Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year: The Gift of Time

St. Sylvester I, pope

Today is the seventh day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Sylvester I, pope and confessor.

St. Sylvester, a native Roman, was chosen by God to govern His holy Church during the first years of Her temporal prosperity and triumph over Her persecuting enemies. Pope Melchiades died in January, 314. St. Sylvester was chosen as his successor. He governed the Church for more than twenty-one years, ably organizing the discipline of the Roman Church, and taking part in the negotiations concerning Arianism and the Council of Nicaea. He also sent Legates to the first Ecumenical Council.

During his Pontificate were built the great churches founded at Rome by Constantine — the Basilica and baptistery of the Lateran, the Basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. No doubt St. Sylvester helped towards the construction of these churches. He was a friend of Emperor Constantine, confirmed the first General Council of Nicaea (325), and gave the Church a new discipline for the new era of peace. He might be called the first "peace Pope" after centuries of bloody persecution. He also established the Roman school of singing. On the Via Salaria he built a cemeterial church over the Catacomb of St. Priscilla, and it was in this church that he was buried when he died on December 31, 335.

Numerous legends dramatize his life and work, e.g., how he freed Constantine from leprosy by baptism; how he killed a ferocious dragon that was contaminating the air with his poisonous breath. Such legends were meant to portray the effects of baptism and Christianity's triumph over idolatry. For a long time the feast of St. Sylvester was a holy day of obligation. The Divine Office notes: He called the weekdays feria, because for the Christian every day is a "free day" (the term is still in use; thus Monday is feria secunda.).

~Compiled from Heavenly Friends, Rosalie Marie Levy and The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Image Source

Friday, December 30, 2011

Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. I have a special fondness for this feast day as it has been my ongoing prayer that my family will imitate the Holy Family in holiness, which brings peace to my heart as I envision that happening.

The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.

On this special feast day of the Holy Family let us pray that we may emulate their holiness in our own family. Say a prayer dedicating your family to the Holy Family. Pray also for all families and for our country to uphold the sanctity of the marriage bond, which is under attack.

Prayer for the Feast of the Holy Family

Dear Lord, bless our family. Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace, and mutual love that You found in Your own family in the little town of Nazareth.

Saint Joseph, bless the head of our family. Obtain for him the strength, the wisdom, and the prudence he needs to support and direct those under his care.

Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family. Help her to be pure and kind, gentle and self-sacrificing. For the more she resembles you, the better will our family be.

Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family. Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents. Make them more and more like You. Let them grow, as You did, in wisdom and age and grace before God and man. Holy Family of Nazareth, make our family and home more and more like Yours, until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with You. Amen.

For additional prayers to the Holy Family, go here.

Read more about Pope Leo XIII who instituted the Feast of the Holy Family and read his encyclical On Christian Marriage. You can also check out the Vatican's page of Papal documents on the Family.

Best Papal Images of 2001

December 29, 2011. ( 2011 was a busy year for Benedict XVI. From local trips in Italy to international trips to Spain, Germany and Benin, the pope kept a full schedule throughout the year. Some of the highlights include the Beatification ceremony of John Paul II and the inter-religious meeting in Assisi. The 84 year old pope also embraced social media by using twitter for the first time.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

St. Thomas Becket

Today is the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket, also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, a 12th century archbishop from England martyred as a result of his strong loyalty to the Church of Rome in opposition to the monarchy of King Henry II.

St. Thomas Becket was born in London, England in 1118. His father was a Norman knight, Gilbert, who had become a prosperous merchant in London; his mother was also Norman, and he had at least two sisters.

Thomas was noted for his piety, his strong devotion to Our Lady, and his generosity to the poor.

He was educated at the Merton Priory in Sussex and at the University of Paris. When he returned to England at twenty-one, he obtained an appointment as a clerk to the sheriff’s court, where he showed great ability. He was determined to make it on his own in the world now that his parents were both deceased.

After three years, he was taken into the household of Theobald, the Norman monk-archbishop of Canterbury. The young Thomas gradually climbed up the ecclesiastical ladder of success via his charm, his generosity and his adaptability. He was ambitious, and refused no opportunity for advancement. He enjoyed having a "good time", but at all times his life was marked by purity and holiness. The archbishop assigned him the post of archdeacon, and, at the age of thirty-six, he was recommended by Theobald to the young King Henry as chancellor.

As his chancellor, Thomas had a personal fondness for Henry and devoted all his efforts to serve and please the young king. Thomas was very well paid for his work and spent his earnings lavishly on entertainment, luxurious clothing, extravagant meals, and on hunting. He never failed to work hard and act prudently on behalf of the king's interests. There is evidence that during this time he was dissatisfied with himself and his "worldly life".

In 1163, Theobald died, and the king secured the election of his friend, Thomas, as archbishop, confident that he would serve all his interests and meet all his demands. Thomas was reluctant to accept the office, and warned Henry that he might regret his decision. Eventually, he did agree to accept the office and when he did, something unusual happened. Thomas suddenly became an austere and very spiritual man, devoting himself wholly to the interests of the Church. He made it clear that he was now the faithful servant of the Holy Father.

A short time later, the inevitable clash with the king occurred. Henry reasserted all the rights of the monarchy, which had been claimed and exercised fifty years earlier. Since that time, however, the papacy had established the claim of the church to control matters such as the trial of clerics and the excommunication of offenders, and had asserted its right to hear appeals and decide all cases.

The archbishop and his king were in constant conflict, and affairs reached a crisis when the king demanded that Thomas agree to the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164. This document stated that all the customs of the past were now contrary to both the law of the Church and the practice of the papacy. Thomas hesitated, and for a moment gave way, thus breaking the solidarity of the bishops in their resistance. Then, at a council at Northampton in 1164 he reasserted his opposition and in face of threats of death or imprisonment, he escaped at night and crossed to France to seek the pope.

As archbishop, Thomas was in exile in France for the next six years, while he and the king and Pope Alexander III attempted to settle the controversy and restore peace to the church in England. Meanwhile Thomas, at the abbey of Pontigny and elsewhere, devoted himself to prayer and penance in what may be called a 'second conversion' from piety to sanctity.

When an uneasy peace was established in 1169, Thomas returned in triumph to Canterbury. Almost immediately, the King enraged by the archbishop's refusal to withdraw some censures, let words slip out that were taken to be a command to kill the archbishop as a traitor.

On December 29th, 1170, four knights from the court of King Henry II burst into Canterbury Cathedral as the Archbishop was on his way to Vespers. Just inside the cloister door, they murdered Thomas Becket, whose defense of the rights of the Church had angered the King. His last words were: 'I accept death for the name of Jesus and for the Church.'

The murder shocked the conscience of all Europe; miracles were announced immediately; the archbishop was canonized as a martyr by Alexander III in 1173; the king did public penance at his tomb, and much of what St Thomas had worked for all his life was accomplished by his death. Within three years, Thomas was canonized, and the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury has become one of the most popular destinations for pilgrims from all over the world.

Patron: Clergy; secular clergy; Exeter College Oxford; Portsmouth, England.

Symbols: Sword through a mitre; pallium and archbishop's cross; battle axe and crosier; red chasuble; altar and sword.Often Portrayed As: Archbishop with a wounded head; archbishop holding an inverted sword; archbishop kneeling before his murderers; archbishop being murdered in church.

Read St. Thomas Becket's homily in the cathedral on Christmas morning 1170 excerpted from T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Take an unofficial tour of the Canterbury Cathedral.

My Favorite Quotes from St. Thomas Becket:

"Many are needed to plant and water what has been planted now that the faith has spread so far and there are so many people...No matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what is planted is the faith of Peter and unless he agrees to his teachings."

"Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered...the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith...All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown."

Thomas said this to a friend on his way to ordination: "Hereafter, I want you to tell me, candidly and in secret, what people are saying about me. And if you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on, people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong."

Prayer to St. Thomas Becket

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Children under the age of two in Bethlehem were massacred by Herod the Great in an attempt to kill the child Jesus. We call these Holy Innocents martyrs because they died in the place of Christ. St. Augustine called them "buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves."

In modern times, we have our own "holy innocents" -- those children who are killed daily in the place that should be the safest and most protective environment of all for them -- their mother's wombs. On this day, we recall the over 50 million children in our country alone (since 1973) and the vast number of children throughout the world who have been killed under the insane laws permitting abortion. Let us pray daily for an end to this tragedy.

The Holy Innocents

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

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

~ St. Augustine

Let us ask the Holy Innocents to intercede for us that we may bring about a renewed respect for human life in our society, to build a culture of life, protect the innocents in our day and comfort those who mourn.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

St. John the Evangelist

Today is the feast day of my Community -- the feast of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. St. John is also my patron saint and the saint I try most to emulate in my daily life.

St. John, a fisherman, the son of Zebedee, and the brother of St. James the Great, was called to be an Apostle by our Lord in the first year of His public ministry, and he travelled everywhere with Him.

St. John is known as the Beloved Disciple, the Apostle of Love. Why was he identified in this way? John loved Jesus greatly, and he demonstrated a meek, mild, tender, humble, and peaceable disposition that made him very much like Our Lord himself. Also, his singular privilege of chastity, his virginal purity rendered him worthy of this more particular love.

As St. Augustine explains, "He was chosen by our Lord, a virgin, and he always remained such. Christ was pleased to choose a virgin for his mother, a virgin for his precursor, and a virgin for his favorite disciple. His church suffers only those who live perfectly chaste to serve Him in His priesthood, where they daily touch and offer His virginal flesh upon the altar."

At the Last Supper, Jesus allowed John to rest upon His breast. John is the one apostle who never abandoned Jesus, but stayed by Him to the very end. John was the only Apostle present at the Crucifixion and stood at the foot of His cross. It is there that Jesus entrusted His mother to the care of His friend. Consequently, John took Mary into his home, loved her, and cared for her as if she were his own mother.

Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him.

St. John spent his later life in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. He founded many churches in Asia Minor. He is credited with writing the fourth Gospel, and three Epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Brought to Rome, tradition relates that he was by order of Emperor Dometian cast into a cauldron of boiling oil but came forth unhurt and was banished to the island of Pathmos for a year. He lived to an extreme old age, surviving all his fellow apostles, and died at Ephesus about the year 100.

Patron: Against poison; art dealers; authors; bookbinders; booksellers; burns; compositors; editors; engravers; friendships; lithographers; painters; papermakers; poisoning; printers; publishers; tanners; theologians; typesetters; writers; Asia Minor; Taos, New Mexico; Umbria, Italy; diocese of Cleveland, Ohio; diocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Symbols: Cup or chalice and serpent (cup or sorrow foretold by Jesus); eagle rising out of a cauldron (refers to being a martyr of spirit, but not in deed); serpent entwined on a sword; grave; Prester John seated on tomb, with book, orb, and sword; eagle on a closed book; scroll of his Gospel; scroll of the Apocalypse; nimbed eagle; book.

Catholic Tradition: St. John's Wine

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feast of St. Stephen, First Deacon and First Martyr

St. Stephen was the first deacon as well as the first Christian martyr. All that we know of him is contained in the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6 and 7. In Acts 6:5 seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members. Of these seven, Stephen, is the first deacon mentioned and the best known. The Church had, by selecting him for a deacon, publicly acknowledged him as a man "of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). He was "a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" (vi, 5), "full of grace and fortitude."

Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.

Stephen spoke to the crowd and recalled the mercies of God towards Israel during its long history and of the ungratefulness by which, throughout, Israel repaid these mercies. “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b). His speech provoked the anger of his audience.

But "[Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....’ They dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him....As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b). Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.

Stephen's supposed tomb was discovered by a man named Lucian in 415, which spread his cult when his relics were taken to Constantinople and Rome. Some of these relics included some of the stones that killed him.

St. Stephen's name means "crown," and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown. He is the Patron saint of: coffin makers, deacons, headaches, horses, masons, stone masons, Germany, Owensboro, Kentucky, and Prato, Italy.


we celebrate the entrance of St. Stephen into eternal glory.
He died praying for those who killed him.
Help us to imitate his goodness
and to love our enemies.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Litany of St. Stephen

Urbi et Orbi: Pope sends Christmas greeting in 65 languages

December 25, 2011. ( By noon, thousands of people had flocked to St. Peter's Square in Rome to hear the pope's Christmas greeting, which this year sounded like this: “May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us”.

The pope read his Christmas speech, which mentioned the situation in the Middle East and remembered those who are facing special difficulties.

Benedict XVI
“Together let us ask God’s help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried”.

Among the dozens of languages used by the pope, among them was Chinese, Urdu, Latin and Esperanto, which brought the applause of many of the language's admirers.

The pope then gave his solemn blessing, the “Urbi et Orbi,” “to the city of Rome and the world”. It's significant because only he can impart the blessing. It's traditionally given only on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.

In St. Peter's Square, alongside the impressive Christmas tree from Ukraine, the traditional Nativity scene can now be seen adorning the center of Christianity, a tradition that began 30 years ago.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Blessed Christmas!

Lorenzo Lotto, The Nativity, 1527

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas Season!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Meditation

Luke 2: 1 - 14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."


Everything works together to deepen the mystery of this new presence in the solitude of Christmas night, making it more intimate, more divine. Joseph and Mary's outward poverty is, as it were, the guardian of this mystery. If Joseph and Mary had looked like they were rich, people would have made room for them in the inn because of Mary's condition. They would have turned out other less important guests; they would have found a way to keep them and the mystery of the birth of Jesus would no longer have this solitude and silence. It would have happened in the midst of noise. This is not the way in which God visits our earth! On the contrary, poverty must prepare the way and push aside all those who seek only earthly possessions, all those who think only of settling on earth.

When it comes to the mystery of the Incarnate Word's first visit to this world, poverty has done its job so well that there is no one left except Mary and Joseph. When poverty is loved and accepted, there is true solitude. It is this solitude of Mary and Joseph that Jesus comes to live, and to reveal, to give, and to surrender Himself.

~ From The Daily Gospel with Fr. Philippe, OP (Priest, Philosophy Professor, Founder of the Community of St. John) compiled by the Sisters of of St. John

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Eighth Blogiversary

Today is my 8th anniversary of blogging. In commemoration of this special occasion, I would like to share my joy with all those who read my blog. To show my appreciation, this beautiful (virtual) flower arrangement is yours. I would like to thank all my faithful readers and fellow bloggers -- all those who have supported and encouraged me over the years. God bless you!

Image Source

St. John of Kanty

Today the Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. John of Kanty, priest.

St. John was born at Kanty, in the Diocese of Krakow, Poland in 1390 to Stanislaus and Anne who were pious country people. He was educated at the Academy of Krakow, where he impressed his professors and colleagues with his pleasant and friendly disposition; always happy, but serious, humble, and holy, he won the hearts of all who came in contact with him. He earned his doctorate in theology and philosophy, was ordained priest and was then appointed professor of theology at the Academy of Krakow. Shortly afterwards, he was reassigned to the Diocese of Krakow, to be a parish priest. He was then re-appointed professor of Sacres Scripture at the Academy of Krakow, a position he held for the rest of his life. John taught his students this philosophy again and again, "Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause." He distinguished himself as an orthodox teacher of the faith, and by his piety and love of neighbor gave Christian example to his colleagues and his students.

St. John demonstrated extreme humility and charity, distributing to the poor all the money and clothes he had, retaining only what was absolutely necessary to care for himself. He slept little, and on the floor, ate very little food, and totally abstained from meat after he became a doctor. He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the desire of becoming a martyr among the Turks, and four pilgrimages to Rome on foot. Durng his life he performed many miracles, which were multiplied after his death at his tomb. He died in 1473 and was canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor not a bishop who is honored in this way.

Patron: Lithuania, Poland.


"What kind of work can be more noble than to cultivate the minds of young people, guarding it carefully, so that the knowledge and love of God and His holy precepts go hand-in-hand with learning? To form young Christians and citizens-isn’t this the most beautiful and noble-minded way to make use of life, of all one’s talents and energy?"

~ Saint John of Kanty

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fr. Barron comments on Christmas

Blessed Jacopone da Todi, "Crazy Jim"

The saint of the day for December 22 is Blessed Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), an Italian noble from the Benedetti family of Todi and a successful lawyer at Bologna. He was married to Vanna di Guidone in 1267, who considered him too worldly, and did penance for him. In 1268, Jacomo insisted she attend a public tournament against her wishes; the stands in which she sat collapsed, and Vanna was killed. The shock of this event, and his discovery of her penance for him, caused a radical change in Jacomo. He gave his possessions to the poor, dressed in rags, and joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. His former associates called him Jacopone, Crazy Jim; he embraced the name.

After ten years of this penance and abuse, Jacomo tried to join the Franciscans; his reputation as "Crazy Jim" preceeded him, and he was refused. To prove his sanity and intentions, he wrote a beautiful poem about the vanities of the world; it swayed the Franciscans, and he joined the Order in 1278. He refused to be ordained, and spent time writing popular hymns in the vernacular.

Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had the support of two cardinals and Pope Celestine V. The two cardinals, however, opposed Celestine's successor, Boniface VIII, and due to the wrangling in the Vatican, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned at age 68. Jacopone acknowledged his error, but was not released until Blessed Benedict XI became pope five years later. He accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent his last three years giving himself to completely to spirituality, weeping "because Love is not loved," and writing, including the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

St. Peter Canisius, priest and doctor

Today is the optional memorial of St. Peter Canisius, priest and doctor.

Peter Canisius was born in Holland on May 8, 1521. Peter was a brilliant, but humble, young man, who studied at Cologne and received his license as doctor of civil law; he then went to Louvain (Belgium) to learn canon law. After he attended a retreat given by Blessed Peter Faber, the first disciple of St. Ignatius, he decided to become a Jesuit. On the day of his final vows, as he knelt in St. Peter's, Our Lord showed him a vision of His Sacred Heart. From that time forward, he never failed to make an offering of all his work to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sent to Germany, he worked strenuously for many years by his writings and teachings to confirm the Catholic faith. Of his numerous books, the Catechism is most renowned. It remains a monument of the triumph of the Church over error in the time of Luther.

A man of great energy, he taught in several universities, founded 18 colleges, and authored 37 books; his catechisms went through 200 printings in his lifetime and were translated into 12 languages. St. Peter was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation in Germany and is referred to as the second apostle to Germany next to St. Boniface.

Peter died in Switzerland in 1597. Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1925, and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of the Catholic press.

Quotes of St. Peter Canisius

"If you have too much to do, with God's help you will find time to do it all."

"Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were, to be in collusion with the Church's enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith."

"It was as if you opened to me the heart in your most sacred body. I seemed to see it directly before my eyes. You told me to drink from this fountain, inviting me, that is, to draw the waters of my salvation from your wellsprings, my Savior. I was most eager that streams of faith, hope, and love should flow into me from that source. I was thirsting for poverty, chastity, obedience. I asked to be made wholly clean by you, to be clothed by you, to be made resplendent by you.

"So, after daring to approach your most loving heart, and to plunge my thirst into it, I received a promise from you of a garment made of three parts: these were to cover my soul in its nakedness, and to belong especially to my religious profession. They were peace, love, and perseverance. Protected by this garment of salvation, I was confident that I would lack nothing but all would succeed and give you glory."

A prayer of St. Peter Canisius

I commend to you, Lord Jesus, the whole Society of Jesus: our superiors and our subjects, our old and our young, our sound and our sick, our ministries of body and soul may we be rightly governed to the glory of your name and to the upbuilding of your Church.

Through you may we grow in our numbers and in our service. May we know our vocation thoroughly, and knowing it love it; and thus may all in the Society serve your majesty worthily and faithfully; cling to the commands and the counsels of the Gospel; and, united in the love of brothers, feel your blessings on our provinces, our schools, our missions, and all our ministries.

May we be sober, simple, prudent, peaceable, and studious of solid virtue: may our lives conform to the Name we bear and our deeds reflect to the vows we profess.

We commend to you all the brothers who share our life in the Society and all our companions and partners who share our heritage and our vision. With the Father and the Holy Spirit, we praise you forever. Amen.

Patron: Germany; Catholic press; catechism writers.

The 2012 pro-life film "October Baby"

December 20, 2011. ( In March 2012 the film “October Baby” will be released in the USA. It's the story of Hannah, a 19 year old girl who discovers she survived an attempted abortion when her mother was seven months pregnant.

In seeking answers to her life, she begins a journey to find her biological mother. It's a journey full of hope, love and reconciliation with some of her friends.

The film touches on the power of forgiveness, love and life. It's based on the story of Gianna Jessen, a woman that travels the United States sharing her testimony and showing the miracle of life to women considering abortion.

The seven new saints approved by Pope Benedict

December 20, 2011. ( Benedict XVI has approved the canonization of seven blessed. Among them is the first Native American to ascend to the altars and the main colloborator of Father Damien.

The pope has recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of each one of them. He has not officially called for their canonization but, he's expected to do so next fall.

One of the future saints is the Italian Giovanni Battista Piamarta, born in 1841 and founder of two religious orders.

Then there is the French Jacques Berthieu, a Jesuit priest shot to death in Madagascar in 1896 for defending Christianity.

Another is the Spanish nun Mary of Mount Carmel. In 1892 she founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

Also on the list is Marianne Cope, the nun who in 1888 traveled to Hawaii to help Father Damien of Molokai in the care of leprosy patients.

Possibly the most unique is the American Indian Katherine Tekakwitha, who in 1676 was marginalized by her tribe after converting to Christianity.

The teenager Pedro Calungsod will be the second saint in Philippine history. He was martyred in 1672 for defending missionaries.

The last on the list is Germany's Anna Schäfer, who always wanted to be a missionary. In 1901 she suffered burns on her legs, she was then bedridden for 24 years and offered her pain for the salvation of souls.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saint Dominic of Silos: Patron of Pregnant Women

Today we commemorate St. Dominic of Silos, a Benedictine abbot born in 1000 in Cañas, Navarre, Spain, a shepherding town in the Pyrenees.

As a shepherd boy, Dominic enjoyed looking after his father's flocks as well as the solitude of the fields. He entered the Benedictine monastery in Navarre, where he became prior. When Dominic refused to hand over the monastery’s property and possessions to the King of Navarre, he and two other monks were exiled to Castille. There the king of Castille appointed him to be the abbot of the monastery of St. Sebastian at Silos.

The monastery was in terrible shape physically, financially, and spiritually. Dominic rebuilt the dilapidated building, and restored its finances. He also renewed the spirit of the monastery, increasing its works of charity. Dominic died on December 10, 1073 in Silos, Spain.

About 100 years after his death, a young woman made a pilgrimage to his tomb and prayed that she would conceive a child. There St. Dominic of Silos appeared to her and reassured her that she would bear another son. The woman was Blessed Joan de Aza de Guzmán, and the son she bore grew up to be St. Dominic de Guzmán (whom she named after St. Dominic of Silos), the founder of the Dominican order.

St. Dominic of Silos is the patron of pregnant women, prisoners, captives, shepherds; against insects, rabies, hydrophobia, and mad dogs.

As a shepherd boy, Dominic enjoyed looking after his father's flocks as well as the solitude of the fields. He entered the Benedictine monastery in Navarre, where he became prior. When Dominic refused to hand over the monastery’s property and possessions to the King of Navarre, he and two other monks were exiled to Castille. There the king of Castille appointed him to be the abbot of the monastery of St. Sebastian at Silos.

The monastery was in terrible shape physically and spiritually. Dominic rebuilt the dilapidated building, and restored its finances. He also renewed the spirit of the monastery, increasing its works of charity. Dominic died on December 10, 1073 in Silos, Spain.

About 100 years after his death, a young woman made a pilgrimage to his tomb and prayed that she would conceive a child. There St. Dominic of Silos appeared to her and reassured her that she would bear another son. The woman was Blessed Joan de Aza de Guzmán, and the son she bore grew up to be St. Dominic de Guzmán (whom she named after St. Dominic of Silos), the founder of the Dominican order.

St. Dominic of Silos is the patron of pregnant women, prisoners, captives, shepherds; against insects, rabies, hydrophobia, and mad dogs.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blessed Pope Urban V

The saint of the day is Blessed Pope Urban V.

Blessed Pope Urban V was born Guillaume de Grimoard at Grisac in Languedoc, 1310. He studied canon law and theology in Avignon and became a Benedictine monk. He was named abbot of his monastery in 1352, served as a papal diplomat and was sent as an ambassodor to various locations. He also served as a bishops around Italy and throughout Europe.

He was elected pope in 1362 while on diplomatic business, even though he was not a cardinal. His reign was blessed by his peacekeeping activity between the French and Italian kings, the founding of many universities, his zeal for the crusades and his decision to return the papacy to Rome and end the Avignon exile of the popes.

However, the breakout of war between England and France, forced him to return to Avignon on a peacekeeping mission. On his return to Avignon he died, and his body, which had been buried at Avignon was then transferred to Marseille according to his own wishes, and his tomb became the site of many miracles. He died on December 19, 1370.

He always had a Benedictine spirit and even wore his monk’s habit as pope. His virtue and honesty were noted, especially in a Europe plagued by scandal and corruption.

It is said that as he lay dying he called the people to surround his deathbed saying “the people must see how popes die.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Catholics Come Home" launches new campaign inviting rediscovery of faith

December 17, 2011. ( This group of Catholics are sharing their stories of faith and how they found the Catholic Church. They're called "Catholics Come Home" and it's meant to reach out former Catholics, the non-religious, as well as strengthening the faith of current faithful.

They have just launched a 4 million dollar ad campaign on television throughout the United States meant to go through the Christmas season.

Their website provides a sneak peak at the videos. The site also offers guidance on the Church's teachings on some of life's more difficult moments such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or different issues on morality.

These advertisements will air more than 400 times on some of the biggest networks such as CBS, NBC, and CNN. The 30 and 60 second commercials will be aired in English and Spanish. The ads are expected to reach some 250 million viewers in 10,000 cities, exposing every diocese of the United States.

Pope to canonize and name Hildegard of Bingen as Doctor of the Church

Pope Benedict XVI is set to appoint Hildegard of Bingen as a Doctor of the Church in October of 2012. She was a German Benedictine nun and was known for her visions and prophecies.

Saint José Manyanet y Vives

The saint of the day is Saint José Manyanet y Vives.

He was born January 7, 1833 in Catalonia, Spain; died December 17, 1901 in Spain, and canonized on May 16, 2004 by Pope John Paul II.

At the age of five, José’s mother dedicated him to the Virgin Mary, and he entered the seminary in as a youth. Was ordained in 1859 and served as the secretary of the bishop of Urgell, the seminary librarian, the chancery administrator before responding to the call to found two religious congregations.

He founded the Congregation of the Sons of the Holy Family in 1864 and the Missionary Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 10 years later, both dedicated to the education and protection of the Christian family, and education and parish ministry.

He also founded schools and centers, encouraged devotion to the Holy Family, wrote many books on family issues, and spiritual guidance. Also in the cultural ambit he worked for the construction of the Servant of God Antonio Gaudí’s masterpiece Temple of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain.

He suffered from physical illnesses all his life, and in particular two open wounds in his sides for his last 16 years.

His last words were his fervent prayer "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you."

Fr. Barron comments on the Advent Revolution

Learn more about Father Barron at Word on Fire and at Catholicism.

Friday, December 16, 2011

St. Adelaide

The saint of the day is St. Adelaide of Burgundy. St. Adelaide was a marvel of grace and beauty, according to her spiritual director and biographer, St. Odilon of Cluny. She was born a princess in 1931 and was to became not only the Queen of Italy, but the Empress of Italy. More importantly, this woman of grace lived a holy life, which wasn't an easy endeavor, given her circumstances in life, and was later canonized a saint.

The daughter of King Rupert II of Burgundy, France, at age 16, she married Lothar of Italy, who eventually became king of Italy. She was widowed in 950 while still a teenager. Lothair was thought to be poisoned by his successor to the throne, Berengarius. As part of his attempt to solidify his grip on power, Berengarius ordered Adelaide to marry his son; she refused, and was imprisoned.

It is believed that a priest came and dug a tunnel to where she was being kept and helped her escape. She remained hidden in the woods until the Duke of Canossa, who had found out about her escape, came and carried her to his castle. During this time the Italians had turned against Berengarius and had compelled the German King Otto the Great to invade Italy. His invasion was successful and while in Canossa he met Adelaide and ended up marrying her on Christmas Day, 951 at Pavia. He was crowned Emperor in Rome in 952, and Adelaide reigned with him for 20 years. Widowed in 973, she was ill-treated by her step-son, Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophano, but eventually reconciled with them.

When Otto II died in 983, he was succeeded by his infant son, Otto III. Theophano acted as regent, and since she still did not like Adelaide, used her power to exile her from the royal court. Theophano died in 991, and Adelaide returned once again to the court to act as regent for the child emperor. She used her position and power to help the poor, evangelize, especially among the Slavs, and to build and restore monasteries and churches. When Otto III was old enough, Adelaide retired to the convent of Selta near Cologne, a house she had built. Though she never became a nun, she spent the rest of her days there in prayer.

She died on December 16, 999 of natural causes and was canonized by Pope Urban II in 1097. Her feast is kept in many German dioceses.

Patronage: abuse victims, brides, in-law problems, parenthood, second marriages, step-parents, victims of abuse, widows

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blessed Marianne Cope from state of New York is one step away from being declared a Saint

December 15, 2011. ( The Diocese of Syracuse in New York announced that Marianne Cope is just one step away from being declared a saint.

In the 1860's, the Franciscan sister served in Syracuse, New York, before moving to Hawaii. On the Island, she ministered and cared for patients who suffered from leprosy.

The miracle that now paves the way for her canonization, involves a woman who was on her death bed, yet was miraculously cured through the intercession of Cope. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the miracle after it was re-examined by a group of theologians and cardinals.

Now Benedict XVI himself, must approve the recommendation before setting a date for the canonization ceremony.

In addition to being a teacher and principal in upstate New York, Cope also helped establish St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse. Both were among the first hospitals to open in central New York. During her time in Hawaii she opened a center that cared for the children of leprosy patients.

9 Days of Prayer to "End Abortion in Kansas Forever"

From Jan. 14th through Jan. 22nd, there will be 9 Days of state wide: Prayer and Fasting to "End Abortion in Kansas Forever".

Catholics in all four dioceses (Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Diocese of Salina, Diocese of Dodge City and the Diocese of Wichita), will pray for "An End to Abortion in Kansas Forever". Non-Catholics are asked to join in the 9 Days of Prayer which ends on the Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, by joining in prayer, fasting and their prayer meetings, etc.. Catholics are asked to Pray, Fast, Pray the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Go to Confession, Attend Mass Daily and Receive Holy Communion, Pray One Hour in Prayer before Jesus in the Eucharist, make daily sacrifices and daily pray this prayer: "We entrust and consecrate Kansas to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus forever. Amen". Over 100 Catholic churches throughout the state will offer Masses for this intention.

Demand that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, protector of child rapists, Resign

It is time for Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services,

Sign the Petition.

St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

The saint of the day is St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli. She was born in Genoa, Italy April 2, 1587; died in Genoa on December 15, 1651, and canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2003.

Born and raised in an aristocratic family which was nonetheless pious, she longed to consecrate herself to God in the religious life, but she was pressured into an arranged marriage at the age of 15 on account of her social status, and had two daughters.

Her husband, a drinker and gambler, died after five years of marriage and Virginia dedicated her time to raising her children and prayer and works of charity, which she devoted herself to entirely once her children had grown up, caring for the sick, elderly and abandoned.

She founded a refuge center in Genoa in 1625 which soon became overrun with the needy and she rented an empty convent in 1631 where she cared for the sick with the help of other women, and she instructed the women in the faith.

She constructed a church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge, and soon the women who worked with her in the hospital were formed into two congregations Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge in Mount Calvary, and Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary.

Victoria retired from the administration of the orders and performed manual labour and begged for alms, but was called back to administrative duties soon after.

She began to receive visions and locutions in the latter years of her life.

~ Via Catholic News Agency.


O God,
You call to reign with You
those who serve You faithfully:
in her earthly life
you have given Saint Virginia
the gift of serving the church and the World
give us the strength to imitate her
in the joyful search of Your Will
and in the charity towards the poor and needy
For Christ Our Lord.


When God is one's goal, "all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties overcome."

~ St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross (along with St. Teresa of Avila) is one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites and today is one of their principal feast days. I wish all my Discalced Carmelite friends a very happy feast day!

Among the Church's contemplatives, St. John is one of the acknowledged masters of mystical theology. Indeed, perhaps no other writer has had greater influence on Catholic spirituality.

Gonzalo de Yepes, John's father, was disowned by his wealthy family of silk merchants for marrying a humble silk weaver, Catalina Alvarez. When forced to adapt to surroundings of poverty and hard work, Gonzalo died young, shortly after the birth of John, his third son.

John received his elementary education in Medina del Campo at an institution for the children of the poor, in which he was also fed and clothed. At 17 he found work at a hospital in Medina and was able to enroll in the Jesuit College, where he received solid training in the humanities.

In 1563, he entered the Carmelite Order in Medina and changed his name to Fray Juan de Santo Matia. He enrolled at the university in Salamanca in the school of arts for the years 1564 to 1567 and in the theological course, 1567-68. In the school of arts, he attended classes in philosophy; in theology, he probably heard the lectures of Mancio de Corpus Christi, OP, on the Summa of St. Thomas. An indication of St. John's talents is evident in his appointment, while still a student, as prefect of studies. This office obliged him to teach class daily, defend public theses, and assist the regent master in resolving objections.

He was ordained in 1567, and while in Medina to sing his first Mass, he met Teresa of Avila, who had begun a reform within the order. She spoke to him of her plan to restore the Carmelite Primitive Rule for the friars as well as the nuns. St. John, who had been longing for a life of deeper solitude and was thinking about transferring to the Carthusians, promised to adopt this life. With two others, at Duruelo, Nov. 28, 1568, he made profession of the Carmelite Primitive Rule, and changed his name to Father John of the Cross. The new life in keeping with the Primitive Rule was austere and predominantly contemplative. But the active apostolate was not excluded; it consisted mainly of preaching and hearing confessions. The friars of this new reform wore sandals and were soon referred to as Discalced Carmelites.

At Duruelo Father John was appointed subprior and novice master. Later he was named rector of a newly established house of studies in Alcala. In the spring of 1571, Teresa was ordered to govern the Convent of the Incarnation and to reform its 130 nuns. Realizing the need of a prudent, learned, and holy confessor at the Incarnation, she obtained permission from the apostolic visitor to have Father John as confessor. While he was confessor there, the reform grew rapidly. But the attitude of the Carmelite Order toward the reform, for reasons due mainly to a conflict of jurisdiction, began to change. In 1575, in a chapter at Piacenza, it was determined to stop the expansion of the reform of the order.

On the night of Dec. 2, 1577, some Carmelites seized Father John, took him to Toledo, and demanded a renunciation of the reform. He refused to renounce it, maintaining that he had remained at the Incarnation by order of the nuncio. They declared him a rebel and imprisoned him. He lived 9 months in a cell 6 feet wide and 10 feet long, with no light other than what came through a slit high up in the wall. During this imprisonment he composed some of his great poems. In August 1578, in a perhaps miraculous way, he escaped; eventually he journeyed to a monastery of Discalced in southern Spain.

The following years were given to administration: he was prior on several occasions, rector of the Carmelite College in Baeza, and vicar provincial of the southern province. in 1588 he was elected major definitor, becoming a member of the reform's new governing body, headed by Father Doria.

During these years as superior he did most of his writing. He also, besides giving spiritual direction to the Carmelite friars and nuns, devoted much time to the guidance of lay people.

His deep life of prayer is evident in the splendid descriptions of The Spiritual Canticle and The Living Flame of Love. He once admitted: "God communicates the mystery of the Trinity to this sinner in such a way that if His Majesty did not strengthen my weakness by a special help, it would be impossible for me to live."

Toward the end of his life, a controversy arose within the reform. Father Doria desired to abandon jurisdiction over the nuns founded by St. Teresa and also the expulsion of Father Gratian, a favorite confessor of Teresa, from the reform. As a member of the governing body, Father John of the Cross opposed Doria in both matters. For obvious reasons John was not elected to any office in the chapter of 1591. He was instead sent to a solitary monastery in southern Spain. While there, he heard news of the efforts being made to expel him also from the reform.

In mid-September, he noted a slight fever caused by an ulcerous inflammation of the leg. Since the sickness grew worse, he was obliged to leave the solitude he so loved for the sake of medical attention. He chose to go to Ubeda rather than Baeza because "in Ubeda, nobody knows me."

The prior of Ubeda received him unwillingly and complained of the added expense. On the night of December 13, John of the Cross died, repeating the words of the psalmist: "Into your hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit."

In 1592 his body was transferred to Segovia. He was beatified by Clement X in 1675, canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726, and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pius XI in 1926.

~ Adapted from Welcome to Carmel, Teresian Charism Press

Favorite Quotes from St. John of the Cross

If you do not learn to deny yourself, you can make no progress in perfection.

Where there is no love, pour love in and you will draw love out.

In detachment, the spirit finds quiet and repose for coveting nothing.

To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but the greatness of its humility.

The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.

I wish I could persuade spiritual persons that the way of perfection does not consist in many devices, nor in much cogitation, but in denying themselves completely and yielding themselves to suffer everything for the love of Christ.

Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.

O you souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering, and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.

In giving us His Son, His only Word, He spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word -- and He has no more to say ... because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.

God desires the smallest degree of purity of conscience in you more than all the works you can perform.

With what procrastinations do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the memorial of St. Lucy, virgin and martyr. Lucy was born of noble Greek parents in Syracuse, Sicily about the year 283. She made a vow of virginity and distributed her wealth to the poor. This generosity angered the youth to whom she had been unwillingly betrothed and who denounced her to Paschasius, the governor of Sicily. When it was decided to violate her virginity in a place of shame, Lucy, with the help of the Holy Spirit, stood immovable. A fire was then built around her, but again God protected her. She was finally executed by a sword.

As the name, Lucy, derives from 'lux' or 'light', she has become associated with festivals of light and with invocations against afflictions of the sight. Legend has it that she was blinded by her persecutors. The church of San Giovanni Maggiore at Naples even claims to possess her eyes.


against hemorrhages; authors; blind people; blindness; cutlers; dysentery; eye disease; eye problems; glaziers; hemorrhages; laborers; martyrs; peasants; Perugia, Italy; saddlers; salesmen; stained glass workers; Syracuse, Sicily; throat infections; writers.


Saint Lucy, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin. By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of all men. Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.



December 13th is St. Lucy Day, or Lucia, in Sweden. Lucia morning is celebrated in practically every Swedish home, and every community, office, school or club chooses a Lucia, who - dressed in a white gown and with a crown of candles in her hair - brings a tray of coffee, traditionally shaped saffron rolls, and ginger biscuits. Lucia sometimes serves glögg, a mulled wine. She is generally accompanied by a train of white-clad attendants, the girls wearing glitter in their hair and the boys wearing tall paper cones with stars on them. All sing the traditional Lucia carols.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Miracles and Hope for Human Life

Five centuries ago, in the country now known as Mexico, senseless human sacrifices were performed. Between 20,000 and 50,000 human beings were murdered a year in the Aztec empire. Most of them were slaves and included men, as well as women, and children. An early Mexican historian estimated that one out of every five children in Mexico was sacrificed to the gods.

The climax of these ritualistic killings came in 1487 when a new temple (ornately decorated with snakes) was dedicated in what is now modern day Mexico City. In a single ceremony that lasted four days and four nights, accompanied by the constant beating of giant drums made of snakeskin, the Aztec ruler and demon worshiper Tlacaellel presided over the sacrifice of more than 80,000 men.

It was Our Lady of Guadalupe who crushed the head of the wicked serpent in 1531.

For, it was then that she appeared to a poor, humble, uneducated man, Juan Diego. In bare feet, he walked every Saturday and Sunday to church, departing before dawn, to be on time for Mass and religious instruction.

On December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true.

On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the roses that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter, he found the roses in bloom. He gathered the roses and took them to Our Lady, who carefully placed them in his tilma (a type of poncho) and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the roses fell to the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, a beautiful image of the Blessed Mother as she appeared at Tepeyac.

Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill. In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage and in humble obedience to God.

When asked who the lady was, Juan Diego replied in his Aztec dialect, "Te Coatlaxopeuh," which means "she who crushes the stone serpent." His answer recalls Gen. 3:15 and the depiction of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, her heel on the serpent's head.

As a result of that image, 9 million Aztecs were converted to Christianity and the human sacrifices were abolished. The image converted their hearts to the one, true God and drew them out of the darkness of despair into the light of hope.

Today, the ancient serpent is slithering around the globe, making big hits in its attack upon human life. Millions of unborn children are murdered every year around the world, in procedures that in many countries are not only legal but also officially supported and financed.

However, we can be confident that The Woman clothed with the sun, in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn, will crush the head of the serpent today.

Just as she affectionately referred to Juan Diego as “Juanito” – “her little one” – she calls us to also make ourselves her little ones – her children – and to put our trust in her As Fr. Marie - Dominique Philippe, Founder of the Community of St. John tells us, “[On] the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe it is truly Mary who shows her presence. This enables us to understand that in our Christian life, Christ's presence and Mary's presence are primary and come before any spoken words. A mother is a silent presence, a presence that will help her children sleep peacefully, trustingly...a presence of love, of warmth for the heart, so that we might truly be in her hands, asking her to carry us and to teach us this evangelical way of littleness, which will allow us to obey just as a child obeys his mother.”

Today Our Mother encourages us with us the same words she spoke to Juan Diego:
"Hear and let it penetrate your hearts, my dear little ones. Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you; let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Do not fear vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"

Our Lady of Guadalupe is patron of the Americas and of Mexico.

~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann, 2009, updated 2011

Part I

Part II

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Guadette Sunday

Angel Voices - ''Stay With Me''

Friday, December 09, 2011

St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Today the Church in the United States celebrates the optional memorial of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1474-1548), an Indian convert, to whom the Virgin Mary appeared as he was going to Mass in Tlatlelolco, Mexico.

Little is known about the life of Juan Diego before his conversion, but tradition and archaelogical and iconographical sources, along with the most important and oldest indigenous document on the event of Guadalupe, "El Nican Mopohua" (written in Náhuatl with Latin characters, 1556, by the Indigenous writer Antonio Valeriano), give some information on the life of the saint and the apparitions.

Juan Diego was born in 1474 with the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" ("the talking eagle") in Cuautlitlán, today part of Mexico City, Mexico. He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.

When he was 50 years old he was baptized by a Franciscan priest, Fr Peter da Gand, one of the first Franciscan missionaries. On 9 December 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true. On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter time, he found roses flowering. He gathered the flowers and took them to Our Lady who carefully placed them in his mantle and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the flowers fell on the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus.

Much deeper than the "exterior grace" of having been "chosen" as Our Lady's "messenger", Juan Diego received the grace of interior enlightenment and from that moment, he began a life dedicated to prayer and the practice of virtue and boundless love of God and neighbor.

He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on 6 May 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria di Guadalupe, Mexico City.

The miraculous image, which is preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, shows a woman with native features and dress. She is supported by an angel whose wings are reminiscent of one of the major gods of the traditional religion of that area. The moon is beneath her feet and her blue mantle is covered with gold stars. The black girdle about her waist signifies that she is pregnant. Thus, the image graphically depicts the fact that Christ is to be "born" again among the peoples of the New World, and is a message as relevant to the "New World" today as it was during the lifetime of Juan Diego.

Prayer to St. Juan Diego

You who were chosen by Our Lady of Guadalupe as an instrument to show your people and the world that the way of Christianity is one of love, compassion, understanding, values, sacrifices, repentance of our sins, appreciation and respect for God's creation, and most of all one of HUMILITY and obedience. You who we know is now in the Kingdom of the Lord and close to our Mother, be our angel and protect us, stay with us as we struggle in this modern life not knowing most of the time where to set our priorities. Help us to pray to our God to obtain the gifts of the Holy Spirit and use them for the good of humanity and the good of our Church, through the Heart of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Heart of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Greatest Miracle: Movie Review

This will be a quick movie review, as I pull an overnight study session and get ready to finish  another semester of graduate school. This film opens Friday.

I had the wonderful opportunity of previewing a unique, uplifting, and inspiring film of hope and faith, which I thoroughly enjoyed -- The Greatest Miracle. It is an animated film, focusing in on the graces of the Holy Mass. The Greatest Miracle revolves around the lives of three people who find themselves at the same Catholic Mass because of crises they are struggling to endure. Going to Mass is not new to any of them – but they need assistance to embrace its true meaning. Their guardian angels help them to find this meaning in the Mass. What they experience in that particular Mass changes their lives forever.

The animations are beautiful and the characters in the film are contemporary, true to life, with problems that we can all relate to. The story line will hold your interest and attention. There is also a part of the story that deals with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is presented in a very interesting and original way. The film is well worth seeing and will spur on a renewed interest and appreciation of the Holy Mass.

In his recent letter of endorsement, the Most Reverend David L. Ricken, Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, said of this film: “The Greatest Miracle draws the viewer into the Mass by artistically portraying what we as Catholics believe to be taking place, but what we as human beings are incapable of perceiving with our earthy senses. It beautifully depicts the moment of the Consecration as a continuation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, and it celebrates the way in which we “…unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1326)

The Greatest Miracle opens Friday in 3D around the country. This PG-rated, animated film take viewers on a wonderful journey to learn about the miracle that is the Catholic Mass.

You can find the theater near you at the movie’s website.

For more information on The Greatest Miracle, including a list of theaters, visit

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the solemn dogma defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854. As Our Lady Immaculately Conceived is the patroness of the United States of America, this is a holy day of obligation in the United States.

Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed on December 8, 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin."

~ Catechism of the Catholic Church

Today's meditation from Fr. Philippe, OP, founder of the Community of St. John:

Gospel Lk 1:26-38

Today we celebrate Mary as the Father's beloved, as she whom the Father loved with a unique love. The Beloved Father chose her from among all other creatures to be given to us as our mother. In this way He makes us understand that His love for Mary is also for us. We discover how much the Father loves us because He gives us His treasure, His beloved to be our mother. Mary is more mother than all other mothers. She keeps nothing for herself, and the treasure of love which the Father gave her and which makes her immaculate -- no sin ever touched her soul, she came from God completely pure and she returns to God completely pure -- she offers this treasure to us. She gives us that which is most precious in her heart -- the Father's love for her. The mystery of the Immaculate is the great victory of love over the first sin and its consequences. Because Mary is Immaculate, the great victory of the Father's love is present, a victory through the mystery of the Cross, in His little Child, and through her, in us.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pope Benedict's General Audience: The Power and Prayer of Humility

December 7, 2011. ( (-ONLY VIDEO-) During Wednesday's general audience, Benedict XVI talked about the power of prayer and humility. The pope said the combination of these two factors help people fulfill the will of God.


“Dear Brothers and Sisters, In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we are considering the teaching and example given us by Jesus himself. In the “cry of exultation” recorded for us by the evangelists Matthew and Luke, Jesus gives thanks to the Father because he has willed to reveal the mystery of salvation not to the wise and learned, but to the “little ones” (cf. Mt 11:25-30; Lk 10:21-22).

This magnificent prayer has its source in Jesus’ profound communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit; as the eternal Son, Jesus alone “knows” the Father and rejoices in complete openness to his will. Indeed, “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Lk 10:22). In this prayer, then, the Lord expresses his desire to share his knowledge of the Father with the “little ones”, the pure of heart and those open to the divine will.

In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ cry of exultation is followed by his words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (11:28). Jesus is the source and model of our prayer; through him, in the Holy Spirit, we can turn with trust to God our Father, confident that, in doing his will, we shall find true freedom and peace.

I offer a warm welcome to the Missionaries of Charity and their families. Upon all the English-speaking visitor present, including the various pilgrimage groups from the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!”

St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor: Brief Biography, Quotes, and Prayers

By Jean M. Heimann

Today is the memorial of St. Ambrose, one of the most illustrious Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

Ambrose was born into Roman nobility around 340 in Trier, Germany.

Following his father's death, Ambrose went to Rome and began a career in law and politics. He later became the Imperial governor of Northern Italy.

When the bishop of Milan died in 374, a violent dispute broke out between the Catholics and the Arians over his replacement. Ambrose intervened and the people were so impressed with the way he handled the situation that they demanded that be made their bishop, although he was only a catechumen at the time. He resisted, claiming that he was not worthy, but to prevent further violence, he finally agreed. He was baptized, ordained a priest, and consecrated a bishop all within a brief period of time.

Aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility, Ambrose immediately changed his life and began studying prayer, Scripture and theology. He gave away all his money and possessions to the poor. His spirituality deepened and he became known as a brilliant preacher, Biblical scholar, and a writer of liturgical hymns. Ambrose was a courageous warrior against paganism and the Arians. St. Ambrose was a friend of St. Augustine and was influential in his conversion. In 387, St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine, who went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa.

St. Ambrose is one of four original Doctors of the Latin Church. He died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD. His feastday in the Roman calendar is December 7, the day he was ordained bishop.

Patron: bee keepers; bees; candlemakers; chandlers; domestic animals; French Commissariat; learning; Milan, Italy; schoolchildren; students; wax melters; wax refiners.

Quotes of St. Ambrose:

"There is no time of life past learning something."

"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.Neither angel, nor archangel, not yet even the Lord Himself (who alone can say 'I am with you'), can, when we have sinned, release us, unless we bring repentance with us".

"The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church's foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God's saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace."

Contemplating the wounds of Christ, by which we have been saved, St. Ambrose said, "I can revel in none of my deeds, I have nothing to boast about; therefore, I will glory in Christ. I will not glory because I am just, but I will glory because I have been redeemed. I will not glory because I am exempt from sins, but I will glory because my sins have been forgiven. I will not glory because I have been a help nor because someone has helped me, but because Christ is my advocate with the Father, and Christ's blood was poured out on me. My sin has become for me the price of the Redemption through which Christ came to me. For my sake, Christ tasted death. Sin is more profitable than innocence. Innocence had made me arrogant, sin made me humble."

Prayer That We May Seek God and Find Him

Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you. For I cannot seek you unless you first teach me, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to me. Let me seek you in longing and long for you in seeking. Let me find you in love, and love you in finding.

~ St Ambrose of Milan, Bishop, Writer, Doctor

Prayer of St. Ambrose to Imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary

May the life of Blessed Mary be ever-present to our awareness. In her, as in a mirror the form of virtue, and beauty of chastity shine forth. She was a virgin, not only in body, but in mind and spirit. She never sullied the pure affection of her heart by unworthy feelings. She was humble of heart. She was serious in her conversations. She was prudent in her counsels. She preferred to pray rather than to speak. She united in her heart the prayers of the poor. And avoided the uncertainty of worldly riches. She was ever-faithful to her daily duties, Reserved in her conversations, and always accustomed to recognize God as the Witness of her thoughts. Blessed be the name of Jesus! Amen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Saint Nicholas of Myra was born in the village of Patara in Lyrica, Asia Minor, about the middle of the third century, of devout and wealthy parents who provided him with a Christian upbringing and education. He was orphaned at an early age.

Later he was ordained a priest, and when the bishop of his district died, he was made Bishop of Myra.

Saint Nicholas is distinguished for his great faith and especially for his charity.

His faith was so great, that with his prayer he calmed a stormy sea while on a trip to the Holy Lands. For this reason sailors pay homage to him as their protector.

He is particularly well known for his charity and his love for children. He used his great wealth to assist all who were in need: poor families, widows, and especially orphans and poor children. As Bishop, he established a poorhouse and a hospital.

Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters, who were all hoping to be married. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast.

He was the personification of Christian love and affection. As such he is honored by all the Christian world, both the Eastern and the Western.

In the West especially, he is considered the great patron Saint of children and the cheerful giver of gifts under the name Santa Claus.

His relics are still preserved in the church of San Nicola in Bari; up to the present day an oily substance, known as Manna di S. Nicola, which is highly valued for its medicinal powers, is said to flow from them.

Patron: against imprisonment; against robberies; against robbers; apothecaries; bakers; barrel makers; boatmen; boot blacks; boys; brewers; brides; captives; children; coopers; dock workers; druggists; fishermen; grooms; judges; lawsuits lost unjustly; longshoremen; maidens; mariners; merchants; murderers; newlyweds; old maids; parish clerks; paupers; pawnbrokers; perfumeries; perfumers; pharmacists; pilgrims; poor people; prisoners; sailors; scholars; schoolchildren; shoe shiners; spinsters; students; thieves; travellers; unmarried girls; watermen; Greek Catholic Church in America; Greek Catholic Union; Bari, Italy; Fossalto, Italy; Duronia, Italy; Portsmouth, England; Greece; Lorraine; Russia; Sicily.

To learn more about St. Nicholas of Myra, visit Catholic Culture and