Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Associated Press Wed Dec 31, 2:59 PM ET
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Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a New Year's Eve vespers service, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI is calling for 'sobriety and solidarity' in 2009 as the world struggles with economic and social woes. His appeal was made amid the splendor of St. Peter's Basilica during a New Year's Eve vespers service on Wednesday. Benedict described these times as being 'marked by uncertainty and worry for the future.'
(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Poverty undermines peace

The Manila Times
Thursday, January 01, 2009

Pope Benedict slams violence in his message

Poverty and peace make no strange bedfellows, Pope Benedict XVI said in his New Year message to a world that he noted is also wracked by mindless violence.

He gave the message from the Vatican hours before January 1, 2009, which also marks World Day of Peace.

The Pope added that he sees poverty as a complex phenomenon that contributes to the compounding element in conflicts, including armed ones.

“In turn, these conflicts fuel further tragic situations of poverty,” he said in his message entitled “Fighting Poverty to Build Peace.”

The message gave reference to Pope John Paul II’s message in 1993 that called poverty as “an increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace.”

“In this context [of poverty being a peril to peace],” Pope Benedict XVI said, fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization . . . Yet the reference to globalization should also alert us to the spiritual and moral implications of the question, urging us, in our dealings with the poor, to set out from the clear recognition that we all share in a single divine plan: We are called to form one family in which all—individuals, peoples and nations—model their behavior according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility.”

But the Pope talked not only about material poverty but also about affective, moral and spiritual poverty that cripples society.

According to him, “moral underdevelopment” is seen in people whose interior lives are often disoriented and without moral compass despite the economic prosperity that they are enjoying because of “superdevelopment.”

Octave, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

By Randy Sly
Catholic Online (

What better way could Catholics begin the New Year than by celebrating the divine order and plan established by God?

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - This Holy Day of Obligation is not just a remembering of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It addresses her most fundamental attribute. On this day we remember that she was, in fact, the “theotokos” in the Greek, the Mother of God. This day is about Jesus and Mary.

In the early fifth century a time of intense heresy visited the Church concerning both the divinity and the humanity of Christ. One heresy in particular, Nestorianism, was rampant especially in the East. Simply put, Nestorius, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople at the time. Whether it was he or some of his followers,a teaching emerged casuing confusion over the human and divine natures in the one person of Jesus Christ.

Nestorians would even say that Mary gave birth to the Christ but not to God the Son and that only the man Christ suffered on the cross. St. Cyril of Alexandria was noted as saying that the Nestorians had “split Jesus in half.”

To combat this heresy, the Council of Ephesus was convened in 431 A.D., where the bishops gathered to settle the issue, once and for all, that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures, divine and human. In condemning the followers of Nestorius, they also re-emphasized that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth to a son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was fully God and fully man from the moment of His conception. The Council also reaffirmed the creed established by the first Council of Nicea as the essence of Christian Faith.

She was the Theotokos!

Today we remember the mystery of the incarnation in a beautiful dimension, in which God became man and dwelt among us. His Mother, by divine intervention, gave birth to God's only begotten Son.

On the 18th Day of Christmas

By Patricia Coll Freeman
Catholic Anchor (

For an Octave of eight days, twelve days, and even eighteen days, the Church takes Christmas far beyond December 25.

Anchorage, Ak (Catholic Anchor) - Based on the number of Christmas lights, decorated trees and stockings that already appear along storefronts and neighborhood streets, one might think Christmas began the day after Thanksgiving.

According to the Catholic Church, however, the Christmas season runs from Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, and ends, almost three weeks later, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 11.

Along the way, Christians commemorate the miracle of the nativity as well as the mysteries of Jesus’ infancy.

God with us

The celebrations on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 highlight the central “Christmas mystery” – the Incarnation.

As one ancient hymn explains, “the Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal and the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.”

In short, “God is with us,” Father Ron Licayan of St. Mary in Kodiak said in a recent interview with the Anchor.

And there is particular importance in the fact that God was born into a human family, he said. Namely, we can join Christ eternally in the “family of God.”

Jesus even calls us “brothers and sisters,” Father Licayan added.

Fittingly, at the Kodiak parish, Christmas begins with a “family Mass” on Christmas Eve. Then during the weekend of the feast of the Holy Family (celebrated Dec. 28), the church hosts a Christmas party for the whole parish family.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January

VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for January is: "That the family may become more and more a place of training in charity, personal growth and transmission of the faith".

His mission intention is: "That the different Christian confessions, aware of the need for a new evangelization in this period of profound transformations, may be committed to announcing the Good News and moving towards the full unity of all Christians in order to offer a more credible testimony of the Gospel".

Octave: St Hippolytus on the 'Word Made Flesh'

Catholic Online (

God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - On the sixth day of the Octave of Christmas we offer this excerpt from the Third Century Church Father St Hippolytus which is taken from the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours for this day:

The treatise of St Hippolytus On the Refutation of All Heresies: 'The word made flesh makes us divine'

"Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command.

God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.

The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Octave: St. Joseph, A 'Man’s Man', Calling Men to Jesus

In this age of the “anti-hero”, men should rediscover this true hero, this “man’s man” named Joseph. Then, we should learn his way of obedience, following his example by courageously, humbly and faithfully loving Jesus Christ.

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
Catholic Online (

We need to learn to give our “Yes” to the God whose Love invites our participation. Joseph is our teacher on this way, a true 'Man’s Man', calling all men to follow Jesus.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - “Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary; of whom Jesus was born, he who is called Christ. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him." Matthew 1:16 – 24

From antiquity, Christians have cherished Joseph as a model of genuine manly virtue. Since the fourteenth century there has been a specific day set aside in the Roman calendar to honor him. He is viewed as the “Patron” of the universal Church, of all husbands and of social justice. He has also been designated as the patron of all workers. He was a simple Carpenter who taught the Word Incarnate, the Child Jesus, how to work with wood. This Joseph was the foster father of the Incarnate Word of God, the One of whom observers would later ask “Is not this the Carpenter’s son?” (Mt. 13:55) Joseph loved Jesus with a unique and exemplary love and played a unique and extraordinary role in the plan of salvation. This Jesus of Nazareth learned to work with wood from the hands of Joseph. During his 33rd year of life he saved the world working with wood, the wood of the Cross which became the altar of His Sacrifice.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pope calls for truce in Gaza Strip

Google News
10 hours ago

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday decried the "endless" bloodshed in the Holy Land and urged all sides to end violence as Israel continued its deadly assault on Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Benedict told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square he feels deep sorrow for "the dead, wounded, property damage, suffering and tears of the populations who are victims of this tragic succession of attacks and retaliation."

The pontiff condemned the attacks and renewed his Christmas Day appeal that negotiations replace "the perverse logic of clashes and violence."

Israeli warplanes dropped bombs and missiles Sunday on dozens of targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in continuing attacks that a Gaza health official says have killed 280 Palestinians and wounded 600 others.

"The homeland of Jesus cannot continue to be witness to so much bloodshed, which repeats itself endlessly," Benedict said from his studio window overlooking the square.

"I implore an end to that violence, which must be condemned in all its manifestations, and the restoration of the truce in the Gaza Strip," the pontiff said.

Octave of Christmas - The Feast of the Holy Family

"May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character. " Pope Paul VI

By Deacon keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of his true teachers.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - During the Octave of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The significance of the Feast grows as we come to understand the deeper truths it reveals, about Jesus, about Mary, about Joseph and about each one of us and our Baptismal vocation to live our lives now, in Christ.

The Incarnate Word became one of us. He was born into a human family. There, in what our beloved Pope Paul VI called the "school of Nazareth", he spent so many of his years. Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving the world and to use a word from the early Church Father and Bishop St. Ireneaus, "recapitulating" the entire human experience. There, in the holy habitation of Nazareth he forever transformed family life. There in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Lord still teaches us how to live our own family life now, always in His presence.

From antiquity the Christian family has been called a "domestic church" in the Christian Tradition. In our life with one another as a Christian family, Jesus Christ is truly present.We need the eyes to see Him at work, the ears to hear His instruction and the hearts to make a place for Him to continue His redemptive mission within us and through us. In our relationships, in Him and with one another, we can learn the way of selfless love and walk the path of holiness. We present an excerpt from a beautiful reflection from the late Pope Paul VI entitled "The Example of Nazareth" for all of our readers and viewers as we continue our Christmas celebration.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vatican calls for end to Middle East violence

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: December 27, 2008

VATICAN CITY: The Vatican's spokesman has urged Israelis and Palestinians to renounce violence and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict after Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio on Saturday that Israel's offensive will be a "very serious blow" to the Islamic militant group Hamas but could also cause many innocent victims and damage peace prospects in the Holy Land.

Lombardi said all sides "must look for a different way out, even though it seems impossible."

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit the Holy Land in May for what would be the first papal trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since the late Pope John Paul II traveled there in a 2000 pilgrimage.

Octave of Christmas – Feast of St. John the Evangelist

St. John left behind three attributed pastoral letters, The Revelation and a glorious Gospel. Tradition has it that the Apostle continued to encourage the faithful by constantly repeating “Little children, love one another” until he died in A.D. 100 at a very old age.

By Randy Sly
Catholic Online (

St. John sometimes described himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. To this “son of thunder” as he and his brother James were named, relationship was everything.

WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – James and John, the sons of Zebedee, left their father and the fishing trade first to follow John the Baptist. Later, they were called to follow Jesus, who named them “the sons of Thunder.” The younger brother, St. John would become the one who writings revealed Christ’s divinity as none other.

John was included in the inner circle of Christ’s followers. He was present for the miracles, healings, the transfiguration and the teaching ministry of Jesus from the beginning. Even at the cross he remained while others fled, standing next to the Mother of God, whose care was entrusted to him by the Jesus who hung above the two. He, along with Peter, discovered the resurrection of Christ.

Following the Ascension of the Lord, St. John continued his ministry in Jerusalem and then traveled into Asia Minor as the persecution intensified under Herod Agrippa I. He returned later for the Council at Jerusalem, where St. Paul presented his case for the Gentiles.

Later he lived in Ephesus where he wrote his gospel account. St. John was later banished to the Island of Patmos under the Emperor Domitian where he recorded his “Revelation.” He returned to Ephesus after the Emperor died.

St. John left behind three attributed pastoral letters, The Revelation and a glorious Gospel. Tradition has it that the Apostle continued to encourage the faithful by constantly repeating “Little children, love one another” until he died in A.D. 100 at a very old age.

St. Augustine shares some thoughts about St. John’s first letter, which reveals Life and Love incarnate.

A treatise by St Augustine on the epistle of John: The flesh revealed Life itself

“We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?”

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: “What existed from the beginning.” Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”

Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: “and life itself was revealed.” Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? “Mankind ate the bread of angels.”

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Associated Press Fri Dec 26, 7:27 AM ET
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Pope Benedict XVI, framed by a Christmas tree, delivers his blessing during the Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008. Pope Benedict XVI has called for the freedom of all hostages in the world, including two Italian nuns kidnapped weeks ago in northern Kenya. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Octave of Christmas: Feast of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr

Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - In the Catholic tradition, Christmas is celebrated for eight days (Octave, from the Latin Octava)and opens into a wonderful season. On this second day of our Christmas celebration we commemorate the great Proto-Martyr of the Church, St. Stephen the Deacon. To understand why we would celebrate a Martyr on the second day of our Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, let us consider the insight of the late Servant of God, Pope John Paul II:

“The Church calls the day of martyrdom a "dies natalis" (day of birth). Indeed, by virtue of Christ's death and Resurrection, the death of the martyr is a birth in Heaven. This is why it is so meaningful to celebrate the first martyr the day after Christmas: Jesus who was born in Bethlehem gave his life for us so that we too, reborn "from on high" through faith and Baptism, might be willing to give up our own lives for love of our brothers and sisters” (John Paul II, Angelus, Feast of St. Stephen, 2002).Here is an inspired homily by a great Bishop which gives us food for our continued Christmas meditation:

A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe: The armour of love

"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him.

The Complementarity of Man and Woman

First Things
By Michael Novak
Friday, December 26, 2008, 10:29 AM

The brilliant lay philosopher of Judaism, Dennis Prager, has written lucidly about the utter distinctiveness of Judaism among the nations of its time in its understanding of human sexuality. Prager writes:

The gods of virtually all civilizations engaged in sexual relations. In the Near East, the Babylonian god Ishtar seduced a man, Gilgamesh, the Babylonian hero. In Egyptian religion, the god Osiris had sexual relations with his sister, the goddess Isis, and she conceived the god Horus. In Canaan, El, the chief god, had sex with Asherah. In Hindu belief, the god Krishna was sexually active, having had many wives and pursuing Radha; the god Samba, son of Krishna, seduced mortal women and men.

In the temples of its neighbors near and far, Israel saw that ritual acts of prostitution and sacral couplings between religious leaders and women (or men) were routinely performed. Sexual activities were placed at the core of worship ceremonies in virtually all cultures, even including pre-mosaic Israel. Only in Israel did the prophets rail against these activities, and repeatedly drove them from the temple. The ancient world considered sexual “normality” to be fulfilled in the ungoverned sexuality of males, to which women were merely instrumental. In many of the cultures surrounding Israel, sexual acts between males were given equal or even superior value to those between males and females. In those cultures, little differentiation was made between homosexuality and heterosexuality. The important difference to people then lay in who did the penetrating and who was penetrated, not in which gender played which role.

Against this common vision of sexual normalcy stood the towering Moses. He taught Israel, virtually alone, to embrace a new standard for human sexual life. This standard gave its blessing solely to sexual acts between a man and a woman in the covenanted relationship of monogamous marriage. What a great channeling of sexual energies this provision achieved. What a great concentration of energies it brought to the world. What great, non-instrumental dignity it gave to women.

Many elites in other cultures continued to exhaust their energies in polymorphous sex. They expended whole days on the arts of pleasure—the smells, the scents, the music, the languorous bodies of dancers. And in this sexually saturated world, women remained mere instruments. As Norman Sussman wrote, “The woman was seen as serving but two roles. As a wife, she ran the home. As a courtesan, she satisfied male sexual desires.” When sensory pleasures are considered the highest aim of life—not study nor inquiry nor civic virtue—economic and cultural development is heavily retarded.

Is sexual activity the highest end of life? For Moses and the people of Israel, it assuredly was not. It was of course a great good, and one essential to the perpetuation of the human race. Sexuality was not meant to be repressed. But it was meant to run—and to run deep—in only one channel.

From this sublimation there arose two great social consequences. First, women achieved sexual equality with men in the holy union of marriage. “In His image [God] made them, male and female He made them” (Genesis 1:27). This text says clearly that the divine radiance in human life shines through the marital union of man and woman. Therein, each person finds completeness. Only together, fully one, does the married couple bear the image of the Creator.

The second great consequence is to channel immense energy into society through its fundamental unit, the family—and not just energy, but also a continuity of consciousness, and the dream of a more perfect future. Thus Judaism gave birth to the idea of progress. Judaism introduced the ancient world to the reality of progress. Judaism sees itself as always unfinished, always unsatisfied. “Next year in Jerusalem,” when “the lion will lie down with the lamb” and the Messiah will at last appear. Each family, at the family table, carries these hopes forward into the future. Making progress is always, in time, an unfinished business.

It is worth noting that the fundamental energy of the family, in this vision, is spousal love. This love is not a sentimental feeling or a passionate desire, but a firm commitment to the good of the other. Not “her good” as you wish it were, nor even the good as she wishes it were, but her objective good as identified by reason. Thus, the point of even sex is realistic love. Not mutual self-indulgence, but the growth in adulthood and virtuous living that raising a family entails. (There is no point in getting married if you don’t want to hear the truth about yourself—especially all those truths you don’t really want to hear—from your spouse and your children.) Those who live closely together come to shed their illusions about each other, and to love in each other the better self that each would like to become. This is realistic love.

Further, man and wife, though assuredly equals in marriage, are not identicals. The one sex is opposite to, not identical to, the other. In this difference lies dynamic complementarity. (The great English journalist G.K. Chesterton once marveled during his first long stay in America, that Americans can seek divorce “on the grounds of incompatibility.” “I would have thought,” he commented dryly, “that incompatibility is the reason for marriage.”)

Thus, the complementarity between a man and a woman in covenantal marriage—a privileged image of God—is designed to increase the best of all forms of happiness among human beings: growth in the ennobling habits of the heart, in virtue, in honesty, and in mutual caring, “until death do them part.” This complementarity is also designed to generate productive, creative, and ever-advancing societies, driven by dreams of perfection yet to come (and never to be fully realized).

Michael Novak holds the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Benedict XVI's Christmas Message

"I Once More Joyfully Proclaim Christ's Birth"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 ( Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon.

* * *

"The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all" (Tit 2:11, Vulg.)

Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ's Birth. Today "the grace of God our Saviour" has truly "appeared to all"!

It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It "appeared", it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: "God saves".

The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the "God who saves", did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by God's will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own "yes", like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light. It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will. Today too those who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother – all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn to see his face and to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom. Jesus himself would say this in his preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness' sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of his love.

Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God's saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.

Pope's Christmas Eve Homily

"God Dwells on High, Yet He Stoops Down to Us!"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"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 [112], 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 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 instil 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.

Pope's Christmas Eve homily calls for Mideast peace


Pope Benedict XVI calls for a "conversion of hearts" to help children.

CNN - 1 hour, 40 minutes ago

VATICAN CITY, Vatican (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI called for peace in the Middle East and an end to the exploitation of children in the homily he delivered early Thursday during the annual Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

He later delivered the traditional Christmas address in St. Peter's Square, sending Christmas greetings in languages including English, Spanish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Slovak and many others. The address is known as "Urbi et Orbi" -- Latin for "To the City and the World."

Benedict, 81, called for the faithful to pray for peace to come to "the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply."

"Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened," he said.

The pontiff also called for special consideration for suffering children who are homeless, forced to serve as soldiers or exploited in pornography "and every other appalling form of abuse."

"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," he said.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Pope's Christmas

Vatican Radio
24/12/2008 10.06.13

(24 Dec 08 - RV) Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to celebrate Christmas Mass at midnight tonight in St. Peter’s Basilica. 00:03:32:81

The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has let it be known that this year, the Kalenda, the Church’s prayer expressing the historical fact of God’s incarnation, will be recited at the end of a special prayer vigil before the Mass.

In recent years, the Kalenda’s recitation has taken place within the Mass.

On Christmas Day, Pope Benedict is scheduled to deliver the Urbi et Orbi benediction from the Cenral Loggia of the Vatican Basilica.

On New Year’s Eve, the Pope is scheduled to celebrate Solemn Vespers and Te Deum in thanks for the closing year, and on New Year’s Day, the Holy Father is slated to preside over the Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, whose statue this year will remain in place beside the Altar of the Confession inside St. peter’s Basilica.

On January 6th, the Holy Father will preside over the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, once again in St. Peter’s Basilica.

On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 11th of the coming year, Pope Benedict is scheduled to say Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during which several newborn children will receive the sacrament of baptism.

This year as last, the Holy Father will use the main altar of the chapel, and offer the sacrifice of the Mass for the people while with them facing liturgical East.

Vatican Radio will offer live radio coverage in English for all events.

Pope inaugurates 19th-century Christmas creche

AFP © [Enlarge photo]

AFP via Yahoo!Xtra News
December 25, 2008, 9:03 am

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday inaugurated this year's Christmas creche, appearing at his window in the Vatican apartments to light a candle and greet the crowd in St Peter's Square.

The nativity scene depicting the birth of Jesus Christ erected in the famous piazza features figures dating from 1842.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul II paid homage to Italy's longstanding artistic tradition of manger scenes with the first of an annual series set up in St Peter's Square in 1982.

The inauguration of this year's creche was followed by a prayer vigil for peace led by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's "foreign minister".

The pope was to celebrate the traditional midnight Christmas mass along with 32 cardinals in St Peter's Basilica, Christianity's grandest religious edifice.

"Veni Creator Spiritus." For an Ecology of Man

And of man created male and female. In his pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia, Benedict XVI contests the ideology of "gender." And he strikes a blow in defense of the most contested of the encyclicals, "Humanae Vitae"

by Sandro Magister


ROMA, December 24, 2008 – Wishing a happy Christmas to the Roman curia, two days ago, Benedict XVI in reality addressed the entire Church and the world. As in previous years, this time as well in the pre-Christmas address he wanted to emphasize some of the main outlines of his pontificate.

In 2005, the focus of his address was the interpretation and implementation of Vatican Council II, and the relationship between continuity and renewal in the Church.

In 2006, the pope placed the question of God at the center. Moreover, taking his cue from his trip to Istanbul, he formulated in the clearest way possible his vision of relations with Islam, proposing to the Muslim world the journey already undertaken by Christianity under the challenge of the Enlightenment.

In 2007, Benedict XVI focused on the urgency for the Church to take a missionary approach to all the peoples of the earth.

This year, taking his cue from World Youth Day and from the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, pope Joseph Ratzinger developed a reflection on the Holy Spirit, the most "forgotten" – as he said in Sydney – of the three persons of the divine Trinity, and yet supremely influential over the life of man and of the cosmos.

The entire discourse can be read on the Vatican website, as it is gradually translated into various languages, while the most important sections are presented here below. In these, Benedict XVI reflects first on World Youth Day, and then on the Holy Spirit.

In regard to World Youth Day, the pope overturns the common wisdom – supported also by "Catholic voices" – that reduces these encounters to "a sort of rock festival adapted for ecclesial purposes, with the pope as its star." No, he says. The pope is "entirely and solely the vicar "of the only presence that counts, that of Jesus crucified and risen.

As for the Holy Spirit, Benedict XVI insists first of all that he is "creator." The cosmos bears his marks, as an orderly "mathematical structure" that for this reason is intelligible to the modern natural sciences. But man also bears the marks of the order of creation within himself. His being man and woman "is not an outdated metaphysics," and marriage is "a sacrament of creation." The ideology of "gender," which leaves to each individual the determination over his own sex, in reality ends up destroying instead of protecting. It is an "ecology of man" that is needed, in addition to that of nature. Respect for the order of creation "does not mean the contradiction of our freedom, but its precondition."

By virtue of these considerations, at the end of the paragraph dedicated to the creator Spirit, pope Ratzinger exalts in ringing tones the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" by Paul VI, because it defends "love against sexuality as consumption, the future against the exclusive presumption of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation."

And with this, he rejects the criticisms recently aimed against this encyclical by a prominent cardinal, Carlo Maria Martini.

Here, then, is the bulk of the address read by the pope on December 22, 2008, to the Roman curia gathered in the Sala Clementina:

"Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian creed"

by Benedict XVI

[...] The presence of the Word of God, of God himself in the present hour of history, was also the subject [as well as at the Synod] in the pastoral visits of this year: their true meaning can only be that of serving this presence. On these occasions, the Church makes itself publicly perceptible, and with itself the faith, and therefore at least the question of God. This public manifestation of the faith challenges all of those who seek to understand the present time and the forces at work in it.

It is especially the phenomenon of the World Youth Days that is increasingly becoming the subject of analysis. [...] The analyses in vogue tend to consider these days as a variation of modern youth culture, as a sort of rock festival adapted for ecclesial purposes, with the pope as its star. With or without the faith, these festivals are seen as essentially the same thing, and in this way the idea is to eliminate the question of God. There are also Catholic voices that tend in this direction, viewing all of this as a grand spectacle, beautiful but of little significance for the question of the faith and the presence of the Gospel in our time. They are seen as moments of ecstatic celebration, while in the end leaving everything as it was before, without influencing life in a more profound way.

In this way, however, the uniqueness of these days and the distinctive character of their joy, of their creative power of communion, find no explanation. First of all, it is important to consider the fact that the World Youth Days do not consist only in the one week during which they are made publicly visible to the world. There is a long exterior and interior journey that leads to them. The cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage through the various countries. The faith, in its way, needs to be seen and touched. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the cross elicits from deep within the young people the memory of that God who wanted to become man and suffer with us. And we see the woman whom He has given us as Mother. The solemn Days are simply the culmination of a long journey in which we encounter one another, and together encounter Christ. In Australia, it was no coincidence that the long Via Cruicis became the culminating event of those days. This summarized once again everything that had happened in the preceding years, and pointed to Him who reunites all of us: the God who loves us even to the Cross. In this way, even the pope is not the star around whom everything revolves. He is entirely and solely vicar. He points to the Other who is in our midst. In the end, the solemn liturgy is the center of everything, because there takes place in it that which we cannot accomplish, although we are always awaiting it. He is present. He comes into our midst. The heavens split open, and this makes the earth luminous. It is this that makes life joyful and open, and unites us with each other in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "Ability does not lie in organizing a feast, but in finding people capable of enjoying it." According to Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22): this fruit was abundantly evident during the days in Sydney. Just as a long journey precedes the World Youth Days, so also it leads to the path that follows. Friendships are formed that encourage a different lifestyle, and sustain it from within. The great Days have, not least, the aim of bringing about these friendships, and in this way creating environments of faith, which at the same time are environments of hope and practical charity.

Joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit: in this way, we have come to the central theme of Sydney, which, in fact, was the Holy Spirit. In this retrospective, I would like to make reference in summary fashion to the orientation implicit in this theme. Keeping in mind the testimony of Scripture and Tradition, it is easy to recognize four dimensions of the theme "Holy Spirit."

1. First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us at the beginning of the account of creation: there, the creator Spirit is described as hovering over the waters, creating the world and continually renewing it. Faith in the creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian creed. The fact that matter carries within itself a mathematical structure, or is full of spirit, is the foundation upon which the modern natural sciences are based. It is only because matter is structured in an intelligent way that our spirit is capable of interpreting it and of actively remodeling it. The fact that this intelligent structure comes from the same creator Spirit who also gave spirit to us brings with it a duty and a responsibility. It is in faith concerning creation that the ultimate foundation of our responsibility for the earth is found. This is not simply our property, which we can exploit according to our interests and desires. It is, instead, a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and in this way provided the instructions for us to consult as administrators of his creation. The fact that the earth, the cosmos, reflect the creator Spirit also means that their rational structures that, beyond mathematical order, become almost palpable in experimentation also bear within themselves an ethical orientation. The Spirit who shaped them is more than mathematics: he is Goodness in person, who, through the language of creation, shows us the way of the just life.

Because faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian creed, the Church cannot and must not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful the message of salvation alone. It has a responsibility toward creation, and must exercise this responsibility in public as well. And in doing so, it must defend not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation belonging to all. It must also protect man against his own destruction. Something like an ecology of man is needed, understood in the proper sense. It is not an outdated metaphysics if the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order of creation be respected. In fact, this is a matter of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, disdain toward which would be the self-destruction of man, and therefore the destruction of the very work of God. What is often expressed and understood by the term "gender" is ultimately resolved in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wants to create himself, and to arrange always and exclusively that which concerns him. But this means living contrary to the truth, living contrary to the creator Spirit. Yes, the rainforests deserve our protection, but man deserves it no less, as a creature in whom a message is inscribed that does not mean the contradiction of our freedom, but its precondition. Great scholastic theologians have described marriage, meaning the lifelong bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, which the Creator himself instituted and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – incorporated into the history of his covenant with men. It is part of the proclamation that the Church must make on behalf of the creator Spirit present in nature as a whole, and in a special way in the nature of man, created in the image of God. It is beginning from this perspective that one should reread the encyclical "Humanae Vitae": the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as consumption, the future against the exclusive presumption of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pope Seen as Pilgrim Who Can Change Holy Land

Jerusalem Patriarch Expresses Hopes for May Visit

JERUSALEM, DEC. 23, 2008 ( The patriarch of Jerusalem announced that Benedict XVI wants to visit the Holy Land in May to get firsthand knowledge of the difficult situations in the region.
Archbishop Fouad Twal said this today when he presented his Christmas '08 message during a press conference.

"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 message reads. "The Supreme Pontiff wishes to pray with us and for us, and to acquire a firsthand 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."

The patriarch told the journalists that the Catholic bishops of the Holy Land had invited the Pope to visit, and subsequently the civil authorities of the region had joined their voices to the appeal.

Asked if a precondition of the visit would be the signing of a pending accord between the Holy See and Israel, Archbishop Twal said there had been no exchange on the matter. "Each visit of the Pope is a pastoral visit," he said, "but the Pope is also a head of state, and we hope that his visit can bring an advance in the nature of the relations among all of us, and that it leads to resolutions."

The bilateral commission between the Holy See and Israel is set to meet four times before the end of March, and celebrate a general meeting at the end of April.

Patriarch Expresses Hope for New Era in Mideast

Calls on Infant of Bethlehem to Save His Homeland

JERUSALEM, DEC. 23, 2008 ( The patriarch of Jerusalem says he hopes Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land in May will be an aid to solving the problems that plague the Middle East.

Archbishop Fouad Twal affirmed this in his Christmas message for 2008, in which he called for "a new era of peace, stability and security."

The archbishop expressed the "wish that our prayerful celebration of the Christmas feast may bring the peace desired by all peoples, founded on justice and truth" so that the 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."

He prayed to God for peace in the land, among peoples of all religions and cultures. He spoke of the need for stability in order to stop emigration, to help people avoid the need to uproot themselves "from their religious and national roots, erasing their identity."

Don’t bleed Christ out of Christmas

The Manila Times
Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Thank God that we in the Philippines have not yet been swept by the secularist deluge. In the United States and Europe, government buildings and common public spaces cannot be used to put up giant Christmas trees much less crèches and the Nativity scene. Here, government employees and their bosses can still put up Christmas trees decorated with angels and the star of Bethlehem. In December “Merry Christmas” signs and mobiles are still the first things you see when you enter some government buildings.

Some government-building lobbies have life-size manger scenes that would never be tolerated in Washington, D.C. or in the smallest town hall from Florida to the New York border with Canada.

There is such a drought of Christian images in public and government-owned space all over the world that only in churches do you now find the Holy Family, with Baby Jesus in the crib surrounded by his parents, the shepherds, the Magi and a couple of cows and sheep. Private homes and front lawns may still display Christian symbols—but even these have caused Christian homeowners to be haled to court, accused of causing discomfort to neighbors and passersby.

According to this mentality, Christians should be given no freedom to express their faith publicly even in a predominantly Christian neighborhood. The sensibilities of nonChristians who worship other gods or atheists who cannot abide the sights and sounds of Christian symbols and hymns must never be violated.

The campaign to bleed Christ out of Christmas appears to have won decisively in the public square of the Western countries.

Put up the Nativity scene

This moved Pope Benedict XVI to urge Christians, last December 14, to put up Nativity scenes in their homes. The Pope was in Saint Peter’s Square, blessing images of the Child Jesus—our beloved Santo Niño—brought to him in the piazza for the papal blessing. Those Baby Jesus figures and statue were later placed in home altars and manger scenes.

The Holy Father led the children in a prayer:

“We pray to you, that with your blessing these images of Jesus, who is about to come among us, be, in our houses, a sign of your presence and your love.

“Open our heart, so that we may know how to receive Jesus with joy, do always what he asks and see him in all those who need our love.”

He ended with prayer calling on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s intercession so that her son “Jesus, who in his birth brings God’s benediction to men, [will] be welcomed with love in all the homes of Rome and the world.”

Mindless imitation

Pope Benedict’s prayer and exhortation for everyone to mount a Belen in their homes is needful—even among us Filipinos. For there has been an increase in the number of companies—even those that have chapels in their buildings—that send gifts and cards with the unChristian message: “Happy holidays” or “Season’s greetings.”

Are they just mindlessly copying the latest fashion in America, London and the United Nations offices?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pope denounces 'gender theory'

Adelaide Now
Mon, 22 Dec 2008 7:35 AM PST
From correspondents in Rome

POPE Benedict XVI has denounced gender theory, warning that it blurs the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.

When the Roman Catholic Church defends God's Creation, "it does not only defend the earth, water and the air ... but (it) also protects man from his own destruction'', the Pope said in his end-of-year speech to the Vatican hierarchy today.

Gender theory, which originated in the United States, explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender and how people perceive their biological identity.

The Catholic Church has repeatedly spoken out against gender theory, which gay and transgender advocacy groups promote as a key to understanding and tolerance.

"If tropical forests deserve our protection, humankind ... deserves it no less,'' the 81-year-old pontiff said, calling for "an ecology of the human being''.

It is not "outmoded metaphysics'' to urge respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman'', he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Benedict XVI Urges Research of Christian Roots

Says Society Needs More Openness to Spirituality

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2008 ( Benedict XVI urged the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology to advance research into society's Christian roots because society needs a culture more open to spiritual realities.

In the Pope's address Saturday to the delegation of professors and students, which was led by the institute's grand chancellor, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the Pontiff wished to show "living appreciation" for the institute’s "precious and fruitful cultural, literary, and academic activity."

The institute, the Pontiff noted, has as its principal objective "the study of the vestiges of ecclesial life throughout the centuries," and offers the opportunity of penetrating into the complex reality of the Church of the first centuries, "to understand the past, making it present to the men of today."

In describing the Church’s history, the Holy Father said, "the patient research of archaeology cannot prescind from also studying supernatural realities, without, however, abandoning the rigorous analysis of archaeological discoveries."

"A complete vision of the reality of a Christian community, whether ancient or recent" is not possible if it does not take account of the fact that "the Church is composed of a human and a divine element," continued Benedict XVI.

"Christ, her Lord, lives in her and willed her as a community of faith, hope, love, as a visible organism, through which to spread truth and grace to all," the Pope added, citing the Vatican II document "Lumen Gentium."

Truth conquers

"In this theological pre-comprehension," he said, "the basic criterion can only be that of letting oneself be conquered by the truth pursued in its authentic sources, with a soul free of passions and prejudices, Christian archaeology being an historical science, and as such based on methodical study of sources."

America and 'The Door of Humility'

December 21, 2008

By Rev. Mark H. Creech

"It is supremely fitting that every man should approach the infant Jesus upon his knees."

In Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity originally built by the Christian Emperor Constantine during the fourth century is located above a cave that legend holds is the place of Christ's birth. It's impossible to know whether the spot truly is where the Virgin Mary delivered the Son of God. Nevertheless, one interesting fact about the Church is that all pilgrims who venture to see the supposed place where the holy child was laid in a manger must first enter through The Door of Humility.

The Door of Humility is a small rectangular entrance that was created during Ottoman times to prevent carts from being driven in by looters, and to force even the most prominent of visitors to dismount from their horses before entering. Famed Bible commentator William Barclay once noted of the door: "There is something beautiful in the symbolism that the church where the cave is has a door so low that all must stoop to enter. It is supremely fitting that every man should approach the infant Jesus upon his knees."

Few virtues of life could be more necessary than humility. The prophet Micah said that it is an essential requirement of God: "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Jesus referred to humility when he said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

A lack of humility is strongly condemned in God's economy and is always the forerunner of judgment. In one of his pronouncements of judgment against Judah, the Lord said through his prophet Jeremiah: "They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in my law or in my statutes..." (Jeremiah 44:10). Just before destruction fell upon King Belshazzar, the successor to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, Daniel, the prophet proclaimed: "But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart..." (Daniel 5:22).

For the last few years, Americans have been blasted over and again with media accounts of public officials and even religious figures who abused their positions for money, sex, and power. Last month after the passage of Proposition 8, which protects the definition of marriage as "one man and one woman" in California, homosexual activists violently attacked and vandalized Mormon churches that supported the measure. A high-school coach in New Jersey was told by his superiors that because he was a state employee he wasn't allowed to even bow his head in reverence to a student-initiated prayer with his team before a game. Last week Newsweek magazine outrageously declared the Bible supports the gay lifestyle. A nude model arrayed like the Virgin Mary was on the cover of the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine. This week federal prosecutors announced what may be the largest investment fraud ever with over $50 billion squandered. And during a season when children are celebrated, thousands are being destroyed by abortion and the clinics operated by the industry are cited for violations from posing falsely as a doctor to failure to report pedophilia.

Obviously, there seems to be a wholesale failure to recognize that the God who made a virgin to conceive — the God who sent His Son into the world to save mankind from sin; the God who holds the keys to life and death — is a sovereign God whose might is beyond limit. To stand before him with a spirit of indifference, arrogance, or sinful rebellion is to utterly fall short of understanding him or his power.

At the present, America seems hemmed in by troubles on every side. Terrorists threaten from the East. The economy is failing in the West. Global warming supposedly threatens from above and an addiction to fossil fuels threatens from beneath. Could it be that a haughty spirit is what has lead to such seemingly impossible dilemmas? The apostle James declared: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Pope: Christmas, the solstice, and astronomy

12/21/2008 13:25

Benedict XVI recalls that the feast of the Nativity of Christ is celebrated in conjunction with the winter solstice, and that it has a "cosmic dimension." A greeting to all of those involved in the worldwide year of astronomy, a science respected and practiced by many popes as well.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI today gave a brief lesson on the unity between faith and science, during the reflection offered before the Angelus with the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. The pontiff began from the observation that "the feast of Christmas is connected to the winter solstice [which begins today, December 21], when the days, in the northern hemisphere, start to get longer again." This highlights the fact that Christ is the son of grace, who, with his light, "transfigures and ignites the expectant universe" (liturgy), and that the mystery of Christmas also has a "cosmic dimension," in addition to its "historical" one.

"In this regard," the pope said, "it may be that not everyone knows that St. Peter's Square is also a meridian: the obelisk, in fact, casts its shadow along a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain under this window, and in these days the shadow is at its longest of the year. This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking out the rhythm of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon, and in the evening, and with the meridian, which was used in ancient times to identify 'true noon', clocks were adjusted."

Recalling that 2009 has been declared by UNESCO and the UN as the "world year of astronomy," Benedict XVI greeted "all those who will participate in various ways in the initiatives for the world year of astronomy, 2009, declared at the 400th anniversary of the first telescopic observations of Galileo Galilei."

Holy Father reflects on the cosmic dimension of salvation

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Dec 21, 2008 / 10:22 am (CNA).- With thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about today’s Gospel, in which the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive Jesus. The Holy Father then went on to note that the mystery of Christmas has a cosmic dimension in addition to its historical one.

The Pontiff commented briefly on the Gospel for this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the account of the Annunciation. Just a few days from the feast of Christmas, the Pope explained, “we are invited to fix our eyes on the ineffable mystery that Mary kept for nine months in her virginal womb: the mystery of God who becomes man.”

“This is the first hinge of the redemption. The second is the death and resurrection of Jesus, and these two inseparable hinges manifest a single divine plan: to save humanity and its history by assuming them to the utmost, taking on the entire weight of all the evil oppressing them."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas: Opportunity to reflect on meaning of existence - Pope

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he leads his Angelus prayer from the window of his private apartments in St Peter Square at the Vatican.

Times of Malta
Saturday, 20th December 2008

Pope Benedict XVI dedicated the last general audience for this year, celebrated in the Paul VI audience hall, to Christmas, "a universal festivity".

"Even non-believers", said the Holy Father, "perceive something extraordinary and transcendental, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event. It is the festivity that sings of the gift of life. The birth of a child should always be a joyful occurrence".

"Christmas is the encounter with a new-born baby, wailing in a wretched grotto", remarked the Holy Father.

"Contemplating Him in this crèche how can we not think of all the children who still today, in many regions of the world, are born amidst such poverty? How can we not think of those newborns who have been rejected, not welcomed, those who do not survive because of a lack of care and attention? How can we not think of the families who desire the joy of a child and do not have this hope fulfilled?" queried Pope Benedict.

"Unfortunately," he added, "under the drive of a hedonist consumerism, Christmas runs the risk of losing its spiritual meaning, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.

"Actually, however, the difficulties, uncertainty, and the economic crisis that many families are living in these months, and which affects all humanity, can truly serve as a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas," the Holy Father said.

Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas could become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth, he remarked.

"Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: The Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity. ... 'Thus the recurring annual cycle of the mystery of our salvation is renewed that, promised at the beginning and given to the end of time, is destined to last without end'".

Pope Benedict said at Christmas, therefore, we do not limit ourselves to commemorating the birth of a great person. We do not celebrate, simply and in the abstract, the mystery of the birth of humanity or, in general, the mystery of life.... "At Christmas we recall something that is quite concrete and important for human beings, something essential to the Christian faith, a truth that St John summarises in these few words: 'The Word became flesh': This is a historical fact that St Luke the evangelist is careful to place in a particular historical context: During the days of the decree of the first census of Caesar Augustus".

Pope Benedict pointed out that in the darkness of the night in Bethlehem a great light was lit: the Creator of the universe became flesh, indissolubly and eternally joining himself to human nature, to the point of being 'God from God, light from light' and at the same time truly human. "By 'the Word' ... John also intends the 'Meaning'" and "the 'Meaning' that became flesh is not just a general idea inherent in the world; it is a Word addressed to us".

"The Meaning has power: It is God. A good God who cannot be confused with some being on high and far away who cannot be reached, but God who made Himself our neighbour and who is very near to us", God reveals Himself to us as a poor 'infant' in order to conquer our pride. ... He made Himself small in order to free us from the human delusion of grandeur that arises from pride; He freely became flesh so that we might be truly free, free to love Him".

"Christmas", the Pope said, "is the privileged opportunity to contemplate the meaning and value of our existence.

Source: Vatican Information Service

Friday, December 19, 2008

Father Cantalamessa's 3rd Advent Meditation

"When the Fullness of Time Had Come God Sent His Son Born of a Woman"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2008 ( Here is the Advent homily Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, delivered today in the Vatican in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia.

This is the third and last Advent sermons the preacher wrote on the theme "'When the Fullness of Time Had Come, God Sent his Son, Born of a Woman: Going With St. Paul to Meet the Christ Who Comes."

* * *

1. Paul and the Dogma of the Incarnation

Once again we will present the passage from St. Paul that we intend to reflect on.

"I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father!' So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God" (Galatians 4, 4-7).

We hear this passage often during the Christmas season, beginning with First Vespers for the solemnity of Christmas. We will first of all speak about the theological implications of this text. It is the place in which we come closest, in the Pauline corpus, to the idea of preexistence and incarnation. The idea of "sending" ("God sent [exapesteilen] his Son") is placed parallel to the sending of the Spirit, which is spoken of two verses later and hearkens back to that which is said in the Old Testament about God's sending of Wisdom and the Holy Spirit out into the world (Wisdom 9:10, 17). These combinations indicate that here we are not dealing with a sending "from the earth," as in the case of the prophets, but "from heaven."

Vatican approves iTunes prayer book

The Vatican has approved a computerised prayer book for a new generation of gadget-loving Catholic priests.

Daily Telegraph
By Simon Caldwell
Last Updated: 11:45PM GMT 17 Dec 2008

The Vatican has approved a computerised prayerbook for a new generation of gadget-loving Roman Catholic priests.

It has sanctioned the sale of the "iBreviary" – the book of prayers, readings and services used by priests every day. It includes the complete Roman Missal – the order of the Mass – and the main Catholic prayers. It was created for the iPhone by the Italian priest Father Paolo Padrini and can be downloaded from iTunes for just 79p.

Officially endorsed by the Vatican's Council for Social Communications, it is the first iPhone application approved by the Holy See.

Fr Padrini has produced only an Italian version so far but English and Spanish editions are planned.

There are also plans for audio accompaniments and Gregorian chant, as well as additional prayers.

The New York-based America magazine, a Catholic publication run by Jesuits, described iBreviary as an application which "allows the believer to pray simply via an intuitive interface".

The Vatican has been quick to embrace the benefits of the digital revolution. In 2006, Vatican Radio staff presented the Pope with an iPod nano loaded with his favourite classical music.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pope Says There's No Ideal Political Model

Invites 11 Envoys to Cultivate National "Genius"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2008 ( Benedict XVI says there is no ideal political model, and that each country needs to cultivate its own national spirit.

The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed 11 new envoys to the Holy See, representing Malawi, Sweden, Sierra Leone, Iceland, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Belize, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Bahrain and the Fiji Islands.

In his French-language address, the Holy Father said, "The diversity of where you come from brings me to give thanks to God for his creative love and the multiplicity of his gifts, which never cease to surprise humanity."

"Sometimes diversity makes people afraid," he acknowledged. "That's why we shouldn't be surprised if the human being prefers monotony and uniformity."

Certain political-economic systems, the Pontiff continued "attributing to themselves or claiming pagan or religious origins, have afflicted humanity for too long, trying to make it uniform with demagogy and violence."

"They have reduced and reduce the human being to an unworthy slavery at the service of one ideology or an inhumane and pseudo-scientific economy," he said. "All of us know that there is not just one political model, an ideal that has to be absolutely fulfilled, and that political philosophy develops in time and in its expressions, according as it is polished by human intelligence and the lessons taken from political and economic experience."

The Pope contended that "every people has its genius and also its own 'demons.'"

He expressed his hope that "each people cultivates its genius, enriching itself as much as possible for the good of others, and that it purifies itself of its 'demons,' controlling them to the point of transforming them into positive values and creators of harmony, prosperity and peace to defend the greatness of human dignity."

AFP Thu Dec 18, 1:27 PM ET
Enlarge photo...

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg delivers a speech in 2007. The Luxembourg parliament on Thursday supported a controversial bill to legalise euthanasia, which the Catholic head of state, Grand Duke Henri, is refusing to back.
(AFP/POOL/File/Luc Deflorenne)

Pope urges Luxembourg to say no to euthanasia plan

The Times of India
18 Dec 2008, 2011 hrs IST, AP

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI has urged Luxembourg to abandon plans to legalise euthanasia.

He says that any deliberate decision to end a life is morally bad and can never be lawful.

The pope expressed his "grave worry" over euthanasia and assisted-suicide bill that is awaiting final approval in Luxembourg.

His comments came in a speech on Thursday to ambassadors including one from the small European country.

Luxembourg's Roman Catholic monarch, Grand Duke Henri, has said he would not sign euthanasia bill into law.

Benedict called on all people in Luxembourg to reaffirm the "inviolable nature" of human life.

The Vatican is opposed to euthanasia and abortion, saying life must be defended from conception to natural death.

Israel speeds up talks with Holy See, pointing to accord in time for papal visit

Catholic World News
News Briefs
December 18, 2008

After years of delay, Israeli diplomats have accelerated the pace of negotiations with the Holy See, aiming to conclude a long-awaited pact before May 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI will reportedly visit the Holy Land. Meeting in Jerusalem this week, the two sides agreed to schedule further sessions in January, February, and twice in March-- a pace of negotiations that is unprecedented in their 10 years of desultory talks. The sudden rush to reach an accord-- an agreement codifying the juridical and economic rights of Church institutions in Israel, which was promised in the original "fundamental accord" of 1993 that to Vatican recognition of Israel-- seems clearly intended to settle the diplomatic issues before the Pope's visit. The Holy See has not yet confirmed that the Pontiff will travel to Israel. In the past some Vatican diplomats have said that a papal visit would probably not take place until the diplomatic agreement is concluded. The Vatican has made no secret of its impatience with the pace of negotiations in recent years.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Holy See-Israel delegation speeds up work ahead of pope's visit to Holy Land (AsiaNews)

Bethlehem mayor says Pope Benedict will visit the Holy Land in May

CNews - Dec 17 7:35 AM

RAMALLAH, West Bank - The mayor of Bethlehem says Pope Benedict will visit the Holy Land in May.

Mayor Victor Batarseh says Vatican officials informed him the pontiff would visit his West Bank town, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Israeli officials would not comment, pending an official announcement from the Vatican. No specific dates for the visit were given.

A Vatican delegation met with Israeli President Shimon Peres last week to discuss a possible visit.

The late pope John Paul came to the Holy Land in a 2000 pilgrimage, visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories.

That was the first official visit by a pope to Israel.

The Vatican and Israel established diplomatic ties in 1994.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our existence, recalls Pope

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Dec 17, 2008 / 11:47 am (CNA).- At his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict contemplated the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem and reminded his audience to contemplate the mercy of God “who has come to meet humanity.”

The Holy Father told the 5,000 people present at the general audience that even nonbelievers perceive something “extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that touches our hearts in this yearly Christian event.”

“Christmas is a feast that speaks of the gift of life. The birth of a child is always something that brings great joy, and the embrace of a newborn moves one to tenderness.”

However, the Pope continued, Christmas is in danger of losing “its spiritual significance, reduced to a mere commercial occasion to buy and exchange gifts.” The difficulties and uncertainty that many families are living in these months can serve as “a stimulus for rediscovering the warmth of the simplicity, friendship, and solidarity that are the typical values of Christmas.”

“Stripped of its materialist and consumerist trappings, Christmas can become the opportunity to welcome, as a personal gift, the message of hope that emanates from the mystery of Christ's birth," Benedict XVI explained. "Nevertheless, all of this does not suffice to capture the value of this celebration we are preparing for in all its fullness. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of humanity.”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pope could visit Israel, Jordan in May 2009

19:01 | 16/ 12/ 2008

VATICAN, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - Pope Benedict XVI may visit Jordan on May 8 and Israel on May 11-15 next year, Italy's Il Foglio newspaper said on Tuesday.

The pope has long been expected to pay a visit to the Holy Land. However, the trip has yet to be officially announced.

During the visit, he is expected to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian West Bank authorities and conduct services in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem. The pope will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

New Vatican instruction called valuable ‘reference point’ on bioethics

Washington DC, Dec 16, 2008 / 06:14 am (CNA).- Dignitas Personae, the new Vatican instruction on ethical issues in biotechnology was further explained by the U.S. bishops in a new “Question and Answer” document. Catholic bioethicist Father Tad Pacholczyk has also commented on the instruction, calling it a valuable “reference point” for bioethical controversies.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Friday released Dignitas Personae, which is subtitled “On Certain Bioethical Questions.” The result of six years of study and deliberation on the most recent developments in the field of bio-technology, it discusses the implications of technologies related to procreation.

It especially examines such issues in relation to the dignity of human life and the integrity of marriage.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Question and Answer document on Dignitas Personae explains that the document’s title means “the dignity of a person.”

“All the conclusions of the document are based on the inherent dignity of each and every human person, from conception to natural death, and the need for all technology and other human activity to respect that dignity,” the bishops’ Q and A states.

The bishops note that some topics discussed in the document are new, such as human cloning and embryo adoption.

The Question and Answer document especially reiterates Church teaching against in-vitro fertilization (IVF), stating:

“The child conceived in human procreation is a human person, equal in dignity with the parents. Therefore he or she deserves to be brought into being through an act of total and committed marital love between husband and wife.”

Replacing such an act with a procedure by a laboratory technician does not respect this “special dignity” of the human person, nor does using gametes from people outside the marriage, using another woman to bear a surrogate pregnancy, treating the child as an object of “quality control,” or otherwise mistreating the human being in embryo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Benedict XVI: I See and Enjoy the Christmas Tree from My Window - Pope Blesses Statues of Baby Jesus


Monday, December 15, 2008

For the first time in days, Saturday dawned clear and bright and with indescribably blue skies which gave new hope to all of us that the weeks of rain might be coming to an end. It has rained so much and so hard for so long that the Tiber River has reached its highest level – and a dangerous one – in years, coming close at a few points in the city to overflowing its banks. Reports say the Tiber has risen at least 40 feet, and in many parts of the city it flooded garages, basements, and underground roadways, to mention but a few of the areas that have been struck.

The respite from rain Saturday was short-lived. By 1:30 the skies had turned gray and threatening and not long afterwards the heavens opened up. In fact, it absolutely poured throughout the nearly hour-long tree lighting ceremony in St. Peter’s Square in late afternoon. I stayed, not because it was a smart thing to stand in the pouring rain and cold or because I generally enjoy this ceremony but most of all because I wanted to get some photos for this column!

Sunday also dawned fairly sunny but once again that did not last. And today it has poured all day.

Sunday was interesting because, as I was returning home from Mass at Santa Susanna’s in the center of Rome and our bus was nearing the Vatican, I saw thousands of people streaming out of St. Peter’s Square and across the Tiber as they too were returning home after the Pope’s Angelus. By the hundreds they stopped on the bridges crossing the Tiber just to take photos of a river without banks, without the sidewalk areas where people jog and ride bikes, a river where immense trees were half under water or bent in half and clogging the waterways under the bridges, especially the Sant’Angelo bridge near Castel Sant’Angelo where special workmen had to come in and clear the debris. I was sorry I did not have my own camera yesterday morning.

But, as you can see below, I did have my camera Saturday afternoon for the tree-lighting ceremony. The nativity scene will be unveiled, as is customary, on Christmas Eve, and I’ll bring that to you when I return from my Christmas trip. I was stunned today to see workers clad in heavy rain gear continuing to build the presepio in St. Peter’s Square – I guess it is like the U.S. Postal Service motto: neither rain nor sleet nor snow….


Pope Benedict Saturday received a delegation of civil officials and religious leaders from the region of Lower Austria who accompanied 850 faithful and a gigantic spruce tree that was donated to the Vatican to be placed in St. Peter’s Square for Christmas. He thanked the Austrians for the tree, and the 40 smaller ones that will decorate rooms in the Apostolic Palace, “including my office,” he added. Trees will also be placed in the Paul VI and Clementine Halls, and other curia offices.

Benedict XVI said “the Christmas tree in coming weeks will bring great joy to Romans and the many pilgrims who come to the Eternal City from throughout the world to celebrate the birth of Christ. I will also be able to see it from my window and I will enjoy it anew each time when from on high I look down upon the tree and the nativity scene.” The Pope told his guests he too would “have occasion to directly visit the crib and pray before the child Jesus and rejoice in the light and beauty of the tree.”