December 2008 Archives

Te Deum

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angels.jpgThe tradition of the Church is to continuously give thanks to God. Our prayer of thanks is an expression that we did not make ourselves, that God the Father created us, sustains and leads us according to His divine plan. Plain and simple: we give thanks for gifts received period.


In Rome, the Pope serves as a model in celebrating a vesperal service with the rite of benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. At that service the Te Deum is sung, a 4th century hymn combining doctrine, Scripture and poetry; an English version follows. Here in the USA, as in other countries, there is a custom to have a day of thanks. Catholics mark the year's end with a day of thanks in prayer for all that has happened in the past year. In many churches and homes Catholics will give God glory and thanks.



O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!

Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.

Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death,

Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom

Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

Maesta detail4.jpgV.  Save Thy people, O Lord,

      and bless Thy inheritance!
R.  Govern them, and raise them up forever.

V.  Every day we thank Thee.
R.  And we praise Thy Name forever,

     yes, forever and ever.

V.  O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

V.  Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,

      for we have hoped in Thee.
R.  O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust;

      let me never be put to shame.

Saint Sylvester I, pope

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St Sylvester pope.jpgLord, help and sustain Your people by the prayers of Pope Sylvester. Guide us always in this present life and bring us to the joy that never ends.


Elected pope in 314, Saint Sylvester served the Church at a time when the Arian heresy and the Donatist schism had provoked great discord. After the peace of Constantine, he contributed greatly to the work of evangelization throughout the Roman world. The saintly pope died in 355. Some other thoughts on today's saint


By David Olson


Cist1.jpgLong before dawn in the remote desert south of Barstow, the only light for miles around is a faint glow from a triple-wide trailer.


Inside, several monks chant in Vietnamese. Then there is silence.


The trailer is home to the first cloistered Catholic monastery in the Inland area. The white-robed monks pray and chant together seven times a day and silently meditate twice. Here in Lucerne Valley, off a dirt road and at the foot of barren mountains, there is little to disturb them.


"There is God in this deserted place," said Brother Matthew Nguyen. "There are not many people here, but God is here."


San Bernardino Diocese Bishop Gerald Barnes celebrated the opening of St. Joseph Monastery on Aug. 17, but for now, the two cream-colored trailers, a water pump and solar panels are all that sit on the 80-acre site.


The monks hope to one day erect permanent buildings to house a chapel, retreat center and living quarters.


Peter Pham, a Cistercian monk, delivers food at sunrise outside the St. Joseph Monastery in the Lucerne Valley south of Barstow. Six Vietnamese members of the Cistercians devote their lives to contemplation there. It will also serve as a Catholic retreat.


St. Joseph is the second U.S. outpost of a Vietnamese congregation of Cistercian-order monks, who seclude themselves in monasteries to devote their lives to contemplation. The other opened in June near Sacramento.


There are nearly 7,000 Cistercian monks and nuns worldwide. Most sites are open to the Catholic faithful for retreats, as St. Joseph's visitors trailer will be in a few months.


The monks and nuns in Cistercian monasteries typically spend little time outside them, except for shopping for groceries and other necessities, and for special events such as ordinations.


Although the number of monks and nuns in U.S. monasteries has declined over the past few decades, experts say the drop has not been as steep as the fall in non-monastic priests and nuns.


Proportionately more people choose a monastic life than before as a reaction to secularism and an increasingly fast-paced U.S. lifestyle, said Sister Patricia Wittberg, a professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


There are about 200 Catholic monasteries in the United States, but there is no reliable count of how many people live inside them.


Cist2.jpgLike the parish priests who minister to their congregants and the nuns who serve the poor and sick, Cistercians and their devotion to intensely contemplative lives form a vital part of the Catholic church, said the Rev. Thomas Rausch, a professor of Catholic theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


"It's a special vocation," Rausch said. "The church needs people who energize it from within with their prayer."


The monks of St. Joseph rise each morning at precisely 3:55 a.m.


Twenty minutes later, they gather in the dim light of the trailer's chapel to chant for a half-hour. Then comes 30 minutes of meditation broken by the ringing of a bell announcing daily Mass.

The rest of the day is dedicated to prayer, meditation, singing, Bible-reading, study and work. They speak to each other as little as possible, said the Rev. Anthony Pham, the monastery's superior.


"Most of our time is for God," Pham said, as he ate a breakfast of fried eggs topped with soy sauce.


Pham said that, while he is meditating, he reflects upon God's love and the meaning of his calling as a monk. Work is an integral part of monastic life. As much of it as possible is manual labor, to leave the monks' minds free for contemplation.


The monks are now clearing brush, digging trenches for pipes, grading land and performing other tasks to build and adorn their monastery.


Like other monasteries, St. Joseph must be self-supporting, so the monks are discussing possible business ventures.


Other monasteries make products such as beer, fruitcake or cheese, and one in Wisconsin sells toner cartridges under the name Lasermonks.


The St. Joseph monks are thinking of opening an on-site gift shop featuring Vietnamese religious articles that they would also sell online. Or perhaps they'll make tofu for Vietnamese markets.


The 12-bed retreat center that will open in several months is why the monastery exists. A Vietnamese priest from Santa Ana, who attended a Cistercian boarding school as a boy, contacted the Cistercian order to convey the need for a retreat house geared toward Vietnamese immigrants, Pham said.


Many older Vietnamese Catholics do not speak English and would not feel at home or get the spiritual nourishment they seek if they were to attend a retreat at an English-speaking monastery, he said.


They and many other Catholics yearn for a place to recharge, to take a break from their busy lives to focus on their relationship with God, Pham said.


The retreat guests -- visitors who are not Vietnamese will be welcome as well -- will participate in the same prayers, singing, meditation and other devotions as the monks, Pham said.


If asked, the monks will guide them, suggesting which Biblical verses to read. But much of the benefit of a retreat will be the example the monks set, Pham said.


Founders of Citeaux.jpg"The way we live has a special effect and impact on other people, in the way that we get closer to God," Pham said. "When we are closer to God, we love God more."


Even more than parish priests, the monks forgo worldly goods. Because they rarely leave the monastery, they have few material needs. They do not eat meat, as a way of sacrificing for God.


"If we put too many things in ourselves, we cannot serve other people," Pham said. "If you're willing to throw things like the good car, like status in the community away, you come back to only being a human being, nothing more. We try to empty ourselves, so God can pour his graces into us."


When a permanent monastery is complete, Pham will spend almost all his time there.


Until then, Pham is busier than he would sometimes like. He regularly interrupts the contemplative life of Lucerne Valley to drive to Victorville. There, he fills out forms, applies for permits and talks with county bureaucrats. Even monks can't avoid San Bernardino County land-use and building codes.


He has a studded ring on his right hand that he rubs while driving, so he can pray the Rosary while on the road.


Thumbnail image for Cist3.jpgAll six monks who live at the monastery spent at least six months at a Benedictine monastery in Pennsylvania to improve their English and acculturate themselves, Pham said. Two more monks are now in Pennsylvania, preparing to move to St. Joseph. The goal is to have 13 monks by the end of 2009.


The monks receive several-thousand dollars a month to support themselves and the monastery. Most money comes from Vietnamese immigrants in Orange County. Further donations, along with revenue from the monks' forthcoming business, will fund the construction of the permanent monastery.


The trailer chapel where the monks now spend much of their time is spare. The monks sit on white plastic chairs or kneel on a blue-and-white carpet before a crucifix and a wooden altar carved in Orange County by a Vietnamese craftsman. Statues of St. Joseph and Our Lady of La Vang -- an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 18th century Vietnam -- stand near a plaque commemorating Bishop Barnes' visit.


Outside, there is little but sand and desert brush. Lucerne Valley was chosen for the monastery because it is remote enough to foster contemplation but within driving distance of the huge Vietnamese community in Orange County.


The land cost $80,000. Pham started paying for it with his $200 monthly stipend, along with donations from Vietnamese families.It was a risk. Pham knew the money wasn't enough to pay the entire cost of the land. But he trusted in God.


Then a Vietnamese family took him to Florida with them on vacation. By chance, he met a wealthy Vietnamese Catholic there. Pham mentioned the monastery he was building. He didn't ask the man for money. But by the time he left Florida, the man offered to pay the remaining cost of the land.


"I didn't know this person, and I didn't have the money to pay for the land," Pham said.

"But everything comes together with God."




Cistercian arms.jpgThe Cistercian order to which the monks at St. Joseph Monastery in Lucerne Valley belong dates from 1098, when it was founded in Citeaux, France, by St. Robert of Molesme. The English word "Cisterican" comes from "Citeaux."


Their creed is "Ora et Labora," or "Prayer and work." Most of a Cistercian monk's day is spent in contemplation.


The monks at St. Joseph are called Common Observance Cistercians. Perhaps better known is the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists. The Trappists initially had a stricter interpretation of monastic rules, but today differences between the Common and Strict Observance Cistercians are negligible and there are discussions to unite the two orders.


There are nearly 7,000 Cistercian monks and nuns worldwide.


The mother abbey for St. Joseph Monastery, Phuoc Son Abbey, is outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


SOURCES: The (Common Observance) Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Break, Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia


A Christmas Carol

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The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
Nativity Angelico.jpgHis hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.) 

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.



Father, son and Holy Church

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Ruth Gledhill of the Times Online (of London) posted this story today on a very unique circumstance: a father & son who poped and are now Catholic priests. 


In what is believed to be a first, a father and son, both former Anglican clergy, have been ordained as Catholic priests and are now working for the same archdiocese, Birmingham.


Father & Son Poped and ordained.jpgFather Dominic Cosslett, 36, and his father, Father Ron Cosslett, 70, were both ordained by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, pictured above by Peter Jennings. Nichols is the favourite to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor as Archbishop of Westminster when he steps down early next year and the latest ordination of Father Dominic on 20 December shows he is continuing in the tradition of true Catholicity to which the British church has so long been witness.


Father Dominic was formerly an Anglican priest at the Church of Christ the King at Lourdes in Coventry. His father, Father Ron Cosslett, aged 70, also a former Anglican priest, was ordained as a Catholic priest by Nichols 3 July 2005. He is now priest-in-charge at St Joseph's, Darlaston in the West Midlands.


Father Dominic, who is not married, has from a young age felt called to a celibate lifestyle. "Although as an Anglican marriage was open to me the way I live my life is naturally a celibate one," he told me yesterday. His mother converted five years ago at the same time as his father and his sister and their children followed them over about a year ago.


Father and son concelebrated, celebrating the eucharist at the older Father's parish, for the first time at Christmas.


"Both of us were in the Catholic tradition of Anglicanism," said Father Dominic. "Like a lot of us in that tradition, we had always felt the Catholic Church was the rock from which we were hewn. It was always part of our journey, our faith, to seek unity with Rome. We came to the point where we felt we could not exercise our understanding of Catholicism within Anglicanism. It was time for us to go home."


His father started out in Monmouth, South Wales and then moved to Burslem, one of the Five Towns in the Potteries in the Lichfield diocese. The family returned to Wales and his father's last Anglican parish was St Paul's in Swansea.


royal Eng College Valladolid.jpgUnder the guidelines agreed in the Catholic church for the reception of Anglican clergy who wish to become Catholic priests, Father Dominic, who studied theology at Llampeter and trained for the Anglican priesthood at the high church Mirfield College of the Resurrection before being priested in 1997, underwent a shortened training as to be a Catholic priest. He spent a year in the Spain at the Royal English College at Valladolid and then went to seminary at St Mary's Oscott.


As an Anglican, he served his curacy in Abergavenny in the Monmouth diocese when his bishop was Dr Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury.  He moved to his own parish in the Birmingham diocese when its bishop was Dr John Sentamu, now Archbishop of York. He speaks highly of both men, but neither was enough to make him stay.


"I realised my own journey was to seek unity with Rome. Balanced with that was the awareness that the Anglican Church was going in a very different direction with various decisions it was making. I just felt I could not agree with those decisions. It comes down to authority. As an Anglican, it was sometimes very difficult. One parish might believe one thing, another might believe something else.


"There is an incredible rainbow of thought in the Anglican Church. Perhaps I was looking more for a central authority of teaching that the Catholic Church has. It was something I had always been looking for."


He recognises his situation, with his father as a priest, might appear unusual to some but for him it feels normal. There is a long tradition in the Anglican church of father-and-son priests. The ministry often runs in families.


Asked whether he believes all Catholic priests should be allowed to marry, he said: "That is not my decision. The teaching of the Church is there. The Holy Father has graciously allowed those who are former Anglicans who are married to become priests.  The teaching remains the same and that is certainly not for me to comment on."


But he was careful to emphasise that his new path was not a reaction against Anglicanism.

"Becoming a Catholic is not so much about being disatisfied with being an Anglican as about having a positive engagement with the Catholic Church. I am very grateful for my Anglican days. But I realised there is something else in the Catholic Church. That is very much what lay behind my decision."


Vincent Nichols Arms.jpgArchbishop Nichols, in his words of welcome at the start of the ordination, said: "This situation a unique occasion and a great day in the life of the diocese.  Both a father and his son - after his ordination - will be serving as Catholic priests."


More than 60 Catholic priests, including Father Dominic's father, witnessed the ceremony.


Archbishop Nichols continued: "Just as the Angel Gabriel told Mary, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow', so also this will manifest for Dominic.


"How else, except through this gift could Dominic ever make Christ present in the life of the Church? It is the same gift given all those centuries ago in Nazareth that is given in Coventry today.


"It is only our unity in the Church which ensures that we are faithful to what we have been given. This Ordination is part of a great Tradition - a great handing on - from one age to the next of his gift of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.


"Indeed, this sense of Tradition is crucial - Apostolic Tradition. The vital question for all of us and for Dominic is where is it to be found?


"We rejoice in the answer during this Ordination Ceremony. It is to be found, with utter reliability, in union with Peter the first Apostle, and in union with his Successor the Bishop of Rome.


"It is this visible unity which gives the Church the sure capacity to be faithful in the Apostolic Tradition; to hand on whole and entire, and to explore and develop its Doctrine in a faithful and secure manner. This unity is a great joy and a pearl of great price.


"So today we thank God for Dominic's life and ministry as a priest in the Church of England. We rejoice as he steps into the priesthood in this full Communion of the Catholic Church through his ordination in this visible Apostolic Tradition."

Saint Thomas Becket

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St Thomas Becket.jpgAlmighty God, You granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice. By his prayers make us willing to renounce for Christ our life in this world so that we may find it in heaven.




A few words on Becket.

Feast of the Holy Family

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Holy Family.jpg


Father in heaven, creator of all, you ordered the earth to bring forth life, and crowned its goodness by creating the family of man.

In history's moment when all was ready You sent your Son to dwell in time, obedient to the laws of life in our world.

Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life forever.

Saint John, Saint John was Christ's disciple,
and Evangelist also;
He for the sake of Jesus Christ
Much pains did undergo,
Because he loved our Saviour Christ,
As Holy Scriptures say,
And was belov'd of him also,
And in his bosom lay.


Saint John for love of our Saviour
Did undergo much pain
And never ceased during life
To preach Christ Jesus' name.

Saint John, he at Jerusalem

St John the Evan.jpgDid preach God's holy word,
And for the same the spiteful pagans
They did him cruel scourge.
Then did he for the same rejoice,
That he was counted worthy
To suffer for the sake of Christ,
And would him not deny.

To Patmos banish'd was Saint John,
As Scripture doth record,
For the testimony of Christ,
And his most holy word.
And as he was in the Spirit
On the Lord's blessed day,
Our Saviour by an Angel spake,
and unto him did say,

I am Alpha and Omega,
Which was and is to come;
And what thou seest write in a book
Thus said he to Saint John
And send it to the Churches then,
Which are in Asia seven.
And said the Angel to Saint John,
Which came to him from Heaven.

Yesterday, with exultation,
Join'd the world in celebration
Of her promised Saviour's birth;
Yesterday the Angel-nation
Pour'd the strains of jubilation
O'er the Monarch born on earth;


But today o'er death victorious,
By his faith and actions glorious,
by his miracles renown'd,
See the Deacon triumph gaining,
'Midst the faithless faith sustaining,
First of holy Martyrs found.


Thumbnail image for St Stephen.jpg 


Onward, champion, falter never,
Sure of sure reward for ever,
Holy Stephen, persevere;
Perjured witnesses confounding,
Satan's synagogue astounding
By thy doctrine true and clear.


Thine own Witness is in Heaven,
True and faithful, to thee given,
Witness of thy blamelessness:
By thy name a crown implying,
Meet it is thou shouldst be dying
For the crown of righteousness.


For the crown that fadeth never
Bear the torturer's brief endeavour;
Victory waits to end the strife:
Death shall be thy life's beginning,
And life's losing be the winning
Of the true and better life.


Fill'd with God's most Holy Spirit,
See the Heav'n thou shalt inherit,
Stephen, gaze into the skies:
There God's glory steadfast viewing,
Thence thy victor-strength renewing,
Pant for thy eternal prize.


See, as Jewish foes invade thee,
See how Jesus stands to aid thee,
Stands at God's right hand on high:
Tell how open'd Heav'n is shown thee,
Tell how Jesus waits to own thee,
Tell it with thy latest cry.


As the dying martyr kneeleth,
For his murderers he appealeth,
For their madness griefing sore;
Then in Christ he sleepeth sweetly,
And with Christ he reigneth meetly,
Martyr first-fruits, evermore.



Words: "Heri mundus exultavit," Adam of S. Victor (d. 1192). Translation by John Mason Neale; Music: "Heri Mundus Exultavit," by Walter Macfarren; Meter: 887 887. Hymns Ancient and Modern. London: William Clowes and Sons, Ltd., 1922, #64, p. 64-5.


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nativity Giotto detail.jpgImmensity cloistered in thy dear womb, Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment, There He hath made Himself to His intent Weak enough, now into the world to come; But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room? Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient, Stars and wise men will travel to prevent; The effect of Herod's jealous general doom.

Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie? Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high, That would have need to be pitied by thee?


Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go, With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


John Donne (1572- 1631)


Magnum nomen Domini Emmanuel

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Birth of Christ.jpg





Evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum: natus est vobis hodie Salvator, Christus Dominus.


I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord.





God, who gladden us by the yearly expectation of our redemption, grant that we may merit to see Your Only Begotten, our Lord, Christ Jesus, whom we in joy are now receiving as the Redeemer also see in safety when He is coming as the Judge.



Hodie Christus natus est. Hodie Salvator apparuit. Hodie in terra canunt Angeli, lætantur Archangeli. Hodie exsultant iusti dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo! Alleluia.


Today the Savior has appeared: today the Angels sing, the Archangels rejoice: today the just rejoice, saying: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will towards men: Alleluia.


Nativity of Mary Pietro Cavallini.jpgToday, the twenty-fifth day of December

Unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth; And then formed man and woman in his own image.

Several thousand years after the flood; When God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.

Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;

Thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;

One thousand years from the anointing of David as king;

In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.

In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; The seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.

The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; The whole world being at peace,

Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
Desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
Being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
And nine months having passed since his conception,
Was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.

Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.



Jeremiah Duccio.jpgI was struck by the readings that the Ambrosian Liturgy proposes for Monday of the third week of Advent. How must the members of the ancient people of Israel been disconcerted at the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "It will devour your harvests and your bread; it will devour your sons and daughters; it will devour your flocks and herds; it will devour the fortified cities in which you placed your trust" (Jer 5:17). He was telling them that another nation was going to conquer the kingdom in which they had put their trust. "Then, if they say: 'Why has the Lord our God done these things?', you will answer: 'Just as you have abandoned the Lord and served foreign gods in your country, so will you serve foreigners in a country that is not yours'" (Jer 5:19).

It is as if this were said for us; today we see signs that make everyone afraid, it seems that what has supported our history is unable to withstand the test of our times: one day the economy, finance and work, the next day politics and the judiciary, then the family, the beginning of life and its natural end. So, like ancient Israel before a frightening situation, we, too, ask ourselves: "Why is all this happening?" It is because we, too, have been so presumptuous as to think that we can still get along after cutting the roots that supported the foundations of our civilization. In recent centuries, our culture has believed it could build a future for itself while abandoning God. Now we see where this presumption is leading us.


Now, what does the Lord do in the face of all we have brought upon ourselves? The prophet Zechariah tells us, speaking to his people Israel: "Look, I am going to send you my servant Branch" (Zc 3:8). Notice the name. It is as if before the crisis of a world, our world - the prophets would describe it with an image dear to them, that of a dried-up trunk - a sign of hope were springing up. The enormity of a dried up trunk cannot prevent the sprouting of a humble, fragile branch in which lies the hope for the future.


St Benedict3.jpgBut there is one drawback: we, too, when we see this branch appearing -like those before that child in Nazareth--can be scandalized and say: "How can something so ephemeral be the answer to our need for liberation?" Can salvation come from something so small as faith in Jesus? It seems impossible that all our hope can rest on belonging to this frail sign. The promise that only from this can everything be rebuilt seems scandalous. Yet men like St. Benedict and St. Francis started from that. They began to live while belonging to that branch that had grown through time and space--the Church, and in this way became protagonists of a people and of history.

Benedict did not face the end of the Roman Empire with anger, pointing the finger at the immorality of his contemporaries, but rather witnessed to the people of his time a fullness of life, a satisfaction and a fullness that became an attraction for many. This became the dawn of a new world, small as it was (almost a nonentity compared with the whole, a whole that was in total collapse), but a real world. That new beginning was so concrete that the work of Benedict and Francis has lasted through the centuries, has transformed Europe, and humanized it.

"He has revealed himself. He personally," said Benedict XVI, speaking of the God-with-us. Fr. Giussani told us, "That man of two thousand years ago is hidden under the tent, under the appearance of a new humanity," in a real sign that arouses the inkling of that life that we are all waiting for so as not to succumb to the evil in us and to the signs of the nothingness which is advancing. This is the hope that Christmas announces to us, and that makes us cry out: "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Julian Carron3.jpg(Father) Julián Carrón

President of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation


Letter to the editor of the Italian daily La Repubblica,
published December 23, 2008



Nativity of the Savior

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This sermon is one of the most, if not THE most, recommended texts for this feast. The theology is crisp and eternal. Therefore it is used in the East and the West alike.


Homily by Pope Saint Leo the Great (Sermon 21)

St Leo the Great3.jpg 

Our Savior, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity.


No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.


Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.


For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered.


And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin.


Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, "no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth." Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered.


Nativity Duccio.jpgA royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result, she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honor that she is soon to be the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.


Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who "in the beginning was with God," through whom "all things were made" and "without" whom "was nothing made," with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate.


Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.


Virgin of the Annunciation Angelico.jpgRightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin's purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honor. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead.


For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example. Therefore the exulting angel's song when the Lord was born is this, "Glory to God in the Highest," and their message, "peace on earth to men of good will." For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?


Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, Who "for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us," has had pity on us: and "when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ," that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production.


Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh.


Christian, acknowledge thy dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct.


Remember the Head and the Body of which thou art a member.


Recollect that thou wert rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God's light and kingdom.


By the mystery of Baptism thou weft made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from thee by base acts, and subject thyself once more to the devil's thraldom: because thy purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge thee in truth Who ransomed thee in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

O Emmanuel

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The Great Antiphon for December 23


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


O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.


Isaiah 7:14; 88:8; 33:22; Genesis 49:10; cf. Ezekiel 21:32.


Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.

"A Prayerful Advocate"
From Catholic New York
By John Woods

Like many of you, I occasionally ask someone to keep me or a member of my family in their prayers. And when someone makes a similar request of me, I take it seriously.

This week, I made such a request of someone the first time I spoke to her, and I have a good hunch that she'll follow through.

Her name is Jenna Marie Cooper. She is 23 years old and a graduate student in theology at Ave Maria University in Florida. On Saturday, Jan. 3, she will be consecrated to a life of virginity at an 11:30 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Newburgh to be celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, co-vicar for Orange County and pastor of Sacred Heart.

As a consecrated virgin, the oldest form of consecrated life in the Church, Ms. Cooper will spend much of her time in prayer. (A Vatican II document called for a revision and revival of the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World, restoring the ancient vocation in the life of the modern Church.) It will not be a great departure from her current daily life, which includes praying the Liturgy of the Hours five times, attending Mass and spending other time in prayer.

Chief among her intentions are the Church and people of New York. Cardinal Egan granted permission for Ms. Cooper to be consecrated and she will remain directly under his authority as Archbishop of New York.

She said she felt privileged to be invited to attend the Mass for clergy and religious that Pope Benedict XVI celebrated in St. Patrick's Cathedral in April. "That was such a wonderful and awesome experience. I couldn't talk about anything else for a week afterward," she said.

When the Holy Father thanked those present for their prayers on his behalf, it made a firm impression on her. "That sense that prayers were needed and appreciated was very meaningful to me," she said.

She will be the youngest person in the United States living as a consecrated virgin, and one of four active in the archdiocese, according to Father Bartholomew Daly, M.H.M., who as co-vicar for religious is in charge of their oversight and meets with them regularly.

During our phone interview, Ms. Cooper said she had felt a religious calling since she was about 12. She is part of a devout Catholic family that includes her parents, Douglas and Judith, and two younger siblings, Joseph and Tess. They are parishioners of St. Thomas of Canterbury parish in Cornwall-on-Hudson. She assumed that she would eventually join a religious congregation. She met with several during her undergraduate days (she holds a bachelor's in philosophy from Seton Hall University), but didn't feel like that was the right choice for her. Still, she continued to feel a call to serve the Church in a special way.

In 2004 she met Father Luke Sweeney, now the vocation director for the archdiocese who was then serving at Sacred Heart in Newburgh, where Ms. Cooper at times attends Mass. He gave her information about different religious orders and showed her a copy of the rite for consecrated virgins. She said that she was familiar with the lives of some of the consecrated virgins of the early Church, including some who were martyred for their faith.

"The courage they had to live a Christian life in such a hostile culture made me realize what a foundation they were for the Church," she said. "I wanted to be able to imitate that courage and love in my own life."

Eventually Father Sweeney arranged for her to meet with Father Daly. Last year, she began meeting with him on a more regular basis in pursuing her vocation. She had to formally request Cardinal Egan's permission for her consecration, which was given shortly before the papal Mass.

The prayer request I made of Ms. Cooper was for Catholic New York and its readers. It's only fair that we return the favor as she enters consecrated life.

Robert George.jpgRobert George is the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, where he teaches Constitutional Law and Political Philosophy. As a leading scholar of Natural Law, we interviewed him about the role of religion and tradition in the so-called United States Constitutional Experiment. His contribution takes a proper place in the current debate about the relationship between state, religion and society.

A. P. : Do you think that religion is meaningful to interpret the US Constitution?

R. G.: Yes. The US is a religious Country. It remains a much more religious Country than most of the Countries of continental Europe. And this is not new. The American Revolution was not like the French Revolution. The American Revolution was not an anti-religious revolution. On the contrary, it appealed to the core ideas of ethical monotheism, which are derived from the witness of the Bible. The language of the Declaration of Independence represents an interpretation of the idea from Genesis that all the men are created in the Image and Likeness of God. This is the foundation of the principle of equality - which, in turn, is the foundation of democracy. Democracy is based on the idea that all men are equal and worth of dignity. And they have right to have their opinion taken into account for the formation of the public policy. This is true if and only if human beings have an equal dignity.

What is the source of that dignity? The Declaration of Independence says it is because of our Creator - that God created us equal. Again, this is the reflection of the Biblical idea that we are created at the image and likeness of God. We have reason, and we have freedom - we have these powers, which are small but meaningful share in God's own powers. So, the US is truly a religious country, even in the sense that our Constitutional principles are considered the effectuation of the declaration of independence.

As late as 1953 Justice William O. Douglas - which is much recorded from the left wing of American politics and Constitutional interpretation -  could still say in the decision Zorach vs. Clauson: "We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose the Supreme Being." And this is true. Our institutions presuppose the idea that there is a Supreme Being, a God who is the Source of human dignity and human equality.

A. P.: So you mean that Christianity and Christian history does matter, even in policy, right now?

R. G.: Yes, of course. But not simply Christian history. It is the Biblical witness. The ethical monotheism. Something which is common to Christian and Jews, and perhaps even to Muslims, although I don't know the Muslim tradition very well. But it is not a specific Christian tradition. US weren't just founded under the preposition that Christ is the Son of God, or that God is three Persons in the Trinity, but on the proposition that there is a Divine Ruler and Judge of the Universe. According to the Declaration of Independence, for instance, there is a Divine Ruler and Judge of the Universe and that we are His children, and share a profound and equal dignity as a result of our relationship to Him.

So, all the American policies are supposed to be in line with this idea that all men are created equal, that there is a Creator and that all of us share His Image and Likeness so we own dignity and must be respected, via the political institutions and society.

A. P.: Which is the role of tradition in American Constitutional history, in your opinion? Does tradition play some role in interpreting Constitution?

R. G.: In my opinion the question touches the sources of Constitution. These are the text, the logical implications of the provisions of the text, the structure of the document, the provisions within the document and its historical understanding.

It is in this broad sense - the historical understanding of the text - that tradition plays a role. We look at what was the goal of those who were responsible in making the Constitution. These goals are meant to be the effectuation of the values for the sake of which the Constitution was created and the institutions put into place. In our commitment to understand them, for example, we can consider the "equal dignity of the human person". The Declaration of Independence, which was the founding document of the American regime, says "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". The Constitution, ratified many years later, was meant to give life to these principles.

So our tradition is one of respect to these principles and the role of the Constitution is to give life to them. So our tradition of Constitutional interpretation pays attention of the historical purposes of the Constitution. So this, too, might be understood as a role that tradition plays in the interpretation of our Constitution.

A. P.: So which is your opinion about Justice Scalia's approach, who pays much attention to the Framers?

R. G.: Scalia is not purported to get into the subjective consciousness of the Framers who ratified the Constitution, but rather to recover what was understood, at the time of the ratification by all those who deliberated and participated in the debate on the particular provisions of the Constitution, should be ratified.

That attempt to recover the understanding is itself something difficult and is a matter of tradition: the historical understanding of the text and the meaning of the text of the Constitution. So I think this is the role for tradition.

We also have a common law tradition, which has an impressive difference from continental European systems. Tradition inside the tradition: this is the idea that the decisions can establish a tradition, which should be respected even if decisions in the first instance are not entirely correct.


Interview with Robert George by Andrea Pin from the Oasis Center

O King of the Gentiles

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The Great Antiphon for December 22


Rex Gentium.jpgO King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.



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



Psalm 2:7-8; Haggai 2:8; Genesis 2:7; Ephesians 2:14-20.


Symbols, Crown, scepter.

Thumbnail image for winter solstice3.jpg




by John Greenleaf Whittier


The sun that brief December day

Rose cheerless over hills of gray,

And, darkly circled, gave at noon

A sadder light than waning moon.

Slow tracing down the thickening sky

Its mute and ominous prophecy,

A portent seeming less than threat,

It sank from sight before it set.

A chill no coat, however stout,

Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,

    A hard, dull bitterness of cold,

That checked, mid-vein, the circling race

Of life-blood in the sharpened face,

    The coming of the snow-storm told.

The wind blew east: we heard the roar

Of Ocean on his wintry shore,

And felt the strong pulse throbbing there

Beat with low rhythm our inland air.

Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,--

Brought in the wood from out of doors,

Littered the stalls, and from the mows

Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;

Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;

And, sharply clashing horn on horn,

Impatient down the stanchion rows

The cattle shake their walnut bows;

While, peering from his early perch

Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,

The cock his crested helmet bent

And down his querulous challenge sent.


Unwarmed by any sunset light

The gray day darkened into night,

A night made hoary with the swarm

And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,

As zigzag, wavering to and fro

Crossed and recrossed the wingèd snow:

And ere the early bed-time came

The white drift piled the window-frame,

And through the glass the clothes-line posts

Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

    winter solstice2.jpg

As night drew on, and, from the crest

Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,

The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank

From sight beneath the smothering bank,

We piled, with care, our nightly stack

Of wood against the chimney-back,--

The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,

And on its top the stout back-stick;

The knotty forestick laid apart,

And filled between with curious art

The ragged brush; then, hovering near,

We watched the first red blaze appear,

Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam

On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,

Until the old, rude-furnished room

Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;

While radiant with a mimic flame

Outside the sparkling drift became,

And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree

Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.

The crane and pendent trammels showed,

The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;

While childish fancy, prompt to tell

The meaning of the miracle,

Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,

When fire outdoors burns merrily,

There the witches are making tea."

The moon above the eastern wood

Shone at its full; the hill-range stood

Transfigured in the silver flood,

Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,

Dead white, save where some sharp ravine

Took shadow, or the somber green

Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black

Against the whiteness at their back.

For such a world and such a night

Most fitting that unwarming light,

Which only seemed where'er it fell

To make the coldness visible.

Mission Statement


I AM A PART of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.


The die has been cast. The decision has been made. I have stepped over the line. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still.


My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is in God's hands. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, the bare minimum, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, frivolous living, selfish giving, and dwarfed goals.


I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, applause, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, the best, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith. I lean on Christ's presence. I love with patience, live by prayer, and labor with the power of God's grace.


My face is set. My gait is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear.


I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.


I won't give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for the cause of Christ.


I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until He stops me.

a gaze.jpg

And when He returns for His own, He will have no difficulty recognizing me. My banner is clear: I am a part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.


Adapted from the original (author unknown) by Patrick Madrid


O Dawn of the East

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The Great Antiphon for December 21



Oriens.jpgO Dawn of the East, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.



O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:  veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.



Zac 6:12; Habakkuk 3:4; Malachi 3:20; Psalm 19:6-7; 107:10; Luke 1:78.


Symbol: rising sun.

Saint Peter Canisius

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St Peter Canisius.JPGO God, Who did strengthen blessed Peter Thy Confessor, in virtue and learning for the defense of the Catholic faith: mercifully grant that through his examples and teaching, those who are in error may be brought back to salvation and that the faithful may persevere in the confession of the truth.



Jesuit Father John Hardon's brief note on Saint Peter Canisius


 On the third centenary of the death of the Saint Peter Canisius, Pope Leo XIII wrote to the Bishops of Austria, Germany and Switzerland:


7. This is not the place to recall in detail the life of this man, so eminent in sanctity; the zeal with which he labored to restore harmony and union to his country torn by dissension and revolt; the ardor of his public debates with the teachers of error; his inspiring sermons; the persecutions he suffered; the many countries he travelled through; and the difficult missions he undertook in the interest of the faith. However, to return to the weapons of knowledge which we have mentioned: how constantly, readily, wisely and fitly he employed them! Upon his return from Messana where he went as a teacher of rhetoric, he committed himself to the teaching of the sacred sciences in the academies of Cologne, Ingolstadt and Vienna. Here he followed the royal road of the most approved learned men of the Christian school and revealed to the Germans the treasures of scholastic philosophy. As this philosophy was shunned at that time by the enemies of the faith because it was a great support of Catholic truth, he had it taught publicly in the schools and colleges of the Society of Jesus for whose establishment he had worked so hard.

8. He did not hesitate to descend from the heights of wisdom to the basics of writing. He undertook the instruction of children and even composed elementary writing books and grammars for their use. Indeed, just as he often came back from preaching to the courts of kings to address the people, so, after learned writings on dogma or morals, he used to compose pamphlets destined either to strengthen the faith of the people or to

IHSa.jpgarouse and nourish their piety. He had wonderful success in preventing the inexperienced from getting caught in the nets of error. The Summa which he published for this purpose is a compact and tightly-knit work, written in beautiful Latin and not unworthy of the Fathers of the Church. This remarkable work was enthusiastically received by learned men in almost all the countries of Europe. Less voluminous, but no less useful, were the two famous catechisms which this blessed man wrote for less cultivated minds: one for the religious instruction of children, the other for young men already involved in the study of the arts. These two works had such a great success among Catholics immediately upon publication, that almost all professors charged with teaching the basics of the faith had them in hand. They were used not only in the schools as a spiritual milk for the children, but they were also explained publicly in the churches to the benefit of all. Thus, during three centuries Canisius has been regarded as the teacher of Catholics in Germany. In popular speech, "knowing Canisius" was synonymous with "preserving the Christian faith."


Pope Leo XIII, Militantis Ecclesiae (On St. Peter Canisius), August 1, 1897.



Advent Summons

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Come forth from the holy place,
Sweet Child,
Come from the quiet dark
Where virginal heartbeats
Tick your moments.


Come away from the red music
Of Mary's veins.
Come out from the Tower of David
Sweet Child,
From the House of Gold.


Institution of the Crib by St Francis.jpg

God enters human history

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Nativity LLotto.jpgGod has become man. He has become a child. Thus he fulfills the great and mysterious promise to be Emmanuel: God-with us. Now he is no longer unreachable for anybody. God is Emmanuel. By becoming a child, he offers us the possibility of being on familiar terms with him.


I am reminded here of a rabbinical tale recorded by Elie Wiesel. He tells of Jehel, a little boy, who comes running into the room of his grandfather, the famous Rabbi Baruch. Big tears are rolling down his cheeks. And he cries, My friend has totally given up on me. He is very unfair and very mean to me. Well, could you explain this a little more? asks the master.


Okay, responds the little boy. We were playing hide and seek. I was hiding so well that he could not find me. But then he simply gave up and went home. Isn't that mean? The most exciting hiding place has lost its excitement because the other shops playing.


The master caresses the boy's face. He himself now has tears in his eyes. And he says, Yes, this is not nice. But look, it is the same way with God. He is in hiding, and we do not seek him. Just imagine! God is hiding, and we people do not even look for him.


In this little story a Christian is able to find the key to the ancient mystery of Christmas. God is in hiding. He waits for his creation to set out toward him, he waits for a new and willing Yes to come about, for love to arise as a new reality out of his creation. He waits for man.


Pope Benedict XVI

O Key of David

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The Great Antiphon for December 20


Clavis David.jpgO Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.


O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:  veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.


Revelation 3:7; Isaiah 22:22; Psalm 107:10. Symbols: key; broken chains.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda, Dominus Est.jpgKazakhstan, published a book, Dominus Est, dealing with the history, theology and pastoral practice of receiving Holy Communion. The book is reviewed by Dr. Alcuin Reid.

No doubt many of us receive Holy Communion without considering what the gesture of receiving means at the level of symbol, that is, at the level of deepest reality. We are given "a pledge of future glory," says the prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, so what does it mean to mean receive this pledge in the hand? Theologically, does it mean anything to receive the Lord in the hand versus on the tongue? Do we take a gift or do we receive a gift? I wonder if the hand is the most appropriate "tool" to receive the Eucharistic Lord. If we truly believe one's reception of the Lord in Communion is an act of reception not an act of taking, then is receiving the Lord in the hand and picking Him up with our fingers the most appropriate act of worship? The question needs to be answered in terms of how Communion is received so that we know at the deepest places in the heart, that we are receiving the Lord Himself. How does our reception of Communion exhibit the deepest reverence for the Blessed Sacrament?


The liturgy establishment -and those who pretend to know the liturgical life of the Church--have argued that receiving Communion in the hand is rooted in the practice of apostolic times. The author argues that scholars, as well as bishops and priests, have misread the early church documents about the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand and therefore what we know today bears no resemblance to how our Christians received Holy Communion in apostolic period. The point, therefore, is that our scholars and priests have used an archeologistic argument to force the issue of receiving Communion in hand by saying that people didn't receive communion on the tongue in the earlier periods of Church history.


Christ as priest at Mass.jpgThis is not only a matter for the laity. The ordained need to reflect on how they receive the Eucharistic Lord, too. There is ample evidence that what the priests do today is also theologically suspect. In the earlier centuries of the Church no one, not even the pope and bishops, self-communicated Communion. Even though prayer the great Eucharistic prayer he would never presume to take Communion; It was administered to the pope, bishops and priests by the deacon. But I digress.






The book retails for $8.00, with 50% off for five or more copies to the same address ($2 each for shipping/handling). Send to: Newman House Press, 601 Buhler Court, Pine Beach, NJ 08741. Or visit:


O Root of Jesse

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The Great Antiphon for December 19

Root of Jesse.jpgO Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.



O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.



Isaiah 11:1-3; 10; 52:15; Habakkuk 2:3.


Symbol: vine or plant in flower, especially a rose.

Avery Dulles mourned in NYC

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Catholics and other members of the Christian community gathered at the Cathedral of EM Egan.jpgSaint Patrick to pray the Mass of Christian Burial for Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. with Edward Michael Cardinal Egan as principal celebrant and homilist. Cardinal Dulles was buried in the Jesuit cemetery in Auriesville, NY. Cardinal Dulles died at 90 years old on Friday, 12 December 2008.


Those in attendance at the Mass included the children of his eldest brother, John W. F. Dulles, and sister-in-law, Eleanor Dulles: John Foster Dulles II, Edith Dulles Lawlis, Ellen Coelho and Robert Avery Dulles. Likewise, longtime friends John Murphy and his longtime assistant, Sister Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P., both of whom read the Scriptures.


Cardinals Maida, Keeler, George, McCarrick and O'Malley along with the Nuncios to the USA and the UN and scores of bishops and priests concelebrated the Mass; Benedictine Abbot and longtime friend Gabriel Gibbs also concelebrated the Mass. The Jesuits littered the crowd.


In his homily, Cardinal Egan recalled a crucifix he prayed in front of 50 years ago in a small rural church outside of Orvieto, Italy, while on retreat with seminarians studying in Rome. Egan connected a suffering and triumphant vision of Christ's face. For him, and thus for us, the crucified Christ is a potent reality of our Christian life's journey. The motif of the cross was apropos when considering the life of Avery Dulles who suffered at various times in his life (in health, in his early relationships with family & friends over his conversion to Catholicism) but he also experienced a sense of Christian hope in his relationships, academic endeavors and service and in his life as a priest. In terms of worldly success, tt was noted that Dulles published 24 books, soon to be 25 and nearly 800 published papers and talks; this after physicians told him that he would never write again. Cardinal Dulles "proved them monumentally wrong." In Egan's judgment: "You have the example of a triumphant life story, never matched, to my knowledge, by any other American Catholic."


dulles3.jpgAvery Cardinal Dulles was 62 years a Jesuit, nearly 53 years a priest and nearly 8 years a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. He was the first American priest to become a cardinal but was not ordained a bishop. (In recent years new cardinals of advanced age have asked to be dispensed from the obligation to be ordained a bishop, at least this is true for Jesuits.) Dulles held The Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham since 1988.


Even in his infirmity Cardinal Dulles published his McGinley lectures in a volume edited with Fr. Robert Imbelli called Church and Society. Stay tuned, his last manuscript was sent Paulist Press and will be published under the title of Evangelization for the Third Millennium (Spring 2009).

On Wednesday, the president of Fordham University, Jesuit Father Joesph McShane, announced the creation of the new chair of theology honoring Cardinal Dulles.

See the NYTimes article.

May the angels lead you into paradise; May the martyrs welcome you upon your arrival, and lead you into the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of angels welcome you, and with poor Lazarus of old, may you have eternal rest.

O Adonai

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The Great Antiphon for December 18


Adonai.jpgO Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.


O Adonai, et dux domus Israël, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.


Isaiah 11:4-5; Exodus 6:13; 3:2, 20:1; Jeremiah 32:21.


Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets.

O Wisdom

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The Great Antiphon for December 17


Oil Lamp.jpg

O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.


O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.


Ecclesiastes 24:5; Isaiah 11: 2-3; 40:14; Sirach 24:2, 30; Wisdom 8:1.


Symbols: oil lamp, open book.



The importance of the "Great O Antiphons" is twofold:  each one is a title for the Messiah and each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah and other Old Testament Scripture passages foretelling the coming of the Messiah. These ancient texts from sacred Scripture sung as verses before and after the Magnificat at Vespers in the Divine Office. The Great O Antiphons are characteristically "Benedictine" in nature because they flourished in the monastic liturgy with great élan. One can't think of the Advent observance without thinking of the Great O Antiphons.




Preaching to Young Adults

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"Clearing Away the Barriers: Preaching to Young Adults Today" is an insight and very helpful address by Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia.


J Augustine DiNoia.jpgThe Very Reverend J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P. is one of America's most active and respected theological minds. In April 2002, the Pope John Paul II appointed Father DiNoia to work at the Vatican as undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. The congregation oversees and promotes the doctrine on the faith and morals in the Catholic world. Until 2005, Father DiNoia served under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.


Raised in New York, DiNoia is a member of the  Province of St. Joseph of the Dominican friars. He earned a doctorate from Yale University in 1980. The Order of Friars Preachers granted him the master of sacred theology (S.T.M.) in 1998.

In today's general audience (December 17) the Pope mentioned the Christmas novena to the faithful a practice we ought to engage in. The hope of Christmas fulfills our human desires for union with God. Consider what Benedict XVI said:


Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life - often fragile or endangered - and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God's coming among us as man. The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment. In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life. As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God's promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.



In 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a set of principles and guidelines to help our pious activities flourish. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy tries to harmonize personal and ecclesial piety with the liturgical worship of the Church. At this time of the year the Directory says:


103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that Vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the "major antiphons", and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before or after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal "Christmas Novena", in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.


Below is one of many versions of a Christmas Novena prayer. This particular prayer names Saint Andrew in its title but doesn't ask him to intercede for us before God. The faithful, in some places, begin on the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30th, and pray the prayer 15x in a given day, everyday, till Christmas.


Saint Andrew Christmas Novena


Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.


psalms.jpgThe Revised Grail Psalter


The life of a Benedictine monk hinges upon the motto ora et labora, which is Latin for "pray and work". Specifically, St. Benedict intended his followers to be deeply rooted in the psalms, drawing upon their richness in writing his holy Rule and expounding at length upon how they should be prayed. For nearly 1,500 years now, Benedictines have carried on the tradition of their founder, and the Order is well known for its dedication to the liturgy. It should come as no surprise, then, that when the U.S. Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy wanted a new translation of the psalms for use in the liturgy, they approached Conception Abbey's own Abbot Gregory Polan to undertake a revision of the 1963 Grail Psalter.


What are the Grail Psalms?


In the years leading up to Vatican II, when the liturgy was still in Latin but moving toward Joseph Gelineau.jpggreater lay participation, the psalm responses of the Mass were permitted to be sung in the vernacular. A French Jesuit by the name of Joseph Gelineau prepared a French translation of the psalms which was very rhythmic and worked well with a particular set of psalm tones. In response to his work, a community of lay women formed a secular institute called The Grail (of England) and undertook an English translation of Fr. Gelineau's work. They employed scholars and musicians to work on the project and they began to release the fruits of their work in a series of books, each containing a few psalms, throughout the 1950s. The full version with all 150 psalms was released in 1963.


Just like the French Gelineau psalm tones, the 1963 Grail Psalter proved to be very well-suited for choral recitation, singing and chanting. It was soon incorporated into the Liturgy of the Hours.  While the lectionary in the United States used the psalms of the New American Bible and the Revised Standard Version, the 1963 Grail Psalms were also permitted for use as the Responsorial Psalm at Mass.  GIA Publications of Chicago featured these Responsorial Psalms in their Worship III Hymnal.


Why was a new translation needed?


The 1963 Grail Psalms made a wonderful transition from Latin into English because they were so easily understood, they had a clear poetic rhythm and they could be recited and sung with ease. All of these things were important objectives when the Ladies of the Grail set about their work. And while the 1963 Grail Psalter was very successful in this regard, there are places where the adherence to a set rhythm necessitated a paraphrase of the original Hebrew as opposed to a more authentic translation, taking into consideration the sometimes irregular rhythm of the Hebrew Psalms. Since Vatican II, however, we have seen a move to preserve sacred texts' fidelity to their original sources.


Secondly, since the 1950s when most of these psalms were composed, "Much has happened in the area of biblical scholarship to enable us to understand better both the structure of Hebrew poetry and some of the more problematic texts," Abbot Gregory said. He continued, "This scholarship will make a more accurate translation possible."


Additionally, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments' 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam insists that a consistent translation be used in all the texts of the liturgy, which is currently not the case as far as the psalms are concerned. The Revised Grail Psalter will be the official translation used in the Lectionary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the texts for all books of the Sacraments, etc.


Conception Abbey.jpgWhy Conception?


Obviously, a project of this scope is quite the undertaking. But why were monks of Conception chosen to bring this work to fruition? As mentioned above, the mere fact that Conception Abbey is a Benedictine monastery is already a tally mark under the "pros" column. However, it is the combination of the scholarly pursuits of Abbot Gregory Polan that made the initial request from the U.S. Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy in June of 1998 the first and obvious choice.

Abbot Gregory would tell anyone (and he told the Bishop's Committee) that he is first and foremost an abbot. Next on the list, though, you'll find "Scripture Scholar" and "Musician". After working on a translation of a section of the book of Isaiah in the Revised New American Bible, the staff at the Bishops' Conference--knowing also his musical background--rightly assessed that his combination of abilities especially suited him to the task of revising the Grail Psalter which, like the 1963 Grail Psalter, needed to be suitable for choral recitation, singing and chanting. When Abbot Gregory agreed then, mentioning that he was first an abbot though, the bishops were happy to communicate that they just wanted it done right.


So, Abbot Gregory began the project, enlisting the help of other monks of Conception Abbot Gregory Polan.jpgAbbey, and after four years an initial draft was completed. This draft was then brought before a November meeting of the Bishop's Committee on Divine Worship where it was approved to undergo the rigorous process to deem it an acceptable translation. And acceptable it was as the USCCB approved its widespread use in a 203-5 vote at their meeting of November 11, 2008. It is now awaiting approval from the Vatican.


What does this mean for the Church?


For the Faithful who attend any liturgy in English, the Revised Grail Psalter means consistency in what they'll hear across the board. For musicians and those who use the psalms for choral recitation or chanting, it means a translation which is well suited to these uses without sacrificing the integrity of the translation. All in all, the consistency and fidelity to the ancient texts of the psalms means that the Revised Grail Psalter will help promote a more effective, unified catechesis.


For Conception Abbey, the Revised Grail Psalter is another way that they, in their 135 years since their founding, have been able to respond to the needs of the Church.


Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus



The copyright for The Revised Grail Psalms is held jointly by Conception Abbey and The Grail (England).  GIA Publications serves as the international literary agent for this new version of The Grail Psalms.


Copies of the Revised Grail Psalter will not be released until the recognitio is received from Rome. For more information you may contact:


Jarrod Thome
Director of Communications
Conception Abbey

  Lukas Etlin.jpg

Dom Lukas Etlin

Monk of Conception Abbey

25 February 1864 - 16 December 1927

a cause for sainthood?

read more at Vultus Christi

Father Carrón Notes Commitment to Faith-Culture Dialogue

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2008 ( The current pontificate is decisive for the life and history of the Catholic lay Communion and Liberation movement, says its president.

Father Julián Carrón said this today after he was received in audience by Benedict XVI.

"We are always very attentive to what the Pope tells us to orient us along our way," Father Carrón said. The priest is the successor of Monsignor Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation.

Father Carrón told Vatican Radio that he wanted to meet with the Holy Father to "tell him all that has happened and to share the fruits of the encounter" the group had with him a year ago.

"For our history, the relationship of Monsignor Giussani with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has been very significant," Father Carrón added. "We, above all now, consider his magisterium to be decisive for our life as a movement, for our history.

"We are attentive to everything that the Pope says about the cultural presence of the faith."

The president emphasized that the movement "very much appreciated" the "great discourse at Regensburg [and] the recent address that the [Holy Father] gave in Paris to the men of culture," which was distributed to all movement members.

The fraternity, Father Carrón said, has committed itself to "spreading this perfection of culture that is born from belonging to the Christian experience, which is capable of engendering a humanity with a totally open rationality, as the Pope continually gives us witness."

Advent Presence

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As we are at the midway point in the liturgical season of Advent (in the roman rite) it is helpful to remember what we doing and why we are doing it. Pope Benedict is helpful in recalling the essence of the season.


"Advent" does not mean "expectation," as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means "presence" or, more accurately, "arrival," i. e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the God being worshiped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.

Advent Taize.jpg "Advent," then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God's presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.


His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.


That night is "today" whenever the "Word" becomes "flesh" or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.


Pope Benedict XVI

2 angels.jpgRejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.


Gaudete Sunday is called such because of the first word in Latin of the antiphon that begins, Gaudete...Rejoice.... The full antiphon is noted above. It orients our prayer and Mass today! The presence of the Lord is acknowledged to be here, right now, in our midst. Catholics are a people full of joy today and everyday of our existence. The Presence of the Lord is always in our midst: in the Eucharist, sacred Scripture, in our hearts and in our community. Pope Benedict offers us a perspective on an aspect of this joy:


The root of man's joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the you, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the you, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I [the I is the whole self, one's entire body, soul and mind] and, for that reason, cannot accept a you. Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one's I leads to the inability to accept a you. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one's I?


The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone.

Advent tree.jpgOf ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become accept to another I. We can love ourselves only if we first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when takes the child's tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist... If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: "It is good that you exist" -must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.


For it is the way of love to will the other's existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the you; the way to the you leads through the I.


(Benedictus, 2006)

Saint John of the Cross

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Father, You endowed John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example, may we come to the eternal vision of Your glory.


St John of the Cross.jpg

THE best exposition on the spiritual life --that is, in my estimation there is no other work that captures the essence of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit with regard to the spiritual life-- is the book Christian Spirituality by Dominican Father Jordan Aumann (1916-2007). Regrettably, I think the book is out of print and old copies tend to be expensive but you may search for an online copy of it. If you get a copy, don't let it out of your sight! Nevertheless, Father Jordan's thoughts on Saint John of the Cross easily expose the greatness of today's saint.









Saint Lucy

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for St Lucy.jpg


A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day

by John Donne


'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,

Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;

         The sun is spent, and now his flasks

         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

                The world's whole sap is sunk;

The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,

Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,

Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,

Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.


Study me then, you who shall lovers be

At the next world, that is, at the next spring;

         For I am every dead thing,

         In whom Love wrought new alchemy.

                For his art did express

A quintessence even from nothingness,

From dull privations, and lean emptiness;

He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot

Of absence, darkness, death: things which are not.


All others, from all things, draw all that's good,

Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have;

         I, by Love's limbec, am the grave

         Of all that's nothing. Oft a flood

                Have we two wept, and so

Drown'd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow

To be two chaoses, when we did show

Care to aught else; and often absences

Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.


But I am by her death (which word wrongs her)

Of the first nothing the elixir grown;

         Were I a man, that I were one

         I needs must know; I should prefer,

                If I were any beast,

Some ends, some means; yea plants, yea stones detest,

And love; all, all some properties invest;

If I an ordinary nothing were,

As shadow, a light and body must be here.


But I am none; nor will my sun renew.

You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun

         At this time to the Goat is run

         To fetch new lust, and give it you,

                Enjoy your summer all;

Since she enjoys her long night's festival,

Let me prepare towards her, and let me call

This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this

Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight is.


John Donne. Poems of John Donne. Vol. I. E. K. Chambers, ed. London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 45-46.


  Avery Dulles.jpg


Dulles arms.jpg


Avery Robert Cardinal Dulles, S.J.


Requiescat in pace


Cardinal Deacon of the Church of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary on via Lata


In his own words, a small portion of Cardinal Dulles' legacy is found here.

An extensive archive of Dulles' thinking can be read at First Things, his journal of choice.

An appreciative essay by George Weigel.

The Fordham University tribute.

Fr. James Martin of America magazine has an essay about his friendship with the Cardinal.

The NY Times obit.

The Wiki article on the Cardinal.


Funeral plans:

In accordance with the traditions of the Church, the Cardinal's death will be marked by the celebration of three Masses:

Tuesday evening 16 December at 7:30 p.m. in the University Church
Wednesday evening
17 December at 7:30 p.m. in the University Church
Thursday afternoon
18 December at 2 p.m. at St. Patrick's Cathedral

The members of the University family are invited to join the Jesuit Community at each of these Masses.

In addition, the Cardinal's family will receive visitors in the University Church on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m.

The Church offers a teaching on bioethics in a document released today, Dignitas Personae (the dignity of a person), addressing how we ought to orient our thinking and acting viz. the dignity of the human person. That is, how do we think about and act when it comes to life issues like IVF, stem cell research, euthanasia, etc. In an era that has a tendency to cheapen the inherent value of the person, or in fact, does cheapen human life, this is a welcomed teaching to clarify how we follow Jesus Christ especially in matters of conscience formation, respect for human dignity and science. The Church names to fundamental principles:


·         "The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life" (n. 4).


·         "The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman.  Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born must be the fruit of marriage" (n. 6).


The documentation is found here


The Catholic Information Service a booklet dealing with the topic of Stem Cell Research will also help clarify questions on what is possible and what is a violation of Christian ethics.


Likewise, there is a booklet on the Church's teaching on In Vitro Fertilization .

OL Guadalupe2.jpgA great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.



God of power and mercy, You blessed the Americas at Tepeyac with the presence of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe. May her prayers help all men and women to accept each other as brothers and sisters. Through your justice present in our hearts may Your peace reign in the world.




Santa María, que bajo la advocación
de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
eres invocada como Madre
por los hombres y mujeres
del pueblo mexicano y de América Latina,
alentados por el amor que nos inspiras,
ponemos nuevamente
en tus manos maternales nuestras vidas.

Tú que estás presente
en estos jardines vaticanos,
 reina en el corazón
de todas la madres del mundo
y en nuestros corazones.
Con gran esperanza,
a ti acudimos y en ti confiamos.

Dios te Salve, María,
llena eres de gracia, el Señor está contigo.
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres
y bendito es el fruto
de tu vientre, Jesús.

Santa María, Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte. Amén.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Ruega por nosotros


(Benedictus P.P. XVI, 2005)


The Wisconsin Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a put testament of hope and love the Blessed Mother for us today.

Saint Damasus I

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St Damasus Ic.jpgThe Lord led the just in right paths. And the Lord showed him the Kingdom of God.


Eternal Shepherd, graciously guard Thy flock, and through blessed Damasus, Thy Supreme Pontiff, whom Thou did appoint pastor of the universal Church, keep it under Thy continual protection.


Answering the question: who is Jesus Christ, we would say...


Pope Damasus I (366-384) in a letter to the bishops of the East dated around 374, pointed out and at the same time rejected the errors of both Arius and of Apollinaris, "These (i.e., the Arians) posit in the Son of God an imperfect divinity, while the others (i.e., the Apollinarists) falsely affirm that the humanity of the Son of Man is incomplete. If the Son of God did not become fully man, then God's work is imperfect and our salvation is imperfect, because the whole man has not been saved! We, who know that we have been saved in the fullness of the human being, profess according to the faith of the Catholic Church that God in the fullness of his being has assumed human nature in its fullness."


This letter of Damasus, written fifty years after Nicaea, was directed principally against the Apollinarists (cf. DS 146). A few years later the First Council of Constantinople (381) condemned all the heresies of the time, including Arianism and Apollinarism. It thereby confirmed what Pope Damasus I had declared about Christ's humanity, which has by nature a real human soul (and therefore a real human intellect and free will) (cf. DS 146, 149, 151). (from the Conciliar Definitions of Christ, 9 March 1988)


Two biographical sketches of Pope Saint Damasus I here and here.


Fr M Louis.jpgToday is the 40th anniversary of the death of Father Mary Louis, a monk and priest of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (aka the Trappists). In history he was known as Thomas Merton.

When I was in high school (more than 20 years ago now) I discovered Thomas Merton but I don't remember who put his writings into my hands. I read his significant works; I marveled at him, with him, in him. Merton made it possible for me to understand God and being a Christian better. His writings gave voice to the interior life for which I am grateful. Now we are remembering him 40 years after his died. My how time flies.


O God, Thou did raise Thy servant, Father Mary Louis, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech as a son of Saint Benedict, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

An appreciative report on Merton was done by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

If you are interested in reading some recent essays on Thomas Merton, order Cistercian Studies Quarterly 43.4

Monte Cassino.jpgOn May 24, 2009, Ascension Sunday, the Holy Father will go to Monte Cassino. He'll visit the diocese, the archabbey and the Polish Cemetery. This pastoral visit recalls the anniversary of the bombardment of the abbey and city during the Second World War. The Pope will first celebrate Mass at the foot of the mountain and later in the day visit the monastery to celebrate Vespers. He's requested Abbot Pietro Vittorelli to call together the world's abbesses and abbots to pray with him at the tomb of Saint Benedict for the world. This is a particular moment of unity for the Benedictine order.


The Holy Father will make other pastoral engagements while in Cassino. He was last in Cassino in November 2004 and Pope John Paul II was at Monte Cassino 29 years ago.

by Manuela Borraccino

Rome - December 9, 2008


Christians in the Holy Land face innumerable hardships, but one organization committed to helping ease their suffering - and those of other religions who are struggling - is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a pontifical agency for humanitarian and pastoral support. The organization's Secretary General, Msgr. Robert L. Stern, spoke with recently about the challenges facing Christians there, the Pope's planned visit to the Holy Land next year, the possible impact of a new American President, and the importance of international aid to the region.


Monsignor Stern, what are the main problems from your perspective?

Christians in the Middle East are in a sense strangers in a strange land, even though they have been born there, because if they live in Israel, they live in a Jewish state and society. In all the other countries, they live in a Muslim state and in Muslim society. So even though they are descendants of the original inhabitants of the land, still they are made to feel that they don't "fit" anymore. Sometimes, the way they live and talk encourages this because Christians identify with the West. The paradox is that sometimes in the Holy Land they say: you Christians don't belong here, you belong to Western Europe. And yet, this is where Christianity started.


So they are second class citizens?

In Islam, Christians and Jews are considered people of the Book, and therefore they are respected as forerunners of Islam but not fully conforming to the Will of God. And so they are second class citizens, but they have a unique status. In Israel of course, in a Jewish state, if you are not a Jew, even though it's a democratic society, you are in fact a second class citizen as well. So it's the very nature of being a Christian in that part of the world. And in that part of the world your religious identity comes first; in the West it's more your national identity that comes first.


In which countries is there discrimination against Christians?

If you don't identify entirely with all their values, then, depending on the countries, it varies. Let's take Egypt for example: to really succeed in many roles, in politics and business, your chances are better if you are Muslim. It doesn't mean that to succeed is impossible, but it's human nature...There's a kind of discrimination which is the way people act when they deal with someone who is not quite a member of their own group.   


0223114808.jpgWhat is the future for Christians in the Middle East?

Well, if you look at it very dispassionately, from a sort of sociological point of view (sociologists look at trends and the statistics of 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, 100 years ago), what seems to be happening is the exodus of Christians from all over the Middle East. Right now, Israel-Palestine has the smallest proportion of Christians than in any country of the Middle East...What we are really seeing over the centuries is an accelerating movement of Christians away from that part of the world.


What role can Christians play in those societies?


Christians as minorities are, generally speaking, well-educated professionals and compared to their numbers they have an important influence in each of the countries in which they live. And that's a contribution. I also feel that the Christians can be a sort of bridge because in most of the countries they are Arabs, but they are not Muslims. They can be a connection between the modern societies of the Western world and emerging societies in the Islamic world because they are Arabs and they are Christians.


What are your expectations for Barack Obama's presidency?

I guess my hope, especially as an American citizen, is that the new president will bring certain perspectives. If you grow up as a child of an American mother and an African father, if you grow up as a child of a Christian mother and a Muslim father, if you are born in Hawaii and you go to school in Indonesia, then you understand differences better - at least during his campaign he seemed to speak of that. So I hope that he would bring a type of perspective.


Next year the Pope will visit to Israel. Do you have any thoughts on that?

It'll be a great shot in the arm for them. It's exciting because when the Pope comes, the whole world follows him. I was there when Pope John Paul II came and, at that moment, everybody in the Holy Land - Muslim, Jew, Christian - everybody spent the whole day watching this white little man in a white robe praying and talking and offering Masses, visiting people. It was a moment of peace in the midst of the storm. In that period, and for a short while after, everybody seemed to be calm, and then, of course, the Second Intifada exploded and tensions renovated.  I hope that Pope Benedict will be the same. He's "Pontifex", the bridge-builder. I hope he's very "pontifical" when he's there. I hope that his presence, his words and his prayers will bridge these terrible gaps between groups, religions and politics.


What are your views on international aid to Christians in the Holy Land?

We have to be concerned about the people who live there, our brothers and sisters, and all the people who live there, not only Christians. Sometimes we say: charity begins at home. At least, we have to be concerned about our fellow believers and with them and through them be concerned about them. Yes, they need a lot of help. They need to know that somebody cares. That's the most important thing of all. They don't quite "fit" in their own societies, and they don't seem to have much consolation from their brothers and sisters elsewhere.



William Placher, RIP

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WPlacher.jpgOn 30 November 2008, Theologian William C. Placher died. He was the LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Wabash College and a prolific writer. I never met Dr. Placher but reading his works I felt I knew him; Placher was a constant companion for countless scholars in theology.


May his memory be eternal.


Some postings on Dr Placher:


Placher remembered


A legend lost


William Placher 1948-2008

Today in Rome, the Holy Father appointed Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Antonio Cañizares Llovera.jpg63, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He replaces Cardinal Francis Arinze.


Cardinal Cañizares Llovera was born in Valencia, ordained a priest in 1970 and has served as bishop in Avila, Granada and Toledo. As Archbishop of Toledo he was Primate of Spain, a diocese in that country that goes back to the 4th century. In 2006 Pope Benedict created him a cardinal and assigned him the Church of San Pancrazio.


The cardinal holds an earned doctorate in theology, specializing in catechesis from the Pontifical University of Salamanca. He's spent time in the classroom, in administration and was an editor and author. For 7 years Cañizares Llovera was the head of the Spanish bishops' office of doctrine. He serves the Holy See as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.


Saint Juan Diego

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St Juan Diego.jpgLord God, through Saint Juan Diego you made known the love of Our Lady of Guadalupe toward your people. Grant by his intercession that we who follow the counsel of Mary, our Mother, may strive continually to do your will.



The information about him that has reached [the Church] praises his Christian virtues: his simple faith, nourished by catechesis and open to the mysteries; his hope and trust in God and in the Virgin; his love, his moral coherence, his unselfishness and evangelical poverty.  Living the life of a hermit here near Tepeyac, he was a model of humility. The Virgin chose him from among the most humble as the one to receive that loving and gracious manifestation of hers which is the Guadalupe apparition. Her maternal face and her Saint image which she left us as a priceless gift is a permanent remembrance of this. In this manner she wanted to remain among you as a sign of the communion and unity of all those who were to live together in this land. (Pope John Paul II, Beatification homily 6 May 1990)

All honor to you, Mary! From you arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.

(Communion Antiphon)

Immaculate Conception Murillo.jpgToday is the patronal feast of the Abbey of Saint Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The abbey honors the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, a solemn feast of the Church begun by Blessed Pope Pius IX on this date in 1854. In 1857, this Benedictine abbey was founded, first in Newark, which moved to Morristown, New Jersey.

This Marian feast acknowledges a dogma believed by Western Christians that states Mary was born without Original Sin. That is, she was free from sin in order to collaborate with God in the work of our redemption by giving birth to Jesus.

A later feast of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes (February 11) remembers the Virgin appearing to Saint Bernadette Soubirous 18 times between February 11 and July 16, 1858. On March 25th of that year Mary identified herself as "I am the Immaculate Conception." Today, also marks the end of the anniversary year of this dogma, 150 years!

The Church in many places in the West has observed this feast since the 8th century; likewise there are Churches in the East that have honored Mary under this title, or one similar.

The Abbey's celebration was connected with Delbarton School. Father Abbot Giles with the members of the monastic community celebrated the Sacrifice of the Mass at 10 am. The full student body was present. Father Abbot spoke about the need to be men of prayer and of the importance of having a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the monks of old did, and the monks of today, do. He noted that you can see the monks walking the property praying the rosary or sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament doing so.

O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us you have recourse to you. 

Immaculate Conception Cano.jpgBlessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night - everything that is subject to the power or use of man - rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendor by men who believe in God.

The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary's womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God's Son, nothing could exist; without Mary's Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to himself. (A sermon by Saint Anselm)


O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin did make her a worthy habitation for Thy Son and did by His foreseen death preserve her from all stain of sin, grant we beseech Thee, that through her intercession we may be cleansed from sin and come with pure hearts to Thee.

Saint Ambrose

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St Ambrose writing.jpgO God, Who did give Thy people blessed Ambrose as a minister of eternal salvation, we beseech Thee; grant that we may deserve to have him as an intercessor in heaven, whom we had as a teacher of life on earth.


Pope Benedict reminds us that "Bishop Ambrose - who never tired of saying: 'Omnia Christus est nobis! To us Christ is all!' - continues to be a genuine witness of the Lord.' Read the Pope's brilliant address on Ambrose.





 Say a prayer for the Archdiocese of Milan, converts, theologians, bee keepers, domestic animals and learning.

Saint Nicholas

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The Lord led the just in the right path; and showed him the kingdom of God. 

O God, Who did adorn the holy Bishop Nicholas with innumerable miracles; grant, we beseech Thee, that by his merits and prayers we may be delivered from the flames of hell.



Saint Nicholas is now known as Santa Claus the hagiography tells us that he was a man of great compassion for the weak and poor. He attended to his calling to proclaim the Gospel, teach the faith and to act justly to those in need.


Also on this feast I recall hearing that pious legend of Saint Nicholas that was feeling rather angered by Arius at the Council of Nicea that he got up and kicked Arius' butt, or perhaps he just slapped Arius and hard. I am trying to imagine the scene...Santa Claus had a backbone or was really a thug: theologian meets heretic. And I am trying to think how annoying Arius was to the Council Fathers and to Nicholas and if there is a Vatican II analog.


Saint Nicholas' relics are in Bari, Italy and he is honored by both the Eastern and Western Churches.

Saint Saba, abbot

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St Saba.jpg

The just man will flourish like the palm tree. Planted in the courts of God's house, he will grow great like the cedars of Lebanon. (Psalm 91:13-14).

Lord our God, in your providence you raised up blessed Saba to foster the monastic life and to defend and uphold the truth of the faith. May we always live that truth in love and serve only you until we attain everlasting joy and glory.



A hagiographical note:


There are several "Saint Saba (Sava)," among the liturgical calendars. This man, Saint Saba the abbot (439-532) whom we honor today, is a Cappadocian monk and priest.

Saint Saba is of particular importance for several reasons, three that are key for us: 1.) his attention to Christian maturity; 2.) his attention to correct teaching about Jesus; and 3.) his composing of a monastic rule, known as the "Jerusalem Typikon" for liturgical rites used in the Palestinian Churches (used till the 19th century).

Saint Saba is revered by monks of the East and West because he was an example of anchorite living, that is monks living in hermitages and coming together periodically for communal activities. Saba is the founder of monasteries. In a manner of speaking, Saba was influential in other monastic rules that are in exist today.

He is invoked for rain, healings and relief of temptations by Satan.

Patriarch Alexy II dies at 79

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Aleksy IIa.jpg


The biography of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II.

May his memory be eternal.


To the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church:

I was profoundly saddened to receive news of the death of His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and of All the Russias, and with fraternal affection I wish to convey to the Holy Synod and to all the Members of the Russian Orthodox Church my most sincere condolences, assuring you of my spiritual closeness at this very sad time. In my prayer I beseech the Lord to welcome into his Kingdom of eternal peace and joy this tireless servant, and to grant consolation and comfort to all those who mourn his passing. Mindful of the common commitment to the path of mutual understanding and cooperation between Orthodox and Catholics, I am pleased to recall the efforts of the late Patriarch for the rebirth of the Church, after the severe ideological oppression which led to the martyrdom of so many witnesses to the Christian faith. I also recall his courageous battle for the defence of human and Gospel values, especially in the European Continent, and I trust that his commitment will bear fruit in peace and genuine progress, human, social and spiritual. At this sad time of loss, as his mortal remains are consigned to the earth in the sure hope of resurrection, may the memory of this servant of the Gospel of Christ be a support for those who are now in sorrow and an encouragement for those who will benefit from his spiritual legacy as leader of the venerable Russian Orthodox Church.


With fraternal affection in the Risen Lord,



We have learned with profound sadness of the death of His Holiness Alexis II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Patriarch Alexis was called to guide the Russian Orthodox Church in a period of great change, and his leadership has enabled that Church to face the challenges of transition from the Soviet era to the present with renewed interior vitality. He was instrumental in fostering the enormous growth of dioceses, parishes, monasteries and educational institutions which have given new life to a Church sorely tested for so long.


I recall my many meetings with His Holiness, who always made a point of expressing his goodwill towards the Holy Father and his desire to strengthen collaboration with the Catholic Church. His personal commitment to improving relations with the Catholic Church, in spite of the difficulties and tensions which from time to time have emerged, has never been in doubt.


We join the hierarchy and faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church in commending Patriarch Alexis to our heavenly Father's eternal love, that he may be rewarded for his long and dedicated ministry to the Church he loved.


Walter Cardinal Kasper


Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity

Dormition Abbey3.jpgJERUSALEM (CNS) -- Perched atop Jerusalem's Mount Zion, just outside the walls of the Old City, the Benedictine Dormition Abbey has long been a place of informal encounters among all residents of the city. Through its concert series held monthly in the basilica, the Benedictine monks have brought adherents of various traditions and many tourists to their monastery to be inspired by the beauty of the music and the monastery. They also quietly have hosted other ecumenical meetings, peace dialogues and interreligious gatherings over the years. But following the outbreak of the second intifada, the monks sensed an urgent need for a more formalized format for peace encounters as a response to the suffering in the Holy Land, said Benedictine Father Johannes Oravecz, a monk at the abbey and director of the new Beit Benedict Peace Academy. But with the increasing level of violence and the ever-growing impasse in Palestinian-Israeli dialogue, the monks felt an urgent need to do more. Thus, in 2003 at the height of the intifada when they presented their annual peace award to two young peacemakers -- one Israeli and one Palestinian -- the monks realized that they were in a unique position to create a peace academy where both Israelis and Palestinians felt safe and comfortable to meet.


Pope Benedict XVI spoke to members of the Pontifical seminary communities of Las Marcas, Puglia and Abruzzo-Molise, while attending the centenary celebrations of their foundation on Saturday, 29 November 2008. While this is an address to bishops, priests and seminarians, it is worthy of us to reflect on and to seriously follow what is said by the Pope. The relevant excerpts follow with my emphasis given in the text:



Pope.jpgI would now like to address you in particular, dear seminarians, who are preparing to be laborers in the Lord's vineyard. As the recent assembly of the Synod of Bishops also recalled, among the priority tasks of the priest is that of spreading with full hands the Word of God in the world, which, like the seed in the Gospel parable, seems too small a reality, but once it has germinated, it becomes a great bush and bears abundant fruit (cf. Matthew 13:31-32). The Word of God that you will be called upon to spread with full hands and which brings with it eternal life, is Christ himself, the only one who can change the human heart and renew the world. However, we might ask ourselves: Does modern man still feel a need for Christ and his message of salvation?


In the present social context, a certain culture seems to show us the face of a self-sufficient humanity, anxious to carry out its projects on its own, which chooses to be the sole architect of its destiny and which, consequently, believes that the presence of God does not count and so excludes it from its choices and decisions.

In a climate marked by a rationalism shut-in on itself, which considers the practical sciences as the only model of knowledge while the rest is subjective, non-essential and determinant for life. For these and other reasons, today, without a doubt, it is increasingly more difficult to believe, more difficult to accept the truth that is Christ, more difficult to spend one's life for the cause of the Gospel. However, as we see every day in the news, modern man often seems to be disoriented and worried about his future, seeking certainties and sure points of reference. As in all ages, man of the third millennium needs God and seeks him perhaps without realizing it. The duty of Christians, especially of priests, is to respond to this profound yearning of the human heart and to offer all, with the means and ways that best respond to the demands of the times, the immutable and always living Word of eternal life that is Christ, Hope of the world.


In face of this important mission, which you will be called to carry out in the Church, the years spent in the seminary take on great value, a time allocated to formation and discernment; years in which, in the first place, must be the constant search for a personal relationship with Jesus, a profound experience of his love, which is acquired above all through prayer and contact with the Sacred Scriptures, interpreted and meditated in the faith of the ecclesial community.

St Paul Giotto.jpgIn this Pauline Year, why not propose the Apostle Paul to yourselves as model in which to be inspired for your preparation to the apostolic ministry? The extraordinary experience on the road to Damascus transformed him, from persecutor of Christians to witness of the resurrection of the Lord, willing to give his life for the Gospel. He was a faithful observer of all the prescriptions of the Torah and of the Hebrew traditions; however, after having found Jesus "whatever gain I had -- he writes in the Letter to the Philippians -- I counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (cf. 3:7-9). Conversion did not eliminate all that was good and true in his life, but enabled him to interpret in a new way the wisdom and truth of the Law and the prophets and thus be able to dialogue with all, following the example of the Divine Teacher.


In imitation of St. Paul, dear seminarians, do not tire of encountering Christ in listening to, reading and studying sacred Scripture, in prayer and personal meditation, in the liturgy and in every daily activity. In this connection, dear ones responsible for formation, your role is very important, as you are called to be witnesses for your students even before being teachers of evangelical life. Because of their typical characteristics, the Regional Seminaries can be privileged places to form seminarians in diocesan spirituality, inscribing this formation in the largest ecclesial and regional context with wisdom and balance. Your institutions should also be vocational "houses" of welcome to give greater impetus to vocational pastoral care, taking care especially of the world of youth and educating young people in the great evangelical and missionary ideals.

Saint John of Damascus

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Like a tree planted by streams of water,' Ps. 1:3 the soul is irrigated by the Bible and St John of Damascus.jpgacquires vigor, produces tasty fruit, namely, true faith, and is beautified with a thousand green leaves, namely, actions that please God. (The Damascene)


Almighty and eternal God, Who did imbue blessed John with heavenly doctrine and wonderful fortitude of heart for defending the veneration of sacred images; grant that through his intercession and example we may imitate the virtues, and experience the protection of those whose we venerate.


Saint John Damascene was an 8th century Syrian monk, a polymath, hymn writer, author and Doctor of the Assumption. He's known to be the last of the Greek Fathers.

Given that today's feast is of a saint who brought thousands to Christ, I thought reprinting a recent article about a rather high profile baptism this past year. It is no small thing that a Muslim accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and lives to tell about it. Magdi Allam's story is unique.


Converted Muslim Tells Story Behind Papal Baptism


By Luca Marcolivio

December 1, 2008

The high-profile baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam at the Easter Vigil ceremony presided over last year by Benedict XVI has a story behind it. According to Allam himself, his conversion journey was possible because of great Christian witnesses.

One of the directors of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, he spoke about his conversion and the experiences that led to it when he met with university students of Rome last week to tell the story of his path to Catholicism.

Starting from the Easter Vigil of 2008 -- which Allam called the "most beautiful day of my life" -- when he received baptism from Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica, the Italian-Egyptian journalist spoke of his life journey and the reflections that brought him to embrace "a new life in Christ and a new spiritual itinerary."

Allam.jpg"This journey," he recalled, "began apparently by chance, [but] in truth was providential. Since age four, I had the chance to attend Italian Catholic schools in Egypt. I was first a student of the Comboni religious missionaries, and later, starting with fifth grade, of the Salesians.

"I thus received an education that transmitted to me healthy values and I appreciated the beauty, truth, goodness and rationality of the Christian faith," in which "the person is not a means, but a starting point and an arriving point."

"Thanks to Christianity," he said, "I understood that truth is the other side of liberty: They are an indissoluble binomial. The phrase, 'The truth will make you free' is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished."

The journalist continued: "My conversion was possible thanks to the presence of great witnesses of faith, first of all, His Holiness Benedict XVI. One who is not convinced of his own faith -- often it's because he has not found in it believable witnesses of this great gift.

"The second indissoluble binomial in Christianity is without a doubt that of faith and reason. This second element is capable of giving substance to our humanity, the sacredness of life, respect for human dignity and the freedom of religious choice."

The journalist affirmed that the Holy Father's 2006 speech in Regensburg -- which caused uproar within the Muslim community -- was for him a reason to reflect.

Allam said: "An event, before my conversion, made me think more than other events: the Pope's discourse in Regensburg. On that occasion, citing the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he affirmed something that the Muslims themselves have never denied: that Islam spreads the faith above all with the sword."

He added: "There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of 'cut-throats.' It is the terrorism of the 'cut-tongues,' that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane: We think of the Shariah applied even in England.

Allam2.jpg"The one called 'a great one,' that is, to always give to the other what he wants, is exactly the opposite of the common good, perfectly indicated by Jesus: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' That evangelical precept confirms for us that we cannot want good for the rest if we do not first love ourselves. The same is true for our civilization.

"Contrary to that principle is indifference and multiculturalism that, without any identity, pretends to give all kinds of rights to everyone. A result of multiculturalism was the imposition of social solidity and the development of ghettos and ethnic groups in perpetual conflict with indigenous populations."

The journalist recounted: "This led me to consider the third great binomial of Christian civilization: that regarding rules and values, a key for a possible ethical rescue of modern Europe. The old world, nevertheless, is a colossus of materiality with feet of clay. Materialism is a globalized phenomenon, unlike faith, which is not."

Responding to a question about a possible compatibility between faith and reason in Islam, Allam contended that "unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man," Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, "being one with God, is not interpretable."

"The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values. In the past, I tried to make myself the spokesman of an Islam moderate in itself."

Regarding interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, Allam said that it is possible only "if we are authentically Christian in love, including toward Muslims. If we make dialogue relative, we will instigate our questioners to see us as infidels, and therefore as land to be conquered."

The journalist emphasized for the students the importance of an education that goes back to transmitting "an ethical conception of life, with values and rules at the center of everything." A negation of such principles, he contended, "is wild capitalism, which, paradoxically, has its maximum development in communist China."

"We cannot conceive of the person in 'business' terms," he concluded, "and we have to find rules of co-existence that are not founded on materialism. We should redefine our society based on being and not on having."

The Catholic News Agency reports that the founder of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci, reverted to the Catholic faith before his 1937 death. Why is this important?

Gramsci's version of communism in Italy was a bit more sophisticated than that of other countries. One central difference is that while communism wanted to kill off the Catholic Church Gramsci's method was to do so from within by persuading Catholic families to renounce their faith and to get the clergy to slowly reject matters of belief and practice which would impact life in the Church and in culture. His was a brand of "cultural hegemony," meaning that one can reduce faith, reason and culture to ideology. The reduction of faith, reason and culture is also a reduction of personhood, in virtue and values, a reduction of human dignity, work and beauty which eventually lead to nihilism. A person can't thrive in a system where life is built on false premises and therefore, life is lived without meaning and seriousness.

The story is here.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, pray for us!

Saint Francis Xavier

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St Francis Xavier the burning passion.jpgO God, who was pleased to gather unto your Church the people of the East by the preaching and miracles of blessed Francis, mercifully grant that we who honor his glorious merits, may also imitate the example of his virtues, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Jesuit Father John Hardon's essay "The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier."

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer

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A new liturgical season calls for a new Marian antiphon. So with Advent beginning at First Vespers last Saturday until the Purification of Mary (February 2nd), the monks are singing Alma Redemptoris Mater as the Marian hymn following the Office of Vigils. This hymn dates at least to the 11th century and is said to have been composed by Herman the Cripple. The popularity of Alma Redemptoris Mater is demonstrated by the fact that it is found in the "The Prioress' Tale" in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.


BVM with child Gozzoli.jpg


Alma Redemptoris Mater, quae pervia caeli
Porta manes, et stella maris, succurre cadenti,
Surgere qui curat, populo: tu quae genuisti,
Natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem
Virgo prius ac posterius, Gabrielis ab ore
Sumens illud Ave, peccatorum miserere.

Kindly Mother of the Redeemer, who art ever of heaven
The open gate, and the star of the sea, aid a fallen people,
Which is trying to rise again; thou who didst give birth,
While Nature marveled how, to thy Holy Creator,
Virgin both before and after, from Gabriel's mouth
Accepting the All hail, be merciful towards sinners.

(translated by Cardinal John Henry Newman)

In a recent talk to the students, staff and faculty of Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, the newly Metropoliotan Jonah2.jpgelected Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church in America, Jonah, said:


"All leaders of the Church, who take up the yoke of Christ must have a clear vision of theological education, which consists in four things: first, we must present the gospel of Jesus Christ; second, we have a mission to evangelize all people, regardless of color, ethnicity, or socio-economic status; third, we must bring integrity to the gospel message; and fourth, we must take up the task of bearing the presence of Jesus Christ to those around us."


Apparently, he is big on the need to imitate the sacrificial path of Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary. "To become the living presence of God, the living temple of God, requires us to crush our ego and shatter our will," he said, "so that we might conceive God within us and become his presence in this world."


"Seminarians," he asserted, "do not come to theological schools to become 'professionals' and to be 'respected,' but rather to be crucified and thereby shine forth the light of Christ." His Beatitude reminded the seminarians that his own title of "episkopos" means not "master of the house," but "slave of slaves."


This guy has a backbone. Watch out. I predict we're going to hear more good things from His Beatitude. Are YOU on board with this view of Church, formation, and service?

The blood of the holy martyrs was poured out upon the earth for Christ; therefore

Thumbnail image for St Edmund Campion3.jpgthey have won rewards everlasting.


Saint Edmund Campion, martyr for the Roman Primacy, obtain for us, but especially for the Church's bishops and priests, such obedient loyalty to the Vicar of Christ that like you, they will not be afraid to proclaim the truth and like you, they will be willing to shed their blood for Jesus Christ.


Some info on Campion can be read here and here.







Saint Edmund Campion (1540-1581) wrote the "Challenge to the Privy Council" but is commonly called today "Campion's brag." Some scholars say the Challenge is likely to be the earliest defense of the Catholic faith to appear in English at the time of the Reformation. No doubt Saint Edmund Campion takes 1 Peter seriously: give a reasoned defense for what you're believing. The duty and responsibility of Campion to act as a priest and a vowed Jesuit concerned for the spiritual welfare of the English is clear; reading the Brag you quickly know that he is not ashamed of the Gospel and desires to bring his listeners to the Truth. His style of speaking and acting is direct but courteous offered in friendship.


My favorite line is the last of section 8: "The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored."


To the Right Honourable, the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council:


Whereas I have come out of Germany and Bohemia, being sent by my superiors, and adventured myself into this noble realm, my dear country, for the glory of God and benefit of souls, I thought it like enough that, in this busy, watchful, and suspicious world, I should either sooner or later be intercepted and stopped of my course.


Wherefore, providing for all events, and uncertain what may become of me, when God shall haply deliver my body into durance, I supposed it needful to put this in writing in a readiness, desiring your good lordships to give it your reading, for to know my cause. This doing, I trust I shall ease you of some labour. For that which otherwise you must have sought for by practice of wit, I do now lay into your hands by plain confession. And to the intent that the whole matter may be conceived in order, and so the better both understood and remembered, I make thereof these nine points or articles, directly, truly and resolutely opening my full enterprise and purpose.


1. I confess that I am (albeit unworthy) a priest of the Catholic Church, and through the

St Ignatius & Paul III.jpggreat mercy of God vowed now these eight years into the religion [religious order] of the Society of Jesus. Hereby I have taken upon me a special kind of warfare under the banner of obedience, and also resigned all my interest or possibility of wealth, honour, pleasure, and other worldly felicity.


2. At the voice of our General, which is to me a warrant from heaven and oracle of Christ, I took my voyage from Prague to Rome (where our General Father is always resident) and from Rome to England, as I might and would have done joyously into any part of Christendom or Heatheness, had I been thereto assigned.


3. My charge is, of free cost to preach the Gospel, to minister the Sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors--in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many of my dear countrymen are abused.


4. I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of state or policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.


5. I do ask, to the glory of God, with all humility, and under your correction, three sorts of indifferent and quiet audiences: the first, before your Honours, wherein I will discourse of religion, so far as it toucheth the common weal and your nobilities: the second, whereof I make more account, before the Doctors and Masters and chosen men of both universities, wherein I undertake to avow the faith of our Catholic Church by proofs innumerable--Scriptures, councils, Fathers, history, natural and moral reasons: the third, before the lawyers, spiritual and temporal, wherein I will justify the said faith by the common wisdom of the laws standing yet in force and practice.


6. I would be loath to speak anything that might sound of any insolent brag or challenge, especially being now as a dead man to this world and willing to put my head under every man's foot, and to kiss the ground they tread upon. Yet I have such courage in avouching the majesty of Jesus my King, and such affiance in his gracious favour, and such assurance in my quarrel, and my evidence so impregnable, and because I know perfectly that no one Protestant, nor all the Protestants living, nor any sect of our adversaries (howsoever they face men down in pulpits, and overrule us in their kingdom of grammarians and unlearned ears) can maintain their doctrine in disputation. I am to sue most humbly and instantly for combat with all and every of them, and the most principal that may be found: protesting that in this trial the better furnished they come, the better welcome they shall be.


7. And because it hath pleased God to enrich the Queen my Sovereign Lady with notable gifts of nature, learning, and princely education, I do verily trust that if her Highness would vouchsafe her royal person and good attention to such a conference as, in the second part of my fifth article I have motioned, or to a few sermons, which in her or your hearing I am to utter such manifest and fair light by good method and plain dealing may be cast upon these controversies, that possibly her zeal of truth and love of her people shall incline her noble Grace to disfavour some proceedings hurtful to the realm, and procure towards us oppressed more equity.


8. Moreover I doubt not but you, her Highness' Council, being of such wisdom and discreet in cases most important, when you shall have heard these questions of religion opened faithfully, which many times by our adversaries are huddled up and confounded,

Thumbnail image for IHS.jpgwill see upon what substantial grounds our Catholic Faith is builded, how feeble that side is which by sway of the time prevaileth against us, and so at last for your own souls, and for many thousand souls that depend upon your government, will discountenance error when it is bewrayed [revealed], and hearken to those who would spend the best blood in their bodies for your salvation. Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posterity shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league--all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England--cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.


9. If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour. I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almighty God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us his grace, and see us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.



How do we begin to prayer? We start by saying "O God come to my assistance. O Lord, Pope Benedict at Advent Vespers 2008.jpgmake haste to help me.


What is the goal of our life of prayer? Saint Augustine says: "Desire without ceasing the happy life, which is none other but eternal life."


The General Intention
That, faced by the growing expansion of the culture of violence and death, the Church may courageously promote the culture of life through all her apostolic and missionary activities.

The Missionary Intention
That, especially in mission countries, Christians may show by gestures of brotherliness that the Child born in the grotto in Bethlehem is the luminous Hope of the world.


About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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