Monday, December 31, 2012

St. Sylvester I, pope and confessor

Today 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.).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pope's prayer intentions for January

The Vatican has released the prayer intentions of Pope Benedict XVI for January 2013.

The Pope’s general intention is: “That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.”

His missionary intention is: “That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.”

An interview with Tom Peterson of 'Catholics Come Home'

Brandon Voight recently interviewed Tom Peterson, the founder of Catholics Come Home. Featuring high-quality television commercials and a beautiful, dynamic website, Catholics Come Home models the New Evangelization. Dioceses and parishes across the world have used their materials to draw thousands of people back to the Church. You can watch the 17 minute interview here:

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.

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."

The New Blesseds of 2012

Left to right: Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo, Blessed Cecilia Eusepi, Blessed Gabriele Maria Allegra, Blessed Hildegard Burjan

Via Catholic World Report:

 In 2012, 28 venerable servants of God—including 15 martyrs, five founders of religious communities, and two converts—have been raised to the altars in 14 beatification ceremonies.

Read the full story here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thousands of young people gather in Rome for ecumenical conference, meeting with Pope

December 28, 2012. ( Thousands of youths from across Europe and North America began arriving early Friday morning to Rome. For about a week, nearly 40,000 young men and women will assemble in Rome for Taize's European Gathering, described as one of the largest ecumenical meetings in the world.  

While half of this year's participants are Catholic, the other half come from Orthodox or Protestant backgrounds.

Taizé Community
“It shows that as Christians there's already a certain unity. We all have the same baptism, we all have the same Bible, a lot of our beliefs in Jesus Christ is the same. There are differences but at least we can celebrate our unity and may this gives us the impulse to work for greater unity.”

Organizers have spent the past three months preparing for their arrival. The week long event will take place in more than 200 parishes spread out across Rome.

The annual meeting allows participants to reflect on their faith though a week-long retreat of prayer, workshops and other religious activities.

Taizé Community
“We are hoping it will be a real sign of hope. Today people, as you know, are not very hopeful. There's a lot of problems, economic problems, all kinds of problems. Young people often don't have the possibility of a job in the future. And I think that when people come together in a place like this and talk about what really matters and pray a new hope can arise.”

A big draw for many of the participants will be opportunity to pray alongside Pope Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square on Saturday.

In addition, the conference agenda will allow the young men and women to visit some of Rome's others religious centers, in a bid to spur greater unity among Christians.

Feast of the Holy Innocents and our Innocents Martyred Today

Today we commemorate 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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A look at the top 10 stories from the Vatican that will make headlines in 2013

December 27, 2012. ( Looking ahead it becomes clear what stories from the Vatican will likely top headlines in Rome and around the world in 2013.

One of the biggest stories of the year will be undoubtedly the Pope's visit to the Brazil for World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. The massive event is expected to draw nearly 2 million youths.

Benedict XVI will arrive on Monday, June 22 and take off on that Sunday. The Vatican is also analyzing possible visits to other Latin American countries, with Colombia and Panama allegedly at the top of the list.

In 2013, Benedict XVI will also publish a new encyclical on faith. It will be the fourth of his pontificate and will likely be published in January.

The Pope is expected to continue pushing forward the Year of Faith, with a number of gatherings to mark it.

For example, on June 15 he will host at the Vatican the world gathering on the right to life, described as the defense of a person's dignity from conception to their natural death.

On May 18, the Pope will welcome representatives and members from all Catholic movements at St. Peter's Square. They are the institutions and groups that propose ideas and methods to live out the faith and have millions of followers. Among the largest of these groups are the Focolare Movement, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and Communion and Liberation.

On June 2, Benedict XVI will participate in an Eucharistic adoration ceremony, which for the first time in history, will be observed simultaneously across the world.

He also called on families globally to come to Rome to reflect, on October 26 and 27, on how faith helps them overcome everyday challenges.

 In June, one of the biggest headlines will be when he meets with all his nuncios, for the first time ever. They are expected to discuss what it means to represent the Pope, political and religious leader.

During October, the Pope has traditionally created new saints. This upcoming year, he could break a record and canonize 802 people in the same ceremony. They are the 800 martyrs from Otranto (Italy), killed out of hatred for their faith in 1480; plus the first Colombian saint, Mother Laura; and Mexican nun Blessed Mother Maria Guadalupe.

The Pope is expected to maintain a full schedule, despite turning 86 years old in April. That would make him the fourth oldest pontiff in the history of the Church.

In 2013, 10 cardinals will turn 80, therefore losing their right to vote in the next conclave. As it stands now, there will be 109 papal electors by December 25 of next year. That's perhaps the reason why the Pope could create new princes of the Church at the end of November, the conclusion of the Year of Faith.

Feast of St. John, Apostle and 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
Recipe for St. John's Wine

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas message from Newtown, Connecticut priest

Less than two weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting left 20 children and six staff members dead, the pastor of the parish where eight of the children were members reflected on the meaning of Christmas.

“I have been asked so often how do we celebrate Christmas this year,” wrote Msgr. Robert Weiss. “I believe that we celebrate it in its truest sense, putting aside all the secularity and simply sitting in silence and praying that the hope, healing and peace promised to us by Christ will be given to us in abundance.”

“We need to know that even in these darkest hours, there is still light, light that is brighter than that great star over Bethlehem, which will take us to the place where we need to be,” he added. “It will take us to the heart of Christ who will heal our brokenness, remove our anger and hurt and fill us with the peace and strength we need to not just move forward but to reclaim the life that is ours as a community in Christ Jesus.”

~ Via CWN.

Read the entire message.

Urbit et Orbi: Benedict XVI issues Christmas greeting in over 65 languages and includes message to China

December 25, 2012. ( The yearly tradition shaped up with thousands of pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's Square in anticipation of the Pope's Christmas message. Benedict XVI stepped out into the main balcony to deliver his speech and issue greetings in over 65 languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Esperanto.

Benedict XVI
"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."

During his speech, the Pope called for global peace, especially in the Holy Land, Syria, and in other areas going though difficult times.

Benedict XVI
"May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship."
"May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world."

The Urbi et Orbi greeting is delivered only a handful of times. They include Christmas, Easter Sunday and on the election of a new pope.

The Vatican's Nativity scene in the heart of St. Peter's Square also makes its debut on this day.  This year's display varies greatly from years past.

Read the Pope's entire message.

St. Stephen, First Deacon and 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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

O Antiphon for December 23: "O Emmanuel"

The O Antiphon for December 23, "O Emmanuel," is drawn from Isaiah 7:14. "Emmanuel" means "God with us."

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

English: O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

The manger reminds us of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and is representative of His life of humility.

Merry Christmas!

Since there will be little posting here over the next few days, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. May the love of the infant Savior be born anew in your heart and fill it with peace and joy.

As a Christmas gift to you, I would like to share one of my personal favorites:

Some Christmas Treats

Pope denounces 'fallacy' in gender theories that alter the family unit

December 21, 2012. ( Benedict XVI delivered his Christmas greeting to his closest collaborators at the Vatican, and named the three biggest challenges the Church faces today: the defense of the family, inter-religious dialogue, and the New Evangelization.

The Pope rebuked gender theories by citing French Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, and said that such theories destroy the family unit and hurt a person's dignity.  

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being.They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

According to Benedict XVI, the denial of a person's sexual nature end up destroying the cohesion of the family as a unit, specifically the roles of the father, mother and their offspring.

The Pope also highlighted the importance of dialogue between the Church and other countries, as well as a truthful dialogue with other religions.

"For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions."

After his speech, the Pope personally greeted the cardinals and the high-ranking members of the Roman Curia, to personally wish them a Merry Christmas.

Christmas 2012 Reflection with the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 22: This Blog's Anniversary

December 22 is Catholic Fire's Ninth Anniversary! This blog started out with a very small group of followers and I still don't know exactly how many followers there are today, but I do know this -- even on slow days we have at least 3000 visitors. I will blog as long as God calls me to do so and will continue to spread the Good News in the ways He directs me. I am very thankful for this work and for all those come and visit here to learn more about the Catholic faith.

When I first started evangelizing many years ago, I was given the following passage: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, "Your God is King!" (Isaiah 52:7). However, I feel this passage more accurately describes those who have shared the faith with me and those who have gone before us and have sacrificed so much for this beautiful faith we live -- the Apostles, the Fathers, the martyrs, and especially our parents and teachers. Let's not hesitate to share this great treasure with others.

O Antiphon for December 22: "O King of the Gentiles"

The O Antiphon for December 22, "O King of the Gentiles," is drawn from Isaiah 2:4 and 9:7.

Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

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

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

The crown and scepter signify Christ's universal kingship. As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.

Recommended Readings: Apocalypse 15:1-4

How a Christmas carol saved one baby's life in Chicago

CHICAGO - Sometimes a song can save a life. That's what happened one year during the Pro-Life Action League's annual "Empty Manger" Christmas Caroling Day at abortion facilities in Chicago and the western suburbs.

"We were singing 'Silent Night' at American Women's Medical Center when a young woman came out of the clinic," said the Pro-Life Action League's executive director, Eric Scheidler. "She approached one of our pro-life counselors and said we got her thinking about Mary and Baby Jesus. She just couldn't go through with her abortion." The counselor directed the young mother to a nearby pregnancy center for help.

Read the full story.

Catholic University Students Petition to Have Starbucks Removed from Campus

From the Cardinal Newman Society:

Over 500 students at The Catholic University of America have signed a petition to have Starbucks removed from the campus, citing the coffee giant’s financial support of Planned Parenthood and its efforts to overturn traditional marriage.

Students currently pay $3 to $5 for a 20 oz cup of coffee at Starbucks Coffee in the Pryzbyla Center. Compare this to $2 to $4 for a comparable 20 oz Dunkin Donuts Coffee at other universities. These high prices help maintain Starbucks’ above average profit margin of 10.66% and fund their numerous political activities.

Starbucks is currently using their revenues to overturn a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and also for gift-matching to Planned Parenthood. We, the community of Catholic University of America, feel that we are entitled to a less expensive cup of coffee, whose price corresponds only to the quality of the product and not to the political agenda of the corporation.

Read the entire story

Starbucks is decent tasting coffee, but who wants to contribute to their political agenda? I have been boycotting it for some time because of their support of Planned Parenthood and gay marriage. Why not switch to Mystic Monk Coffee and support the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming?

O Antiphon for December 21: O Radiant Dawn – O Oriens

The O Antiphon for December 21, "O Dawn of the East," is drawn from Isaiah 9:2. "Dawn of the East" is often translated as "Dayspring."

O 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.

This Antiphon is rich in meaning on many levels. The Latin title O Oriens can be translated several ways. Oriens simply means East, but is also translated as Dawn, Daystar and Morning Star because they all rise in the East. All are harbingers of the sunrise which dispels the darkness.


The significance of this is often lost on those of us who dispel the darkness with our artificial sun, but in a world lit only by fire life was ruled by sunrise and nightfall. Not surprisingly sunrise has been associated with the coming of the Messiah. Thus Radiant Dawn of the Antiphon is reflected in Hosea 6:3: “Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming?”

Luke 1:77-79 carries the theme into the New Testament: “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” This text has been associated with both Jesus and his precursor, John the Baptist since the words are attributed by Luke to Zechariah , John’s father.

For Christians, the rising sun has always been associated with the Risen Son. The early Christians prayed facing East and altars faced East. In his book, The Spirit of Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “Despite all the variations in practice that have taken place far into the second millennium, one thing has remained clear for the whole of Christendom: praying towards the East is a tradition that goes back to the beginning.” Because the altars faced East, when the priest faced the altar he was said to be offering the Mass “ad orientem,” or towards the Risen Christ.

Still another example of the spiritual significance of Oriens, is the designation of the Virgin Mary as Morning Star, the precursor of the Risen Son.

~  Reflection via  Bishop Kevin Farrell.

St. Peter Canisius

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 from 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."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mary: A Model for Advent

DC appeals court rules new contraception rule must be issued

A victory for religious liberty:

Washington D.C., Dec 19, 2012 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom advocates applauded a federal appeals court’s decision to hold the government accountable for revising its controversial contraception mandate.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, called the decision “a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate.”

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” he said in a Tuesday statement responding to the ruling.

On Dec. 18, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said that it will hold the government responsible for following through on its promises to issue a proposed revision of the federal contraception mandate for objecting religious organizations by March 2013.

Read the full story.

St. Dominic of Silos

The saint of the day for December 20 is 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.

Patron: pregnant women, prisoners, captives, shepherds; against insects, rabies, hydrophobia, and mad dogs.

We Needed a Savior

O Antiphon for December 20: "O Key of David"

The O Antiphon for December 20, "O Key of David," is drawn from Isaiah 9:6 and 22:22.

O 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 Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

The key is the emblem of authority and power. Christ is the Key of the House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies, and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

General audience: Pope calls for trust in God, cites Mary as example

December 19, 2012. (  Benedict XVI explained during the general audience how faith shaped Virgin Mary. The Pope invited all the gathered pilgrims at St. Peter's Square to trust in God with as much joy as Mary did nearly 2000 years ago.


Dear Brothers and Sisters, As part of our catechesis for this Year of Faith, it is fitting, during these last days of Advent, to consider the faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ.  At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with an invitation to rejoice because the Lord is with her.

This joy is that of the messianic hope of God’s people, the daughter of Zion, now being fulfilled in her.   It is also the fruit of the grace which fills Mary’s heart and shapes her obedience to God’s word.  Mary’s faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord’s promises with a certain “unknowing”.  In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God’s will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross.  It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the Angel’s message.

Her example reminds us that faith, while fully obedient to the Lord’s will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will.  In this holy season, may Our Lady’s prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God’s grace in our hearts and in our world.

I offer a warm welcome to Japanese pilgrims from the Diocese of Kagoshima.  My cordial greeting also goes to Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission.  Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience I invoke God’s blessings for a happy and holy celebration of the coming feast of Christmas! Thank you.

O Antiphon for December 19: "O Root of Jesse"

The O Antiphon for December 19, "O Root of Jesse," is drawn from Isaiah 11:1 and 11:10.

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

"O ROOT of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer."

The flower which springs up from the root of Jesse is another figure of Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the Savior would be born from the root of Jesse, that He would sit upon the throne of David, and in Christ this prophecy is fulfilled.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pope blesses baby in womb of pregnant Olympic athlete

December 18, 2012. ( Valentina Vezzali is an Italian athlete, winner of two Olympic medals from the London games. The Pope blessed her future child in an unusual gesture that is becoming increasingly common in parishes around the globe. Last year, the Vatican approved a formula for these types of blessings.  

Olympic Medalist, London 2012
-Holy Father, I wanted to ask you for a special blessing... I'm expecting a child.
-How far along are you?
-He is due in May. After the Olympics, the Lord gave me this victory which is greater than any Olympic gold medal, it's a blessing. I'm thankful to God for being on my side and for helping me get great results in sports. I hope to be a good exemple for youths and to be a good Christian.

During the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, the vice-president of the American bishops conference, Joseph Kurtz, proposed that this blessing be carried out in parishes all over the world. He said it helps show the dignity of life, and becomes a source of happiness and calm for mothers, knowing their child has divine protection.

Beatification process continues for three martyred Red Cross nurses

December 18, 2012. ( On October 23, 1936, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, three young nursers from the International Red Cross were murdered, as they cared for wounded victims at a hospital in northern Spain. The Catholic Church could soon declare them martyrs.  

Their names are Olga, 23, Pilar, 25, and Octavia, 41. All three were from Astorga, in Leon province. When the war began, they volunteered to help care for the wounded. While they were not the first volunteers killed in the war, they were the first executed because of their faith. The person leading the beatification process is hoping to present their case to the Vatican in the coming week.

 “One of those direct witnesses says they hear how one of the guards asks, 'Where are the nuns?' The other answers, 'There, praying.? They could have fled, but they didn't. And they didn't because they wanted to remain next to the wounded soldiers, from both sides of the fighting. For them, there was no other option than the humanitarian one.”

Their biographers say that since they were young, all three were a prime example of service to others. They worked on the catechesis, collected clothing for the poor, and volunteered with St. Vincent de Paul societies to visit the sick. They say they were examples of the Christian commitment to society.

 “There is a very clear motivation in faith for them. We have a letter written by Pilar Gullán to her family, it says, 'Each time I hear the bells for Mass, I run out the door.' They're simple phrases, but they show what their motivation was, in their personal lives.”

Their motivation led the three, young nurses, with their commitment and service to others, to the ultimate sacrifice, their deaths.

 “We're not talking about the victims of the war, we're talking about the martyrs. People that died because of religious persecution. We're not addressing political parties, no political overtones. What we want to do is recognize the men and women that gave their life in situations  contrary to their faith.”

After getting raped, the three were killed. The next day, their bodies were thrown into a mass grave. Only after peace returned to the region, were they able to identify their bodies, and send them to the cathedral of St. John of Astorga, their hometown.

Fr. Barron: The Tragedy at Newtown

O Antiphon for December 18: "O Adonai"

For December 18, the antiphon is based on Exodus 3:2, Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12, Micah 6:4 and Acts 7:30-31.

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

O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel! You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave the Law on Mount Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

Exodus 3:2: "An angel of the Lord appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush.  As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed".

Exodus 6:6: "Therefore say to the Israelites: I am Yahweh.  I will free you from the enforced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery.  I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment".

"Adonai" is Hebrew for "my Lord", and was substituted by devout Jews for the name "Yahweh", out of reverence. With this second antiphon we progress from creation to the familiar story of God manifesting himself by name to Moses and giving his law to Israel as their way of life. We are also reminded of the Israelites' deliverance from bondage under pharaoh - a foreshadowing of our own redemption from sin. The image of God's arm outstretched in power to save his chosen people also brings to mind the later scene of Jesus with his arms outstretched for us on the cross.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 'new' popemobile vs the 'old' popemobile

December 16, 2012. ( This is the Pope's new popemobile. It was given to him as a gift, by car maker Mercedes-Benz. For the first time, the Pope took it for a ride, all the way from the Vatican to
Rome's Spanish steps, for the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.

It was a relatively short trip. But still, there are some noticeable differences between this popemobile and the last.

The last popemobile, Benedict XVI used up until a few days ago, was actually designed for John Paul II. It falls under the Mercedes Benz, 'G class'. The old design is softer, but its windows reflect light, which sometimes prevented people from seeing the Pope clearly.

But this new popemobile, is a so called 'M class' It has halogen lighting on the roof, which makes the light seem quite natural. Also, the window glass has a special shield that doesn't reflect light.

The new design in this latest popemobile is quite obvious, not just on the outside, but also in the interior. The cabin itself where the Pope sits or stands along with his secretary, is more spacious.
Actually getting to that area is easier and more accessible. The car also has a small elevator to enhance the Pope's visibility as needed.

It runs on regular gas and as part of its design it has an image of Our Lady of Loreto, to accompany the Pope.

In the meantime, Mercedes Benz is also working on a hybrid popmobile, so that Benedict XVI can be 'eco friendly' as he travels along St. Peter's Square. Just a few minor changes to these historic cars that for years have taken Popes around the world.

The "O Antiphons" Of Advent: Dec. 17 - Wisdom

The Roman Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

December 17
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

This will help you sing it in Latin and Gregorian chant:

St. Olympias of Constantinople, Deaconess

Today's saint, St. Olympias, was born into a wealthy noble Constantinople family in 368. Her parents died when she was young, and left her an immense fortune.

Olympias married Nebridius, the newly appointed prefect of Constantinople. Within a short time, Nebridius died, and Olympias was left a childless widow. Determined to devote herself to the service of God and works of charity, she refused several offers of marriage, and had her fortune put into a trust until she was thirty. When her husband died, the Emperor Theodosius attempted to pressure her into marrying him by seizing control of her properties and when that failed, he banned her from going to Church or associating with the clergy. However, he gave up one after one year and she regained her estate. In 391, she was consecrated deaconess by Nectarius, the Bishop of Constantinople. She founded a convent, near the Basilica of St. Sophia, which attracted fifty women. Along with her, they consecrated their lives to the service of God and engaged in works of charity.

When St. John Chrysostom became Bishop of Constantinople in 398, he acted as spiritual guide, taking her  under his wing, advising her on  how to use her fortune to help the poor. She used her resources to build a hospital and an orphanage and to provide shelter for the expelled monks of Nitria. When Chrysostom was exiled, Olympias supported and encouraged him, and remained a loyal follower. Chrysostom exhorted and guided her through his letters, seventeen of which still survive. Due to her support of Chrysostom, Olympias was persecuted, her community disbanded, her house seized and sold, and she, too, exiled, dying a few months after Chrysostom on July 25, 408, at Nicomedia. Olympias is one of the 140 Colonnade saints which adorn Saint Peter's Square.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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.



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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Vatican Chirstmas tree lit up at St. Peter's Square

Pope blames crisis on unregulated financial capitalism

December 14, 2012. ( Benedict XVI blamed unregulated financial capitalism for the increasing wealth disparity between rich and poor, and called for a new economic model. In his message for the World Day of Peace 2013, the Pope also stated that the economic crisis threatens world peace.

The document cites his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, in which he called for new development models that call for greater opportunity for all.message was delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
“The other thing about work or job is a very common sense these days that people who are into the psychology of achievement will regularly tell you that one cannot be happy when he doesn't know where his next paycheck is coming from.”

Benedict XVI also addressed world hunger and the rise of food prices. He recalled the importance of protecting marriage and family, to respect life and to defend freedom of religion.

President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
 “We recognize that the basic fulfillment of our life is a community relationship with God, and when that is not possible there is a very uncertain condition in which we place the human person.”

The message also asks to learn to forgive, not seek revenge, to recognize one's faults, and to not demand apologies from others.

Pope Paul VI to be declared venerable next week

December 14, 2012. (  On December 20, Benedict XVI will declare former Pope Paul VI venerable. Cardinals belonging to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved on December 10 a report on the heroic virtues of Paul VI.  

The former Pope had a very important role in the Second Vatican Council. The acceptance of his heroic virtues falls exactly 50 years since the start of the Second Vatican Council.

Rooted in Love: Book Review and Book Giveaway

I feel blessed to be able to participate in this blog tour because Rooted in Love: Our Calling as Catholic Women is an exceptional book written by a very special lady.

By Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, released November 2012, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 224 pages, Paperback $14.95. Available from Ave Maria Press, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Major books stores and Catholic and Christian book stores.

Reviewed by JEAN M. HEIMANN, wife and mother, M.A. in Theology, freelance writer, retired psychologist, and oblate with the Community of St. John.

Rooted in Love: Our Calling as Catholic Women is not quite the book I expected it to be.  This particular book exceeded my expectations. Not only was it inspiring and uplifting, but it was candid, funny, enlivening, encouraging, and enlightening. In Rooted in Love, Donna-Marie engages her readers in her intimate, conversational way, which makes you feel as if you are chatting with a close friend over coffee or tea, sitting in front of the fireplace in your living room. There is a warmth and naturalness that comes across in her writing, which draws the reader into her story. Her unique brand of feminine spirituality, nurtured by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Venerable John Hardon, gently guides the reader spiritually through chapters on discovering: who they are in Christ, how Christ works in their lives, how they can find Christ in others, and the joy of Christ. Following each chapter are questions for reflection to help the woman explore the multiple dimensions of her personhood – her mind, heart, soul, and body.

Rooted in Love beautifully unravels the truths of the Catholic faith as they relate to the whole woman and shows her how to use them to her own advantage and for the benefit of those she encounters in her life – family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even total strangers. Rooted in Love is lovingly sprinkled with: saint quotes from some of my favorite saints, Scripture quotes, and excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and papal documents. Donna explains everything clearly and thoroughly, applying it all in practical, down-to-earth ways you can use in your life.

Although I enjoyed the entire book, my favorite part was Chapter 7 – “In My Struggles.” I think we all have a tendency to think that others – especially those who are successful in their careers, like Donna-Marie – are probably much better off than we are and have not had to deal with the really difficult, painful situations we have had to face in our lives. This chapter dispels those myths. Donna shares some rather shocking, traumatic episodes in her life, which show that she writes with authority about suffering and struggles. She uses her own examples and advice to help us deal with our own trials and tribulations and to fill our hearts with hope.

Rooted in Love:  Our Calling as Catholic Women was written primarily for women – married, single, divorced, widowed—but I believe that men could profit from reading this book, too. I think it would help them to understand a woman and her spirituality better.  I believe that it is beneficial reading material for all adult women and would be a wonderful supplement for: adult education, Christian/Catholic women’s groups, and book discussion groups. This is an excellent gift for all occasions. I highly recommend Rooted in Love: Our Calling as Catholic Women.

~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann, December 2012.

You can enter to win a copy of Rooted in Love. To qualify for the drawing, just send me an email with your full name and mailing address at jean.heimann(at)gmail(dot)com and you are entered! The deadline is December 21.

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross is a co-founder of the Discalced (Latin for "shoeless") Carmelites and today is his feast day. I wish all my Discalced Carmelite brothers and sisters 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.

John left us many books of practical advice on spiritual growth and prayer that are just as relevant today as they were then. These books include: Ascent of Mount Carmel , Dark Night of the Soul and A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ .

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?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pope gains 700,000 new followers after his first Twitter message

December 13, 2012. ( Exactly 24 hours after Benedict XVI sent out his first tweet in several languages, the number of Twitter followers to his eight accounts ballooned in size.

His English-language account, @pontifex, saw the largest surge in popularity. Before sending out his first tweet, he had 672,590 followers. But a full 24 hours since, the number swelled to 1,038,570 followers.

But the other foreign language accounts also saw noticeable gains:

His account in Spanish is the second largest with 376,290 followers. That number is up by a whopping 205,880, nearly tripled in size.

In third place, Italian-language followers numbered 153,620, an increase of 58,508 users.

The Portuguese account is fourth in size with 41,796, closely followed by French with 37,038.

Rounding out the remaining accounts is German, the Pope's native tongue, which saw a 12,330 increase to reach 31,664 followers. His Polish account reached 16,032 subscribers, while Arabic, his least followed account, doubled in size to 12,105.

In total, there were 1,705,115 Twitter users following Benedict XVI exactly 24 hours after his first tweet, an increase of 688,588 followers. But those numbers will likely continue to rise as the Pope ushers in a new digital era.

St. Lucy of Syracuse

Today is the feast of St. Lucy (283-304), a noblewoman who was born in Syracuse, Italy, during the Diocletian persecution. She made a vow of virginity and distributed her wealth to the poor. This generosity angered the pagan 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.

In the old Julian calendar, Lucy's feast fell on the shortest day of the year. She continues to be associated with the coming of longer days and sunlight. Her feast day marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations in Sweden, and some parts of Finland, and Norway. She is the patron of electricians, opthamologists, writers, and sales people. She is also the protector of those with diseases of the eye.

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.

In Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, Saint Lucy is venerated on her feast day, December 13, in a ceremony where a young girl is chosen to portray the noble virgin and martyr. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of other girls, each holding a candle, and singing a song in honor of Saint Lucy. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life when she was sentenced to be burned to death by the Roman judge, during the persecution of Diocletian.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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 unborn, the Americas, and Mexico.

~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann, 2009, updated 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Bishop installed in Orange County


Orange County Welcomes New Bishop

In Orange, The Purpose-Driven Episcopate