Thursday, December 31, 2009

Benedict XVI tells youth not to fear a religious vocation

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Dec 31, 2009 / 05:10 pm (CNA).- On the last day of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI led first vespers at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. In addition to singing the Te Deum hymn, he exhorted young people to have the courage to pursue their vocation.

The Te Deum is sung in thanksgiving to the Lord in the Catholic churches of the world on December 31 of each year. In his remarks, the Holy Father noted that this is a time to "put the various events of our lives – major and minor…under the sign of salvation and accept the call God makes to guide us toward a goal beyond time itself: eternity."

"We are called to say with our voices, hearts and lives our ‘thanks’ to God for the gift of his son, …for family, for community, the church and the world," he continued.

Pope Benedict gave special thanks for those who live and work within the Diocese of Rome, of which he is bishop. He praised efforts within the city to follow in the footsteps of Christ and encouraged further participation of the faithful "to be able to offer a valid contribution to the edification of the Church."

In the message, Benedict XVI put special emphasis on the importance of reaching youth with God’s Word. "Rome needs priests that are courageous announcers of the Gospel and, at the same time, reveal the merciful face of the Father."

Background: Papal message for January 1, the World Day of Peace

Catholic World News
December 31, 2009

On January 1, 2010, the Church commemorates the 43rd World Day of Peace. "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation" is the theme of Pope Benedict's message for the day.

In his message for the 1st World Day of Peace, Pope Paul VI wrote, “We address Ourself to all men of good will to exhort them to celebrate ‘The Day of Peace,’ throughout the world, on the first day of the year, January 1, 1968. It is Our desire that then, every year, this commemoration be repeated as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and outlines the path of human life in time, that Peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses Catholic teaching on peace and just war in its treatment of the Fifth Commandment. Between 1914 and 1968, five popes wrote 21 encyclicals on peace. Since 1968, papal teaching on peace has primarily been expressed in the messages for the World Day of Peace.

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

Care for environment is key to peace, Pope argues (CWN, 12/15)

Pope Benedict’s messages for the World Day of Peace

Pope John Paul’s messages for the World Day of Peace

Pope Paul’s messages for the World Day of Peace

Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part Three)

Avoiding war and safeguarding peace (CUF)

Pope offers thanks for 2009, encourages solidarity in 2010

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
December 31, 2009

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As 2009 came to a close and a new year was about to be ushered in, Pope Benedict XVI invited the world's Christians to look beyond the passage of time toward eternity.

Presiding over an evening prayer service with eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God Dec. 31, the pope said that with the birth of Christ earthly time was "touched by Christ" and took on a "new and surprising meaning: it became the time of salvation and grace."

The prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica was the pope's first public liturgy in the basilica since Christmas Eve when a mentally disturbed woman leapt over a barrier and knocked the pope down as he processed to the altar.

Italian state and military police were out in force New Year's Eve, keeping everyone out of St. Peter's Square until they showed their ticket for the liturgy and passed through a metal detector or were cleared by an officer with a metal-detecting wand.

After the prayer service, the pope went by popemobile into St. Peter's Square where, under an increasingly heavy rain, he visited the Vatican's Nativity scene. While the Swiss Guard band played Christmas hymns, the pope entered the grotto housing the larger-than-life-sized figures of the Holy Family and knelt in prayer.

In his homily, the pope said people must look back at the past year and forward to the new year recognizing that God has transformed human history into the history of salvation.

"The various events of our lives -- important or small, simple or undecipherable, joyful or sad" -- should be understood in the context of God's great love for each person and the invitation he extends to everyone to set out toward "a goal that is beyond time itself: eternity," the pope said.

Happy New Year: I Firmly Resolve… Can New Years Resolutions Work?

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

New Years Eve is a great existential moment, ripe with expectations. It invites a spiritually cathartic reflection and offers hope.

Times Square in New York during last years New Years Eve.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – The celebrations have begun already in Sydney, Australia where 1.5 million people participated in massive fireworks displays and festivities. Final preparations are being made in Times Square, New York where authorities are expecting the largest crowd in the history of such New Years gatherings. At midnight, the ball will drop and a massive crowd will welcome a New Year with the sincere hope that it will offer them a new beginning.

The experience is nearly universal. Some Nations use different calendars, but the passing of one year to another is marked by a deliberate period of refection over the past year and a pledge to begin anew, to change. New Years Eve is a great existential moment, ripe with expectations. It invites a spiritually cathartic reflection and offers possibility and hope. One of the nearly universal customs is the making of “New Years Resolutions”.

Health Clubs seize the moment, inviting the newly resolute to begin shedding the unwanted weight which is a symbol of the lifestyle choices which they sincerely hope to change. GK Chesterton wrote: “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We all want to change as we end one year and look to a new one. In a rare moment of near universal reflection and honest self assessment, we admit our failures. We pledge to learn from them and move toward a better future. In Little Gidding written by T.S. Eliott we find these often quoted words: “For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice…What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

See also:

The Word made flesh makes us like Himself

The Word took our nature from Mary

The Birthday of the Lord is the Birthday of Peace

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Need to pray? Try iRosary

CNS Blog
Posted on December 30, 2009 by Dennis Sadowski

Technology has come to praying the rosary.

The Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., recently reported that a new iPhone app, iRosary, helps guide the faithful through the rosary and the mysteries on any particular day. It also allows a user to stop the prayer and return at a later time in case you’re interrupted.

Developed by Dave and Jackie Brown, parishioners at St. Francis Church in Bend, the application has been around for about a year. The couple’s idea for the app arose after their young daughter, Isabella, made an unexpected recovery from leukemia. They said they wanted others to experience the comfort of prayer, particularly the rosary.

Isabella is doing fine now. And the Browns are offering iRosary through iTunes at 99 cents per download. It recently surpassed the 20,000 download mark, making it the most popular Catholic application on the site.

Reporter Ed Langlois wrote that the small screen depicts animated beads that can be moved with a touch. Corresponding prayers pop up on the screen along with devotional images.

Another popular app allows traveling Catholics to find local Mass times. It’s a free download and is available at

Synod, saints, shroud all on papal calendar for 2010

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As Pope Benedict XVI says goodbye to 2009, his 2010 calendar is already being filled.

On the horizon for the next 12 months are four papal trips; a Middle East Synod of Bishops; the expected publication of a document on the Bible and the second volume of "Jesus of Nazareth;" a major gathering of the world's priests; a pilgrimage to the Shroud of Turin; a probable consistory and several likely canonizations and beatifications -- including that of Pope John Paul II.

In April Pope Benedict marks five years in office, and the event will no doubt be marked by modest festivities and lots of analysis on the accomplishments and priorities of the German pontiff, who turns 83 the same month.

Several of his endeavors are works in progress, like the ongoing negotiations with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X and the effort to bring its leaders back into full communion. No breakthrough is guaranteed in 2010, but Vatican officials say that, at the very least, the picture should be much clearer as twice-a-month meetings proceed.

January brings traditional papal liturgies and meetings, including an encounter Jan. 11 with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican. Six days later, Pope Benedict will visit Rome's synagogue for the first time, an event that has added drama since the pope's recent decision to advance Pope Pius XII's sainthood cause.

The new year also means a new slate of "ad limina" visits by groups of bishops around the world. Although the visits traditionally are made every five years, the interval has grown longer recently, and it now appears that U.S. bishops, who last came in 2004, will not be making their "ad limina" visits until 2011 -- or even later.

The pope's second volume on the life of Jesus is expected to be released in the spring, although translations may take a little longer. It's expected to cover Christ's childhood, passion, death and resurrection.

Papal, Holy See Highlights September-December 2009

VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Following are highlights of the activities of Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy See for the months of September through December 2009.


5: Publication of the Holy Father's Message for the 83rd World Mission Day, to be celebrated on Sunday 18 October on the theme: "The nations will walk in its light".

6: Pastoral visit of the Holy Father to the Italian towns of Viterbo and Bagnoregio.

7: Benedict XVI receives a group of prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (West 1-2) at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

11: Holy Father receives in audience Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, president of the Republic of Panama.

11: Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue publishes its annual Message to Muslims for the end of the month of Ramadan. The Message, signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, respectively president and secretary of the council, has as its theme: "Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty".

15-20: Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, visits Rome at the invitation of Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

16: Holy Father receives in audience Emil Boc, prime minister of Romania.

17: Benedict XVI receives a group of prelates from the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Northeast 2) at the end of their "ad limina" visit.

Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January

VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for January 2010 is: "That young people may learn to use modern means of social communication for their personal growth and to better prepare themselves to serve society".

His mission intention is: "That every believer in Christ may be conscious that unity among all Christians is a condition for more effective proclamation of the Gospel".

Pope: "May the friendship of Jesus be with you in the New Year"

» 12/30/2009 14:34

At the last general audience of 2009, Benedict XVI speaks of Peter Lombard, a twelfth century theologian. His "sentences" give the Pope the opportunity to urge theologians to "keep in mind the whole vision of Christian doctrine against today's risks of fragmentation and devaluation of individual truth."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "May the friendship of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you in this New Year that is beginning”; this was Benedict XVI’s wish for 2010, addressed today to six thousand people at the last general audience of the year.

A gathering, entertained by choirs, including one of young people from Cologne, dressed as characters from the nativity scene, during which the Pope stressed the need to preserve the unity of doctrine, urging "theologians and priests to always keep the vision of the whole Christian doctrine against today's risks of fragmentation and devaluation of individual truths".

An exhortation that Benedict XVI drew by illustrating the figure of Peter Lombard, a theologian of the twelfth century, author of "sentences" which for centuries have been adopted as a textbook in all schools of theology. There is little information about the character: he was born in Novara between XI and XII, in territory then the Lombards, which explains his name. Born into a family of modest means he was able to study for free in France. "Even in the Middle Ages - commented the pope - not only the nobles or rich were able to study and gain important roles in the church and society, but also people of humble origins, such as Gregory VII, the pope who stood up to the Emperor Henry IV or Maurice de Sully, archbishop of Paris who built Notre Dame and was the son of a poor farmer”.

See also:

From Catholic World News, "Pope speaks on Peter Lombard, sacramental realism"

From the Vancouver Province, "God created women to be men's companion: Pope"

Catholic Communion: Archbishop Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

Catholic communion is not an idea. It is standing together at the Altar of God, affirming one faith and receiving together the one Body and Blood of Christ.

(Archbishop John Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion) 'Pilgrimage must have a goal. Our goal was the healing of catholic disunity, that Anglicans had sought and then abandoned.'

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - We have followed the amazing, Spirit inspired, work of authentic ecumenism which resulted in the promulgation of the historic Apostolic Constitution entitled Anglicanorum Coetibus.

There is no doubt that when history records the watershed breakthrough which this extraordinary moment in Church history portends, Archbishop John Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion will be a vital part of the story. We present a wonderful message from the TAC Archbishop to update our readers around the world as well as to invite them to pray Ut Unum Sint.

Men of prophetic stature are never perfect, they are humble and show a willingness to be perfected by the Lord whom they love. They allow the mistakes and difficulties of life to become the tutors of time. They respond in their brokenness to the invitation of history being written by the One who broke into history to transform it from within.

In this Octave of Christmas, as we approach a year of extraordinary possibility for the coming full communion of the Catholic Church, we present the Archbishop's recent reflections on the progress of the TAC's response to the invitation of the Holy Father. When it all comes down to it, there is only the Church.It is God's plan for the whole human race:

A Message from Archbishop Hepworth

The Octave of Christmas is a time of richness and of confrontation. Richness because of the great liturgical and popular tradition that takes us day by day into events and places that deepen our faith in the Christ Child.

The feasts of Stephen, John, Holy Innocents, and the saintly martyr Archbishop Becket, all follow one another in a tumble of carols and remembrance. But these are also days of martyrdom and mass murder.

The Child was laid in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. These were the clothes in which the Jewish dead would be buried. They were kept in the stable so as not to be within the realm of the living. “His death cast a shadow over His birth, because his death was the reason for His birth.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bishop Thomas Becket. The Martyr who Refused to Bend to a Hostile State

By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
Catholic Online (

‘There are a great many Bishops in the Church, but would to God we were the zealous teachers and pastors that we promised to be at our consecration.’

A late 15th century alabaster panel representing the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.

'As successors of the Apostles, we hold the highest rank in our churches; we have accepted the responsibility of acting as Christ’s representatives on earth; we receive the honor belonging to that office, and enjoy the temporal benefits of our spiritual labors. It must therefore be our endeavor to destroy the reign of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple in the Lord.'

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – On December 29 we continue the celebration of the Octave (Eight days) of Christmas. The Church instructs us concerning the implications of the Nativity of the Lord in the selection of these feasts. In the Incarnation, which encompasses the entire saving life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, humanity was re-created in Christ the new Adam. He became like us in order to capacitate us to become like Him. That happens as we respond to the continual call of the Holy Spirit and receive the graces needed for our continuing conversion.

In our first reading for today’s Mass we find these words from the beloved disciple John: “Beloved: The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.” (1 John 2)

As members of the Risen Body of Christ, the Church, we are called to continue His redemptive mission; making Him present in every age until he returns to complete his work of redemption. We are called to “walk the talk”, even when such a bold and brave witness of life places us at risk of being persecuted. The Saints reveal the heroic virtue which is to be manifested in the vocation to which we are all called in our Baptism. We are to become Saints, no matter what our state in life.

On this Octave day of Christmas we consider the life and martyrs’ death of a Bishop named Thomas Becket. He faced a hostile government and refused to bend. He teaches us in our own day how vital it is to stay faithful to the Truth. For the Christian, the Truth is a Divine Person named Jesus Christ. We are called to bear His name and, in the words of the Apostle, “walk just as he walked.”

However, Thomas Becket is a special witness for our beloved Bishops. Today they face the growing hostility of a State which has no tolerance for their insistence on the fundamental human right to life from conception to natural death.Like Thomas, they must refuse to bend.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vatican to decide fate of woman who knocked down pope

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
Dec 28 8:15 AM

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican will decide how to proceed with the young woman responsible for knocking down Pope Benedict XVI during Christmas Eve Mass only after it reviews medical and Vatican security reports, said Vatican spokesmen.

Critical to the prosecutor's decision will be the doctors' evaluation concerning the woman's mental state and whether or not she was "of sound mind," Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service Dec. 28. The prosecutor will also take into consideration eyewitness accounts, he said.

When the Vatican prosecutor has all the information, including a medical evaluation, he can recommend acquitting her of any crime, handing her over to Italian or Swiss authorities, or handing down a sentence, Father Benedettini said.

The prosecutor will send his recommendation to the Vatican tribunal, which will then make the final ruling, he said.

Susanna Maiolo, 25, jumped a security barrier at the start of the Dec. 24 liturgy as Pope Benedict processed into St. Peter's Basilica. As Vatican security guards tackled her to the ground, she was able to pull on the pope's vestments, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the marble floor.

The woman, who has Italian and Swiss citizenship, was taken away by papal guards. She was not armed but she showed signs of mental instability, according to a Vatican statement Dec. 25.

Immediately after the incident the pope was back on his feet and appeared unharmed. The Mass and other papal events took place as scheduled.

Maiolo was transferred Dec. 25 to a psychiatric hospital in Subiaco, about 45 miles outside of Rome, for what the Vatican called "mandatory clinical treatment."

Maiolo "remains under compulsory clinical treatment and the case remains under the jurisdiction of the Vatican judiciary," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, in a written statement Dec. 26. Because the incident occurred on Vatican territory, it is up to the Vatican's judicial system to determine whether or not to initiate legal proceedings. The Vatican can turn the case over to Italy for prosecution.

See also:

From the Herald Sun, "No charges likely in Pope attack"

From the Paris News, "Paris woman films Christmas attack on pope"

From the Courier-Post, "Vatican to review security for pope"

From the Jamaica Observer, "Woman who knocked down pope to face courts soon"

Pope's Christmas marked by calls for charity, security incident

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Christmas with a call for unselfish charity and solidarity with the suffering, and underlined the message two days later by lunching with the poor at a Rome soup kitchen.

The pope's Christmas was marred by a security scare on Christmas Eve, when a mentally unbalanced woman rushed the 82-year-old pontiff and knocked him to the marble floor of St. Peter's Basilica. The pope was unharmed but French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray suffered a broken hip when he fell in the confusion.

The incident occurred as the pope processed into the basilica at the start of the 10 p.m. Mass. Amateur videos posted on YouTube showed a woman wearing a red sweatshirt leaping over the security barrier and grabbing the pope's vestments, as Vatican security guards swarmed above them.

The alarmed congregation inside the basilica broke into applause when the pope quickly rose to his feet and continued the procession down the main aisle, looking somewhat shaken. The liturgy proceeded without further incident.

Vatican sources confirmed that the woman was the same person who attempted to rush the pope at Midnight Mass last year, but was tackled by guards before she could reach the pontiff. The woman, 25-year-old Susanna Maiolo, an Italian and Swiss citizen, was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluations.

In his Christmas Eve homily, the pope said conflict in the world stems from the fact that "we are locked into our own interests and our desires." He said many people have become "religiously tone-deaf" and unable to perceive God, absorbed by worldly affairs and professional occupations.

"For most people, the things of God are not given priority.... And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think," he said.

Despite this mentality, he said, a path for discovering and appreciating God exists for everyone. It is a path marked with signs, he said, and at Christmas God's sign is that "he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

God is Trinity, communion of love, and the family is its first and immediate expression, Pope says

» 12/27/2009 14:15

On the Feast Day of the Holy Family, Benedict XVI reiterates the value of marriage between man and woman as the image of God and of the education of children, seen not as “family possession” but as “God’s gift and plan.” He greets the (million-strong) crowd that took part in the Madrid Mass whose theme was “The Future of Europe is based on the Family” in opposition to the anti-family policies of the Spanish government.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “God is trinity, he is communion of love, and the family is its first and immediate expression. Man and woman, created in the image of God, “become one body” (Gen., 2:24), that is a communion of love that generates new life. The human family thus stands as an icon of the Trinity because of interpersonal love as well as its mission to procreate life,” said Benedict XVI as he explained the values of today’s Feast Day, dedicated to the Holy Family, which falls on the first Sunday after Christmas.

He told pilgrims who had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Angelus, “The first witnesses to the birth of Christ, the shepherds, found in front of them not only the Child Jesus, but also a small family: mother, father and newly born son. God chose to reveal himself by being born in a human family, thus the human family became an icon of God!”

The Pope went on to comment a passage in the Gospel from today’s Mass (Lk, 2:41-52), which tells the story of Jesus when he was left in the Temple of Jerusalem for three days before his parents found him.

“In response to his mother who asked for an explanation, Jesus said he had to be in his Father’s house, i.e. God’s house (cf Lk, 2:49). In this episode, the young Jesus appears full of zeal for God and the temple. Let us ask ourselves, who taught Jesus to love his Father’s house? Of course, his parents did. Who but they could teach him the prayers, the Commandments, respect for the Sabbath and the joy of practicing the precepts of the Lord? Who, but his father, a ‘righteous man’ (Mt, 1:19), could have taught him to obey God before men? Hence, we can say that Jesus’ decision to remain in the temple was the fruit of the education he received from Mary and Joseph.

See also from Miami Herald, "Pope Presses the Flesh, Visits Rome Soup Kitchen."

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Pope: The family teaches how to say Yes to God
December 27, 2009

Learning in the School of Nazareth: Feast of the Holy Family

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

From antiquity the Christian family has rightly been called a domestic church. In our family we can learn the way of selfless love in the School of Nazareth.

Jesus spent 30 of his 33 earthly years in Nazareth. Some spiritual writers have called these the 'hidden years', because there is so little written about them in the Gospel narratives. However, they reveal the holiness of ordinary life and show us how it becomes extraordinary for those baptized into Christ.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - The Epistle reading for our Sunday Liturgy on this Feast of the Holy Family includes these words from the Apostle Paul: “Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3)

During the Octave (eight days) of Christmas we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The significance of the Feast unfolds when we come to understand the deeper truths it reveals, about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, each one of us and our own families. Through our Baptism, we are invited to live our lives in Christ by living them in the Church - which is the Risen Body of Christ. The Church is the place where we learn, as the Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian Christians, to “put on love, that is, the bond of perfection”.

The Christian family is the first cell of the whole Church. It is the place where we begin the journey toward holiness and become more fully human. The Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, became one of us. He was born into a human family. That was neither accidental nor incidental. There, in what Pope Paul VI called the “School of Nazareth”, we learn the way of love. The late Pope’s reflection called “the Example of Nazareth” is in the Office of Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours (the breviary) for today’s’ feast.

Every moment of his time among us Jesus was saving the world, re-creating it from within. To use a word from the early Church Father and Bishop St. Ireneaus, he was "recapitulating" the entire human experience. There, in the holy habitation of Nazareth, He forever transformed family life. Now, He teaches us how to live in His presence, if we enroll in the “School of Nazareth”.

See also today from Deacon Fournier, "Feast of the Holy Innocents: No to Funding Abortion in Health Care. Stop Killing Children!."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Papal scare not really a shocker

National Catholic Reporter
Dec. 26, 2009
By John L. Allen Jr.

Pope greeting Catholics. Easy access raises security questions (CNS photo).

Video images of Susanna Maiolo’s Christmas Eve lunge at Benedict XVI – her second in as many years, and by far the bolder attempt – certainly made for a striking bit of reality TV, Vatican-style. Yet for anyone who’s spent much time in close proximity to the pope, they weren’t really a shocker.

In comparison to presidents, prime ministers, or even rock stars, the security membrane around a pope is remarkably permeable. While it’s rare for the pope to get bowled over by someone hurling themselves at him, as happened in St. Peter’s Basilica Thursday night, that’s more a matter of luck (or providence) rather than a reflection of how thoroughly insulated he is from potential threats.

Everyone who follows the pope probably has their favorite illustrations of the light security touch; here are a couple of mine.

The first is set in Azerbaijan, where John Paul II visited in May 2002. The pope celebrated Mass in an indoor Baku sports arena. When the time came for the presentation of gifts, a man joined the line and got within ten feet or so of the pope before security personnel realized he wasn’t supposed to be there and approached him. At that stage, he lurched toward the pope and began to shout before he was wrestled away. News reports would later say the man “rushed” the pope, though speaking as someone present that day, I can testify that this guy wasn’t “rushing” anyone: He was on crutches.

Talking to the guy, security personnel came to the conclusion that he was harmless, if slightly unhinged, and all he wanted to do was to receive a blessing from the pope. They brought him out at the end of the Mass, announcing that this was the guy given the bum’s rush earlier, and now the pope will give him a blessing. People applauded, and it was a heart-warming scene … though I couldn’t help thinking that such warm-and-fuzzy treatment might simply encourage people to make a dash for the pope.

My second experience comes from last October, when I was in Rome covering the Synod for Africa. Most mornings Pope Benedict attended the synod, which broke for lunch at around 12:30 pm. His car would pull up to the main door of the synod hall, which faces a parking lot adjacent to the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. All the bishops and other synod participants have to exit the same door, so every day a large crowd of friends, drivers, secretaries and so on would bunch up in the parking lot, not to mention enterprising reporters hoping to grab some insider scoop. We gathered near the door, maybe five feet or so from where the pope would exit, wave, and get into his car.

In theory, we were supposed to show some sort of credential to the Swiss Guards to get into that parking lot, but so many people would turn up each day just before 12:30 that they basically wave through anyone who isn’t obviously a tourist. There’s no metal detector, no bag check, nothing.

As I was standing there one day watching the pope exit, a priest who serves as private secretary to one of the cardinals inside the synod bemoaned the lack of serious screening. He leaned over and whispered, “As far as anyone here knows, I could be packing an RPG.” (Prompting me to quip, “Geez, in the old days the job description for a bishop’s secretary was, ‘Never get between the bishop and a TV camera, and always get between the bishop and a bullet.’ … But an RPG?”)

All of this, it should be stressed, is mostly the result of design, not sloth or flippancy about the physical safety of the pope. Security personnel in the Vatican are by and large sharp, professional, and deeply loyal. Yet up to now the policy has been to keep their presence light, for at least two reasons.

First, the pope is supposed to be a pastor and a shepherd of souls. Popes want to be accessible to people, and therefore tend to resist measures that would isolate them. Second, popes are also true believers, who regard their fate as ultimately in the hands of God. John Paul II, for instance, was profoundly convinced that on May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the day of Mehmet Ali Agca’s assassination attempt, the Virgin Mary changed the flight path of a bullet to preserve his life and ministry. Given that supernatural frame of reference, popes (and, to some extent, their advisors) tend to invest comparatively less time worrying about the details of security arrangements.

While that psychology is understandable and even noble, it also can have the effect of putting the pope at risk, as the Christmas Eve lapse illustrates.

That may be something especially worth thinking about with regard to Pope Benedict XVI, who remains in strikingly good health for a man of 82, but who is nevertheless becoming, bit by bit, more prone to exhaustion and frailty. The Vatican moved up the pope’s “midnight Mass” this year to 10:00 pm, precisely to conserve his strength before his lengthy Urbi et Orbi blessing on Christmas Morning. Had it been Benedict with the broken leg rather than retired French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, however, that extra two hours in bed probably wouldn’t have done him much good.

In the wake of this latest incident, in other words, there may be a growing consensus in the Vatican that the security membrane around the pope needs to become at least a little bit thicker.

On St Stephen’s, we remember believers who are tested or suffer because of their faith, Pope says

» 12/26/2009 13:41

Benedict XVI highlights the trials and suffering believers endure in many parts of the world. In Asia, Christians suffer persecution or limits to their mission in at least 32 countries (out of 52). Stephen marks the start of the civilisation of love, which forgives persecutors, but does “not surrender to evil.” St Stephen’s commitment to the poor is also a privileged way to bear witness to the Gospel.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, is celebrated the day after Christmas. “It reminds us . . . that many believers in various parts of the world are suffering because of their faith,” Pope Benedict XVI said during today’s Angelus in St Peter’s Square, all decorated for the Christmas celebrations, with a big crèche and a huge Christmas tree.

The Pope did not mention any country in particular, but yesterday during the Urbi et Orbi blessing he referred to the difficulties Christians face in the Holy Land, Iraq, Sri Lanka, the Korean peninsula, Congo and Latin America.

In Asia, out of 52 countries, at least 32 limit Christians’ mission in some ways. Muslim countries (from the Middle East to Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia) make it hard for people to convert to Christianity; India and Sri Lanka are increasingly pushing for anti-conversion laws; Central Asian nations (except for Kazakhstan) limit religious freedom; the Communist countries (China, Laos Vietnam and North Korea) stifle or even persecute the Church.

As the Pontiff continued his address, he called on every Christian to entrust their persecuted brothers to the protection of St Stephen. “Let us commit ourselves to support them with our prayers and not fail in our Christian vocation, always placing Jesus Christ at the centre of our life, which these days we contemplate in the simplicity and humility of the crèche.”

See also from USA Today, "Pope in good shape two days after Xmas scare."

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Pope: "The martyrs testify their trust in the love of Christ
December 26, 2009

Octave: Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Protomartyr

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.

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.

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.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pope Benedict: Urbi et Orbi

From YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

URBI ET ORBI 2009-12-25
December 25, 2009

"Attacks and indifference, but the Church proclaims the Gospel"
December 25, 2009

Letter #57, for Christmas Day, 2009

insidethevatican - Dec 25, 2009

"A Light Will Shine This Day"

Today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Christmas Day Mass then gave his blessing "urbi et orbi" -- "the the city and to the world." Also, a link to a video of his fall last night...

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from America


Here is a link to a YouTube video of the woman who jumped over the railing last night and caused the Pope to fall:


Here is the text of the Pope's message to Rome and the world at noon today in Rome:

Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Day, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world, and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

Merry Christmas: He Pitched His Tent Among Us

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

On this one wonderful day called "Christ-Mass" the entire world rightly pauses. Heaven has come to earth so that earth can be brought to heaven.

Let those of us who have embraced the truth of this claim now manifest- in our own lives and families- the fruits of the Incarnation. Let us become a Christmas people and offer through our lives of love the greatest gift of all. Let us continue to manifest the beauty of the Incarnation to a world that still waits to be born.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - With these words the most theologically profound Gospel begins, the one written by the beloved disciple John: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.. AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US" (John 1:1, 14)

The last to be written, this Gospel contains the inspired mature reflection of the early Church. Within these pregnant words we discover the mystery at the heart of the great event we celebrate on Christmas, the Incarnation and the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The words rendered in English "dwelt among us" are literally rendered "He pitched His tent among us." The God of the whole universe who dwelt in inaccessible light, whom no man had ever seen and lived, became a man. In fact, he became first a child, in the womb and then in the arms of a mother. Then, He lived (lives) among us. He became one of us, fully human while fully Divine. Heaven touched earth and earth is now forever changed.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us of this Jesus whose birth we celebrate: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15)

The Eternal Word, coexistent with the Father and the Spirit in the perfect unity that is Trinitarian Love and communion, became a real man in time and in history. As a pre-born child, He sanctified all mother's wombs by dwelling within the first temple, the living tabernacle, of His beloved self-chosen mother. Now that is THE greatest argument against abortion. God revealed Himself first as a child in the womb.

God’s Living Christmas Card

Christmas Day 2009 and Jesus Christ is king

Canada Free Press
By Judi McLeod Friday, December 25, 2009

North Carolina Coast-The best Christmas card I have ever received—a living and real one—is right outside my December 25th windows. It’s the North Carolina oceanfront, and It comes complete with the frolicking dolphins as a reminder of God’s Creation.

This time last year, it was North Easton, Ma where we went looking for the grave marker of “Rosary Priest” Fr. Patrick Peyton in a lonely snow covered cemetery.

Readers may remember how had it not been for the tiny American flags blowing in the wind, we would have missed the grave markers of all the priests and brothers of Holy Cross Church, who had served their country in life.

Pope Benedict XVI: ‘I get Knocked Down but I Get Up again’

By Deacon Keith Fournier
Catholic Online (

Of course the Pope got back up again. His mission is only just beginning. The world sees an old man. Those with faith see a warrior.

Of course the Pope got back up again. You will never keep him down. His mission is only just beginning. The world sees an old man. Those with faith see a warrior. This is the Millennium of the Church. Though it looks dark, the dawn from on high will soon break upon us.

VATICAN CITY – (Catholic Online) – It was a British band named Chumbawamba who unleashed that awful, annoying refrain in an otherwise very forgettable song: “I get knocked down But I get up again You're never going to keep me down”. It immediately came to my mind when I left Mass this evening. I had the honor of serving as a Deacon at the Midnight Mass of the Nativity of the Lord. The Church was packed. In fact, every Mass has been packed this Christmas. People are hungry for God in a world which has lost its way and is turning to God once again to fill the hole in its collective soul.

As I turned on the radio in my car while leaving the parking lot, I heard the news on every station. The 82 year old Pope was knocked down during the procession into the Solemn Midnight Mass for the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas. Of course, I was worried. That is until I got home and studied the story a bit more. The champion of the Church got back up again and presided with dignity at the Liturgy.

The International Press seized upon the story. After all, the Press is faced with little to report on during Christmas. The real world stops to celebrate Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord. There is little left in the news cycle. Christians in America are outraged over the possibility within the current “Health Care Reform” that killing babies in the womb, like the one whose birth we celebrate this evening, might soon be paid for by tax dollars. They are ready for Christmas and pray for the Savior to come and intervene.

Most reports told us that the woman who tackled the Pope was “deranged”. They always say that. They further reported that the Pope got up “unhurt”. This woman, dressed in a red hooded sweat shirt, also knocked down Cardinal Roger Etchegaray who was one of the concelebrants in this Liturgy. He was taken to a hospital to be treated. Latest reports are that the good Cardinal is fine.

The good news is that the Vicar of Christ, the successor of the Apostle Peter, “got back up again. ” You cannot keep this dynamic, beautiful, holy Pope down. He is too much in love with the Lord Jesus. He arose to give an absolutely wonderful evangelical message to the whole world about the meaning of the One whose birth we commemorate and what that birth really means for the whole world. Here is that message in its wonderful entirety:


“Dear Brothers and Sisters! "A child is born for us, a son is given to us" (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly "God with us". No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Letter #56 (Revised), for Christmas Eve, 2009

insidethevatican - Dec 24, 2009

"God's Sign"

This evening in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Christmas Eve Mass -- but not at midnight... Also, before Mass began, the Pope fell. His central Christmas Eve message: awake from our selfishness, and enter into communion with the one God

By Robert Moynihan, reporting from America

(Special note: My apologies. The prior newsflash was sent in error. Only after I sent it, then read over what I had sent, did I notice that I had sent and commented on last year's Christmas Eve homily (2008). So I am re-sending the same newsflash, but this time with the correct text: the Pope's 2009 Christmas Eve homily. Please forgive me! -- Robert Moynihan)


The Pope Falls

At the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome this evening, an "apparently unbalanced" woman approached Pope Benedict XVI, 82, and caused him to fall as he entered St Peter's Basilica to celebrate Christmas Eve Mass.

(Photo, Pope Benedict this evening in St. Peter's Basilica.)

The pilgrim, who apparently intended no harm but only wished to get close to the Pope, vaulted over a security barricade by the central aisle of the basilica as the Pope began leading the traditional procession to the altar, reached him, grabbed his vestments, and evidently caused him to lose his balance, pulling him to the ground.

The woman is in the custody of the Vatican police.

(Here is a link to a more complete report on the incident, with more details:

The pontiff quickly recovered and went on to conduct the Mass, his fifth Christmas Eve celebration, without assistance.

French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray also fell in the crush and was given first aid, Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., said.

Benedict, in gold and white vestments and mitre, showed no discomfort as he read out his Christmas Eve homily in Italian, decrying selfishness, which he said "makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another."

Pope washes feet in Holy Thursday service

10/04/2009 10:04

ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict washed and dried the feet of 12 men at a traditional Holy Thursday service commemorating Christ's gesture of humility to his apostles on the night before he died.

Enlarge image

The 81-year-old German-born Pope, approaching the fourth Easter of his pontificate, called on Catholics to avoid temptation of material possessions and "vanities."

During the service, he poured water over the right feet of 12 men sitting on raised platforms and dried them. The ritual was held in Rome's Basilica of St. John's in Lateran, the Pope's cathedral in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital.

Earlier, the Pope said in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica that Catholics must embrace the eternal truth of God instead of being influenced by "prevailing opinions" and superficiality.

See also from Zenit:

Benedict XVI's Christmas Vigil Homily

"God Is Important, by Far the Most Important Thing in Our Lives"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2009 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave tonight at the Christmas Vigil Mass in the Vatican.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

"A child is born for us, a son is given to us" (Is 9:5). What Isaiah prophesied as he gazed into the future from afar, consoling Israel amid its trials and its darkness, is now proclaimed to the shepherds as a present reality by the Angel, from whom a cloud of light streams forth: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is truly "God with us". No longer is he the distant God who can in some way be perceived from afar, in creation and in our own consciousness. He has entered the world. He is close to us. The words of the risen Christ to his followers are addressed also to us: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). For you the Saviour is born: through the Gospel and those who proclaim it, God now reminds us of the message that the Angel announced to the shepherds. It is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that has occurred there. The story of the shepherds is included in the Gospel for a reason. They show us the right way to respond to the message that we too have received. What is it that these first witnesses of God’s incarnation have to tell us?

The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch -- they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. We must become truly vigilant people. What does this mean? The principal difference between someone dreaming and someone awake is that the dreamer is in a world of his own. His "self" is locked into this dreamworld that is his alone and does not connect him with others. To wake up means to leave that private world of one's own and to enter the common reality, the truth that alone can unite all people. Conflict and lack of reconciliation in the world stem from the fact that we are locked into our own interests and opinions, into our own little private world. Selfishness, both individual and collective, makes us prisoners of our interests and our desires that stand against the truth and separate us from one another.

Awake, the Gospel tells us. Step outside, so as to enter the great communal truth, the communion of the one God. To awake, then, means to develop a receptivity for God: for the silent promptings with which he chooses to guide us; for the many indications of his presence. There are people who describe themselves as "religiously tone deaf". The gift of a capacity to perceive God seems as if it is withheld from some. And indeed -- our way of thinking and acting, the mentality of today's world, the whole range of our experience is inclined to deaden our receptivity for God, to make us "tone deaf" towards him. And yet in every soul, the desire for God, the capacity to encounter him, is present, whether in a hidden way or overtly. In order to arrive at this vigilance, this awakening to what is essential, we should pray for ourselves and for others, for those who appear "tone deaf" and yet in whom there is a keen desire for God to manifest himself. The great theologian Origen said this: if I had the grace to see as Paul saw, I could even now (during the Liturgy) contemplate a great host of angels (cf. in Lk 23:9). And indeed, in the sacred liturgy, we are surrounded by the angels of God and the saints. The Lord himself is present in our midst. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may become vigilant and clear-sighted, in this way bringing you close to others as well!

And "Benedict XVI Offers Shepherds as Role Models."

Pope Unhurt After Being Knocked Down

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is unhurt after he was knocked down tonight as he entered St. Peter's Basilica to celebrate the Christmas vigil Mass, reports a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that an "apparently unbalanced" woman jumped the barriers and ran toward the Pope and knocked him to the ground as he walked down the main aisle toward the altar.

The woman also collided with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, who also fell to the ground.

The Holy Father, 82, got back on his feet quickly. When seeing that the Pontiff recovered, the thousands who had gathered in the basilica for Mass cheered.

Cardinal Etchegaray, who is the former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was taken to the hospital for a check-up.

The woman was seized by bodyguards and was arrested by the police and taken in for questioning.

The Christmas vigil Mass was celebrated for the first time in recent memory at 10 p.m., instead of at midnight, in an effort to make Christmas "a little less tiring for the Pope."

See also:

From AP via Yahoo! News, "Woman knocks down pope at Christmas Eve Mass"

From AFP via Yahoo! News, "Woman rushes at pope, pulls him down ahead of Christmas mass"

From Reuters, "Pope knocked to floor but unharmed at mass incident"

And this photo:

Associated Press Thu Dec 24, 7:44 PM ET
Enlarge photo...

In this image made from amateur video obtained by APTN, an unidentified woman, center, is pulled by a guard as she grabs Pope Benedict XVI after jumping over a barricade as he walked down the main aisle to begin Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009.(AP Photo/APTN)

Waiting for Christmas With Hilaire Belloc

by Gerald J. Russello

For some years, I have set aside time during Advent to read Hilaire Belloc's short essay, "A Remaining Christmas." First published 80 years ago next year, it has been worth my annual rereading. It is an extended reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation and of each person's earthly journey.

Even now, Belloc (1870-1953) arouses strong opinions. Conventionally paired with his lifelong friend G. K. Chesterton, Belloc was the more combative and sour part of that creature Bernard Shaw called the Chesterbelloc. The two of them fought a rearguard action against the evils of the age with rhetorical skill. Belloc was the Catholic apologist without apology. Famous for declaring that "the Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith," Belloc combined a keen historical sense with a sharp analytic mind. He was convinced that the Reformation had ruptured the continuity of Europe in general and of England in particular. In particular, the religious break, compounded with the dramatic changes brought about by industrialism, had separated Europeans from their full history. While some of his writing errs on the cantankerous side, at his best Belloc is a graceful and wide-hearted stylist.

The son of a French father and English mother, Belloc was educated at the famous Oratory, where when still a student he met the aged John Henry Cardinal Newman. After serving a tour in the French military (he was a French citizen), Belloc went on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he served as president of the Oxford Union. Angered at not receiving a prestigious appointment as a Fellow to All Souls College (which he attributed, not entirely incorrectly, to anti-Catholic bigotry), Belloc turned to writing and journalism, finding time also for standing a few years as a Liberal member of Parliament for Salford South. Among his more than 100 books and thousands of shorter pieces, he is perhaps best known for his travelogue, Path to Rome; his critique of capitalism, The Servile State; his sailing book The Cruise of the Nona; and his books of children's poetry. He was also a biographer of note, writing -- for example -- lives of major figures of the Reformation.

Charles Taylor has written in his book A Secular Age that among its other effects, modernity has shattered the religious sense of time, which is not horizontal -- one thing following another, but non-linear -- connecting the sacred with the mundane, where the eternal can touch the temporal. Belloc's Christmas essay is a throwback to this traditional Christian way of thinking. The essay recounts the traditions of Christmastide as observed in Belloc's home in Sussex, King's Land. The essay opens with Belloc declaring the problem and the purpose of the essay:

The world is splitting more and more into two camps, and what was common to the whole of it is being restricted to the Christian, and soon will be to the Catholic half.

What was "common" are the traditions and customs of the Christian world.

Christmas Eve in Bethlehem

It is Christmas Eve 2009 and the hope of the true Messiah lives on. Nothing has changed.

Canada Free Press
By Judi McLeod Thursday, December 24, 2009

It is now Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.

The reverent silence over the hallowed place where Jesus Christ was born is the same on Christmas Eve 2009 as it was more than 2000 years ago.

The winter stars still shine on this most humble of towns; the shepherds, in the same kind of clothes worn by those who witnessed the Child in the Manger, are still there watching their flocks by night.

The pictures in the YouTube, provided by bring a message to all those whose hearts and souls are open to it: (Luke 2:10): “And an angel said unto them fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

To a weary world there is Hope and Change. (Luke 2:11): “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

On this holiest of nights (Luke 2:12): “And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

No words have ever rung more true: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (King James Bible)

It is Christmas Eve 2009 and the hope of the true Messiah lives on. Nothing has changed.

Pope inaugurates Christmas creche

Pope Benedict XVI holds up a candle at the window of his private apartment to celebrate the unveiling of the nativity scene in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 24, 2009.
Photograph by: Max Rossi, Reuters

Victoria Times Colonist
AFP December 24, 2009 11:02 AM

VATICAN city -- Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday appeared at a window of his Vatican apartment to mark the unveiling of the traditional Christmas creche in St Peter's Square below.

About 1,000 people gathered in the famous piazza applauded as the pope lit a candle, symbol of peace.

Benedict's predecessor John Paul II began the tradition of setting up the creche in St Peter's Square in 1982 in a tribute to the rich Italian tradition of creche-building and the zeal and artistry involved.

Flanked by a giant Christmas tree, the illuminated structure 25 metres (yards) wide depicts the nativity of Jesus Christ, believed by Christians to be the son of God, whose birth is commemorated on Christmas Day.

Some of the figurines in this year's creche date from the mid-19th century.

The sundown event came a few hours before the pontiff was to celebrate Christmas Eve mass in the basilica.

Breath of Heaven – UPDATE

Merry Christmas, everyone, on this beautiful Christmas Eve. May all our hearts be filled to overflowing with Him, our Incarnate Lord. The following lovely meditation is given by the Anchoress.

Thursday, December 24, 2009, 7:00 AM

My podcast reading the Nativity Narrative of the Gospel of St. Luke

UPDATE: “Teach them to watch the star that leads to the baby. A must-read. One to save to re-read in mid-year, when both Christmas and Easter are have passed, and we’ve begun to forget. (H/T)

More giving…and…Even more

Pope to celebrate 'midnight' Christmas mass at 10 pm

Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims as he leads his weekly audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican December 23, 2009.Photograph by: Alessia Pierdomenico, Reuters

Vancouver Province
AFP December 24, 2009 5:34 AM

VATICAN CITY - In a Vatican first, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Christmas midnight mass two hours early, at 10:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Thursday, because of his advanced age of 82.

The decision, taken several weeks ago, prompted fears that Pope Benedict may be suffering health problems -- but Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pontiff's condition is "absolutely normal" for a man of his age.

"It is a sensible precaution (and) there is no cause for concern or alarm," Lombardi told AFP earlier this month.

Pope Benedict's long-serving predecessor John Paul II insisted on observing the tradition of beginning the mass at midnight despite years of ill health, notably the ravages of Parkinson's disease, at the end of his life.

He died in April 2005 aged 84.

Lombardi said the earlier mass, which will finish shortly after midnight instead of at 2:00 am, was planned "to make Christmas a little less tiring for the pope, who has many engagements during this time".

Notably, Pope Benedict will celebrate Christmas mass on the morning of the day itself, Friday.

See also from CBS News, "Video: Pope Benedict's 10 P.M. Midnight Mass."

Pope: The Ecclesial Movements are Gifts for the Whole Church

Catholic Online (

'It is no longer possible to think of the life of the Church of our time without including these gifts of God within it.' (Pope Benedict XVI)

'The charismatic movement, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatechumenal Way have many reasons to be grateful to you' the Pope said to Cardinal Cordes in a letter in which he once again affirmed the role of these movements in the life and work of the Church.

VATICAN CITY ( - Benedict XVI is praising a cardinal who welcomed the inspiration of new movements in the Church, and is highlighting the positive contribution they have made.

The Pope affirmed this in a letter he sent last week for the 75th birthday of Cardinal Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

"I no longer remember when we first met," the Pontiff said, as he recalled a long history of friendship with the cardinal, including a shared membership in the German bishops' conference before both were called to serve in the Roman Curia.

"With courage and creativity at the beginning of your work in Rome you opened up new roads to lead young people to Christ," the Holy Father affirmed. "You also made a contribution to the genesis and the growth of the World Youth Days."

He underlined the prelate's "pastoral involvement" and "commitment to the movements" in his role in the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

"The charismatic movement, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatechumenal Way have many reasons to be grateful to you," the Pope said.

"While at the beginning the organizers and planners in the Church had many reservations in regard to the movements," Benedict XVI stated, "you immediately sensed the life that burst forth from them -- the power of the Holy Spirit that gives new paths and in unpredictable ways keeps the Church young."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pope: at Christmas God is a helpless child, to be freely welcomed to our hearts

» 12/23/2009 12:34

During his general audience, Benedict XVI recalls the origins of the celebration of Christmas. We owe “the intense atmosphere" of this feast for the birth of the Christ Child, to St Francis. At Christmas "God is defenceless, without weapons, because he does not aim to conquer from the outside", but to be accepted. It is 'in the light of Christmas that we understand the words of Jesus: If you do not convert and become as children, will never enter the kingdom of heaven".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Christmas is at hand and it shows us that God who becomes a child, "is without arms, he is defenceless, because He does not intend to conquer man from the outside, rather to be freely accepted in our hearts and in the world. " God becomes a child "to overcome the lust for possession, violence." And may "Christmas gift us serene and profound joy and new courage in the frenetic activity of our busy days, so we may touch the goodness of God." This was Benedict XVI’s greeting to few thousand people present in the Paul VI audience for his last general audience before Christmas. The audience also physically marked by Christmas, with the tree and the nativity scene decorating the hall (see photo) and the notes of bagpipes players from Italy.

Pope Benedict spoke of the birth of Jesus from its historical origin. Originally, he recalled, the liturgical year was centred not on birth but on the resurrection, the victory of Jesus over death." "It is the event on which the Christian Faith is founded”. "The first to say that Jesus was born December 25 was Hippolytus of Rome, in his commentary on the Book of the prophet Daniel, written around 204". Some note, then, that "in that day they celebrated the feast of the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. The coincidence of dates would then mean that with Jesus, who appeared as God's light in the night, the consecration of the temple is truly realized, the coming of God on this earth". "In Christianity, the feast of Christmas took on definite form in the fourth century, when it took the place of the Roman festival of the 'Sol Invictus', the invincible sun; thus highlighting that the birth of Christ is the true victory of light over the darkness of evil and sin. "

But "the intense atmosphere of Christmas - said the Pope - developed in the Middle Ages thanks to St. Francis." His biographer, Thomas of Celano, "tells how he celebrated the birth of the Child Jesus with untold eagerness and called it the feast of feasts”. From this vision of the Mystery of the Incarnation came the representation of Christmas at Greccio. "What animated Francis was the desire to experiment the actual event of the birth and communicate its joy to everyone." "The Nativity Scene is the most beautiful of Christmas traditions. "Greccio gave to Christianity the intensity and beauty of the feast of Christmas, and has educated the people of God to understand its authentic message, its unique warmth and love and worship the humanity of Christ. This particular approach to Christmas gave a new dimension to the Christian faith. Easter had focused attention on the power of God that conquers death, inaugurates new life and teaches us to hope for the world to come. With Saint Francis and his manger the helpless love of God, his humility and his kindness were brought to light, which is manifested in the Incarnation of the Word to men to teach us a new way of living and loving. "

See also the VIS-Press release, "The Child Jesus Makes the Love of God Manifest."

And from YouTube-Vatican's Channel:

Benedict XVI: God desires to win us with love
December 23, 2009

The 3rd Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus

By Jennifer Hartline
Catholic Online (

He came to us small, weak, dependent and poor. He sought to inspire our affection and devotion rather than command our submission.

If gold could have relieved our troubles and lifted us out of our darkness, then Jesus could have simply come in His Royalty and tossed us bags of coins. If physical power and strength was all we needed to defeat our enemy, then the Invincible could have come with His armies and settled the whole matter in minutes. He came to us in poverty so we would see that all we will ever need is who He is.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) – “She gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

Let this mystery teach us poverty.

When I think about poverty, my immediate reaction is to be repulsed. Poverty is not something I find enchanting. My instinct for self-preservation vehemently rejects the idea of poverty. It inspires fear and dread in me.

Poverty means to be vulnerable, shunned, and perhaps worst of all, invisible. Poverty is empty and deprived.

What a stunning paradox then that God would offer Himself to us in poverty. Omnipotent, All-possessing King lies helpless and needy in humiliating surroundings. He who commands the sun to shine and our hearts to beat within our chests comes powerless into our world to be greeted by cows and sheep.

It’s disarmingly brilliant. We cannot refute the love of a God who sheds His riches and might and gives Himself to us in poverty. He did not come with frightening awe and intimidating splendor so we would cower before Him in fear. He came to us small, weak, dependent and poor. He sought to inspire our affection and devotion rather than command our submission.

Emmanuel: God-With-Us, God-Within-Us!

By Monsignor Mark J. Seitz
Catholic Online (

God entered concretely, in the flesh, in the midst of human lives and he continues to dwell in the midst of human lives, in the midst of our lives.

Pause and consider this Mystery anew in this holy Season. Remove it from the restrictive confines of its familiarity. Just pause a moment before the Nativity scene and ponder as did Mary, as did the shepherds and the wise men. And realize that if God entered our history in a given moment, it was a moment whose impact would never cease to be felt.

DALLAS, TX (Catholic Online) - People often say to me, “God seems so far away. I don’t know how to find Him.” I have to acknowledge in honesty, that there have been times when that has been my sentiment as well. I have noted that this feeling has been particularly strong when there were sinful actions in my life that had not been reconciled, or when my prayer life lagged.

But what has come again and again to my consciousness this Advent and Christmas time is quite the opposite sentiment. I find myself marveling at how incredibly, unimaginably close God is! Perhaps he is so close that we often fail to even look for him there. Have you ever experienced times on a bright sunny day when you have searched for your sunglasses only to discover that they are already on your head? Have you ever searched for your keys only to find they are already in your pocket or in your purse?

Those experiences, I think, begin to give us a clue as to how close God has come to us and why we fail to find him. Yet, these examples only hint at the truth because God is much closer than this. Somehow our unconverted imagination seems to present God as far off in the heavens, far removed from our sight, or dwelling in the peoples of past ages and coming to us only in well-worn stories that take their place behind familiar fairy tales and children’s stories.

We often miss the impact of the great Mystery we celebrate at Christmas because it is as close to us as the nose on our face and so transforming for our daily lives that it goes beyond our wildest imaginings. What we celebrate is precisely a God who has chosen not to remain distant and unknowable; the Lord and creator of the universe who has chosen not to live in realms impenetrable beyond our sight. We celebrate a God who so humbled himself that he became “God-with-us” “Emmanuel,” taking flesh in the womb of our sister, the Virgin Mary.

Pause and consider this Mystery anew in this holy Season. Remove it from the restrictive confines of its familiarity. Just pause a moment before the Nativity scene and ponder as did Mary, as did the shepherds and the wise men. And realize that if God entered our history in a given moment, it was a moment whose impact would never cease to be felt. No moment in time can confine God. God entered human history and God lives in human history. God entered concretely, in the flesh, in the midst of human lives and he continues to dwell in the midst of human lives, in the midst of our lives.