "All generations will call me blessed." This prophecy is fulfilled every time someone says the Hail Mary, and indeed she is praised on earth continually, without interruption. "From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs. Accordingly, following the Council of Ephesus, there was a remarkable growth in the cult of the people of God towards Mary, in veneration and love, in invocation and imitation, according to her own prophetic words: `all generations will call me blessed, for He who is mighty has done great things for me'" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 66).

50. "And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation": "At the very moment of the Incarnation, these words open up a new perspective of salvation history. After the Resurrection of Christ, this perspective is new on both the historical and the eschatological level. From that time onwards there is a succession of new generations of individuals in the immense human family, in ever-increasing dimensions; there is also a succession of new generations of the people of God, marked with the sign of the Cross and of the Resurrection and `sealed' with the sign of the paschal mystery of Christ, the absolute revelation of the mercy that Mary proclaimed on the threshold of her kinswoman's house: "His mercy is [...] from generation to generation' [...].

"Mary, then, is the one who has the "deepest knowledge of the mystery of God's mercy". She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the "Mother of Mercy": Our Lady of Mercy, or Mother of Divine Mercy; in each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which `from generation to generation' people become sharers according to the eternal design of the Most Holy Trinity" (John Paul II, "Dives In Misericordia", 9).

51. "The proud": those who want to be regarded as superior to others, whom they look down on. This also refers to those who, in their arrogance, seek to organize society without reference to, or in opposition to, God's law. Even if they seem to do so successfully, the words of our Lady's canticle will ultimately come true, for God will scatter them as He did those who tried to build the Tower of Babel, thinking that they could reach as high as Heaven (cf. Genesis 11:4).

"When pride takes hold of a soul, it is no surprise to find it bringing along with it a whole string of other vices--greed, self-indulgence, envy, injustice. The proud man is always vainly striving to dethrone God, who is merciful to all His creatures, so as to make room for himself and his ever cruel ways.

"We should beg God not to let us fall into this temptation. Pride is the worst sin of all, and the most ridiculous.... Pride is unpleasant, even from a human point of view. The person who rates himself better than everyone and everything is constantly studying himself and looking down on other people, who in turn react by ridiculing his foolish vanity" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 100).

53. This form of divine providence has been experienced countless times over the course of history. For example, God nourished the people of Israel with manna during their forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4-35); similarly His angel brought food to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-8), and to Daniel in the lions' den (Daniel 14:31-40); and the widow of Sarepta was given a supply of oil which miraculously never ran out (1 Kings 17:8ff). So, too, the Blessed Virgin's yearning for holiness was fulfilled by the incarnation of the Word.

God nourished the chosen people with His Law and the preaching of His prophets, but the rest of mankind was left hungry for His word, a hunger now satisfied by the Incarnation. This gift of God will be accepted by the humble; the self-sufficient, having no desire for the good things of God, will not partake of them (cf. St. Basil, "In Psalmos Homilae", on Psalm 33).

54. God led the people of Israel as He would a child whom He loved tenderly: "the Lord your God bore you, as a man bears his son, in all the way that you went" (Deuteronomy 1:31). He did so many times, using Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, etc., and now He gives them a definitive leader by sending the Messiah--moved by His great mercy which takes pity on the wretchedness of Israel and of all mankind.

55. God promised the patriarchs of old that He would have mercy on mankind. This promise He made to Adam (Genesis 3:15), Abraham (Genesis 22:18), David (2 Samuel 7:12), etc. From all eternity God had planned and decreed that the Word should become incarnate for the salvation of all mankind. As Christ Himself put it, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Blog - "Totally Catholic Youth Ministers Lounge "

Are you in youth ministry and you've had it with crazed parents? Rollin' your eyes at the pastoral council? Tired of administration work? Love youth? Love the Church? Appalled at parish politics? Looking for some good games? For a creative ways to teach a lesson for Religious Ed? Just need a place to veg out and say "phew! Someone outside of the parish to talk to!"? Grab y'r Starbucks, turn the computer away from the staff's eyes, grab a seat on a donated dusty couch and let it all go.
Here's the Link.

The God in the Cave

"The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic; it was not a place of myths . . . explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true." Chesterton dwells upon the theme of Bethlehem in this excerpt from the book which many consider to be his masterpiece.
When I first starting reading this, I thought it was from a book which one of my sons wanted - but I was wrong. The book I just bought for him was "God in the Dock" by C.S Lewis.

This one, "The God in the Cave", looks to be quite good also.


Sister Act...I mean, Cat....

About 15 years ago, Sister Mary Turgi was given a small kitten. Sister, as the kitten was called, brought her owner closer to the natural world. "I developed an intense relationship with this cat," Turgi said. "I think I realized she was just one piece of the nonhuman world.

"If there is no Earth, there is no social justice," she said.

During Lent last year, the Saint Mary's campus did the traditional Stations of the Cross and a new Earth Stations.

Turgi said the Earth Stations recalled the suffering of the Earth as the body of God.
The rest of the article is typical "Gaia-speak"...Sophia tells me so...


Catholic Lawyers Guild of Colorado - Catholic?

Each November, members of the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Colorado gather for a "Red Mass" commemorating the martyrdom of St. Thomas More, a lawyer who was beheaded in 1535 after refusing to renounce his faith to the king of England.

[Archbishop] Chaput made it clear to the group that he was upset that Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar [a professed Catholic who supports abortion 'rights'] was chosen in 2003 for an award named for More, said Laura Tighe, the guild's incoming president.

Our group felt we wanted independence," Tighe said.
Of course they want independence. However, they seek a false independence, a distorted 'freedom' - what they embrace as freedom is really a form of slavery...this happens when people are blinded by pride and arrogance.
"We are obviously very distinctively Catholic, but there's a great difference on how we exercise our Catholicism. We understand the ramifications of our decision, and we will go on."
Obviously, "Distinctively Catholic" is code for meaning that one was baptized Catholic but has rejected the hierarchical structure of the Church, while at the same time, embracing those who reject or are opposed to fundamental tenets of truth and faith.

St. Thomas More, pray for us!


$3.8 million settles 23 sex abuse suits

The Archdiocese of St. Louis this year agreed to pay nearly $3.8 million to settle 23 civil suits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, including two suits settled last week, according to a church lawyer.

The settlements do not resolve open criminal cases or end the suits against individual priests, said Bernard Huger, a lawyer representing the archdiocese.

St Agatha Church to be spared....

Archdiocese considers revised plan for parishes

One historic Catholic church would be spared and another landmark suddenly faced closing in a reworking of the sweeping plans to close about 30 parishes in south St. Louis and north St. Louis County.

St. Francis de Sales, known as the "Cathedral of the South Side" for its towering 300-foot steeple on Gravois Avenue, would close, largely because of the cost of needed repairs. The original plan was to preserve it as the new home of Latin Masses for the greater St. Louis area.

St. Agatha, now home to Latin Masses, and St. Pius V would be spared. Those two South Side parishes had been on the closing list. St. Agatha's is next to the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
I was unable to attend St. Agatha's Sunday to hear Msgr. Schmitz, the Vicar General of the Institute of Christ the King, who was to give the homily and address the faithful. The Institute will be a great asset to the Archdiocese of St. Louis as will the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem.

It's sad to see that St. Francis de Sales would close. In fact, it's sad to see any church close because of lack of attendance or other factors. If only it were possible to move those great, architecturally beautiful churches like St Francis de Sales to St Charles county to replace some of the new "worship space" warehouses...what a blessing it would be!

Full story here.

Gospel for Tuesday, Dec 21, 4th Week of Advent

From: Luke 1:39-45

The Visitation

[39] In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, [40] and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. [41] And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit [42] and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! [43] And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

39-56. We contemplate this episode of our Lady's visit to her cousin St. Elizabeth in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary: "Joyfully keep Joseph and Mary company...and you will hear the traditions of the House of David.... We walk in haste towards the mountains, to a town of the tribe of Judah (Luke 1:39).

"We arrive. It is the house where John the Baptist is to be born. Elizabeth gratefully hails the Mother of her Redeemer: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? (Luke 1:42-43).

"The unborn Baptist quivers...(Luke 1:41). Mary's humility pours forth in the "Magnificat".... And you and I, who are proud--who were proud--promise to be humble" ([St] J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary").

39. On learning from the angel that her cousin St. Elizabeth is soon to give birth and is in need of support, our Lady in her charity hastens to her aid. She has no regard for the difficulties this involves. Although we do not know where exactly Elizabeth was living (it is now thought to be Ain Karim), it certainly meant a journey into the hill country which at that time would have taken four days.

From Mary's visit to Elizabeth Christians should learn to be caring people. "If we have this filial contact with Mary, we won't be able to think just about ourselves and our problems. Selfish personal problems will find no place in our mind" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By," 145).

42. St. Bede comments that Elizabeth blesses Mary using the same words as the archangel "to show that she should be honored by angels and by men and why she should indeed be revered above all other women" ("In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, in loc.").

When we say the "Hail Mary" we repeat these divine greetings, "rejoicing with Mary at her dignity as Mother of God and praising the Lord, thanking Him for having given us Jesus Christ through Mary" ("St. Pius X Catechism", 333).

43. Elizabeth is moved by the Holy Spirit to call Mary "the mother of my Lord", thereby showing that Mary is the Mother of God.

44. Although he was conceived in sin--original sin--like other men, St. John the Baptist was born sinless because he was sanctified in his mother's womb by the presence of Jesus Christ (then in Mary's womb) and of the Blessed Virgin. On receiving this grace of God St. John rejoices by leaping with joy in his mother's womb--thereby fulfilling the archangel's prophecy (cf. Luke 1:15).

St. John Chrysostom comments on this scene of the Gospel: "See how new and how wonderful this mystery is. He has not yet left the womb but he speaks by leaping; he is not yet allowed to cry out but he makes himself heard by his actions [...]; he has not yet seen the light but he points out the Sun; he has not yet been born and he is keen to act as Precursor. The Lord is present, so he cannot contain himself or wait for nature to run its course: he wants to break out of the prison of his mother's womb and he makes sure he witnesses to the fact that the Savior is about to come" ("Sermo Apud Metaphr., Mense Julio").

45. Joining the chorus of all future generations, Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit, declares the Lord's Mother to be blessed and praises her faith. No one ever had faith to compare with Mary's; she is the model of the attitude a creature should have towards its Creator--complete submission, total attachment. Through her faith, Mary is the instrument chosen by God to bring about the Redemption; as Mediatrix of all graces, she is associated with the redemptive work of her Son: "This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to His death; first when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the Precursor leaps with joy in the womb of his mother [...]. The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood (cf. John 19:25), in keeping with the Divine Plan, enduring with her only-begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, associating herself with His sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 57f).

The new Latin text gives a literal rendering of the original Greek when it says "quae credidit" (RSV "she who has believed") as opposed to the Vulgate "quae credidisti" ("you who have believed") which gave more of the sense than a literal rendering.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Rainbow Sash Movement responds to the Pope's "Gay Bashing"

The Rainbow Sash Movement is calling Pope John Paul II to stop his international Gay Bashing. Dogma is driving this effort not Holy Scripture. Personal piety is driving the Church in the direction that is opposed to the reality of the Psychological sciences. Like Galileo's Papal detractors this Pope thinks it is ok to publicly condemn knowledge for Dogma. Gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgender (glbt) are the brunt of these senseless mean-spirited attacks. We call on the Pope to educate himself, and come out and dialogue with glbt Catholics. Has the Pope ever talked to a gay Catholic?

The Rainbow Sash Movement is further calling the Pope to tone done his language, and stop and think how this will affect the lives of innocent people. This orchestrated worldwide jihad against the glbt international community is symptom of sick theology gone wild. Thank God the European Common Market, and Canada no longer listen to this sick propaganda of hate.

Finally, the Rainbow Sash Movement is calling Pope John Paul II to enter into a public dialogue with gay/lesbians/bisexuals/transgender Catholics. Certainly this is the pastoral thing to do.

We are glad to see that Archbishop Flynn of Minneapolis/St Paul in his recent visit to the Vatican said he discussed the issue in a private meeting in early December with Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. I got the clear understanding that this is recognized as a very complex pastoral issue which must constantly be looked at in all its ramifications," Archbishop Flynn said in an interview in mid-December.

If Cardinal Arinze recognizes this, what is the problem with the Pope? Or is this more Vatican smoke and mirrors? To find out more or join the Rainbow Sash Movement please visit our web site at
I don't recall reading anywhere that Cardinal Arinze confirmed Archbishop Flynn's reporting.

It is quite clear that many cannot accept the teachings of Jesus Christ or His Church yet they insist that they see themselves as "Catholics". The Holy Father has consistently taught that those with disordered inclinations must be respected as human beings made in the image and likeness of God, yet they are also called, as are all people, to practice chastity and purity.

What the RSM is demanding is nothing short of the Holy Father and the Church sanctioning unnatural, immoral, and sinful behavior. They want sodomy to be called good and wholesome and a gift from God.

In a certain way, however, the burden they have is an opportunity for it provides a person a real and special occasion to resist evil temptations and grow in grace. Some have more burdens than others, but these burdens, if viewed and accepted properly, can be used to glorify our Lord and God.

Pray that these people will come to realize the necessity for repentance and conversion before it is too late. Pray also for the Holy Father as so many professed Catholics reject him and the teachings of the Church which he passes on to us. Pray still again, that the disunity within the Church might be resolved.


French Catholic Bishops Denounce Books on Mary

PARIS (Reuters) - Shortly before the day that made her famous, France's Roman Catholic Church has stood up for the Virgin Mary by denouncing two new books that question whether she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus Christ.

In statements made as Christians prepared for Christmas, it has decried the best-selling "Mary, The Mother Of Jesus" by Catholic journalist Jacques Duquesne and "Mary, A Dogmatic Journey" by Dominican theologian Dominique Cerbelaud.

"The two books gravely offend the Catholic faith," declared Bishop Jean-Louis Brugues, head of the French bishops' doctrinal commission that recently reviewed the two works.
Unfortunately , this is not an uncommon issue, it seems. I have had "conversations" with a priest and with a protestant gentleman who 'facilitates" a Catholic parish Bible study program, both of whom have denied the perpetual virginity of Mary - as well as a few other things.


Christmas Tree Is Symbol of Christ, Says Pope

The evergreen Christmas tree is a symbol of life offered by Christ, "God's supreme gift to humanity," says John Paul II.

The Pope explained the meaning of the tree during his Angelus address today to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Zenit article here.

St. Stanislaus Board Proposes a Compromise

ST. LOUIS - An independent Polish parish in St. Louis has offered an olive branch and a compromise to St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke to resolve a one-year standoff over control of the historic church's assets.

The lay board of St. Stanislaus Kostka church proposed turning over all money from Sunday collections to the pastor, yet to be named, to manage. In addition, the lay board offered a year's worth of revenue in advance, spokesman Roger Krasnicki said.

The board also would serve as landlord and lease the historic church and rectory - at no rental cost - to the archdiocese. The board also would assume the responsibility of maintaining the church, to be paid by parishioners in a separate restoration fund.

Bernard Huger, attorney for the archdiocese, said Friday the proposal "is not workable as written," but he'd meet with the parish's attorney the week of Dec. 27 to try to resolve the matter.
I heard this last week on a local radio station but no coverage was in the Post Dispatch as far as I could tell.

It seems the board wants to retain complete control of the property...


Gospel for Monday, Dec 20,4th Week of Advent

From: Luke 1:26-38

The Annunciation and Incarnation of the Son of God

[26] In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, [27] to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. [28] And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" [29] But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. [30] And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [31] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. [32] He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, [33] and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there will be no end." [34] And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no husband?" [35] And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. [36] And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. [37] For with God nothing will be impossible." [38] And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

26-38. Here we contemplate our Lady who was "enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness; [...] the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as `full of grace' (cf. Luke 1:28), and to the heavenly messenger she replies, `Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word' (Luke 1:38). Thus the daughter of Adam, Mary, consenting to the word of God, became the Mother of Jesus. Committing herself wholeheartedly to God's saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with Him, serving the mystery of Redemption, by the grace of Almighty God.

Rightly, therefore, the Fathers (of the Church) see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience" (Vatican II, "Lumen Gentium", 56).

The annunciation to Mary and incarnation of the Word constitute the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind: God becomes man, and will remain so forever, such is the extent of His goodness and mercy and love for all of us. And yet on the day when the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed frail human nature in the pure womb of the Blessed Virgin, it all happened quietly, without fanfare of any kind.

St. Luke tells the story in a very simple way. We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practising the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

27. God chose to be born of a virgin; centuries earlier He disclosed this through the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23). God, "before all ages made choice of, and set in her proper place, a mother for His only-begotten Son from whom He, after being made flesh, should be born in the blessed fullness of time: and He continued His persevering regard for her in preference to all other creatures, to such a degree that for her alone He had singular regard" (Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus," 2). This privilege granted to our Lady of being a virgin and a mother at the same time is a unique gift of God. This was the work of the Holy Spirit "who at the conception and the birth of the Son so favored the Virgin Mother as to impart fruitfulness to her while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity" ("St. Pius V Catechism," I, 4, 8). Paul VI reminds us of this truth of faith: "We believe that the Blessed Mary, who ever enjoys the dignity of virginity, was the Mother of the incarnate Word, of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" ("Creed of the People of God", 14).

Although many suggestions have been made as to what the name Mary means, most of the best scholars seem to agree that Mary means "lady". However, no single meaning fully conveys the richness of the name.

28. "Hail, full of grace": literally the Greek text reads "Rejoice!", obviously referring to the unique joy over the news which the angel is about to communicate.

"Full of grace": by this unusual form of greeting the archangel reveals Mary's special dignity and honor. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church "taught that this singular, solemn and unheard-of-greeting showed that all the divine graces reposed in the Mother of God and that she was adorned with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit", which meant that she "was never subject to the curse", that is, was preserved from all sin. These words of the archangel in this text constitute one of the sources which reveal the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception (cf. Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus"; Paul VI, "Creed of the People of God").

"The Lord is with you!": these words are not simply a greeting ("the Lord be with you") but an affirmation ("the Lord is with you"), and they are closely connected with the Incarnation. St. Augustine comments by putting these words on the archangel's lips: "He is more with you than He is with me: He is in your heart, He takes shape within you, He fills your soul, He is in your womb" ("Sermo De Nativitate Domini", 4).

Some important Greek manuscripts and early translations add at the end of the verse: "Blessed are you among women!", meaning that God will exalt Mary over all women. She is more excellent than Sarah, Hannah, Deborah, Rachel, Judith, etc., for only she has the supreme honor of being chosen to be the Mother of God.

29-30. Our Lady is troubled by the presence of the archangel and by the confusion truly humble people experience when they receive praise.

30. The Annunciation is the moment when our Lady is given to know the vocation which God planned for her from eternity. When the archangel sets her mind at ease by saying, "Do not be afraid, Mary," he is helping her to overcome that initial fear which a person normally experiences when God gives him or her a special calling. The fact that Mary felt this fear does not imply the least trace of imperfection in her: hers is a perfectly natural reaction in the face of the supernatural. Imperfection would arise if one did not overcome this fear or rejected the advice of those in a position to help--as St. Gabriel helped Mary.

31-33. The archangel Gabriel tells the Blessed Virgin Mary that she is to be the Mother of God by reminding her of the words of Isaiah which announced that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, a prophecy which will find its fulfillment in Mary (cf. Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14).

He reveals that the Child will be "great": His greatness comes from His being God, a greatness He does not lose when He takes on the lowliness of human nature. He also reveals that Jesus will be the king of the Davidic dynasty sent by God in keeping with His promise of salvation; that His Kingdom will last forever, for His humanity will remain forever joined to His divinity; that "He will be called Son of the Most High", that is that He really will be the Son of the Most High and will be publicly recognized as such, that is, the Child will be the Son of God.

The archangel's announcement evokes the ancient prophecies which foretold these prerogatives. Mary, who was well-versed in Sacred Scripture, clearly realized that she was to be the Mother of God.

34-38. Commenting on this passage John Paul II said: "`Virgo fidelis', the faithful Virgin. What does this faithfulness of Mary mean? What are the dimensions of this faithfulness? The first dimension is called search. Mary was faithful first of all when she began, lovingly, to seek the deep sense of God's plan in her and for the world. `Quomodo fiet?' How shall this be?, she asked the Angel of the Annunciation[...]."

"The second dimension of faithfulness is called reception, acceptance. The `quomodo fiet?' is changed, on Mary's lips, to a `fiat': Let it be done, I am ready, I accept. This is the crucial moment of faithfulness, the moment in which man perceives that he will never completely understand the `how': that there are in God's plan more areas of mystery than of clarity; that is, however he may try, he will never succeed in understanding it completely[...]."

"The third dimension of faithfulness is consistency to live in accordance with what one believes; to adapt one's own life to the object of one's adherence. To accept misunderstanding, persecutions, rather than a break between what one practises and what one believes: this is consistency[...]."

"But all faithfulness must pass the most exacting test, that of duration. Therefore, the fourth dimension of faithfulness is constancy. It is easy to be consistent for a day or two. It is difficult and important to be consistent for one's whole life. It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm, it is difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that lasts throughout the whole life can be called faithfulness. Mary's `fiat' in the Annunciation finds its fullness in the silent `fiat' that she repeats at the foot of the Cross" ("Homily in Mexico City Cathedral", 26 January 1979).

34. Mary believed in the archangel's words absolutely; she did not doubt as Zechariah had done (cf. 1:18). Her question, "How can this be?", expresses her readiness to obey the will of God even though at first sight it implied a contradiction: on the one hand, she was convinced that God wished her to remain a virgin; on the other, here was God also announcing that she would become a mother. The archangel announces God's mysterious design, and what had seemed impossible, according to the laws of nature, is explained by a unique intervention on the part of God.

Mary's resolution to remain a virgin was certainly something very unusual, not in line with the practice of righteous people under the Old Covenant, for, as St. Augustine explains, "particularly attentive to the propagation and growth of the people of God, through whom the Prince and Savior of the world might be prophesied and be born, the saints were obliged to make use of the good of matrimony" ("De Bono Matrimonii", 9, 9). However, in the Old Testament, there were some who, in keeping with God's plan, did remain celibate--for example, Jeremiah, Elijah, Eliseus and John the Baptist. The Blessed Virgin, who received a very special inspiration of the Holy Spirit to practise virginity, is a first-fruit of the New Testament, which will establish the excellence of virginity over marriage while not taking from the holiness of the married state, which it raises to the level of a sacrament (cf. "Gaudium Et Spes", 48).

35. The "shadow" is a symbol of the presence of God. When Israel was journeying through the wilderness, the glory of God filled the Tabernacle and a cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:34-36). And when God gave Moses the tablets of the Law, a cloud covered Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15-16); and also, at the Transfiguration of Jesus the voice of God the Father was heard coming out of a cloud(Luke 9:35).

At the moment of the Incarnation the power of God envelops our Lady--an expression of God's omnipotence. The Spirit of God--which, according to the account in Genesis (1:2), moved over the face of the waters, bringing things to life--now comes down on Mary. And the fruit of her womb will be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Virgin Mary, who herself was conceived without any stain of sin (cf. Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus") becomes, after the Incarnation, a new tabernacle of God. This is the mystery we recall every day when saying the Angelus.

38. Once she learns of God's plan, our Lady yields to God's will with prompt obedience, unreservedly. She realizes the disproportion between what she is going to become--the Mother of God--and what she is--a woman. However, this is what God wants to happen and for Him nothing is impossible; therefore no one should stand in His way. So Mary, combining humility and obedience, responds perfectly to God's call: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done according to your word."

"At the enchantment of this virginal phrase, the Word became flesh" ([St] J. Escriva, "Holy Rosary", first joyful mystery). From the pure body of Mary, God shaped a new body, He created a soul out of nothing, and the Son of God united Himself with this body and soul: prior to this He was only God; now He is still God but also man. Mary is now the Mother of God. This truth is a dogma of faith, first defined by the Council of Ephesus (431). At this point she also begins to be the spiritual Mother of all mankind. What Christ says when He is dying--`Behold, your son..., behold, your mother" (John 19:26-27)--simply promulgates what came about silently at Nazareth. "With her generous `fiat' (Mary) became, through the working of the Spirit, the Mother of God, but also the Mother of the living, and, by receiving into her womb the one Mediator, she became the true Ark of the Covenant and true Temple of God" (Paul VI, "Marialis Cultus", 6).

The Annunciation shows us the Blessed Virgin as perfect model of "purity" (the RSV "I have no husband" is a euphemism); of "humility" ("Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord"); of "candor" and "simplicity" ("How can this be?"); of "obedience" and "lively faith" ("Let it be done to me according to your word"). "Following her example of obedience to God, we can learn to serve delicately without being slavish. In Mary, we don't find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins, who obey, but thoughtlessly. Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn't fully understand and asks about what she doesn't know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will: `Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word'. Isn't that marvellous? The Blessed Virgin, our teacher in all we do, shows us here that obedience to God is not servile, does not bypass our conscience. We should be inwardly moved to discover the `freedom of the children of God' (cf. Romans 8:21)" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 173).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Pope Condemns Same Sex Union as Attack on Society

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul (news - web sites) on Saturday condemned same sex marriage as an attack on the fabric of society and called on Catholics to combat what he said was aggressive attempt to legally undermine the family.

"Attacks on marriage and the family, from an ideological and legal aspect, are becoming stronger and more radical every day," the 84-year old pontiff said in the unusually strong statement.

"Who destroys this fundamental fabric causes a profound injury to society and provokes often irreparable damage."

Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Advent

From: Matthew 1:18-24

The Virginal Conception of Jesus, and His Birth

[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; [19] and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. [20] But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; [21] she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: [23] "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and His name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means God with us). [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

18. St. Matthew relates here how Christ was conceived (cf. Luke 1:25-38): "We truly honor and venerate (Mary) as Mother of God, because she gave birth to a person who is at the same time both God and man"("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 4, 7).

According to the provisions of the Law of Moses, engagement took place about one year before marriage and enjoyed almost the same legal validity. The marriage proper consisted, among other ceremonies, in the bride being brought solemnly and joyously to her husband's house (cf. Deuteronomy 20:7).

From the moment of engagement onwards, a certificate of divorce was needed in the event of a break in the relationship between the couple.

The entire account of Jesus' birth teaches, through the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 (which is expressly quoted in verses 22-23) that: 1) Jesus has David as His ancestor since Joseph is His legal father; 2) Mary is the Virgin who gives birth according to the prophecy; 3) the Child's conception without the intervention of man was miraculous.

19. "St. Joseph was an ordinary sort of man on whom God relied to do great things. He did exactly what the Lord wanted him to do, in each and every event that went to make up his life. That is why Scripture praises Joseph as `a just man'. In Hebrew a just man means a good and faithful servant of God, someone who fulfills the divine will (cf. Genesis 7:1; 18:23-32; Ezekiel 18:5ff.; Proverbs 12:10), or who is honorable and charitable toward his neighbor (cf. Tobias 7:6; 9:6). So a just man is someone who loves God and proves his love by keeping God's commandments and directing his whole life towards the service of his brothers, his fellow men" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 40).

Joseph considered his spouse to be holy despite the signs that she was going to have a child. He was therefore faced with a situation he could not explain. Precisely because he was trying to do God's will, he felt obliged to put her away; but to shield her from public shame he decided to send her away quietly.

Mary's silence is admirable. Her perfect surrender to God even leads her to the extreme of not defending her honor or innocence. She prefers to suffer suspicion and shame rather than reveal the work of grace in her. Faced with a fact which was inexplicable in human terms she abandons herself confidently to the love and providence of God.

God certainly submitted the holy souls of Joseph and Mary to a severe trial. We ought not to be surprised if we also undergo difficult trials in the course of our lives. We ought to trust in God during them, and remain faithful to Him, following the example they gave us.

20. God gives His light to those who act in an upright way and who trust in His power and wisdom when faced with situations which exceed human understanding. By calling him the son of David, the angel reminds Joseph that he is the providential link which joins Jesus with the family of David, according to Nathan's messianic prophecy (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12). As St. John Chrysostom says: "At the very start he straightaway reminds him of David, of whom the Christ was to spring, and he does not wish him to be worried from the moment he reminds him, through naming his most illustrious ancestor, of the promise made to all his lineage" ("Hom. on St. Matthew", 4).

"The same Jesus Christ, our only Lord, the Son of God, when He assumed human flesh for us in the womb of the Virgin, was not conceived like other men, from the seed of man, but in a manner transcending the order of nature, that is, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the same person, remaining God as He was from eternity, became man, which He was not before" ("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 4, 1).

21. According to the Hebrew root, the name Jesus means "savior". After our Lady, St. Joseph is the first person to be told by God that salvation has begun.

"Jesus is the proper name of the God-man and signifies `Savior'--a name given Him not accidentally, or by the judgment or will of man, but by the counsel and command of God" [...]. All other names which prophecy gave to the Son of God--Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (cf. Isaiah 9:6)--are comprised in this one name Jesus; for while they partially signified the salvation which He was to bestow on us, this name included the force and meaning of all human salvation" ("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 3, 5 and 6).

23. "Emmanuel": the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, quoted in this verse, foretold about 700 years in advance that God's salvation would be marked by the extraordinary event of virgin giving birth to a son. The Gospel here, therefore, reveals two truths.

First, that Jesus is in fact the God-with-us foretold by the prophet. This is how Christian tradition has always understood it. Indeed the Church has officially condemned an interpretation denying the messianic sense of the Isaiah text (cf. Pius VI, Brief, "Divina", 1779). Christ is truly God-with-us, therefore, not only because of His God-given mission but because He is God made man (cf. John 1:14).

This does not mean that Jesus should normally be called Emmanuel, for this name refers more directly to the mystery of His being the Incarnate Word. At the Annunciation the angel said that He should be called Jesus, that is, Savior. And that was the name St. Joseph gave Him.

The second truth revealed to us by the sacred text is that Mary, in whom the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled, was a virgin before and during the birth itself. The miraculous sign given by God that salvation had arrived was precisely that a woman would be a virgin and a mother at the same time.

"Jesus Christ came forth from His mother's womb without injury to her maternal virginity. This immaculate and perpetual virginity forms, therefore, the just theme of our eulogy. Such was the work of the Holy Spirit, who at the conception and birth of the Son so favored the Virgin Mother as to impart fruitfulness to her while preserving inviolate her perpetual virginity" ("St. Pius V Catechism", I, 4, 8).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.