Saturday, December 22, 2007

Just for Today, December 23

Oh, how great and honourable is the office of priests, to whom it is given to consecrate with sacred words the Lord of Majesty; to bless Him with their lips, to hold Him with their hands, to receive Him with their own mouth, and to administer Him to others!

Oh, how clean ought those hands to be, how pure that mouth, how holy that body, how unspotted the heart of a priest, into whom the Author of purity so often enters!
-Bk. IV, ch. xi.

How great is our vocation! It is for Carmel to preserve the salt of the earth. We offer our prayers and sacrifices for the apostles of the Lord; whilst they labour by word and example to win the souls of our brethren, we must be their apostles.
-The Story of a Soul.
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 23

Remember that men change easily, and that you can not place your trust in them; therefore attach yourself to God alone.

-St. Teresa
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 23, Mary Kept All in Her Heart

Mary kept all these things in her heart. What was the center toward which Mary's heart turned? The words of her Son and the divine revelations; other things did not concern her. Where her treasure was, there was her heart.

And I, what place do I give during the day to the thought of the Humanity of the Savior, His Holy Person, His public or hidden life, His Passion, or His Eucharistic existence? I do not lack sug­gestions, for I have my spiritual reading, prayer, conversations and good example.

Do I, like Mary, keep all these divine things in my heart? Or am I like a stranger in the midst of the supernatural realities which form the setting of my daily life?

Fenelon suggests: "Compare what does occupy you with God who could occupy you." What a distance, what an abyss....

The misfortune does not so much arise from what I fail to do, as for instance neglecting to exert myself in prayer, but rather from remaining on the surface of the realities that I meditate. Their vital significance escapes me. These truths must penetrate into my very soul; then they will become stimulating, gripping, caustic. The chief aim of my meditation should be to fix the sublime, invis­ible realities in my poor soul, only too often a prisoner of the visible form in which I live. I must convince myself that the invisible realities constitute the one thing necessary - all else is nothing.

I must delve deep during prayer.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Gospel for Saturday, 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.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just for Today, December 22

When thou shalt arrive thus far, that tribulation becomes sweet and savoury to thee for the love of Christ; then think that it is well with thee, for thou hast found a paradise upon earth.
- Bk. II, ch. xii.

Pain, lifted up to Thee,
Is Pain no more:
Joy casts aside the weeds
That Sorrow wore.
For a more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 22

True Christian prudence makes us submit our intellect to the maxims of the Gospel without fear of being deceived. It teaches us to judge things as Jesus Christ judged them, and to speak and act as He did.

-St. Vincent de Paul
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 22, The Roasd to Bethlehem

In my going and coming, whether outside the convent or in the community-how does my bearing compare with the recollected silence of Mary and Joseph?

The Virgin Immaculate, abounding in divine grace, is occupied with the Holy Trinity who overshadowed her, and with the divine Treasure she bears - the God-Man soon to appear in the world. Joseph, the Just, rich in supernatural life, blessed God for the privilege of participating in the sublime Mystery of the Incarna­tion. Like Mary, he humbly accepted his part. And Mary thinks only of what God has dared to accomplish in her, a poor creature.

Both are recollected; both are humble.

Both are obedient. They go where God leads them - to Beth­lehem to be enrolled! Yes, but where will they find place to stay? They do not know, but that does not matter. The order has been given, an order much higher than Caesar's. They see in it the dispositions of Divine Providence. There is no bitterness in their submission. Perhaps they do not fully understand, but God has His designs and they abandon themselves to Him.

"Jesus, Mary, Joseph, grant me in all my activity these three virtues: recollection, humility, and complete abandonment. May I be more and more united to the Blessed Trinity, my ever-present Guest! May I become less noticed, more humble, and desirous only of serving my con­gregation and each member thereof. In all circumstances may I abandon myself completely and confidently to Divine Providence!"
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Archbishop Burke Announces Seminary Expansion

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke has announced the start of a major renovation and expansion of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury.

The seminary has 111 seminarians, an almost 50 percent increase in enrollment over last year. While the growth is welcomed by the archbishop and Msgr. Ted Wojcicki, president-rector of the seminary, it also prompted the need for maintenance work, renovation and expansion of the physical plant....

This is great news!

And all might consider being esepcially generous this Christmas as the anhual "Christmas Appeal for Kenrick-Glennon Seminary" takes place...As reported here, this annual appeal is one of the seminary’s most important collections, providing 15 percent of its annual revenue...

And let us not forget to continue to pray for our bishops and priests and especially for our seminarians.

The Spirit of Christmas

From Laura's E-Blast
December 21, 2007


Megan pulled a three-ring binder out of her bag and showed me a photograph of herself and her husband. Young-they're both 21-with big smiles on their faces and obviously wildly in love. "That's what he looked like," she said with a somber face, "He was such a cutie-pie?always buying me little stuffed animals and writing the most thoughtful notes the entire time he was in Iraq." Then she showed me the photo of her husband receiving the Purple Heart on Wednesday from President Bush at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. As President Bush pinned the medal on Mike, he lay unconscious in the ICU, having suffered a traumatic brain injury caused by a piece of shrapnel that pierced his temple.

"This is my Mike now," she said, rubbing her eyes. He is completely blind and to alleviate a terrible cranial pressure build-up, doctors had to remove the front of his skull. Since being wounded several months ago, Mike has never regained consciousness and suffers from terrible seizures. "That's my guy," she repeated, before she went on to tell me about how they met and fell in love.

For whatever reason, I kept thinking about the fact that some person somewhere carefully assembled the IED that would eventually maim Mike and many others. They are often packed with nails, hunks of lead and screws to cause maxim human suffering. When they explode, the contents rip through flesh and bones, shattering countless dreams in the process.

How to comprehend this level of evil and the physical and emotional agony it causes? This young woman and her husband should be out buying their first Christmas tree together, going to parties, raising a glass to their future. When I asked what she was doing for the holiday she said, "I'll be here with Mike. I would never want him to be alone on Christmas." They had been married for about three months when Mike was wounded.

In these days before Christmas, Megan and other military wives and moms gave me a precious gift. They reminded me that true love requires sacrifice-sometimes seemingly unbearable, heart-wrenching sacrifice. They are living out their love in big and small ways. Many have moved thousands of miles to relocate to the hospitals where their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters are being treated. This takes an enormous emotional and financial toll, yet they do it for love. When they are not at the hospital bedsides of their wounded warriors, they sit for hours a day in waiting rooms across the United States, hoping for good news-or at least no more bad news. They pray with each other, cry with each other, and yes, even manage to laugh with each other as they hope for a day when they can return to "normal life." Yet for the families of our most seriously injured troops, they know they will have to get used to a "new normal," much different from the life they knew before.

As we are about to celebrate Christmas spending time with our families and friends, let us all do our best to live up to the true spirit of this season-and make it a time filled with love, faith, gratitude, hope, charity, and, yes - let's try for some peace on earth. Let us remember the military families and our wounded heroes who will spend this Christmas at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other medical facilities across the nation. As we rush around stressed out because we "haven't found the perfect gift" for so-and-so, these families hope and pray for gifts that cannot be wrapped up: a hand that squeezes back, a smile, the first step on a new prosthesis, or a positive medical report.

They need our prayers and support at Christmas and every day. Please give what you can to any of the wonderful organizations that support our bravest and their families.

Merry Christmas.

What Part of Catholic Do You Not Understand?

One of the great frustrations of faithful Catholics today is the apparent inaction and “can’t do” attitude of many of our bishops today in the USA, when it comes to dealing with people in responsible and even key positions in the Church who openly work against the mission of the Church and Catholic belief.

Father Tom Euteneuer addresses one such example in his Spirit & Life column this week.

Hardt & O'Rourke err in minimizing the scope of the CDF Response

Fr Dr. Edward Peters:
Ethicists John Hardt and Kevin O’Rourke are attempting to down-play the importance of the September 2007 CDF Response that upholds the right of persons in “persistent vegetative states” to nutrition and hydration. They invoke, among other things, canon law for their position. I think they are wrong.
Read about it at:

Gospel for Friday, 3rd Week of Advent

Optional Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, priest and doctor
Old Calendar: St. Thomas, apostle

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.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just for Today, December 21

What can I do for my sins but humbly confess them and lament them, and incessantly implore Thy mercy for them? Hear me, I beseech Thee, in Thy mercy, when I stand before Thee, O my God.

All my sins displease me exceedingly; I will never commit them any more; I am sorry for them, and will be sorry for them as long as I live: I am willing to do penance for them, and to make satisfaction to the ut­most of my power. Forgive, O my God, forgive me my sins, for Thy holy Name's sake. Save my soul, which Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.
-Bk. IV, ch. ix.

One morning during her last illness, when the Com­munity were reciting the Confiteor at her bedside before she received Holy Communion, she was deeply affected by the sense of her own unworthiness, and confided later to Mere Agnes de Jesus: "When I saw Our Lord about to give Himself to me, I realized the urgent need for this humiliation: I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever a Virgin, to all the Saints, that I have sinned exceedingly...How necessary at that moment to ask pardon of God! I felt like the publican, like the greatest of sinners, and was so moved at the thought of the whole court of Heaven imploring the Divine Mercy on my behalf."

She had copied on one of her breviary markers the following texts from the Gospel: Lord, thou knowest that I love thee (John xxi, 16); be merciful to me a sinner (Luke xviii, 13).
-Esprit de Sainte Therese
For a more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 21

God is our light. The farther the soul strays away from God, the deeper it goes into darkness.

-St. Alphonsus
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 21, Within My Heart

The Magi and the shepherds had to travel a great distance to find the manger; I have only to look within my soul.

In our morning prayer occurs the expression: "Let us place our­selves in the presence of God and adore Him." Strictly speaking, this is unnecessary, for I am always in the presence of God. What the words really suggest, however, is that I realize God's presence and make myself present to Him.

Concurrence is necessary to union. God is present in me in vain if I am not there, if I am perpetually absent. I have only to take the trouble of going where God is, then contact, union, conversa­tion, and proofs of love become easy.

May my last thought at night and my first thought in the morn­ing be for this living Presence in the manger of my soul, this thrice-holy God who does not even leave me during sleep! I will prepare my heart and soul for a loving meeting, a radiant comrade­ship! He, the Lord who is ever vigilant, awaits me. His heart calls me. And I?

How far I am from my God who is so near! May He ever remain in my soul!

"O Jesus Incarnate! You come to dwell in me with Your human Body each time I receive Communion, and Your presence lasts as long as the Sacred Species remains. Though this human-divine presence is brief, You remain with me every moment of the day. Through sanctifying grace, You live in my soul as the Divine Word conjointly with the Father and the Holy Spirit."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

From the USCCB: Papal Visit Logo, Theme Unveiled

WASHINGTON (December 19, 2007)—The message “Christ Our Hope,” atop an image of an open-arms Pope Benedict XVI before the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, has been chosen as the logo for the visit of Pope Benedict to the United States, April 15-20....

For media inquiries, e-mail us at
Office of Media Relations | 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194 | (202) 541-3000 © USCCB. All rights reserved.

The full USCCB statement is here.

JPGs of the logo (English & Spanish) can be found at

About the logos, we read:
This logo is protected by copyright. All rights including the copyright, in this logo are held by USCCB. No use is permitted without prior approval by USCCB. To obtain approval please contact
Maybe I should not even link to it?

Anglicans need not believe in virgin birth....?

THE leader of the world's Anglicans has described the Christmas story of the three wise men as nothing but a "legend" and has said not all followers must believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has picked apart elements of the Christmas story, including how a star rose high in the sky and stood still to guide the wise men to Jesus's birth place.

Stars simply don't behave like that, he told the BBC during an interview....

He went on to say that while he believed in it himself, new Christians need not leap over the "hurdle" of belief in the virgin birth before they could join the church.

Do they really need to believe in anything at all before joing this group?

*** Update ***
A transcript of the actual discourse cane be read here...The media seems to have done a bit of disservice to to the facts.

Gospel for Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent

(Today is the fourth of the 'O Antiphons')

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 interventionon 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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just for Today, December 20

If I should know all things that are in the world, and should not be in charity, what help would it be to me in the sight of God, who will judge me by my deeds?
-Bk. I, ch. ii.

He is truly great, who is great in charity.
-Ibid., ch. iii.

Sœur Genevieve asked her for a farewell word: "I have said all that there is to say...the work is done...only love counts."
-Novissima Verba
For more information, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 20

It is an act as rare as it is precious, to transact business with many people, without ever forget­ting God or oneseIf.

-St. Ignatius
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 20, Preparation for Prayer

The Magi discovered the star and began their journey at once.

But their promptness did not imply unpreparedness. They realized that they were to see a king, and therefore it was su­premely fitting that they array themselves in their best for this sacred interview. They likewise selected with reverent circumspection the gifts to be offered as a token of homage to Jesus.

Do I have similar dispositions when I prepare myself for prayer? Do I say, "The moment of the sacred interview is near. I shall be permitted to contemplate my Savior, to speak to the King, to have an audience with God, the Most High. How shall I make a becoming preparation?" Or do I go to prayer as I go to any other exercise, to the refectory, or to recreation?

If I were living a truly recollected life, I should be ready at any moment for an audience with the King. I am acting under a delusion if I make such a distinction between my thoughts during prayer and my other thoughts throughout the day. I should be so united to God at all times that I could pass without effort into explicit and formal prayer.

Alas! It is not thus in practice. Habitual union with God has scarcely made a beginning in my soul. There is a decided break between my ordinary life and my life of prayer.

I will strive to minimize the difference between my recollection during prayer and during the rest of the day, endeavoring to make my recollection at prayer as intense as possible, and my prepara­tion for prayer as fervent and loyal as possible.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

"The Most Anti-Christmas Film Possible"

VATICAN CITY, December 19, 2007 ( - The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano added its voice yesterday in condemnation of the newly released film 'The Golden Compass" and the book series on which the film was based. In a lengthy editorial on December 18, the paper said Golden Compass was "the most anti-Christmas film possible."

This latest confirmation of Catholic opposition to the film, puts into sharp relief once again the positive review which the film received from the film office of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). After several Catholic leaders and many lay faithful contacted the USCCB with their concerns the review was officially withdrawn. Since then a growing number of Catholic bishops and archbishops have publicly condemned the film.

The Vatican paper's editorial explained, "It's a film that leaves one cold, because it brings with it the coldness and the desperation of rebellion, solitude and individualism."
Continued at LifeSiteNews here...

Archbishop Niederauer on Church Role in Civic Arena


What is the proper relationship between religion and politics? Should there be any relationship at all? In recent years in this country those questions have arisen not only during election campaigns but also year round, every year. Often the ensuing debate generates more heat than light. As we approach another election year, the United States Catholic bishops have prepared a document entitled " Faithful Citizenship, " intended to apply Catholic moral and social teaching to the issues that presently confront voters. The bishops have issued such a document for each of the past seven presidential election cycles.

" Faithful Citizenship " is not a voter ' s guide, nor does it endorse particular candidates or parties. Instead, it is intended to help Catholics recognize and understand the implications of their faith for their conduct as citizens of this country. As Archbishop of San Francisco I am aware of the high level of political consciousness and energy in this Archdiocese, and of the rich and challenging diversity of its people. Accordingly, I believe it is appropriate to address some basic questions about the relationship between religion and politics, and to do so now, before candidates have been nominated and party platforms completed, so that we can look at these questions for their own value, and not misinterpret them as veiled endorsements or condemnations.

I have chosen the question - and - answer format. I want to prompt readers to obtain a copy of "Faithful Citizenship" when it is available at their parishes after the first of the year. That booklet will contain a much more complete treatment of this important topic.
A series of questions and answers follow...At first glance, I was rather surprised...I need to read it again.

Nevertheless, even this will be rejected by the hardhearted.

Evangelization Efforts

This is such great news!
Twenty stations in 11 years
Radio station proclaiming “an absolute faithfulness to the Holy Father and the Bishops in union with him” goes on the airwaves in the Bay Area.

At noon on Monday, Dec. 10, Immaculate Heart Radio began broadcasting in San Francisco on 1260 AM. Though already broadcasting in several California cities (including Bakersfield, Stockton, and Sacramento), Immaculate Heart Radio’s expansion to San Francisco makes it the first Catholic radio station to cover the dioceses of San Francisco, San Jose, and most of Monterey and Santa Rosa...
Catholic radio is a tremendous blessing and the faithful should help support its efforts at bringing the fullness of the faith to all...

This a great little story about Immaculate Heart Radio...

In St Louis, please consider a donation to Covenant Network, our local Catholic Radio group.

Norms for the Extraordinary Form of Mass in San Francisco

From CCD:

Tridentine Mass altar girls? Not yet…
San Francisco archdiocese issues norms for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.

On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec 8, San Francisco’s Archbishop George Niederauer issued norms for the celebration of the Mass according to the Tridentine rite. The archdiocesan web site features a Dec. 14 Catholic San Francisco article on the norms, but not the norms themselves. A copy of the norms has been sent to every parish priest in the archdiocese, said the archdiocesan newspaper.

"Streaking" Priest Requests Jury Trial

GREELEY — A Catholic priest accused of jogging naked before dawn will ask a jury to decide his guilt on a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Rev. Robert Whipkey’s attorney, Matt Giacomini, entered a not guilty plea and requested a jury trial for his client. If he is convicted, Whipkey might have to register as a sex offender...

Gospel for Wednesday, 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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Just for Today, December 19

It is expedient for thee to look for My coming and My heavenly visitation with an assured hope; to bear with patience thy banishment and the aridity of thy mind, till thou be visited again by Me and delivered from all anguish.

I will make thee forget thy pains and enjoy internal rest. I will lay open before thee the pleasant fields of the Scriptures, that thy heart being dilated thou mayest begin to run in the way of My commandments. And then thou shalt say that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us (Rom. viii, 18).
- Bk. III, ch. li.

I do not know if you are still feeling as you did when you last wrote, but I am sending you in answer this passage from the Canticle of Canticles, which describes so vividly a soul in a state of dryness, who can find no comfort anywhere: I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valleys, and to look if the vineyard had flowered, and the pomegranates budded. I knew not: my soul troubled me for the chariots of Aminadab (Cant. vi, 10, 11).

That is a picture of our souls. How often we go down to the fertile valleys where we found spiritual food, to the pleasant fields of Scripture where we discovered so many treasures, but which now seem like a waterless desert. We no longer know where we are: instead of peace and light our lot is darkness and distress, but like the Bride we know the cause of this trial. We are not yet in our fatherland, but have still to be tried by temptation as gold in the furnace. Sometimes we feel utterly abandoned, and cannot make sure whether the chariots, that is, the noise and commotion which sur­round us, are within or without.

We do not know, but Jesus knows, and He sees our sorrow, and suddenly in the dark night, His voice is heard: Return, return, O Sulamitess: return, return that we may behold thee (ibid., vi, 12).
- Letters
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 19

The devil attacks us at the time of prayer more frequently than at other times. His object is to make us weary of prayer.

-Bl. Henry Suso
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 19, Disencumbered

When Joseph and Mary asked for shelter at Bethlehem, they were rejected. There was no place for them; all was filled; the inns were crowded.

My soul is like those crowded inns where a motley throng of useless thoughts jostle about.

Is not my difficulty in thinking of God occasionally due to the aimless, untimely imaginings with which I fill my mind?

How could there be place in my mind for reflection on essential things when my memory concerns itself with useless thoughts only?

Ought I not disencumber my mind?

At times my tasks occupy my whole attention. That does not mean that since I cannot be pre-occupied with God, I may leave the door of my mind open to any thoughts that present them­selves, even such as may be entirely foreign to the work at hand.

I must think of what I am doing in order to do it well. But I should not entertain profane thoughts when divine thoughts could replace them. I must of course apply myself with my whole heart and mind to my duty. If my work does not occupy my mind, I should think of God. He has the first right. I will therefore disengage my thoughts from what is not of God or of His will for me.

"Today in particular, O Beloved Word Incarnate, as I recall the dis­tress of Joseph and Mary when they sought a place in the inns and were refused, I wish to give You a better prepared and more loving place in my soul. I wish to be more recollected, to live more in You and with You deep in my heart."
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Another Film Celebrating Homosexual Immorality by USCCB Reviewer

USCCB Reviewer Caught Okaying Another Film Celebrating Homosexual Immorality

Special to by Pete Vere

NEW YORK, December 18, 2007 ( - Harry Forbes, director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Office of Film and Broadcasting, has given a positive review to the homosexually-themed "Rent"....
When is this going to end?

Gospel for Tuesday, 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.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just for Today, December 18

I offer to Thee all the good I have, though very little and imperfect; that Thou mayest make it better, and sanctify it; that Thou mayest be pleased with it, and make it acceptable to Thee, and perfect it more and more; and mayest moreover bring me, who am a slothful and unprofitable wretch, to a good and happy end.
- Bk. IV, ch. ix.

(Christ.) Do what lieth in thee, and do it diligently; not out of custom, nor for necessity, but with fear and reverence and affection. I will supply what is wanting in thee.
- Ibid., ch. xii.

Having read the following passage: All mercy shall make a place for every man according to the merit of his works (Ecclus. xvi, 15), one of the novices asked her young mistress why there was mention of merit, when St Paul tells us that we are justified freely by grace (Rom. iii, 24)?

The Saint explained that although hope pushed to its furthest limits is made up of self-surrender and trust in God, yet it feeds on the spirit of sacrifice: "We must do all in our power, be generous in our efforts, always deny ourselves, in short, prove our love by doing our utmost. But as our achievements are worth very little, it is necessary to put our whole trust in Him who can sanctify our work, and own that we are unprofitable servants (Luke xvii, 10), hoping by God's grace to re­ceive what is lacking in us."
- Esprit de Sainte Therese
For a List of Abbreviations, see this post.
Adapted from Just For Today(©1943 Burns & Oates)
Nihil Obstat: Reginaldus Phillips, S.T.L.,Censor deputatus
Imprimatur: Edwardus Myers, Vic. Cap.

Thoughts and Counsels - December 18

Humble submission and obedience to the de­crees of the Sovereign Pontiffs are good means for distinguishing the loyal from the rebel­lious children of the Church.

-St. Vincent de Paul
From Mary, Help of Christians
Part VI, Thoughts and Counsels of the Saints for Every Day of the Year
Compiled by Fr. Bonaventure Hammer, OFM (© 1909, Benziger Brothers)

Meditation for December 18, Magnificence or Poverty

The interview between the kings of France and England at the Field of the Golden Cloth is a famous episode in history.

To win the good graces of the English king, the French ruler decided to present himself in the most pretentious manner. Orders were given to collect the most beautiful materials, the richest tap­estry, to organize the most brilliant festivals, to dress in the most striking costumes. No decoration could be too magnificent to impress the English monarch and consequently effect a favorable alliance. He would probably say: "We must love such a king." Or even perhaps: "Such a king is certainly not to be scorned or fought."

God, to win the favor of His creatures, made of the entire Uni­verse a Field of Golden Cloth. All was rich, brilliant, sumptuous. Surely man would consent to sign forever a pact of understand­ing, of respectful submission, of religious deference and imperish­able love.

Alas! Indeed, the setting was beautiful and God was great. But Adam, too petty, dishonored himself with his dwarfish ar­rogance.

Then God changed His method.

Instead of a Field of Golden Cloth, instead of magnificence, He sought lowliness, for humanity was decidedly nothing more than pettiness and mediocrity.

God presented Himself to mankind in the stable.

"Grandeur does not captivate you. You will have the efface­ment of all pomp! If the riches of My Universe do not move you, the poverty of My cradle may be effective.

"Consider both sides. It is I, your God. I am great; I am small. I am everything; I am nothing. Choose! To which of My invitations will you make answer?

"Is something more required for Me to win your love?"
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)

Christmas at the Oratory

Click picture for details...

Gospel for Monday, 3rd Week in Advent

From: Matthew 1:1-17

The Ancestry of Jesus Christ

[1] The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.

[2] Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, [3] and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, [4] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahson, and Nahson the father of Salmon, [5] and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz due father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, [6] and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, [7] and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, [8] and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, [9] and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, [10] and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, [11] and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

[12] And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, [13] and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, [14] and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Aching and Achim the father of Eliud, [15] and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, [16] and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

[17] So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.


1. This verse is a kind of title to St Matthew's entire Gospel. The promises God made to Abraham for the salvation of mankind (Gen 12:3) are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as is Nathan's prophecy to King David of an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-16).

The genealogy presented here by St Matthew shows Jesus' human ancestry and also indicates that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is the expected Messiah.

The genealogy is presented in a framework of three series, each consisting of fourteen links which show the progressive development of salvation history.

For the Jews (and for other Eastern peoples of nomadic origin) genealogical trees were of great importance because a person's identity was especially linked to family and tribe, with place of birth taking secondary importance. In the case of the Jewish people there was the added religious significance of belonging by blood to the chosen people.

In Christ's time each family still kept a careful record of its genealogical tree, since because of it people acquired rights and duties.

6. Four women are named in these genealogies--Tamar (cf. Gen 38; 1 Chron 2:4), Rahab (cf. Josh 2:6,17), Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam 11:12, 24) and Ruth (cf. Book of Ruth). These four foreign women, who in one way or another are brought into the history of Israel, are one sign among many others of God's design to save all men.

By mentioning sinful people, God's ways are shown to be different from man's. God will sometimes carry out his plan of salvation by means of people whose conduct has not been just. God saves us, sanctifies us and chooses us to do good despite our sins and infidelities--and he chose to leave evidence of this at various stages in the history of our salvation.

11. The deportation to Babylon, described in 2 Kings 24-25, fulfilled the prophets' warning to the people of Israel and their kings that they would be punished for their infidelity to the commandments of the Law of God, especially the first commandment.

16. Jewish genealogies followed the male line. Joseph, being Mary's husband, was the legal father of Jesus. The legal father is on a par with the real father as regards rights and duties. This fact provides a sound basis for recognizing St Joseph as Patron of the whole Church, since he was chosen to play a very special role in God's plan for our salvation; with St Joseph as his legal father, Jesus the Messiah has David as his ancestor.

Since it was quite usual for people to marry within their clan, it can be concluded that Mary belonged to the house of David. Several early Fathers of the Church testify to this--for example, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Irenaeus, St Justin and Tertullian, who base their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition.

It should also be pointed out that when St Matthew comes to speak of the birth of Jesus, he uses an expression which is completely different from that used for the other people in the genealogy. With these words the text positively teaches that Mary conceived Jesus while still a virgin, without the intervention of man.
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.