Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mental Prayer for December 24, Bethlehem

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Gracs I Ask: Grace to see what it is that makes my heart too crowded for my King.

Mental Picture (cf. Luke 2:6-7): Our shadows are getting longer and it is getting cool. I can see that Mary is tired. Joseph limps a little as he pulls the tired little donkey. "Just a few more steps." Over the hill there... below us... the little town of Beth­lehem. We must hurry... already many people are there. At the inn - no room. We follow Joseph as he goes... house to house... "no... sorry, no room... all filled... sorry... no... no... no room."

Two shepherds come up... their stable up in the hills is open... just a little way distant. Joseph looks at Mary... for her, the best he can do. She nods gratefully. He turns in the direction the shepherds pointed... up a little hill... along a sheep path... around a corner out of the wind... at last.

My Personal Application: I have watched the people in the houses that were "too crowded."

Is there room in my heart for Mary and her Son? Or do the many "things" that crowd my heart laugh them away - lock the door - turn away with "I'd like to, but..."

Maybe I need a good house­ cleaning. If Christ can't come in, something is wrong.

I Speak to God: There's room in my heart for you. Maybe it's not much yet, but I'll clear out what you can't use. Don't go away - help me clean my heart - help me to keep it free for you.

Thought for Today: "...there was no room for them."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Finding the Peace of Christmas Amid Turmoil

The following message is adapted from a greeting Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira gave to Supporters of the Brazilian TFP during the Christmas season of 1992.

As 2006 comes to a close, we should reflect on what has happened this year. As in all recent years, chaos reigned throughout the world. The risks, inherent to this chaos, became increasingly universal and dangerous. Understandably, an atmosphere of general apprehension continues to spread throughout the whole world.

It is therefore fitting to recall the angelic canticle heard by the shepherds on the first Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”

The angels spoke of true peace, which is found in the Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In this sense, what does “peace” mean? Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches: “Peace is the tranquility of order.” Where there is order, there is true peace. Where there is merely a lack of open conflict, true peace does not exist, but merely a veiled and camouflaged disorder.
Read on here...

Gospel for Saturday, 3rd Week in 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).

Friday, December 22, 2006

Mental Prayer for December 23, Leaving Nazareth

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: Help me to see and understand the obedience of Mary and Joseph.

Mental Picture (cf. Luke 2:4):A rooster crows... I roll out of bed and peer out the window... the half­-light just before dawn... two little donkeys, their long ears flapping... Joseph loading one of them. I dress and hurry out to see if I can help. Mary gets the pots and pans and food ready. I carry them out to Joseph. We are leaving Nazareth for Bethlehem. Caesar has spoken. We must make the long journey to register for his census. Who knows how long we'll be gone? At last Mary puts out the light... checks the fire... stops to remember if she forgot anything... goes out and closes the door behind her. Joseph lifts her onto the little donkey... picks up the lead strap... looks back at me - "All set?" "Ready," I take the strap of the pack donkey and we start for the hills. The dew on the grass slaps cold on my sandaled feet.

My Personal Application: Here is quiet obedience - calm, trustful obedience. This is the way God wants it, so this is the way to do it. How do I obey those having authority over me - my Pope, my bishop, my parents, my teachers, my boss? Is my obedience quiet - without a lot of complaining Is it trustful, knowing that this is the way God wants it?

I Speak to Christ: Jesus, my King, I have a lot to learn. Here you and your parents teach me how to obey. Help me to understand - I don't want to miss the lesson. Help me to take on your attitude in obedience: this is God's will and His will brings me peace and calm.

Thought for Today: When Christ became man, He said, "Behold, I come to do thy will."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Basilica Mass Schedules

‘A Savior has been born for you’

The St. Louis Archdiocese will mark the birth of Jesus Christ, the real reason for the Christmas season, at its two basilicas with Masses on Christmas Eve, midnight and Christmas Day.

Archbishop Raymond Burke will celebrate Midnight Mass on Christmas at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in the Central West End.

A choir concert beginning at 11 p.m. will precede the Mass at the cathedral basilica, on the corner of Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue.

A 5 p.m. vigil Mass Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24, also will be celebrated there.

Monday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day Masses at the cathedral basilica will be at 8 and 10 a.m. and noon. There will be no evening Mass Christmas Day. The archbishop will celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass.

A Christmas Eve vigil Mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Louis King of France (Old Cathedral), 209 Walnut St. on the riverfront Downtown. Midnight Mass will follow carols at 11:30 p.m. Christmas Day Masses at the Old Cathedral will be at 8 and 10:30 a.m. and noon. There will be no evening Mass.

St. Raymond Cathedral, a Catholic church of the Eastern rite at 931 Lebanon Drive in the LaSalle Park neighborhood of St. Louis, will celebrate Christmas Liturgy at 5 and 11 p.m. Christmas Eve and 10 a.m. Christmas Day.

Since New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is on a Monday this year, it is not a holy day of obligation in the Roman rite. Masses at the cathedral basilica on Monday, Jan. 1, will be at 10 a.m., noon and 5 p.m.

The only Mass for the Jan. 1 solemnity at the Old Cathedral is at 8 a.m.

The solemnity is a holy day of obligation in the Eastern rite. The liturgy at St. Raymond is at 10 a.m. Jan. 1.

(Source: St Louis Review)

Gospel for Friday, 3rd 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.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mental Prayer for December 22, The Incarnation

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: Help me to understand the tremen­dous fact of God becoming man.

Mental Picture (cf. Luke 1:28-38): The sun breaks the eastern horizon with radiant gold and warms the hills of Nazareth... a quiet country village. In a little stone house... a young girl quietly thinking over a passage from the Scriptures. The Court of Heaven, brilliant with the power of the Almighty... God, all Holy... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father speaks: "Gabriel"­ - Archangel, one of the seven who stand before the face of God - "Gabriel, go; now is the time to ask the maiden!"

As swift as thought he speeds, the messenger of our salvation. "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." The little maid turns in wonder at the words. "Fear not... thou shalt conceive and He that is born of thee shall be called Jesus, the Son of the Most High." At the moment when all creation is waiting for her answer, she quietly bows her head and says: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." And the Holy Spirit overshadows her. It is the moment of the Incarnation... the Son of God is made man.

My Personal Application: What should I be... what could I hope for... to what could I look for­ward... if God had not - but God did. God did become man to open heaven for me.

I Speak to God: My God, I fall on my knees in wonder. You have become man, you have come to suffer, to die - for me. Teach me to wonder­ - teach me to thank you - teach me to love you.

Thought for Today: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Priest once under suspicion gets new post in St Louis

A Catholic priest who left Yakima in 2004 while under criminal investigation for allegedly viewing child pornography has been reassigned to a church in St. Louis.

According to the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, the priest has a supervised ministry as an associate pastor in a St. Louis parish.

News of this will probably send SNAP into a frenzy...But let's not forget that some hold the opinion that once accused, he must be guilty, right?

No charges were ever filed in the case, and for that reason, the Yakima Herald-Republic has never identified the priest by name...The FBI, the county prosecutor's office and the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board all investigated the incident.

Article here.

*** Updated ***

As expected, David Clohessy has weighed in on the matter:
Clohessy said St. Louis is becoming a "national dumping ground for potentially dangerous priests."

Of course, with SNAP, a priest is guilty even when an allegation is false. And Clohessy's name-calling only adds fuel to a fire which he wishes to keep burning:
"Clearly, any rational person has to be concerned that these dangerous predators will strike again," Clohessy said. "Especially because we rarely know who or where they are."

"Dangerous predators"? I will be the first in line to demand investigations in cases of credible sexual perversion and first in line to demand justice in cases of proven criminal conduct. However, it serves no purpose to continually refer to those who have had false accusations made against them as "dangerous predators"...

Some people really need help.

Bishop Doran recovering from cancer surgery

Gospel for Thursday, 3rd 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.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Will Archbishop Wuerl Fail to Act?

Will New Archbishop of Washington Deny Pro-Abort Nancy Pelosi Communion at Jan. 3 Showcase Mass?

Pelosi scheduled to attend Mass at Trinity College in Washington as endorsement of alma mater and her Catholic faith
By John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, December 19, 2006 ( - As Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—a pro-abortion legislator who claims to be a practicing Catholic—prepares to celebrate her new role as House Speaker-elect, she also plans on airing her purported faith during an upcoming public Mass. On Jan. 3, Rep. Pelosi is scheduled to attend Mass at Trinity College in Washington as an endorsement of her alma mater and her Catholic faith.

In response to the announcement, however, American Life League has implored Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. to intervene in an effort to prevent Pelosi from using the Mass for political gain.
. . .
"Rep. Pelosi has been unwavering in her support for abortion and is downright defiant toward the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League.

"It is shameful that Trinity College, a supposedly Catholic institution, has turned a blind eye to the heretical views Pelosi embraces."

May God grant Archbishop Wuerl the fortitude and grace to do what he must do for the good of the Church and so spare the faithful of this scandal and sacrilege.

Mental Prayer for December 21, Looking and Listening

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: To understand and begin to learn how to pray by looking on Christ.

The Idea: Merely thinking about Christ isn't enough. I want to know Him deep down inside. What are His ideas - how does He feel - who are His friends - His enemies - what does He say - how does He talk - what does He do? The best way to find out is to follow Him, to live with Him as He goes through His own life.

How? By looking and listening. I will take Christ's life - scene by scene - spend some time getting a good picture of the scene in mind. Put myself in the picture - for instance, as one of the women who are with Mary -or as an Apostle. See who is with Christ. How does He look? Is He tired? Is He smiling? What is He saying? Can I do anything to help? What are the people around Him doing? How does He act toward them? Answering these questions will help make Him live for me.

My Personal Application: This is an easy way to pray. All I have to do is open the eyes and ears of my imagination. Do I want to know Him as a very close friend? I will begin this Christmas season to follow His life from its beginning­ - watching Him grow, live, teach, and work - ­watching, listening, and learning while He suffers and dies, rises from the dead - watching and loving, because He does it all for me.

I Speak to Christ: My King, I want to know you. But you know how much I need your grace for this. Please give me the grace I need. Help me to know you in these mental prayers and to act with your spirit in my life.

Thought for Today: To know Christ I must live with Him.
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Missouri Cloning Opposition Launched

Two legislators say they want people to have a clear choice. Others call the plan a slap in the face to voters.

Surrounded by boisterous supporters, state Sen. Matt Bartle and Rep. Jim Lembke unveiled their proposal Tuesday to reverse last month's public vote to protect stem-cell research in Missouri.

The two Republican lawmakers said their 46-word amendment would give Missouri voters an unambiguous choice on whether to ban human cloning.

The Nov. 7 vote, they said, showed that Missourians support such a ban. But the initiative's deceptive wording actually allows humans to be cloned, they said.

Professed "Catholic" Dick Durbin "explains" his opposition to protecting children

Christmas Outsourcing...

The Nativity Story: Setting the Record Straight on Mary

Fr. Tom Euteneuer writes:

The new movie that debuted on December 1st, The Nativity Story, has received many positive reviews around the country already and also a fair number of attacks by the standard group of village atheists.

Criticisms notwithstanding, the movie certainly has many redeeming qualities to it including its portrayal of Joseph and the touching scene of Mary's visit to Elizabeth, but at the same time I feel it necessary to correct the record about its presentation of Mary. More to the point, twenty centuries of theological reflection on the Virgin Mary have been effectively glossed over in the movie, and we have been given someone's private interpretation of Mary's role in salvation history which does not match the public record of historical Christianity. The Catholic Church has made it clear from the beginning that we do not understand Jesus as a historical and theological figure without Mary, and so a Nativity story that gets Mary wrong also skews our understanding of Jesus.

Because of the flaws of this movie, and the effect it can have (especially subconsciously), it would be difficult to promote or recommend this movie...Of course, the USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives it a glowing recommendation. But then, can we really expect anything else from that group?

For me, I prefer an unadulterated and authentic rendering based on the faith as handed on to us.

Virgin Mary Statue Hanged in Pennsylvania

Dec 19, 2006 — Lori Adams went to work early Monday morning and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

But someone else did and told the church secretary that a Virgin Mary lawn ornament was hanging by the neck in the parking lot of Stewartstown Presbyterian Church.

According to the church and local police, the nearly 2½-foot-tall Virgin Mary figurine was bound by the neck with a rope and tied to a light post hanging from the southeast corner of the church building on College Avenue in Stewartstown.

This happened at a Presbyterian church...the motive remains a mystery.

Group Dishonors Mother Teresa

Notorious Pro-homosexual Catholic Dissident Named 2006 Mother Teresa Award Laureate
By John Jalsevac

Los Angeles, December 19, 2006 ( - Sister Jeannine Gramick, who became a notorious figure after she was ordered by the Vatican in 2000 to desist from all pastoral work involving homosexuals, has been honored by being named a 2006 Mother Teresa Award Laureate. The award was presented to Sr. Gramick this past November.

Completely repulsive and grave repudiation of basic morality...
Bill Donahue, president of the U.S. Catholic League, expressed his disgust at the honoring of Sr. Gramick with the Mother Teresa Award in a statement to "Surely they could have found someone more worthy for this award than Sr. Jeannine Gramick," he said. "Any person who to this day is still trying to rescue the reputation of the disgraced child-molester Paul Shanley is not worthy of any commendation."

It could not be said any more clearly than the above statement by Donohue...I find it odd, though, that anyone would refer to Jeannine Gramick as "Sister"...She is not worthy of the title...As a matter of fact, her use of the title is a slap in the face to all good religious sisters, both living and dead - what a scandal!

HT to Patte G for the link.

The Vicar of Christ As Explained by His Vicar

An enthusiastic Cardinal Ruini gives his priests a lecture on the “heart” of Ratzinger’s teaching. And he tells them why the pope wanted to write a book about Jesus.
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, December 20, 2006 – Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome, periodically meets with his priests to present and discuss pastoral projects, liturgical questions, catechesis, etc.

But on Thursday, December 14, he made a spectacular break from the program.

He convened the priests behind closed doors in the main hall of the Pontifical Lateran University, to give them a lecture on nothing less than the “heart” of the teaching of Benedict XVI.

Joseph Ratzinger, as explained by Ruini. This announcement was enough by itself to fill the hall beyond capacity. Many priests had to remain standing, while others were seated on the stairs. All of them were holding a text to follow the lecture more attentively, which they did in an impressive silence.
Well worth the read...


More Support for Traditional Latin Mass

In an article from Catholic World News, we read:

French, Italian intellectuals join in support for Latin Mass

More than 50 French intellectuals, led by René Girard of the Académie Française, joined in Un manifeste en faveur de la messe tridentine (“Manifesto in favor of the Tridentine Mass”), published Saturday in Le Figaro. On the same day the Italian daily, Il Foglio, ran a similar statement, also signed by Girard, along with several other signatories including Antonio Socci and Franco Zeffirelli.

Both published statements begin by noting the media reports that Pope Benedict will soon release a motu proprio liberalizing the use of the traditional liturgy. The Italian statement begins: “I wish to launch an appeal to the world of culture, in support of a decision of Benedict XVI.” The French manifesto declares that the signers “witness our fidelity, our support, and our affection” for the Pontiff.
More here.

BCL to be Renamed Committee on Divine Worship

The Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) would be renamed the Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW) under a reorganization plan approved by the bishops in Baltimore this past November...

More at Adoremus here.

Gospel for Wednesday, 3rd Week in 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.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An Advent Reflection on Angels and Saints

"I am the voice of one crying in the desert; Make straight the way of the Lord". St. John, 1:23.

One of the most intelligent and well-informed converts to the Catholic Church in the United States was Orestes Brownson. He was a deep student and a sincere seeker after the truth. For years he tried one religion after another without securing satisfaction. After his conversion to the Catholic Church he told how he saw the simple logic of one Catholic practice­ honoring the saints, praying to the saints. "Many years ago, long before I had the happiness of being received into the communion of the Catholic Church," he wrote, "I was in the habit of frequently closing my letters to my friends with the words, 'pray for me'.

"One day, writing to a very dear friend, who was not precisely a saint, I concluded unthinkingly with the words, 'pray for me'. I did so from force of habit, but I had no sooner written the words than a sudden thought struck me, and I exclaimed to myself: 'There is justification of the Cath­olic practice of invocation of the saints. Here I am asking a sinful mortal to pray for me. How much rather should I ask the prayers of the beati­fied saints in heaven'."

Brownson was a thinker, and his thinking, deep and sincere, led him to see the reasonableness of praying to the saints. Honoring the special friends of God and praying to them or through them is not forbidden by the First Commandment. In fact, Mother Church has always asked her children to honor those who have been especially pleasing to God by their lives of goodness and love.

Just what is a saint? A saint is one who died in the grace and friend­ship of God, and who is already in heaven. This applies particularly to a canonized saint, one whom the Church has listed among those who have led a holy life, one who has secured miracles from Almighty God, and is therefore declared to be worthy of veneration by the Church.

1. We honor the saints because they are the special friends of God. They are the heroes and heroines who have given their best in serving the Lord. We honor and respect the president of the United States, but we also honor more than the average citizen, the members of his cabinet and of Congress.

God Himself honored the saints. That is clear from the Bible and from the lives of His special friends. Hasn't God worked miracles to show His pleasure with their service?

2. We honor the saints because they obtain great graces for us from God. The special friends of the president are more likely than the average citi­zen to secure a favor from the head of our government.

3. There are various ways of honoring the saints - by praying to them, by celebrating their feasts, by respecting their pictures and statues, by bear­ing their names in a worthy way, by appealing to them in matters of im­portance, and by praising them in speech and song. But the best way to honor the saints is by imitating them, trying to follow in their foot-steps.

4. Remembering the saints is the best means of keeping in mind what God wants and the possibility and beauty and reward of doing what God wants.

5. The honor we give God's friends does not in any way take away from the honor due to God Himself. There are two big differences between the two:
a. We honor God for God's sake, because He is supreme, all-good, all-­holy in Himself; we honor the saints as the special servants of God. A king wants his princes and noblemen honored, but not with the respect due to his majesty alone.

b. We honor God for the goodness which He has in Himself; we honor the saints for the goodness which they have received from God.
6. Everyone of you bears the name of some saint. Know that saint; honor that saint; imitate that saint. Likewise, there is some special saint for every walk of life: St. Joseph for the working man; St. Anthony for lost things; St. Blase for sore throats, etc.

Always bear in mind that the saints are beneath God. God makes known our prayers to them. In the vision of God they see our spiritual and material needs and our request for help.

As Brownson discovered, if we ask sinful, weak mortals to pray for us, it is much more reasonable to ask the saintly heroes and heroines of God to pray for us.

Closely allied to veneration of the saints is the veneration of the angels, the special heavenly messengers of God. Particularly are we to honor our guardian angel, the bodiless spirit appointed to take spiritual and physical charge of us.

Read the Bible and you find its pages bright with the wings of angels. There is no question of their existence. There is no question of their power. There is no question of their interest in our welfare.

By honoring the angels and saints we are winning friends, influential and interested friends in heaven, friends who will not forget us in our time of need, friends who will come to our help in time of temptation, unfailing friends who will speak for us at the throne of the all-powerful God.

One of the saints we hear about during this season of Advent is St. John the Baptist who calla out:
"I am the voice of one crying in the desert; Make straight the way of the Lord."

That is the work of the angels and saints - to make straight the way of the Lord into our hearts, to make straight the way to the Lord in heaven. Amen.
Adapted from Talks on the Commandments
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1948)

Mental prayer for December 20, Mary's Part

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: O Holy Spirit, help me to see the important part Mary plays in my prayer.

The Idea: To pattern my life closely on Christ's life I must know Christ intimately, personally. From whom will I, as a faithful Catholic, better learn this interior knowledge than from her who knew Him best? Mary, the mother of my King, has that special knowledge of Christ that I want. She knows Him the way I want to know Him. She first showed Him to us at Bethlehem; she will keep on showing Him to anyone who is interested and willing to learn.

My Personal Application: Do I see how Mary can help me? Am I willing to let her teach me? Learning to know Christ is the most important part of my life; am I convinced of this? Con­vinced enough to ask Mary's help? Then this Christmas I will ask her in a very special way to lead me to her Son. She will help Him be born in me.

I Speak to Mary: My Mother Mary, I want you to teach me... you who raised my great King... you who taught Him His prayers, watched Him grow...
you who "pondered these things in your heart." You know what goes on inside Him: His thoughts, His feelings, His attitudes. That is the kind of knowledge I want. Help me to know Him as you do.

Thought for Today: "To Jesus Through Mary."
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Gospel for Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent

From: Luke 1:5-25

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

[5] In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. [6] And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. [7] But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

[8] Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, [9] according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of Lord and burn incense. [10] And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. [11] And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. [12] And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. [13] But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. [14] And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; [15] for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. [16] And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, [17] and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."

[18] And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." [19] And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. [20] And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." [21] And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. [22] And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. [23] And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

[24] After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, [25] "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."


6. After referring to the noble ancestry of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the evangelist now speaks of a higher type of nobility, the nobility of virtue: "Both were righteous before God." "For not everyone who is righteous in men's eyes is righteous in God's; men have one way of seeing and God another; men see externals but God sees into the heart. It can happen that someone seems righteous because his virtue is false and is practiced to win people's approval; but he is not virtuous in God's sight if his righteousness is not born of simplicity of soul but is only simulated in order to appear good.

"Perfect praise consists in being righteous before God, because only he can be called perfect who is approved by Him who cannot be deceived" (St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam, in loc.").

In the last analysis what a Christian must be is righteous before God. St. Paul is advocating this when he tells the Corinthians, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God" (1 Corinthians 4:3ff). On the notion of the just or righteous man, see the note on Matthew 1:19.

8. There were twenty-four groups or turns of priests to which functions were allocated by the drawing of lots; the eighth group was that of the family of Abijah (cf. 1 Chronicles 24:7-19), to which Zechariah belonged.

9-10. Within the sacred precincts, in a walled-off area, stood the temple proper. Rectangular in form, there was first a large area which was called "the Holy Place", in which was located the altar of incense referred to in verse 9. Behind this was the inner sanctum, called "the Holy of Holies", where the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the Law used to be kept; only the high priest had access to this, the most sacred part of the temple. The veil or great curtain of the temple separated these two area from one another. The sacred building was surrounded by a courtyard, called the courtyard of the priests and outside this, at the front of the temple, was what was called the courtyard of the Israelites, where the people stayed during the ceremony of incensing.

10. While the priest offered incense to God, the people in the courtyard joined with him in spirit: even in the Old Testament every external act of worship was meant to be accompanied by an interior disposition of self-offering to God.

With much more reason should there be this union between external and internal worship in the liturgical rites of the New Covenant (cf. "Mediator Dei", 8), in the liturgy of the Church. Besides, this consistency befits the nature of man, comprised as he is of body and soul.

11. Angels are pure spirits, that is, they have no body of any kind; therefore, "they do not appear to men exactly as they are; rather, they manifest themselves in forms which God gives them so that they can be seen by those to whom He sends them" (St. John Damascene, "De Fide Orthodoxa," 2, 3).

In addition to adoring and serving God, angelic spirits act as God's messengers and channels of His providence towards men; this explains why they appear so often in salvation history and why Sacred Scripture refers to them in so many passages (cf., e.g. Hebrews 1:14).

Christ's birth was such an important event that angels were given a very prominent role in connection with it. Here, as at the Annunciation to Mary, the archangel St. Gabriel is charged with delivering God's message.

"It is no accident that the angel makes his appearance in the temple, for this announces the imminent coming of the true Priest and prepares the heavenly sacrifice at which the angels will minister. Let it not be doubted, then, that the angels will be present when Christ is immolated" (St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam, in loc.").

12. "No matter how righteous a man be, he cannot look at an angel without feeling afraid; that is why Zechariah was alarmed: he could not but quake at the presence of the angel; he could not take the brightness that surrounded him" (St. John Chrysostom, "De Incomprehensibili Dei Natura"). The reason for this is not so much the angels' superiority to man as the fact that the grandeur of God's majesty shines out through the angel: "And the angel said to me, `Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, `These are true words of God.' Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, `You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God'" (Revelation 19:9-10).

13. Through the archangel God intervenes in an exceptional way in the married life of Zechariah and Elizabeth; but the message he brings has much wider reference; it has significance for the whole world. Elizabeth is already quite old but she is going to have a son who will be called John ("God is gracious") and he will be the forerunner of the Messiah. This showed that "the fullness of time" (cf. Galatians 4:4) was imminent, for which all righteous people of Israel had yearned (cf. John 8:56; Hebrews 11:13).

"Your prayer is heard," St. Jerome comments, "that is to say, you are given more than you asked for. You prayed for the salvation of the people, and you have been given the Precursor" ("Expositio Evangelium Sec. Lucam, in loc."). Our Lord also sometimes gives us more than we ask for: "There is a story about a beggar meeting Alexander the Great and asking him for alms. Alexander stopped and instructed that the man be given the government of five cities. The beggar, totally confused and taken aback, explained, `I didn't ask for that much.' And Alexander replied, `You asked like the man you are; I give like the man I am" ([Blessed] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 160). Since God responds so generously and gives us more than we ask for, we should face up to difficulties and not be cowed by them.

14-17. The archangel St. Gabriel gives Zechariah three reasons why he should rejoice over the birth of this child; first, because God will bestow exceptional holiness on him (verse 15); second, because he will lead many to salvation (verse 16); and third, because his whole life, everything he does, will prepare the way for the expected Messiah (verse 17).

In St. John the Baptist two prophecies of Malachi are fulfilled; in them we are told that God will send a messenger ahead of Him to prepare the way for Him (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). John prepares the way for the first coming of the Messiah in the same way as Elijah will prepare the way for His second coming (cf. St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii Sec. Lucam, in loc."; St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on St. Matthew", 17, 11, "in loc."). This is why Christ will say, "What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee'" (Luke 7:26-27).

18. Zechariah's incredulity and his sin lie not in his doubting that this message has come from God but in forgetting that God is almighty, and in thinking that he and Elizabeth are past having children. Later, referring to the conception of John the Baptist, the same angel explains to Mary that "with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37). When God asks us to take part in any undertaking we should rely on His omnipotence rather than our own meagre resources.

19-20. "Gabriel" means "might of God". God commanded the archangel Gabriel to announce the events connected with the incarnation of the Word; already in the Old Testament it was Gabriel who proclaimed to the prophet Daniel the time of the Messiah's coming (Daniel 8:15-26, 9:20-27). This present passage deals with the announcement of the conception and birth of Christ's Precursor, and it is the time same angel who will reveal to the Blessed Virgin the mystery of the Incarnation.

24. Elizabeth hid herself because of the strangeness of pregnancy at her age and out of a holy modesty which advised her not to make known God's gifts prematurely.

25. Married couples who want to have children, to whom God has not yet given any, can learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth and have recourse to them as intercessors. To couples in this situation [St] Monsignor Escriva de Balaguer recommended that "they should not give up hope too easily. They should ask God to give them children and, if it is His will, to bless them as He blessed the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. And then it would be advisable for both of them to see a good doctor. If in spite of everything God does not give them children, they should not feel frustrated. They should be happy, discovering in this very fact God's will for them. Often God does not give them children because He is `asking more'. God asks them to put the same effort and the same kind and gentle dedication into helping their neighbors as they would have put into raising their own children, without the human joy that comes from parenthood. There is, then, no reason for feeling they are failures or for giving way to sadness" ("Conversations", 96).

Here is the authoritative teaching of John Paul II on this subject: "It must not be forgotten, however, that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person--for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children" ("Familiaris Consortio", 14).
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 18, 2006

Mental Prayer for December 19, Knowing My Ideal

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: To know Christ better so that I can be loyal to Him and pattern my life after His.

The Idea: "I can't be loyal to Christ! I don't know Him well enough. I can't be loyal to a holy card - or to a vague picture of Him in my mind." So, what do I do? He must become real, alive, a person. So, I want to know Christ. What kind of knowledge of Him do I want? Is it mere book knowledge in the way in which I study English grammar? Can I say I know Christ if I know all about Him? Or must I know Him on the inside? - the way I know my best friend really and personally. When Christ begins to come alive for me, when He begins to be a real person for me, then I am learning to know Him.

My Personal Application: What is the picture of Christ I have in my mind? How can I clear it up? Is He real to me just as my family and friends are? Is He a person? Or an idea... or something or other? How can I make Him a real, live person for me? By studying His life­ - by watching Him live. Much of my life can be spent clearing up the picture I have of Him and making Him live.

I Speak to Christ: My King, I know I can't get this knowledge of you without your help. It is your grace that will make you live for me. I want to know you. I want to know you as a friend, Help me with your grace and inspiration.

Thought for Today: To know Christ is to love Him.
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Praying For Bishop Doran's Safe Recovery

ROCKFORD-- Thousands of Rockford area Catholics pray for their spiritual leader, after learning Saturday that he's being aggressively treated for cancer.

Catholic priests across the Rockford area break some hard news to their parishioners during Saturday evening mass, telling them Bishop Thomas Doran has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

As 13 News was first to tell you Saturday, the Bishop had several tumors removed from his lungs and is now recovering at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Church leaders say doctors detected the cancer after a routine physical exam early last week.
Bishop Doran then underwent surgery on Thursday to remove tumors from his left lung.
Doctors do believe they removed all of the cancer before it spread.

Father Brian Geary of St. Patrick's Church in Rockford says "He's our spiritual father, so we all feel it very personally as if he were our own father."

The diagnosis came just days before Bishop Doran's 40th anniversary as a priest.
He rose to his current position as head of the Rockford Diocese in June 1994, and has since left footprints on many hearts in the area.
. . .
Church leaders expect Bishop Doran to return to Rockford before the end of next week.

The Rockford Diocese has scheduled a news conference Monday morning to provide further details about his treatment.

Please Bishop Doran in your prayers.

Gospel for Monday, 3rd Week in Advent

From: Matthew 1:18-25

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; he took his wife, [25] but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.


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).

25. St John Chrysostom, addressing himself to St Joseph, comments: "Christ's conception was the work of the Holy Spirit, but do not think this divine economy has nothing to do with you. For although it is true that you had no part in the generation of Christ, and that the Virgin remained inviolate, nevertheless, what pertains to a father (not injuring the honour of virginity) that do I give you - the naming of the child. For 'you shall call his name.' Although you have not generated him, you will act as a father to him. Hence it is that, beginning with giving him his name, I associate you intimately with the one who is to be born" (Hom. on St Matthew, 4).

Following the Greek text strictly, the New Vulgate version says: "et non cognoscebat eam, donec peperit filium." The literal English translation is: "and he knew her not until she had borne a son". The word donec (until) of itself does not direct our attention to what happened afterwards; it simply points out what has happened up to that moment, that is, the virginal conception of Jesus Christ by a unique intervention of God. We find the same word in John 9:18, where it says that the Pharisees did not believe in the miraculous cure of the man blind from birth "until" (donec) they called his parents. However, neither did they believe afterwards. Consequently, the word "until" does not refer to what happens later.

The Vulgate adds after filium the words suum primogenitum, which in the Bible simply means "the first son", without implying that there are any other drildren (cf. Ex 13:2). This Latin variant gives no ground whatsoever for thinking that our Lady had other children later. See the note on Luke 2:7.

The Church has always taught that the perpetual virginity of our Lady is a truth to be held by Catholics. For example, the following are the words of the Lateran Council of A.D. 649: "If anyone does not profess according to the holy Fathers that in the proper and true sense the holy, ever-virgin, immaculate Mary, is the Mother of God, since in this last age not with human seed but of the Holy Spirit she properly and truly conceived the Divine Word, who was born of God me Father before all ages, and gave him birth without any detriment to her virginity, which remained inviolate even after his birth: let such a one be condemned" (can. 3).

St Jerome gives the following reasons why it was fitting that the Mother of God, as well as being a virgin, should also be married: first, so that Mary's child would be clearly a descendant of King David (through the genealogy of St Joseph); second, to ensure that on having a son her honour would not be questioned nor any legal penalty be imposed on her; third, so that during the flight into Egypt she would have the help and protection of St Joseph. He even points to a fourth possible reason, expressly taken from St Ignatius Martyr, and to which he seems to give less importance - that the birth of Jesus would go unnoticed by the devil, who would not know about the virginal conception of our Lord (cf. Comm. on St Matthew, 1, 1).
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 17, 2006

Mental Prayer for December 18, Loyalty to My Ideal

Mental Prayer Meditation Helps

Presence of God

Grace I Ask: To understand what is meant by loyalty and how necessary it is to my life of following Christ.

The Idea: What is it a soldier has that sends him into the middle of the battlefield? What is it that keeps a mother at her work no matter what? What is it that will keep me true to my King even when it is difficult? Loyalty - not an emotion - ­not a feeling - nothing sentimental nor romantic - ­but a type of loyalty that means dedication. This is a real personal "attachment" to Christ. To be "all taken up" with Him, Christ my leader, my model. My loyalty to Him makes me follow Him - makes me keep the rules He has set up for me. The opposite of loyalty is treachery, because if I am not loyal to a person I should be loyal to, I am a traitor. It is this kind of loyalty that keeps my eyes on Christ. This is a personal dedication to Christ my King.

My Personal Application: How is my loyalty? How is my dedication to my King? Is it active in me - actually forcing me to form my life after the pattern of Christ? Do I think in these terms? Do I desire to model my life after Christ's? That is the test of my loyalty - do I really want to follow Christ?

I Speak to Christ: My King, I know that without this loyalty, this personal attachment to you, I cannot for very long continue to imitate you. But I want to live the dedication I promised you. Help me with your graces.

Thought for Today: Loyalty to Christ means a life like His.
Adapted from Mental Prayer, Challenge to the Lay Apostle
by The Queen's Work,(© 1958)

Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent

From: Luke 3:10-18

The Preaching of John the Baptist [Continued]

[10] And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?" [11] And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." [12] Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" [13] And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you." [14] Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."

[15] As the people were in expectation, and all men ques­tioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, [16] John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [17] His win­nowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

[18] So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.


12-13. With honesty and courage St John the Baptist lays bare each person's fault. The chief sin of tax collectors lay in their using their privileged position as collaborators of the Roman authorities to acquire personal wealth at the expense of the Jewish people: Rome specified how much Israel as a whole should yield by way of taxes; the tax collectors abused their position by extorting more than was necessary. Take the case of Zacchaeus, for example, who, after his conversion, admits that he acquired wealth unjustly and, under the influence of grace, promises our Lord to make generous restitution (cf. Lk 19:1-10).

The Baptist's preaching contains a norm of natural justice which the Church also preaches. Public position should be regarded, above all, as an opportunity to serve society, not to obtain personal gain at the expense of the common good and of that justice which people holding such positions are supposed to administer. Certainly, anyone who has fallen into the temptation of unjustly appropriating what belongs to another must not only confess his sin in the sacrament of Penance if he is to obtain pardon; he must also resolve to give back what is not his.

14. The Baptist requires of everyone - Pharisees, tax collectors, soldiers - a deep spiritual renewal in the very exercise of their job; they have to act justly and honourably. God asks all of us to sanctify ourselves in our work and in the circumstances in which we find ourselves: "Any honest and worthwhile work can be converted into a divine occupation. In God's service there are no second-class jobs; all of them are important" ([St.] J. Escriva, Conversations, 55).

15-17. Using expressive imagery, John announces Christian Baptism, pro­claiming that he is not the Messiah; he, who is on his way, will come with the authority of supreme Judge that belongs to God, and with the dignity of the Messiah, who has no human equal.
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.