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Archive for the ‘Pope Benedict XVI’ Category

For today’s feast, Pope Emeritus Benedict, from 2012:

But now we may ask ourselves: What does it mean that Mary is Queen? Is it merely a title along with others, the crown, an ornament like others? What does it mean? What is this queenship? As already noted, it is a consequence of her being united with her Son, of her being in heaven, i.e. in communion with God. She participates in God’s responsibilities over the world and in God’s love for the world. There is the commonly held idea that a king or queen should be person with power and riches. But this is not the kind of royalty proper to Jesus and Mary. Let us think of the Lord: The Lordship and Kingship of Christ is interwoven with humility, service and love: it is, above all else, to serve, to assist, to love. Let us recall that Jesus was proclaimed king on the Cross, with this inscription written by Pilate: “King of the Jews” (cf. Mark 15:26). In that moment on the Cross it is revealed that He is king. And how is he king? By suffering with us, for us, by loving us to the end; it is in this way that he governs and creates truth, love and justice. Or let us also think of another moment: at the Last Supper, he bends down to wash the feet of his disciples. Therefore, the kingship of Jesus has nothing to do with that which belongs to the powerful of the earth. He is a king who serves his servants; he showed this throughout his life. And the same is true for Mary. She is queen in God’s service to humanity. She is the queen of love, who lives out her gift of self to God in order to enter into His plan of salvation for man. To the angel she responds: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:38), and in the Magnificat she sings: God has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid (cf. Luke 1:48). She helps us. She is queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in every one of our needs; she is our sister, a humble handmaid.

 

Thus we have arrived at the point: How does Mary exercise this queenship of service and love? By watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her and to ask her maternal protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost their way, or weighed down by suffering and anguish on account of the sad and troubled events of life. In times of serenity or in the darkness of life we turn to Mary, entrusting ourselves to her continual intercession, so that from her Son we may obtain every grace and mercy necessary for our pilgrimage along the paths of the world. To Him who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe in His hands we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary. For centuries she has been invoked as the Queen of heaven; eight times, after the prayer of the holy Rosary, she is implored in the Litany of Loreto as Queen of the Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, of all Saints and of Families. The rhythm of this ancient invocation, and daily prayers such as the Salve Regina, help us to understand that the Holy Virgin, as our Mother next to her Son Jesus in the glory of Heaven, is always with us, in the daily unfolding of our lives.

 

The title of Queen is therefore a title of trust, of joy and of love. And we know that what she holds in her hands for the fate of the world is good; she loves us, and she helps us in our difficulties.

 

Related:

Praying the Rosary – the small devotional book I had a hand in. 

Free e-book on Mary? Got it right here: Mary and the Christian Life

"amy welborn"

 

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"amy welborn"

For today:

The Feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.

Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us.   (Source)

But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.

And so, faith and hope and love are combined. Today there is much discussion on a better world to be awaited: it would be our hope. If and when this better world comes, we do not know, I do not know. What is certain is that a world which distances itself from God does not become better but worse. Only God’s presence can guarantee a good world. Let us leave it at that.

One thing, one hope is certain: God expects us, waits for us, we do not go out into a void, we are expected. God is expecting us and on going to that other world we find the goodness of the Mother, we find our loved ones, we find eternal Love. God is waiting for us: this is our great joy and the great hope that is born from this Feast. (Source)

By looking at Mary’s Assumption into Heaven we understand better that even though our daily life may be marked by trials and difficulties, it flows like a river to the divine ocean, to the fullness of joy and peace. We understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death. Our setting on the horizon of this world is our rising at the dawn of the new world, the dawn of the eternal day.

“Mary, while you accompany us in the toil of our daily living and dying, keep us constantly oriented to the true homeland of bliss. Help us to do as you did”.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends who are taking part in this celebration this morning, let us pray this prayer to Mary together. In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ’s Resurrection.

“Help us, Mother, bright Gate of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, source through whom came Jesus Christ, our life and our joy. Amen”. (Source)

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Would you like an exercise podcast update?  Of course you would.

This program (scroll down to 8/8) on the destruction of English religious art during the Reformation was really excellent. Presented by historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

Great Lives has an interesting framework:  a well-known person in a certain field discusses a chosen “great life” along with a host and a scholar.

This week, I listened to a program (4/1) on cellist Jacqueline Du Pre (perhaps you saw the film Hilary and Jackie? I did..a couple of times, and loved it, even though it’s apparently – like most biopics – completely inaccurate.) The well-known person was another intriguing person – deaf solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Great! More rabbit holes!

I also listened to Michael Palin talk about Hemingway – Palin did one of his travel programs on Hemingway some years ago.  Enjoyed this one, too.  Both gave me a lot to think about regarding creativity and the self.

 

— 3 —

Actually started and finished a couple of books.  The Confessions of Frances Godwin which, well, I gave two stars to. Sorry.  Next was non-fiction: How Paris Became Paris, which was interesting because of the very mild myth-busting that was going on.  People like to credit/blame Haussmann for moving Paris from medievalism to modernity, but as the author of this book shows, the transformation began centuries before, mostly under King Henry IV who oversaw the construction of revolutionary public spaces like the Pont Neuf and the Place Royale.  Reading texts from 17th century travel guides was illuminating, but the book was a bit overstuffed and the content could have fit in in a meaty Atlantic or New Yorker article.

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Speaking of reading and public spaces – I tweeted this last week, but forgot to mention it here.  Our local alt weekly, called Weld ran an excellent, thorough treatment of the murder of Father James Coyle on the steps of the Cathedral rectory almost a hundred years ago.  If you’ve never heard of this case – go read the article.  It’s an important part of our history, featuring anti-Catholicism, the Klan and future Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black.

Coyle could not have imagined that his most imminent threat was from a fellow clergyman. Edwin Stephenson was an ordained Methodist deacon who presented himself as a full-fledged minister for his primary occupation of marrying couples at the Jefferson County Courthouse (which in 1921 was on the same Third Avenue North block as St. Paul’s). He was also a member of Robert E. Lee Klavern No. 1, the first Alabama chapter of the new Ku Klux Klan.

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Back to the Assumption – as I mentioned yesterday, don’t forget that my book Mary and the Christian Life is available for a free download.  Not for a limited time, either.  Today and probably always!

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I know I mentioned that I sold my other house, but even now, the relief hasn’t worn off.  Once a day, I pause, and think, “Aaaaah!” – amazed at the freedom and resolved that this – the house I’m in – will be the last home I own.  No, I don’t plan on living here until I die (unless I die in the next ten years), but really and truly – when we’re done here, I’m done owning, and will be perfectly fine with renting.  It’s not ownership that gets me – it’s the burden of knowing you are going to have to sell the thing someday, and all that entails.  Plus (again, I hope we are talking far into the future), after dealing with my father’s estate, I’m determined to leave my own children with as few complications as possible, and that includes a house that has to be sold.  What we leave behind is a continual object of meditation for me.  It’s a metaphor, you know.

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Rectify is tearing me up,but I won’t write about it until next week – the final episode.  Except to say that in a program filled with fine actors and juicy roles, Clayne Crawford as Ted, Jr is really emerging as a standout.  If you live in the South, you know Ted, Jr – the good ol’ boy/prep/poseur – he’s instantly recognizable…but then as the show has progressed, he’s become recognizable in a different way – as a confused, angry, self-doubting guy who really doesn’t know what’s hit him or his family.   So imagine my amazement just five minutes ago when I looked him to find you a good link and discovered that he’s from these parts – not that far from Birmingham.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Today is his feastday!

First, a General Audience from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, from 2011:

 

 

It is only the prayerful soul that can progress in spiritual life: this is the privileged object of St Anthony’s preaching. He is thoroughly familiar with the shortcomings of human nature, with our tendency to lapse into sin, which is why he continuously urges us to fight the inclination to avidity, pride and impurity; instead of practising the virtues of poverty and generosity, of humility and obedience, of chastity and of purity. At the beginning of the 13th century, in the context of the rebirth of the city and the flourishing of trade, the number of people who were insensitive to the needs of the poor increased. This is why on various occasions Anthony invites the faithful to think of the true riches, those of the heart, which make people good and merciful and permit them to lay up treasure in Heaven. “O rich people”, he urged them, “befriend… the poor, welcome them into your homes: it will subsequently be they who receive you in the eternal tabernacles in which is the beauty of peace, the confidence of security and the opulent tranquillity of eternal satiety” (ibid., p. 29).

Is not this, dear friends, perhaps a very important teaching today too, when the financial crisis and serious economic inequalities impoverish many people and create conditions of poverty? In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate I recall: “The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred” (n. 45).

Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord’s humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.

Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ’s love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realize how great your human dignity and your value are…. Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).

In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.

Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satifsfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59).

Next, some photos of the huge Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua from our trip in 2012.

(I’m guessing there were no photos allowed inside…since I don’t have any of the interior)

(Sigh. I loved Padua -it is one of those mid-sized Italian cities that I find tremendously appealing – a vibrant, sophisticated interesting buzz around the carefully, but not fussily maintained medieval core.)

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

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Catching up….

A few weeks ago, during one of our now-periodic visits to Charleston, I took the opportunity to worship with the Corpus Christi Community at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church downtown.  

It’s part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter – the former Anglicans now in union with Rome. 

What a revelation.

Long-time readers know that I have always had a keen interest in the authentic, traditional diversity of Catholicism, most vividly expressed in its religious orders with their varied charisms and in the different rites of the Church.  We don’t have an Anglican Use parish here in Birmingham, but for a mid-sized Southern city, it’s sort of amazing what we do have: a parish at which the Extraordinary Form is regularly celebrated and supported without controversy (and not the only one in the diocese of Birmingham, either – take that New York City!); Maronite Rite and Melkite. At least once a year, the Catholic school that my boys attended would celebrate a Maronite Rite Liturgy.

(Perhaps you’re wondering about that?  Well, there are a lot of Lebanese and Greeks in the South, and they’ve been here since the late 19th and early 20th centuries – folks who came to work for railroads and other industries. Birmingham’s food culture has a strong Middle Eastern and Greek streak running through it, and it’s earned.)

Anyway. 

I had been wanting to attend the Anglican Use (not Rite!) liturgy there in Charleston since my son and daughter-in-law moved there, and finally got my chance.

Sorry I don’t have better photos.  I wish I had the courage to take something besides surreptitious photos at Mass…but maybe I don’t, either.

Here’s my confession:

Long-time readers know that for a while, I followed the Episcopal/Anglican Wars fairly closely. I did, that is, until the acronyms spun out of control and I couldn’t muster the energy to untangle them yet again.  I was grateful for the establishment of the Ordinariate, but I confess (here we go) that  did think sometimes…um…really?  Why can’t they just become Roman and suffer lame liturgy with the rest of us? SACRIFICE, people!  If it’s true….you’ll jump no matter what, right?

Yes, I understand that there was more to it, and these conversions were fraught with complexity, tension, pain and joy.  But I admit, I really didn’t get the liturgy thing.  To my superficial eye, it was mostly about psalmody and Vespers. (Although I admit, I have followed Atonement Parish in San Antonio for years and long thought that if I were to ever move just for the sake of my children going to a particular school…it would be Atonement Academy….)

So…sorry?

If you have the opportunity, I’d encourage you to worship with an Anglican Use community.  Here’s what struck me about the liturgy:

(Note:  I should have written this post immediately after attending…it was a month ago, and I can’t be as specific as I would like.)

"amy welborn"

  • The differences between this and the Roman Rite Mass were clear.  I’m sure you can find discussions and comparisons online, perhaps even contentious ones.  The structure is, of course, the same, but the differences are intriguing and expressive of a more explicit sense of humility as well as greater formality than your typical, contemporary Roman Rite Mass.
  • I suppose to the superficial observer, the use of ad orientem is worth remarking on, but to me at this point, it’s not really. Except I just did. Well, then. The very next Mass I attended in Charleston, at a Roman Rite parish, was celebrated ad orientem and it is not a big deal to me at all..except for the fact that I wish it would be reinstated now, everywhere that it’s possible.  (Also…this is an old discussion for me.  I’ve run several blog posts on it over the years, including those in which we talked about Lutheran, Anglican and Eastern Christian use of ad orientem. Do an image search for “Lutheran altar” and see how many of them are slam up against the back wall….)
  • What struck me most about the Anglican Use liturgy was the same thing that struck me about Eastern Rite liturgies – not the external postures so much as the internal posture of humility which it assumes and fosters.  The emphasis is on supplication and humility.  You don’t pray “have mercy on us” a zillion times as you do in an Eastern liturgy, but you do say it – or something like it – a lot more than you do in the Roman Rite.
  • You will say a lot more of everything in the Anglican Use liturgy.  The post-Vatican II Roman Rite is quite stripped down and streamlined, that being, of course, one of the intentions of those who constructed it.  There is a verbal richness about the Anglican Use that I found comforting and akin to a richly adorned physical space.

 

So, it was a great experience, and I finally get it.”  I get the reluctance to leave it behind – it preserves much – not just in the Mass itself, but in the other traditions that the Anglican Use brings with it – that were lost in the Roman Rite after the Second Vatican Council.

It was great to see Fr. Patrick Allen again that day – I had met him before at the Cathedral last fall, and he’d brought his children to my book-signing in Charleston in December.  And added bonus?  I finally got to meet Dawn Eden!  As it happens, she was giving a talk in Charleston that very day and was at Mass.  It was a delight to finally meet!

 

 

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Still looking for a First Communion gift?

Try…Friendship with Jesus. 

Friendship With Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Talks to Children on Their First Holy Communion is based on a dialogue in St. Peter’s Square that took place in 2006

 

Artist Ann Engelhart thought the dialogue would make a wonderful children’s book and asked me to help edit it and get it published. It was first published in England by the Catholic Truth Society in 2010 and then picked up by Ignatius Press in 2011.
Also check out Be Saints!
Be Saints! is available from Ignatius Press

Pope Benedict tells children that if we grow in our friendship with God then we will find true happiness and become saints. In this beautifully illustrated book, popular author Amy Welborn introduces Pope Benedict’s simple yet profound message to children, given during talks to children his recent visit to England.

 

In this very colorful book by acclaimed artist Ann Englehart, the Pope’s words come to life as he interacts with the children, showing all children how only God can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.

 

Interspersed are prayers and quotes from various saints including Saint Francis, Saint Ignatius, Mother Teresa, St. Paul, St. Peter and more. They all emphasize that the most important thing we can become in this life is a Saint, a true friend of Jesus.

 

 

Previously:

Saints for Children – also good First Communion gifts.

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Hard to believe..

As you may or may not know, watercolorist Ann Engelhart and I published two books centered around dialogues the Pope Emeritus had with children.

It’s called Friendship with Jesus. 

And it’s now #2 on Amazon in the “First Communion” category. 

Also take a look at Be Saints - based on the dialogue he had on his apostolic visit to Great Britain.

Also check out the free download of the little book I based on the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, Come Meet Jesus. 

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Epiphany

Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome

 Above the great city the star disappears, it is no longer seen. What does this mean? In this case too, we must interpret the sign in its depth. For those men it was logical to seek the new king in the royal palace, where the wise court advisors were to be found.

Yet, probably to their amazement, they were obliged to note that this newborn Child was not found in the places of power and culture, even though in those places they were offered precious information about him.

On the other hand they realized that power, even the power of knowledge, sometimes blocks the way to the encounter with this Child. The star then guided them to Bethlehem, a little town; it led them among the poor and the humble to find the King of the world.

God’s criteria differ from human criteria. God does not manifest himself in the power of this world but in the humility of his love, the love that asks our freedom to be welcomed in order to transform us and to enable us to reach the One who is Love.  Source


Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.  Source



The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs.  Source


They had brought gold, incense and myrrh. These are certainly not gifts that correspond to basic, daily needs. At that moment, the Holy Family was far more in need of something different from incense or myrrh, and not even the gold could have been of immediate use to them. But these gifts have a profound significance: they are an act of justice. In fact, according to the mentality prevailing then in the Orient, they represent the recognition of a person as God and King, that is, an act of submission. They were meant to say that from that moment, the donors belonged to the sovereign and they recognize his authority. The consequence is immediate. The Magi could no longer follow the road they came on, they could no longer return to Herod, they could no longer be allied with that powerful and cruel sovereign. They had always been led along the path of the Child, making them ignore the great and the powerful of the world, and taking them to him who awaits us among the poor, the road of love which alone can transform the world.

Therefore, not only did the Magi set out on their journey, but their deed started something new they traced a new road, and a new light has come down on earth which has never faded. The Prophet’s vision is fulfilled: that light could no longer be ignored by the world. People would go towards that Child and would be illumined by that joy that only he can give. The light of Bethlehem continues to shine throughout the world. To those who have welcomed this light, St Augustine said: “Even we, recognizing Christ our King and Priest who died for us, have honoured him as if we had offered him gold, incense and myrrh. But what remains is for us to bear witness to him by taking a different road from that on which we came” (Sermo 202. In Epiphania Domini, 3,4).

Thus if we read together the promise of the Prophet Isaiah and its fulfilment in the Gospel of Matthew in the great context of all history, it is evident that what we have been told which we seek to reproduce in our Nativity scenes is neither a dream nor a vain play on sensations and emotions, devoid of vigour and reality, but is the Truth that irradiates in the world, although Herod always seems stronger, and that Infant seems to be found among people of no importance or who are even downtrodden. But in that Baby is expressed the power of God, who brings together all people through the ages, because under his lordship, they may follow the course of love which transfigures the world. Nevertheless, even if the few in Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star, but only a few have understood its message. Scripture scholars in the time of Jesus knew the word of God perfectly well. They were able to say without hesitation what could be found in Scripture about the place where the Messiah would be born, but as St Augustine said: “They were like milestones along the road though they could give information to travellers along the way, they remained inert and immobile” (Sermo 199. In Epiphania Domini, 1,2).

Therefore, we can ask ourselves: what is the reason why some men see and find, while others do not? What opens the eyes and the heart? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent, in those who point out the road but do not move? We can answer: too much self-assurance, the claim to knowing reality, the presumption of having formulated a definitive judgment on everything closes them and makes their hearts insensitive to the newness of God. They are certain of the idea that they have formed of the world and no longer let themselves be involved in the intimacy of an adventure with a God who wants to meet them. They place their confidence in themselves rather than in him, and they do not think it possible that God could be so great as to make himself small so as to come really close to us.

Lastly, what they lack is authentic humility, which is able to submit to what is greater, but also authentic courage, which leads to belief in what is truly great even if it is manifested in a helpless Baby. They lack the evangelical capacity to be children at heart, to feel wonder, and to emerge from themselves in order to follow the path indicated by the star, the path of God. God has the power to open our eyes and to save us. Let us therefore ask him to give us a heart that is wise and innocent, that allows us to see the Star of his mercy, to proceed along his way, in order to find him and be flooded with the great light and true joy that he brought to this world. Amen.  Source

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