Wednesday, December 31, 2008
O sacred and adorable Trinity, hear our prayers on behalf of our holy Father the Pope, our Bishops, our clergy, and for all that are in authority over us. Bless, we beseech Thee, during the coming year, the whole Catholic Church; convert heretics and unbelievers; soften the hearts of sinners so that they may return to Thy friendship; give prosperity to our country and peace among the nations of the world; pour down Thy blessings upon our friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and upon our enemies, if we have any; assist the poor and the sick; have pity on the souls of those whom this year has taken from us; and do Thou be merciful to those who during the coming year will be summoned before Thy judgment seat. May all our actions be preceded by Thy inspirations and carried on by Thy assistance, so that all our prayers and works, having been begun in Thee, may likewise be ended through Thee. Amen.
Prayer for Priests
by St. Therese of Lisieux
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit and
may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and consolation here and in heaven their beautiful and
everlasting crown. Amen.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Pope Deplores Gaza Violence and Job Insecurity in Angelus Address
(28 Dec 08 - RV) Artic winds gripped St Peter’s Square this Sunday, the first Sunday after Christmas, but the winds of war took pride of place in the Pope Benedict’s concerns as he greeted hundreds of fathers and mother’s huddled with their children beneath scarves and umbrellas to pray the Angelus with the Pope and hear his address. This week it began with an urgent appeal for an end to the bloodthirsty violence destroying Gaza. He said: “The Holy Land, at the core of the thoughts and affections of the faithful worldwide during the Christmas period, is once again rocked by the explosion of unrestrained violence".
The Pope expressed his “profound grief for the victims, the wounded, the material damage, the suffering and tears of the population, the true victim of this tragic continuation of attack and revenge attack”. He continued: “The land of Jesus’ birth cannot continue to bear witness to this endless spilling of blood!”. Then Pope Benedict implored an end to the violence, which “must be condemned in every form", and the restoration of the ceasefire in Gaza; he also asked for a “leap of wisdom and humanity in all those responsible for the [current] situation”, he asked the international community to “attempt everything possible to help Israelis and Palestinians” find “a way out of this dead end” so they “do not resign themselves” – as he said two days ago in the Urbi et Orbi message – “to the perverse logic of conflict and violence", instead privileging "dialogue and negotiation”. Pope Benedict invited all believers to entrust fervid prayers to Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and to Him, Mary and Joseph, he said we pray : “O family of Nazareth, expert in suffering, gift the world peace”. "Above all gift it to the Holy Land today!".
Indeed this Sunday, the first Sunday after Christmas, the church celebrates the Family of Nazareth. In his Angelus reflection Pope Benedict dwelt on the role of the family as the cornerstone of the church and society: “Today we recall how Mary and Joseph, after presenting Jesus in the temple, took the child to Nazareth and began their life as a family. May all families strive to imitate their faith, hope and charity, so as to bear greater witness to the singular importance of the “domestic church” for the life of the universal Church and for society”.
Then Pope Benedict looked forward to the World Meeting of the Families due to take place in Mexico in little over two weeks time. Speaking in Spanish he also sent a greeting to thousands of families gathered for a special live video-link with the Pope in Madrid Spain, urging them, the many families present in St Peter’s square and those listening to his voice across the world, “not to allow love, openness to life and the incomparable bonds that unite the hearth of each home, be weakened”.
But Pope Benedict did not stop there; in remembering that historic Christmas Eve 1968, when Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass with factory workers among the machines and production lines of Ilva factory in Taranto, Southern Italy, Pope Benedict put his finger on one of the greatest threats to family life in modern society; the rapid decrease in job security and the increase in precarious forms of employment. Concluding this Sunday Angelus address, Pope Benedict launched one final appeal: for “dignified working conditions for everyone, everywhere”.
Friday, December 26, 2008
"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 , 5ff.), praising God’s grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us… God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high", looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God’s looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust…" In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me – me! – to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down". This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God’s stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down – he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity’s neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable. In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God’s footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God’s glory. Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet – a cloud of glory! How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure? The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.
Saint Luke’s account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large – to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch". This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus’s message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden – the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord’s coming, and to be prepared. Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instill the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.
Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were "surrounded" by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels’ song of praise: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will". And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God’s goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?
The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment – the Fathers say – the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation’s silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands – he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God’s new and further way of making himself known – say the Fathers – a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth". We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective. God’s glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable – what was lowly has now become sublime. God’s glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love. And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own "height", the height of humility and love. To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.
The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God – from the time of Adam – saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.
With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem – to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.
And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.
In Psalm 96 , Israel, and the Church, praises God’s grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: "Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes" (v. 12ff.). The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God’s coming. This silent coming of God’s glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God "comes". And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God’s coming as a child – and rejoice deep in their hearts. And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter’s Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him. The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy – the God who for our sake became a child. In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us – he gives us a life that reaches into eternity. At this hour we join in creation’s song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.
Feastday: December 26
Patron of Stonemasons
Stephen's name means "crown," and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.
God worked many miracles through St. Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen's preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they got men to lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.
The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.
After such an expression of love, the holy martyr went to his heavenly reward. His feast day is December 26th.
Iraqi Christian Persecution
Muslim extremists forcibly turn Catholic church into mosque
Rome, Jun 6, 2007 / 01:26 pm (CNA).- On the same day as Father Ragheed Ganni’s funeral, Muslim fundamentalists sent another message of hatred to Catholics, this time attacking two churches in Iraq. Fr. Ragheed, along with three deacons were killed just this past Sunday after they had finished celebrating Mass.
According to the AINA news agency, two churches were attacked in the Baghdad district of Dora. At St. John the Baptist’s in Hay Al-Athoriyeen, several security guards who protect the church were killed, and St. Jacob’s in Hay al Asya was vandalized and forcibly turned into a mosque. St. Jacob’s had previously been attacked in October of 2004.
The attacks coincided with the funeral Mass for Father Ganni which was being celebrated in Karamles by Archbishop Faraj Rahho of Mosul amidst tight security. The minister of finance of the regional Kurdish government, Sarkis Aghajan, attended the service.
On June 7 in Rome Msgr. Philip Najim, procurator of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, will celebrate a Mass in memoriam of Father Ganni and the three deacons who were killed with him.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Dementia she had and I quit working, brought my parents into my home so that I could take care of them both full time. Mom could not take care of herself safely at all and dad's nerves were horrible worrying about what would happen to mom if he died suddenly...he was living in constant fear that she would go outside, wander, and be lost forever. So, as their sole care provider for now 3-1/2 years, I see clearly how special both of them are. But, this is about mom.
My dad is still living and is 89. He and mom saw their 67th anniversary a month before she passed on. His memory fails him nowadays so he actually doesn't realize that she has been gone only a short 11 months. He thinks it has been 9 years or so. This must be one of God's gifts that he can have peace and joy this Christmas instead of suffering the loss of his wife of 67 years and his best friend.
But I remember. I remember for both of us, dad and I. There is a feeling of sadness yet joy. The joy comes in my heart from knowing very very well that mom is in heaven. I have no doubts. No need to explain how I know that...but I do.
Mom. She pondered everything in her heart. She truly did. No matter what ever may have been wrong, she never gave a hint that anything was wrong. As I look back at all the years that I knew her, I see very clearly that she had that special something that reminds me so much of our Blessed Mother in the way of pondering all things in her heart.
Even as my mother was passing away for a straight 6 days, dad and I always in the same room here at the house, not a word of pain, not a flinch of pain, not a word to say, not one complaint of any kind. But I know she was aware. She was passing with the same graceful way she had lived. The only way I knew that she was aware was when I asked her if she wanted to see her great grandson, then 2-1/2 years old. They had been the best of friends every day. She almost sat straight up and nodded yes emphatically.
Hospice tried to tell my mom the first day that it was ok to go. Literally, I physically stood between the hospice nurse and my mom so that my mom would not hear her words. I'm sure the hospice nurse thought I was wrong. But I know my mom. She may ponder things in her heart but NO one would tell her when it was time to go and when it wasn't.
The hospice nurse didn't come back for the next 5 days. She knew, however, that mom was in her final days but because mom wasn't passing as quickly as hospice thought she should, no doubt even the hospice nurse thought they had made a wrong decision about when mom's life would/should end.
However, I knew mom was going and I knew that my mom's decision to hang on was definitely between her and God. Ok. But after awhile, I was also starting to lose my mind wondering what mom was waiting for. I started to feel guilt that maybe I had made a wrong decision.
My daughter went to the hospital on January 20th to have her second child...we knew it was to be a girl. I received a phone call at 8:30 pm that Mariah Grace had been born. I whispered into my mom's ear that her great grand daughter was born, healthy, and her name is Mariah. My mother's breathing changed immediately. I knew she had heard me. No doubt about that.
At 10:30 pm dad went to bed. I watched the Mass on EWTN at 11:00 pm. Right after, I sat with a bust of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with all my heart and soul for my mom. At 12:10 am, January 21, my mother took her last breath on the "amen" of the Chaplet.
My daughter, Christine, gave birth to Mariah. My mother, Mary, left this world to the Face of Jesus 3-1/2 hours later. My dad, Christ (his nickname for Christopher), remained asleep until morning. Of course it would seem that he should have been awake or that I should have got him up. But no. Dad and his confusion would not have faired well...better to let him sleep til morn.
So, this Christmas I really miss my mom. But, I can also feel joy in knowing that her joy is now more than I can imagine. And, I know my mom...she's here alright if there is any way she could make that arrangement with Jesus.
We love you, wife...mom...grandma...great grandma.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Nativity Church bells ring again, singing with the Angels the eternal hymn: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14).
From the humble town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born, I address this Christmas message, to all the inhabitants of the Holy Land: in Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Christian nationals and Pilgrims, Jews, Muslims, Druze and to all those who love the Holy Land, to pray to the Lord, so that He brings about in this land "a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.” (Preface to the Roman Liturgy of Christ the King).
It is our wish that our prayerful celebration of the Christmas Feast, may bring the peace desired by all peoples, founded on justice and truth. Thus, our life in this land, a land ennobled and sanctified by the Prophets, might have the chance of becoming a continuous and increasing Christmas, where joy might reign in our hearts and our families, showing forth in our streets. Then might our dear pilgrims be touched ,by our faith, by our love for each other, our hospitality and our fraternal co-existence, united by our faith in God, in one inalienable destiny.
We ask God to grant us peace, so that these countries might prosper, and job opportunities might increase. We entreat Him as well, for a true human encounter, among all our citizens of all denominations, for exchange and fruitful dialogue, among religions and cultures. Stability will do a great deal, to help stop emigration, as families will be at peace, and have a serene prospect, for the future of their children. As it is, emigration uproots people, from their religious and national roots, erasing their identity.
Christmas has come and so we are full of hope. We are thankful for hopeful signs around us, such as recent international encounters, at the highest levels among religious leaders and among other peacemakers. These encounters have been based on a genuine desire, to contribute to a harmonious social life, a social live, characterized by the dignity and acceptance of the other, not determined by prejudices, especially those that lead to labeling fellow people as "infidels" and anathematizing them.
May the grace of Christmas and the sincere prayers of the faithful, accompany the leaders who have undertaken these peace initiatives, and may this grace, bless their efforts crowning them with success. This hopefulness on our part, however, does not prevent us, from being saddened on a daily basis by the instability, insecurity, the unclear vision for the future, and, not least, the aggression against citizens and their land and property.
As Bethlehem waited throughout history, for the One Who would "smash the yoke that burdened" the people, "and the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster," (Isaiah 9:3) so are we awaiting a manifestation of the Savior's grace, that will put an end to the occupation and the injustice, delivering us from those fears, hardships and internal divisions, that beset this land. We are looking forward, to the dawning of a new era where the false road of revenge, no longer leads us to perdition, but where our steps turn instead, to the true path of forgiveness, where love releases those captured by hatred; an era when the sun of peace and justice rises, when greed and grudges do not rule us, and when enmities among us decline; a time when people find agreement, in a spirit of harmony and friendliness. "Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse with the little child to guide them." (Isaiah 11:6)
On this occasion, we shall not forget Jerusalem, this inestimably great treasure entrusted to our keeping. We are deeply concerned about the Holy City! We bear the responsibility of defending its holiness and preserving its unique characteristics. It is the very Shrine, where the followers of the three monotheistic religions meet: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They all come together, in their common belief in one God, and in their shared descent from Abraham, the common father of all the faithful. We do not forget what divides us: greed mixed with injustice, violence and man’s persecution of his fellow man. All these, beset the Holy City, not mentioning the building of settlements which strangle it. In consequence, the Jerusalem Churches suffer from the on-going emigration of the Christians, due to the lack of peace and the deterioration of the political situation. All this makes us anxious for the future of the Christian community, in the Homeland of Christ.
In this Christmas feast, we pray for the towns, cities and villages of the Holy Land, because they are isolated from each other. With pain and deep sadness, we observe civilians being blockaded by the erection of walls and barriers. These contribute to the creation of violence and humiliation, generating grudges and hatred, whereas what we need most urgently are bridges leading to a quiet and serene life, sustained by mutual trust and friendly co-operation.
Together with all the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East "we turn to our faithful and to all the citizens of the Holy Land, living in deteriorating conditions, especially the unjust siege that has struck Gaza, and the hundreds of thousands of innocent residents there. And while we offer our thanks and appreciation, for the efforts invested by all those of good will, to break the siege, we appeal to the local and international authorities, to finally reach a just and final peace in the Holy Land, so that it might return, to being a source of redemption, reconciliation, justice and forgiveness for its people and the whole world. We also call upon the Palestinians themselves, to return to unity in the context of a recognized Palestinian legal structure, and in this way, to spare the people the continuing and degrading siege." (Final Statement: 18th Conference of the Council of Oriental Catholic Patriarchs )
The second tragedy, about which our conscience permits us neither to ignore nor to keep silent, is that of Iraq whose population, culture, heritage and history have been undermined, because of its occupation by foreign military forces. This has brought about the destruction of its fundamental structures, transforming it, into a jungle of chaos, violence, and terrorism. It is our wish that all Iraqi citizens should be able to remain in their homeland. We pray for the unity of Iraq and for its return to normal life.
Dear brothers and sisters,
With joy we would like to announce to you the desire of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to visit the Holy Land, as a Pilgrim next May. The Supreme Pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a first hand knowledge, of the hard conditions of our region. We are confident in the Lord, that this pontifical pilgrimage and pastoral visit, will be a blessing for us all, as well as a substantial contribution, to a better understanding among the various nations of the region, lifting the barriers and helping solve the problems, removing distress and consolidating good relations among peoples, religions and denominations, in security and peace.
From Bethlehem, I call upon my Brothers the Bishops and other world religious Leaders, the religious Orders and Congregations, Consecrated persons and all other people of good will, the Pilgrims and all those who love the Holy Land: please, remember Bethlehem and Jerusalem in your prayers! The Holy Land appeals to your conscience and entreats your support. Do not leave it alone in its distress. Assist it so that it might become and remain a land of love, peace, reconciliation and equality among all its children.
O Infant of Bethlehem, you who wanted to be born in silence and stillness, plant in our hearts a love for peace, justice and serenity! You, who have experienced poverty, wandering and fear, have pity on our poor, our wanderers, our prisoners and refugee camp dwellers!
O unlimited God who, in your incarnation, accepted to experience the limits of time and place: you knew the limits of place, by being born in a grotto and being compelled to escape and wander; you knew the limits of time, when you dwelt in the holy womb of the Virgin. You, who with your mother Mary and guardian Joseph were, in the Grotto, the model of refugees and rejected people, sanctify your Country, so that your name be hallowed everywhere, and that we draw closer to You and to each other, under the hard circumstances in which we live.
O Infant of the Grotto, who rejected violence, homicide and hatred, you, whose Birth, divided History into two – the old and the new, before Christ and after Christ - expel war from your homeland, and bring an end to the destruction of its homes. Sow the seeds of brotherhood! Grant to the afflicted and the poor, hope and comfort! O You, the Poor, the Fugitive and the Persecuted One, look upon those who emigrated from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and other suffering countries. May your Homeland be the Land of blessings and prosperity, where the followers of all religions meet in harmony, so that "no nation raises the sword against another." (Isaiah 2:4) May our faithful celebration of your Birth, be the birth of a new era of peace, stability and security, Amen!
+ Fouad Twal, Patriarch
Monday, December 22, 2008
The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History
by Alicia Mosier
Copyright (c) 2001 First Things (April 2001).
In the best that has been thought and said about the twentieth century, its Christian martyrs have hardly been mentioned. This should come as no surprise. From our vantage point at the beginning of a new millennium, it seems a little far-fetched that someone would be killed because he is Christian, at least in our society. (Since when have Christians been a serious threat to anyone?) In the usual histories about the usual suspects, the people of faith whom the twentieth-century revolutions killed are generally ignored. And in a culture that tells us religion is a private matter, the very public witness of martyrdom can be somewhat embarrassing. Add to this the often saccharine depiction of martyrs in Christian art and legend, and one has a situation in which martyrdom is seen as a pious, quaint idea from an earlier age. But today in countries all over the world Christians are still dying for their faith. At the end of the bloodiest era in human history, in which the very belief that was meant to be exterminated turned out to be far more durable than its enemies, martyrdom is more than ever a sign of contradiction.
It is estimated that two-thirds of all the martyrs in Christian history died in the twentieth century. Of that century’s millions of witnesses to the faith (precise numbers are not yet known, and perhaps never will be), we are really familiar with only a few-Maximilian Kolbe, Charles de Foucauld, Miguel Agustín Pro-and even those are hardly known outside Catholic circles. The rest have languished almost entirely unknown, whether because the records of their lives have been lost, because the countries in which they died have been literally inaccessible, or because the governments under which they were persecuted have been less than cooperative with attempts to make known the circumstances of their deaths. It is no exaggeration to say that we will not know the full history of the twentieth century until we know the stories of its martyrs.
In his 1994 apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, Pope John Paul II urged the faithful, both in local churches and at the highest levels of the hierarchy, to make a serious effort to recover those stories. The Jubilee Year 2000, he wrote, marked the end of a millennium in which, as in its first centuries, “the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs.” In conjunction with the Jubilee, the Pope established a Commission on New Martyrs, which for the last five years has been collecting testimonies from around the world. Last winter, the Commission published a catalogue containing the names of more than thirteen thousand Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant witnesses of the faith, and the project continues.
In The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, Robert Royal begins the work of disseminating to a general audience the information that has begun to be gathered. Royal, president of the Faith and Reason Institute, describes this book as “a comprehensive world history” of twentieth-century martyrs. It can certainly be said to cover the world-from Mexico to Albania, from Korea to Ukraine, from the African slaughterhouse to the Spanish Civil War, and many places in between. The names-Slipyi, Jägerstätter, Zanelli, Sudunaite, Ford, Kiggundu, Van-come tumbling off the page in a rush of languages, and the long lists of those who have names but little in the way of documented stories reveal how staggeringly many these witnesses really are.
Most are not martyrs in the strictly canonical sense. Given the sheer numbers of Christian dead and the number of ways they were killed, it is difficult to determine whether they fit the canonical criteria of dying in odium fidei (at the hands of enemies of the faith) or for refusing to apostatize under specific pressure to do so. Instead, they are known as “new martyrs,” Christians who have suffered for their faith not necessarily as individuals but rather in whole groups, whole communities, whole generations of believers. Some of the stories Royal tells-of Kolbe and of Edith Stein, for instance-are familiar in their general outlines, but many have never been heard before. It is hard to imagine them told with a more sobering clarity.
Simone Weil once wrote that while imaginary evil is romantic and exciting, real evil is “gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring.” Hannah Arendt called it banal. For all the perverse ingenuity of their methods of destruction, there is a terrifying sameness to the regimes Royal describes; indeed, he warns that “it is just as difficult to retain a sense of the realities behind these repetitive litanies of horror as it is to see real human beings behind pious descriptions.”
This book does not shrink from those realities. Page after page recounts interrogations, torture, brainwashing, deception, and killing sprees-all aimed at wiping out faith in anything other than the State, and especially faith in a God who transcended the State. On July 24, 1936, near the start of the Spanish Civil War, Republican militiamen in Madrid shot three Carmelite nuns in the middle of a street. “One died instantly,” Royal writes, “another was at first refused transport to a hospital by a bus driver who wanted to ‘finish her off,’ a third wandered around dazed until another band of militiamen executed her.” By July 31, in Madrid and Barcelona alone, 321 priests had been murdered. Between 1950 and 1953 in Communist North Korea, “50 percent of the hierarchy, one-third of the clergy, and at least fifteen thousand lay persons perished”; many more died in the notorious Death March to the Yalu River.
Hundreds of thousands of Cath olics were murdered in Mexico from the 1920s on. Priests, nuns, and lay people were tortured in Soviet labor camps and in Nazi-occupied Poland. Sadistic brainwashing techniques were developed against Romanian Catholics, who nonetheless kept attending Mass at a rate of almost 80 percent. “Accidents” befell priests in Lithuania. “Reeducation centers” were established by the North Vietnamese. Missionaries in Angola and the Trappist monks at Tibhirine were murdered for their faith. In Albania, Catholics-the only religious group that refused to cede power to that Communist state (though they were later forced to sign an agreement in which they submitted to state control)-were tortured, their bishops “forced to clean the streets and public bathrooms wearing clown outfits with paper signs across their chests saying, ‘I have sinned against the people.’” In 1967 the Albanian government outlawed religion altogether, and declared the traditional family to be “reactionary.” Over two thousand religious buildings were closed or destroyed, and almost all the clergy were imprisoned. Pope John Paul II has said that “history has never seen before what happened in Albania.” Under Soviet rule, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was “the largest suppressed group of believers in the world.”
The stories are overwhelming, all the more so because they all tell the same tale. In every part of the world, throughout the twentieth century, Christians were being slaughtered on the altar of the atheist state. This book is as much a history of godless political power as it is a remembrance of God-fearing witnesses. Organized religion was a primary target of every one of the twentieth century’s regimes of terror. But as is evident in Nazi and Communist terrors alike, organized irreligion (to put it in Royal’s sharp formulation) has proved far more dangerous than organized religion ever was.
The importance of this study in exposing how totalitarian regimes actually conducted their purges of religion cannot be overestimated. But its importance is not only political.
In his many exhortations on the subject, John Paul II has emphasized that more than anything else the martyrs are a sign of unity in Christ. In a homily during the Ecumenical Commemoration of the Twentieth-Century Witnesses of the Faith, held at the Roman Colosseum last spring, the Pope said that “the precious heritage that these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony shared by all the churches and ecclesial communities. It is a heritage that speaks more powerfully than all the causes of division. The ecumenism of the martyrs and of the witnesses to the faith is the most convincing of all; to the Christians of the twentieth century it shows the path to unity.” In the passion of the martyrs all Christians can see the universal Christian vocation, the call to love the Lord they met in baptism even unto death. As Royal puts it, “Martyrdom is in a deep sense the paradigm for the Christian life.”
Because there are so few testaments to Christian unity as powerful as martyrdom, a question might be raised about the almost exclusively Catholic focus of Royal’s book, especially since the catalogue from the Commission on New Martyrs (from which some of his research derives) did include Protestant and Orthodox witnesses to the faith. In Royal’s defense, it can be said that, according to most estimates, more of the twentieth-century martyrs were Catholic than were Protestant or Orthodox. Moreover, in many of the places where persecution has been most vicious the Catholic Church has been the most visible presence of Christianity. Wherever Catholics were present, they were a stubbornly conspicuous sign of that which was to be stamped out. Royal mentions in brief such Protestant and Orthodox martyrs as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Russian Patriarch Tikhon. But if his book were to be truly comprehensive it would have to take much more fully into account the witness of those described in, for instance, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. As it is, the book is more an inspiration to further research than a complete history of Christian witness in the twentieth century.
More in the spirit of the catalogue of new martyrs is Royal’s conceptual focus on John Paul II’s understanding of martyrdom as a witness to Christ rather than to a particular church. As they suffered together in the gulags and concentration camps, Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox found themselves united in their common Christianity, sharing the passion and the promises of the crucified and risen Lord. The most moving passages in Royal’s book have to do not with torture but with prayer. “We were never so happy,” said Father Alexandru Ratiu, who spent sixteen years in Romanian prisons. “We never felt the presence of God so intimately; and we never prayed more seriously, confidently, and successfully than in those prison barracks.” Royal writes that “many people in . . . many different countries, even under differing regimes like Nazism and communism, have reported similar experiences.” The Christian church may be divided, but the Christian faithful are united whenever they confess that Jesus is Lord-and there is no confession more radical than the confession of martyrs.
Perhaps the most important witness the new martyrs gave in their heroic fidelity-inexplicable apart from their simple love and trust in God-is the witness to the truth that the politics of power is not all there is. They demonstrated that human beings are not what the totalitarian project said they were: merely machines to be manipulated, for whom faith was an opiate and scientific materialism would be liberation. That human dignity could be preserved by the death of human beings is a paradox of the highest order. It is also, not coincidentally, a paradox at the heart of the Christian religion.
In Royal’s landmark book, a crucially important part of the history of the twentieth century is finally being told. As the persecution of Christians continues in Sudan and East Timor and elsewhere-as people of faith continue to testify to the gospel of love and the truth about the human person-the continuing story of the martyrs will have to be told in the twenty-first century as well.
Alicia Mosier is Managing Editor of First Things.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Colombo, Dec 20, 2008 / 12:28 pm (CNA).- Despite appeals from Catholic and Anglican bishops, the Sri Lankan government on Thursday said it will not declare a ceasefire for Christmas.
A Wednesday statement from bishops of both Churches asked the government (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to declare a truce during Christmas and the New Year.
"We are now approaching Christmas, a world festival of peace. At this time many Christians and even persons of other faiths will be encouraged by the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace, to review and strengthen relationships," the statement said, according to the Sri Lankan Daily News.
"It is consequently expected that family ties will be renewed, communities will gather for fellowship, strangers will be welcomed, the marginalized included and the oppressed set free.
"Where relationships are strained or hostile it is expected that dividing walls will come down and healing will take place through forgiveness and reconciliation."
The statement was signed by Thomas Savundranayagam, the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna; Rayappa Joseph, Catholic Bishop of Mannar; Norbert Andradi, Catholic Bishop of Anuradhapura; Kumara Ilangasinghe, Anglican Bishop of Kurunegala; and Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo.
"It is this spirit of Christmas that compels us as Christian leaders of the country to urge the GoSL and the LTTE to declare a truce to include Christmas and the New Year," the bishops wrote, urging that there be no fighting or troop movement during the truce.
"Such an initiative will be seen the world over as a sign of political maturity and generosity," they said, calling on the government to take the lead in making the truce.
The peace would bring "immense relief" to civilians in LTTE controlled areas, the bishops said.
"It will also enable the Christians of these areas to worship and engage in their religious practices with less anxiety, as well as bring some respite to the war weary soldiers and cadres and some peace of mind to their parents and loved ones."
The bishops also appealed to both parties to "seriously consider" establishing safe zones for civilians, advising that religious leaders may help such a process.
"We are of the opinion that this war must stop, but till that happens such, an arrangement will demonstrate our respect for humanity and save some innocent lives from further trauma or even death.
"We can and must assert that it is possible to care for people even in times of war," they continued. "Nothing should prevent us from our highest priority of enabling life and safeguarding humanity.
"May the Peace of Christ fill our hearts and nation," the Catholic and Anglican bishops prayed, according to the Sri Lankan Daily News.
On Thursday, Media Center for National Security (MCNS) Director Lakshman Hulugalla told the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror that the government stated that it would go in for a ceasefire only if the Tigers laid down their arms. Till then there will be no decision of a ceasefire."
Fighting continues in the north of Sri Lanka. The military has vowed to capture the town of Killinochchi, a rebel stronghold. The rebels claim the army suffered a great defeat in its last attempt to take the town.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
St. Peter Canisius
The energetic life of Peter Canisius should demolish any stereotypes we may have of the life of a saint as dull or routine. Peter lived his 76 years at a pace which must be considered heroic, even in our time of rapid change. A man blessed with many talents, Peter is an excellent example of the scriptural man who develops his talents for the sake of the Lord’s work.
He was one of the most important figures in the Catholic Counter-Reformation in Germany. His was such a key role that he has often been called the “second apostle of Germany” in that his life parallels the earlier work of Boniface.
Although Peter once accused himself of idleness in his youth, he could not have been idle too long, for at the age of 19 he received a master’s degree from the university at Cologne. Soon afterwards he met Peter Faber, the first disciple of Ignatius Loyola, who influenced Peter so much that he joined the recently formed Society of Jesus.
At this early age Peter had already taken up a practice he continued throughout his life—a process of study, reflection, prayer and writing. After his ordination in 1546, he became widely known for his editions of the writings of St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Leo the Great. Besides this reflective literary bent, Peter had a zeal for the apostolate. He could often be found visiting the sick or prisoners, even when his assigned duties in other areas were more than enough to keep most people fully occupied.
In 1547 Peter attended several sessions of the Council of Trent, whose decrees he was later assigned to implement. After a brief teaching assignment at the Jesuit college at Messina, Peter was entrusted with the mission to Germany—from that point on his life’s work. He taught in several universities and was instrumental in establishing many colleges and seminaries. He wrote a catechism that explained the Catholic faith in a way which common people could understand—a great need of that age.
Renowned as a popular preacher, Peter packed churches with those eager to hear his eloquent proclamation of the gospel. He had great diplomatic ability, often serving as a reconciler between disputing factions. In his letters (filling eight volumes) one finds words of wisdom and counsel to people in all walks of life. At times he wrote unprecedented letters of criticism to leaders of the Church—yet always in the context of a loving, sympathetic concern.
At 70 Peter suffered a paralytic seizure, but he continued to preach and write with the aid of a secretary until his death in his hometown (Nijmegen, Netherlands) on December 21, 1597.
Peter’s untiring efforts are an apt example for those involved in the renewal of the Church or the growth of moral consciousness in business or government. He is regarded as one of the creators of the Catholic press, and can easily be a model for the Christian author or journalist. Teachers can see in his life a passion for the transmission of truth. Whether we have much to give, as Peter Canisius did, or whether we have only a little to give, as did the poor widow in the Gospel (see Luke 21:1–4), the important thing is to give our all. It is in this way that Peter is so exemplary for Christians in an age of rapid change when we are called to be in the world but not of the world.
When asked if he felt overworked, Peter replied, "If you have too much to do, with God's help you will find time to do it all."
Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., a premier Catholic intellect and champion of the unborn died this morning at the age of 90 in New York.
Dulles was actually once an agnostic. But after his service in the Navy, Dulles entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1956. His father was John Foster Dulles, who served as Secretary of State from 1953 to 1959, after whom Dulles airport outside Washington D.C. was named.
In 2001, Pope John Paul II made him a Cardinal in the Catholic Church because of his renowned scholarship.
The legacy of Cardinal Dulles is impossible to sum up, and his writings will be studied for many years. But one element of Dulles’ prolific life involved his dedication to the truths taught consistently by the Catholic Church on the dignity of all human life.
This past Election featured several public disputes over these topics, with some politicians who profess a Christian faith claiming that religious views should be censored from the public square, or that some truths shared by religious believers should not be “imposed” on others.
Cardinal Dulles soundly rejected this falsehood:
“Many politicians, like much of the American public, seem to be unaware that abortion and euthanasia are serious violations of the inalienable right to life. These are not just 'Church' issues but are governed by the natural law of God, which is binding upon all human beings. The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights, since a person deprived of life has no other rights.”
Cardinal Dulles was right. The truth about human life is not a “Catholic” thing, or even an exclusively religious doctrine. The priority of protecting all human life is a truth fundamental to all people. We must care because we are human too.
More than anything, Cardinal Dulles was a model of holiness, living a life of prayer and scholarship in the service of his Church and country.
We will miss this strong voice for the unborn. May he be welcomed today in the arms of Our Heavenly Father, where we hope to one day join him.
(Brian Burch, CatholicVote.com)
Upon stepping down as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University in April, he wrote: "Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity. 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'" (from Zenit.org)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Many lay people were also tortured for failing to denounce the “crimes” of the clergy (whole parishes of Albanian Catholics asked to be arrested in place of their priests and met to say the rosary in the priest’s absence). Maria Shalaku, from Kosovo, was pronounced too depraved for quick execution: she was condemned to “be slowly burned alive to ashes.”
In the prisons camps, the slow torture took many forms. Jan Gardin, a Jesuit survivor, recorded in his journal:
“Most of them were beaten on their bare feet with wooden clubs; the fleshy part of the legs and buttocks were cut open, rock salt inserted beneath the skin, and then sewn up again; their feet, placed in boiling water until the flesh fell off, were then rubbed with salt; their Achilles’ tendons were pierced with hot wires. Some were hung by their arms for three days without food; put in ice and icy water until nearly frozen; had electrical wires places in their ears, nose, mouth, genitals, and anus; burning pine needles placed under fingernails; forced to eat a kilo of salt and having water withheld for 24 hours; boiled eggs put in their armpits; teeth pulled without anaesthetic; tied behind vans and dragged; left in solitary confinement without food or water until almost dead; forced to drink their own urine and eat their own excrement; put in pits of excrement up to their necks; put on a bed of nails and covered with heavy material; put in nail-studded cages which were then rotated rapidly.”
But the people remained faithful. When religious services were permitted again in 1990, they immediately drew thousands. The government returned religious properties in 1991, the same year that Mother Teresa made a brief visit and opened a convent. In 1983, it compared John Paul II to Mussolini; in 1993, it honored him for defending the Albanian people for 15 years. The Albanian Church triumphed — at a high price. Of 156 priests before the persecution began, 65 were martyred, 64 died during or after imprisonment. Tens of thousands of common people perished for religious reasons. No people passed through a worse trial in the 20th century.
Pope John Paul II has said: “History has never seen before what happened in Albania. Dear Albanians, your drama must interest the whole European continent: Europe must not forget.”
* Catholic Priest killed in bomb blast, 28 rebels killed in battles in Sri Lanka's North
Sunday, April 20, 2008, 14:59 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
Apr 20, Colombo: A Roman Catholic priest and human rights activist was killed by a roadside bomb in Tamil Tiger controlled area and at least 28 LTTE cadres were killed in latest fighting in the northern region, defense sources said.
Vatican City, July 1 (AP): A Vatican-affiliated news agency says a Roman Catholic priest has been killed in Nepal in a suspected terrorist attack.
AsiaNews says the Reverend John Prakash died after armed men broke into his residence in the eastern city of Sirsiya and set off an explosive device. Prakash was 62.
Published Date: October 30, 2008
MOSCOW: Two Roman Catholic priests, one Russian and one from Ecuador, have been found dead in a Moscow apartment amid signs of an attack, investigators said yesterday. The bodies of the two Jesuits were found by police late on Tuesday in the apartment owned by their order in the upmarket Petrovka Street, the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's office said in a statement.
According to Indian Catholic News Service, he was attacked on August 24, 2008. During the attack, Father Bernard was brutally beaten and left in a field overnight. The next morning he was taken to a local hospital, then transferred to Kalinga Hospital in the state capital, Bhubaneswar. Soon he was taken to Mumbai for further treatment. He was recovering and released, but recently was admitted to a Chennai hospital. He was 47 years old. More details on the attack are at: http://www.indiancatholic.in/report.asp?nid=11630
Cardinal Francis Arinze
Rome, Dec 16, 2008 / 11:55 am (CNA).- The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Francis Arinze, has written a new book entitled, “Letter to a Young Priest,” in which he presents a way of life for priests to assist them in living out obedience, chastity and poverty.
In extracts from the book published by L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Arinze says, “The obedience that the priest gives to the Holy Father, the bishop and his representatives is based on faith. Through this obedience, the priest gives God the possibility of making complete use of him in carrying out the mission of the Church. The purpose of obedience is not to diminish the role of the priest, or to treat him as inferior or keep him from adequate personal growth.”
Cardinal Arinze warned that priests “should not try to introduce a sort of secular democracy that is not in accord with the divine nature of the hierarchical institution of the Church. The virtue of humility is one thing, it’s another thing to seek to clericalize the laity or laicize the clergy. The Church has nothing to gain by this, and everything to lose with similar initiatives.”
The cardinal went on to note that priests should always obey their bishops, “even when in the worst of scenarios the bishop assigns a task that surpasses the capacity of the priest or could make him suffer or harm him. God will not cease to protect the priest who is obedient. The judgment of God with regard to the bishop is a different question!”
Even when this obedience implies adversities for the priest, “in the end God protects the priest who respects and obeys the Bishop with firm fidelity and nobility of character. The intervention of God can appear after months or even years, but it does finally come. Some saints were only done justice after death,” he added.
Speaking about poverty, Cardinal Arinze said that “every priest should cultivate” this virtue which also has to do with “the personal use of his own money. Avoiding anything that can make him appear trapped in earthly goods or inclined towards excessive spending, the priest should remember the poor, the sick, the elderly, and in general all those in need. The means of transportation, the home, the furniture, the clothing should not give the impression that he is rich or powerful.”
Next, Cardinal Arinze said, “The priest should not identity poverty with lack of cleanliness or order in his own home, nor should he put it in practice with the ornaments or vestments at the altar. God should be given the best in order to praise Him. In his home, everything should be a sign of good taste and order, based on simplicity and sobriety.”
In reference to chastity, the cardinal recalled how this virtue in the priestly life “expresses and stimulates pastoral charity. It is a special source of fruitfulness in the world,” and he stressed that it constitutes “a testimony that shines before the world as an effective way of following Christ.”
“In today’s world,” he continued, “immersed in an exaggerated preoccupation with sex and its desacralization, a priest who lives joy, fidelity and his own vow of chastity positively is a testimony that cannot be ignored.”
“Through priestly celibacy, the priest is more closely consecrated to Christ in the exercise of spiritual fatherhood. With greater promptness he shows himself as a minister of Christ, spouse of the Church, and he can truly present himself as a living sign of the future world, which is already present through faith and charity.”
“The priest should not doubt the value or the possibility of celibacy because of the threat of loneliness,” Cardinal Arinze said. “A certain dose of loneliness is present in every state of life, even in the marital life. It would be an error if he sought to avoid loneliness by filling himself always with activities and always organizing new meetings, travels or visits.”
What the priest needs, says Cardinal Arinze, “is silence, quiet, and reflection to be in the presence of God, to give greater attention to God and to encounter Christ in personal prayer before the tabernacle. Only then will he be capable of seeing Christ in every person whom he encounters in his ministry.”
Meet The PriestsThe Priests are:
Father Eugene O’Hagan of the Parish of Ballyclare and Ballygowan: Church of The Sacred Heart and Church of The Holy Family. Diocese of Down and Connor
Father Martin O’Hagan of the Parish of Cushendun: Church of St. Patrick (Craigagh), Church of St. Mary, The Star of the Sea (Culraney). Diocese of Down and Connor.
Father David Delargy of the Parish of Hannahstown: Church of St. Joseph and Church of St. Peter, the Rock , Diocese of Down and Connor.
It was at St. MacNissi’s College near Carnlough in Co Antrim, where Father Eugene O’Hagan, Father Martin O’Hagan and Father David Delargy met for the first time and realised their musical prowess as a singing trio. Nicknamed Holy Holy Holy by their peers due to their shared determination to enter the priesthood, it was a priest at their school who first noticed how talented they actually were.
After leaving St. MacNissi’s, they followed their vocation training at The Seminary in Belfast, where Fr. Eugene specialised in English and Scholastic Philosophy and Fr. Martin and Fr David specialised in Ancient History and Scholastic Philosophy. During that time they all studied under the Belfast based singing teacher Mr Frank Capper MBE.
The Priests concluded their training at the revered Irish College in Rome where Fr. Eugene studied there for 7 years, Fr. Martin 5 years and Fr David for 4 years.
Whilst in Rome Eugene took advantage of the fact that he was able to have signing lessons from Sergio Ballani. Almost immediately their combined and rare talent was recognised. They were invited in person by the Pope’s private secretary, Monsignor John Magee (the Papal Master of Ceremonies) to sing for the Pope in the sacred liturgy.
The Priests’ careers overlapped once again as they all eventually returned to Ireland, where they began their work in various special ministries. Each now lives the life of a full time Parish Priest, tending the spiritual needs of their parishioners and official duties at all church services including those to mark the christenings, marriages and funerals of members of their catholic community.
Don’t miss The Priests performing on EWTN’s Christmas Special!
December 19th, 8pm
December 20th, 1pm
December 21st, 4pm
December 22nd, 10am & 11pm
December 26, 8pm
December 27th, 1pm
December 28th, 4pm
December 29th, 10am & 11pm
Monday, December 15, 2008
Madrid, Dec 11, 2008 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- In an emotional message to the faithful of Toledo, Spain, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, the new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, expressed his thanks for the support and affection he has received as Archbishop and he reminded them, “When we serve Mother Church and carry out what she asks of us, it can only bring us joy and happiness.”
“I seek nothing else in life but to do the will of God,” the cardinal said. “May He never allow me to stray from it. I have accepted this mission entrusted to me with complete obedience, fidelity, communion and the joy of doing what is asked of me,” he told the faithful.
“These feelings do not eliminate but rather increase my sorrow at leaving you. For me it is a kenosis, an expropriation, a denying of myself, which in reality is where joy truly is found. I ask you all to pray to God for me,” the cardinal said.
In his message Cardinal Canizares mentioned a special detail about his appointment, noting that it was made public on December 9, the feast of St. Leocadia, the patron saint of Toledo and of the archdiocese’s young people.
In St. Leocadia, he said, “the grace of the Lord shined forth, because she encountered Christ and his love and she lives in Him and for Him, such that nothing or nobody can separate her from his love. She wanted to know nothing else than the love of Christ, and she lived off of the charity and love that comes from Him in order to make Him known through a life of charity, to the point of making her entire person a testimony of this Gospel of the Love of God, that is to the supreme point of martyrdom.”
“For this reason the Church sends me now, together with Peter, to make Christ known and to be a witness of his mercy, which has been made manifest so strongly in my life; to help the Holy Father in his fundamental mission of sanctifying the people of God; to collaborate with him, inseparably united to him and in unbreakable communion with him, so that the whole of humanity might offer to God true worship in spirit and in truth, in true adoration, where the glory and the greatness of the future of humanity lie,” the cardinal stated.
Cardinal Canizares said he would begin his ministry at the Vatican on Thursday, December 11.
Rome, Dec 9, 2008 / 02:06 pm (CNA).- The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said this week the seminary in the patriarchate of the Holy Land “is rich in vocations but poor in resources,” and that “expansion is needed so that the young people who knock on its door are not turned away.”
In statements to L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop explained, “The seminary is the future of our diocese in the Holy Land. Young people who knock on its door come from all over Jordan, but unfortunately because of a lack of space and funds, we are obliged to send some of them back to their homes. And the operating expenses are constantly growing. Nevertheless, this does not prevent the formation of clergy who are well-educated and conscious of their own pastoral and spiritual mission at the service of the Christians community.”
Archbishop Twal also pointed out that the vocations to the priesthood “are all coming from our schools, and therefore they also deserve greater attention and sacrifice.”“Through our schools,” he said, “we can help families to make their young people rich in faith and capable, proud of their roots, helping the new generations contribute to the creation of a society in which all people, including minorities, can participate in the common good.” In this teaching environment, he added, Christian and Muslim students “have the chance to work and grow together, to establish true relationships that can open unexpected possibilities for the future.”
Uttar Pradesh, Dec 9, 2008 / 06:04 am (CNA).- Citing concerns about Hindu extremists, Bishop Gerald Mathias of Lucknow, India has canceled many of the Christmas festivities in his north Indian diocese.
One of the canceled festivities is the annual Christmas ‘Dance Drama,’ whose celebration on the steps of the cathedral of Lucknow City is typically attended by more than 50,000 people, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports.
The dance’s performers include seminarians and novice religious sisters and brothers. Drawing heavily on local culture, the dance drama reenacts Scriptural texts from throughout the Bible with a concentration upon the Nativity.
The two open-air performances of the dance attract a mostly non-Christian audience to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Lucknow, a majority Hindu city with a 20 percent Muslim population. The event is a key means of outreach in the city of three million, of whom only 4,000 are Catholics.
In further changes to Christmas plans, Bishop Mathias decided not invite the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state, the Governor of Lucknow, the chief justice and other dignitaries to an event of carols, brief speeches, and a meal.
The bishop has also called off a Christmas Day gathering for around 15 priests from Lucknow and another celebration involving clergy and religious from throughout the diocese that was planned for December 30.
Father Ignatius D’Souza, the Diocese of Lucknow’s vicar general, acknowledged that people would be disappointed by the cancelations. However, he reported that an ordinary exhibition of the Christmas story will continue in the cathedral compound and said people were welcome to enter and light a candle according to the local custom.
Father D’Souza explained the decision to cancel the events, saying:
“We are concerned about fundamentalist activity. The extremists’ strategy is very long term and they might see our diocesan Christmas activities as an opportunity to take action.”
“Although we have very good security arrangements for the events and have an excellent relationship with the local police department here, we can’t be too careful. You don’t know the mind of those wanting to stir up trouble.
“Every time there are general elections, there are people wanting to inflame tensions.” General elections are planned to occur before May 2009.
According to ACN, the priest also stressed that the cancellations were made as an act of solidarity with Christians in Orissa who would be marking the first anniversary of atrocities in Khandamal, where churches were ransacked and many people were forced from their homes.
Up to 500 people have died in recurring anti-Christian attacks in the Indian state of Orissa. Violence also unexpectedly broke out in Karnataka state in southwest India, with Hindu extremists destroying many churches.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India recently urged dioceses to scale down Christmas festivities.
Candlelight vigil in Saigon / Photo credit: Fr. J.B. An Dang
Vinh Long, Dec 15, 2008 / 09:36 pm (CNA).- Repeating a government tactic used in disputes with Vietnamese Catholics seeking the return of confiscated property, the People's Committee of Vinh Long on Friday announced that it will demolish the city’s St. Paul Monastery to build a public park.
Prior to the announcement, numerous meetings had been held in Vinh Long to accuse the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul of "taking advantage of religious freedom to inspire protests against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and hence damage the united block of the people," J.B. An Dang tells CNA.
In May, the Sisters began protesting government plans to convert their monastery into a five-star hotel.
Thomas Nguyen Van Tan, Bishop of Vinh Long, wrote a May 18 letter to priests, religious, and lay people of the diocese, recounting the history of the dispute.
On "a day of disaster," September 7, 1977, local authorities mobilized armed forces to blockade and raid Holy Cross College, St. Paul Monastery, and the Major Seminary, the bishop wrote.
"Then, they seized all these properties and arrested those who were in charge of the premises. I myself was among the detainees," his letter continued.
He reported that since the confiscation of the property, representatives of the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and representatives of the Bishop’s office have repeatedly sent petitions to local and central governments.
"However, these petitions have gone unanswered," the bishop added.
Reporting confirmation from local officials, he reported in his May 18 letter that the local government had issued a decree that a hotel should be built on the land of the Sisters, the size of which he reported to be 10,235 square meters or about 2.5 acres.
His letter also reported that town residents had been summoned to government meetings to vow to take "strong actions" against opponents of the construction. The bishop called the loss of their monastery a "great suffering" for the Sisters.
Sister Marie Nguyen from Saigon explained that the Sisters had been in Vinh Long since 1871 and have been "continuously serving" people in the provinces of Vinh Long, Ben Tre, and Tra Vinh.
"Their monastery had also been used as an orphanage, and they just wanted to get it back to run an orphanage. The need for such a charity institution is more urgent than ever as HIV infection and drug addiction keep claiming more and more people's lives in the area," she said, according to J.B. An Dang.
"Obviously, while the Church is seeking innovative ways to serve people, this government chooses to turn its back against them," she commented.
On the evening of Sunday, December 14, more than five thousand Catholics gathered at another disputed site, Redemptorist Monastery in Saigon, to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass after the conclusion of the trial of eight parishioners.
"The Candlelight vigil was an open defiance against a prohibition of the local government for massive vigils," J.B. An Dang tells CNA.
On December 5, eight parishioners of Thai Ha Church were put on trial under what many Catholics considered to be false pretenses. Accusations against them concerned their actions in protests seeking the return of confiscated Church property.
Their trial ended on December 8, but reports that the accused had pled "not guilty" apparently had resonated throughout Hanoi.
"It seems the trial has turned the table around for the eight defendants, whose courage has become symbolic of defiance and grace under fire. They are viewed as heroes in the eyes of their fellow countrymen, while the Vietnam government -the accuser- now becomes the accused for imposing such an unjust, immoral and unconstitutional [process] on its citizens," said Fr. John Nguyen from Hanoi.
"A few months ago, nobody would even know the names of the defendants. Now their names and story have become the talk of the town, the topic in every household and coffee shop, when it comes to [the question of] how can they resist the pressure and say 'enough is enough' to one of the most dictatorial regimes in the world today." he added, J.B. An Dang reports.
The Council of Trent teaches, "Sacrifice and priesthood are, by the ordinance of God, in such wise conjoined as that both have always existed in every dispensation. Whereas, therefore, in the New Testament, the Catholic Church has received from the institution of Christ the holy, visible sacrifice of the Eucharist, it must needs be also professed in faith that there is in that Church a new, visible, and external priesthood into which the priesthood of the Old Testament has been translated (Hebrews 7:12)."
Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore wrote, "To the carnal eye a priest looks like other men, but to the eye of faith he is exalted above the angels, because he exercises powers not given even to the angels." Blessed Peter of Blois said, "A priest has the primacy of Abel, the patriarchate of Abraham, the government of Noah, the order of Melchisedech, the dignity of Aaron, the authority of Moses, the perfection of Samuel, the power of Peter, and the unction of Christ."
The Second Vatican Council teaches, "Wherefore the priesthood, while indeed it presupposes the sacraments of Christian initiation, is conferred by that special sacrament of Orders. Through it priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are conformed to Christ the Priest, in such a way that they can act in the Person of Christ the Head." Pope John Paul II says, "The profound ontology of the consecration received in Holy Orders and the dynamism of sanctification that it entails in the ministry exclude any secularized interpretation of the priestly ministry, as if the presbyter were simply dedicated to establishing justice or spreading love in the world. The priest participates ontologically in the priesthood of Christ. He is truly consecrated as a man of the sacred, designated like Christ to the worship that ascends to the Father, and to the evangelizing mission by which he spreads and distributes sacred realities, the truth and grace of God, to his brothers and sisters. This is the priest's true identity."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "It is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful that priests exercise in a supreme degree their sacred office. There, acting in the Person of Christ and proclaiming His mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ, their Head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord, the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering Himself once and for all a spotless Victim to the Father. From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength."
The old ordination ritual mentions other tasks that God entrusts to His priests. "The office of a priest is to bless, to forgive sins, to preach, to baptize, and to shepherd and govern God's People." A recent writer has noted that wherever a priest is located, he is a sharer of secrets, a carrier of burdens, a fountain of consolation, and a pillar of strength. Solitary he is called father by thousands; poor he enriches the lives of countless persons; weak he gives help to all who call for assistance; unimportant he does things each day whose importance cannot be told by any tongue on earth."
"A priest is the target of God's enemies and the magnet of God's needy. Occasionally he attracts attention, but usually he works entirely unnoticed and unacclaimed while he does the noblest work on earth."
Bishop Luke Liu, the Bishop of Hsinchu, Taiwan, said, "The faithful laity for their part ought to realize that they have obligations to their priests. They should treat them with filial love as their fathers and pastors. They also should share their priests'anxieties and help them as far as possible by prayer and active work so that they may be better able to overcome difficulties and carry out their duties with great success."
Cardinal Suhard of Paris once told his flock, "Take care of your priests। Not to reverse the roles, for your priest is the one who is ultimately responsible for you and your eternal salvation. But, help him with his mission of authority and life... You must not confine your cooperation only to material assistance, but you must create an atmosphere of spiritual affection for your priests, reserved yet sincere."
by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz S.T.D.