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Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

I was poking around my archives looking for an account of some previous travel (which I will get to in a moment), when the timing of that trip struck me for a couple of reasons…

Gosh, it was ten years ago. Just about this time of year. 

And while we were on the trip, John Paul II was dying…and then he died.

That was ten years ago tomorrow (April 2)…is anyone remembering this? 

(I see that Pope Francis referred to the anniversary today.)

So weird, considering the impact of that moment and the subsequent consistory electing Cardinal Ratzinger.  Those weeks were quite memorable, for they were weeks in which the Catholic understanding of life and death, embodied in the lives of human beings and the ritual of the Church, was there for everyone to see, and it was all rather stirring, beautiful and hopeful.

So.

What I was looking for was anything I’d written about our visit, on that Arizona trip, to something called the Gallery of the Sun – the studio of late artist Ted De Grazia.  You probably don’t know his name, but if you have memories of popular art of the 1960’s, this might strike a chord:

"amy welborn"

No, not as well-known as the Keane’s Big Eyes, but still, part of the fabric of the era.

We didn’t have it as a destination – I think it was on the way to somewhere else. But we stopped in, and I was surprised by the heavy religious content of the art.  De Grazia claimed he was not a traditionally religious man, but the Gallery is dedicated to the great missionary of the Southwest, Fr. Kino,

DeGrazia was inspired by the memorable events in the life and times of Padre Kino, the heroic, historic and immortal priest-colonizer of the Southwestern desert. Since childhood, DeGrazia admired Padre Kino for his education, life of adventure and his respect for Native Americans. DeGrazia traveled to every Kino mission as he lovingly studied the life of his favorite Jesuit priest. The Mission in the Sun is dedicated to his memory.

What struck me with the most force during the visit was De Grazia’s Stations of the Cross.  They were painted, according to this article, for the Catholic Student Center at the University of Arizona in Tuscon (my mother’s alma mater…but painted several years after her attendance). I  purchased a little bound set of postcards at the time, and still use it.

"amy welborn"

Yes, it’s pop art of a sort, but some of the stations are, I think, rather powerful. This image is from the Gallery’s Pinterest board, which has representations of all the images, some notes on the inspiration and preliminary sketches:

"ted de grazia"

I think this is my favorite:

"ted de grazia"

Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us’. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

That said…ten years?

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I went through the archives of Sunday Angelus talks from John Paull II on through and pulled out what the various Popes have said to the children on this occasion.  You might find a nice quote to share with your own family.  (Missing years are mostly because most of  JPII’s Angelus talks are only available in Italian and Spanish.)

1978

As I bless your little statues, beloved children, I think with serene hope of you, of the immense good that you can do, precisely because you are little, within your family, the school, the Associations, and society itself. Not for nothing did Jesus himself choose you as models for those who wish to have a part in his Kingdom (cf. Mt 18:4; Mk 10: 15).

Take home, with great care, the little statue of the Infant Jesus, also as a sign of the Pope’s love for you and your families. Put it in your Crib with intense faith, with that faith wherewith the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God, laid the new-born Jesus in the manger (cf. Lk 2:7). Invite your father, your mother, your brothers and sisters, the whole of your family, to gather round the Crib in these days of the Christmas Novena, to recite together the prayers learned on your mother’s lap, to sing bambinelli blessingthe sweet carols, so charged with human and Christian sentiment.

May the Infant Jesus, present in the Crib of your home, be the concrete sign of a limpid and sincere faith, which will enlighten, guide and direct your life and that of your dear ones.

Then skip ahead…to 1997…

This climate of serenity and joy typical of the Christian Christmas can already be felt today, here in St Peter’s Square, thanks to the Christmas tree and the crib which are being set up. It is all the more evident thanks to the presence of so many Roman boys and girls who, following a beautiful custom, have brought figurines of the Baby Jesus from their own cribs for the Pope to bless.

I address you in particular, dear children. Christmas is the feast of a Child. Therefore it is your feast! You wait for it impatiently and prepare for it with joy, counting the days until 25 December. I gladly bless the figurines of the Christ Child and the cribs you are making at home. I bless you and the children of every part of the world, especially on the American continent, who were frequently recalled by the Synod Fathers. May the Infant Jesus fill each of them with joy, especially those tried by physical suffering or the lack of affection.

1999

One of the popular expressions of the joyful expectation of Christmas is the preparation of cribs in families. In Christian homes these are the days when a suitable corner is chosen for arranging the figurines, leaving room between Mary and Joseph for the Child Jesus. Having in mind all the Christian families arranging their cribs, I very gladly bless you, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come in large numbers with your Bambinelli. May Christmas, now close at hand, spur you and all believers in every part of the world to prepare a worthy dwelling-place for Christ.

2000

With great joy I also greet you, dear boys and girls, who have come, as you do every year, to have the figurines of the Baby Jesus blessed before you put them in your cribs at home. I hope that as they gather around this wonderful sign of God’s tenderness, every family will find joy and peace, and will experience in simplicity the true spirit of the Christmas holidays.

2002

Dear children and youngsters of Rome, you have come today to add a touch of liveliness in keeping with the tradition of having the Baby Jesus of your cribs blessed by the Pope. I greet you affectionately and thank you because your joy fits in very well with the spirit of joy that is appropriate for the Third Sunday of Advent.

I also think of the cribs that you and your parents and teachers have prepared in your homes and schools. In the manger, between Mary and Joseph, you will place the Baby Jesus you hold in your hands. The crib will become the centre of your classroom and the heart of your families.

Above all, Christmas is a feast of the family because, by being born in a human family, the Son of God chose it as the first community consecrated by his love.

2003

I greet with affection the children of Rome who have come for the traditional blessing of the “Baby Jesus”; and I thank the Roman Centre of After-School Activities which has organized this lovely event. Dear children and boys and girls, when you place the statue of the Baby Jesus in your Nativity scene, say a prayer for me and for all the people who turn to the Pope in their difficulties. Happy Christmas to you all!

2004

The feast of Christmas is approaching and in many places, such as here in St Peter’s Square, the Christmas crib is already being set up. Small or large, simple or elaborate, it is a familiar and most vivid representation of Christmas. The Nativity scene is a feature of our culture and art, but above all it is a sign of faith in God, who in Bethlehem came “and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14).

2. As I do every year, in a little while I shall bless the Baby Jesus figurines that on the Holy Night will be placed in the Christmas cribs, where St Joseph and Our Lady are already silent witnesses of a sublime mystery. With their loving gaze they invite us to watch and pray in order to welcome the divine Saviour, who comes to bring the joy of Christmas to the world.

Now, moving on to B16:

2005:

The Crib helps us contemplate the mystery of God’s love that was revealed in the poverty and simplicity of the Bethlehem Grotto. St Francis of Assisi was so taken by the mystery of the Incarnation that he wanted to present it anew at Greccio in the living Nativity scene, thus beginning an old, popular tradition that still retains its value for evangelization today.

Indeed, the Crib can help us understand the secret of the true Christmas because it speaks of the humility and merciful goodness of Christ, who “though he was rich he made himself poor” for us (II Cor 8: 9).

His poverty enriches those who embrace it and Christmas brings joy and peace to those who, like bambinelli blessingthe shepherds in Bethlehem, accept the Angel’s words: “Let this be a sign to you: in a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Lk 2: 12). This is still the sign for us too, men and women of the third millennium. There is no other Christmas.

Soon, as did beloved John Paul II, I too will bless the figurines of the Baby Jesus that the children of Rome will place in the Crib in their homes. With this act of Blessing, I would like to invoke the help of the Lord so that all Christian families will prepare to celebrate the coming Christmas celebrations with faith. May Mary help us enter into the true spirit of Christmas.

2006

The invitation to rejoice is not an alienating message nor a sterile palliative, but on the contrary, it is a salvific prophecy, an appeal for rescue that starts with inner renewal.

To transform the world, God chose a humble young girl from a village in Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and challenged her with this greeting: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you”. In these words lies the secret of an authentic Christmas. God repeats them to the Church, to each one of us:  Rejoice, the Lord is close! With Mary’s help, let us offer ourselves with humility and courage so that the world may accept Christ, who is the source of true joy.

I address a special greeting to the children, the boys and girls of Rome, who have come with their relatives and teachers for the blessing of the figurines of the Baby Jesus that you will put in their cribs at home, at school and in the oratories. I thank the “Centro Oratori Romani” which has organized this important pilgrimage and I warmly bless all the “Baby Jesuses”. Dear children, pray to Jesus before the crib for your father’s intentions too! I thank you and wish you a Merry Christmas!

2007

Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God’s smile. In one of her writings, we read: “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him” (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks. Unfortunately, this is what is proposed by cultures that replace God by individual happiness, mindsets that find their emblematic effect in seeking pleasure at all costs, in spreading drug use as an escape, a refuge in artificial paradises that later prove to be entirely deceptive.

Dear brothers and sisters, one can lose the way even at Christmas, one can exchange the true celebration for one that does not open the heart to Christ’s joy. May the Virgin Mary help all Christians and people in search of God to reach Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who was born for us, for salvation and for the happiness of all humanity.

I would like to greet the children and young people of Rome who have come here in large numbers this year in spite of the cold to receive the blessing of the Christ Child figurines for their cribs. Dear friends, with great affection I wish you and your relatives a good Christmas. And as I thank the Centro Oratori Romani which organizes this beautiful initiative, I urge priests, parents and catechists to collaborate enthusiastically in the Christian education of children. Thanks to you all and a good Sunday!

2008

(This is the prayer featured in the book)

In this light, it gives me real pleasure to renew the beautiful tradition of the Blessing of the Christ Child figurines, the miniature statues of the Baby Jesus to be placed in the manger. I address you in particular, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come this morning with your Baby Jesus figurines that I now bless. I invite you to join me, following attentively this prayer:

God, our Father
you so loved humankind
that you sent us your only Son Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.

We pray that with your Blessing
these images of Jesus,
who is about to come among us,
may be a sign of your presence and
love in our homes.

Good Father,
give your Blessing to us too,
to our parents, to our families and
to our friends.

Open our hearts,
so that we may be able to
receive Jesus in joy,
always do what he asks
and see him in all those
who are in need of our love.

We ask you this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son
who comes to give the world peace.

He lives and reigns forever and ever.
Amen.

And now let us recite together the prayer of the Angelus Domini, invoking Mary’s intercession so that Jesus, whose birth brings God’s Blessing to mankind, may be lovingly welcomed in all homes, in Rome and throughout the world.

2009

We have now reached the Third Sunday of Advent. Today in the liturgy the Apostle Paul’s invitation rings out: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…. The Lord is at hand!” (Phil 4: 4-5). While Mother Church accompanies us towards Holy Christmas she helps us rediscover the meaning and taste of Christian joy, so different from that of the world. On this Sunday, according to a beautiful tradition, the children of Rome come to have the Pope bless the Baby Jesus figurines that they will put in their cribs. And in fact, I see here in St Peter’s Square a great number of children and young people, together with their parents, teachers and catechists. Dear friends, I greet you all with deep affection and thank you for coming. It gives me great joy to know that the custom of creating a crib scene has been preserved in your families. Yet it is not enough to repeat a traditional gesture, however important it may be. It is necessary to seek to live in the reality of daily life that the crib represents, namely, the love of Christ, his humility, his poverty. This is what St Francis did at Greccio: he recreated a live presentation of the nativity scene in order to contemplate and worship it, but above all to be better able to put into practice the message of the Son of God who for love of us emptied himself completely and made himself a tiny child.

The blessing of the “Bambinelli” [Baby Jesus figurines] as they are called in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and, especially, they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. And the shepherds? What did they have to rejoice about? That Newborn Infant was not to change their condition of poverty and marginalization. But faith helped them recognize the “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” as a “sign” of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all human beings, “with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2: 12, 14).

This, dear friends, is what true joy consists in: it is feeling that our personal and community existence has been visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love. In order to rejoice we do not need things alone, but love and truth: we need a close God who warms our hearts and responds to our deepest expectations. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Therefore that “Bambinello” which we place in a stable or a grotto is the centre of all things, the heart of the world. Let us pray that every person, like the Virgin Mary, may accept as the centre of his or her life the God who made himself a Child, the source of true joy.

2013, Pope Francis:

Today my first greeting is for the children of Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the “Baby Jesus” figurines organized by the Roman Oratory. Dear children, when you pray before the manger, remember me too, as I remember you. I thank you, and Happy Christmas!

2014  (Hey, when it’s in English, I’ll post it!)

E ora saluto con affetto i bambini venuti per la benedizione dei “Bambinelli”, organizzata dal Centro Oratori Romani. Complimenti! Voi siete stati bravi, siete stati gioiosi qui in piazza, complimenti! E adesso portate il presepio benedetto. Cari bambini, vi ringrazio della vostra presenza e vi auguro buon Natale! Quando pregherete a casa, davanti al vostro presepe, ricordatevi anche di pregare per me, come io mi ricordo di voi. La preghiera è il respiro dell’anima: è importante trovare dei momenti nella giornata per aprire il cuore a Dio, anche con le semplici e brevi preghiere del popolo cristiano. Per questo, oggi ho pensato di fare un regalo a tutti voi che siete qui in piazza, una sorpresa, un regalo: vi darò un piccolo libretto tascabile che raccoglie alcune preghiere, per i vari momenti della giornata e per le diverse situazioni della vita. E’ questo. Alcuni volontari lo distribuiranno. Prendetene uno ciascuno e portatelo sempre con voi, come aiuto a vivere tutta la giornata con Dio. E perché non dimentichiamo quel messaggio tanto bello che voi avete fatto qui con il cartello: “Con Gesù la gioia è di casa”. Un’altra volta: “Con Gesù la gioia è di casa”. Bravi!

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Here’s a story:

bambinelli blessing pope francis

At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis welcomed the children of Rome for the traditional “Bambinelli Blessing.” On Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Lent, Roman boys and girls bring the baby Jesus from their Nativity sets to Saint Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope.

Speaking after the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father thanked the children for coming, and wished them a happy Christmas. He asked them to remember to pray for him when they said their prayers before their Nativity set, and assured them that he prayed for them, too. “Prayer is the breath of the soul,” he said. “ It is important to find moments throughout the day to open the heart to God, even with the short and simple prayers of the Christian people.”

Pope Francis also surprised the children, and all those present, with the gift of a small pocket prayer book “that gathers together some prayer for the various moments of the day and for different situations in life.” He asked them to always carry their prayerbook with them, as an aid to living the whole day “united to God.”

And here’s a very complete 20 minute video from today’s event.

And…here’s the book!

bambinelli-blessing

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First off – if you read this on Saturday and are on Long Island, Ann Engelhart is signing books at the Advent Shop: 3 Bayview Avenue Massapequa, NY, 11758  at 1pm today, December 13.  A little late, but perhaps someone will be in the vicinity or have friends or relatives who might want to go get a signed book!

Secondly, Ann is the first guest on the TelecareTV  (diocese of Rockville Centre) “Good News” program  Christmas Special.  No, she doesn’t sing White Christmas  – although I know she has a lovely singing voice, so she probably could – but she talks about both Bambinelli Sunday and Adventures in Assisi  (which I have for sale here – signed by both of us.)

Her segment starts at about 4:00.

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First, a reminder that Benedizione dei Bambinelli is a real thing…here’s the proof!

"amy welborn"

(The group’s Facebook page. Here they are on Twitter.)

Here’s a nice sighting of the book on displacy – from Two Hearts Catholic Shoppe in Roswell, Georgia

"amy welborn"

Want a Bambinelli Sunday Pinterest board? Here it is! Lots more links. 
I’ve searched a bit for American parishes who are inviting children and families to bring in bambinelli for a blessing…here are a few more:

Corpus Christi Catholic Community – the Anglican Ordinariate Mass at 11:30 in Charleston

Old Saint Mary’s in Detroit

Saint Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax (pdf)

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Brooklyn

Saint James the Apostle in Springfield, NJ

St. Albert the Great in Las Cruces, NM

Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St Louis, MO

St. Bartholomew, Columbus, IN

St. Jude, Hinesburg, VT

Annunciation Parish, Cincinnati – very nice bulletin insert!

First Presbyterian Church – Van Wert, Ohio!

An earlier list

Here’s a nice resource on using the book in catechesis. 

Sarah Reinhard on the book last year.

Also from last year, Elizabeth Foss.

MEDIA:

Ann & I will have a few interviews over the next few days:

Ann will be on Telecare (Diocese of Rockville Centre)’s Christmas Special tomorrow – watch it or catch the video later here.

I’ll be on the SonRise Morning Show Thursday morning at 745 AM 

A joint interview we did with Fr. Jim Lisante will air this coming weekend.

The Bookmark show we taped in November will also air this weekend on EWTN.

WDEL will be re-airing the interview I did with them last year – “Catholic Forum” – at 10:05 eastern.

****

And the point?

The point is that Advent and Christmas are about welcoming the Word of God into our lives – which means our homes. The blessing of the Bambinelli – which we bring from our homes and return there – is an embodiment of this.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict said in his 2008 prayer for the event:

God, our Father 
you so loved humankind 
that you sent us your only Son Jesus, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
to save us and lead us back to you.

We pray that with your Blessing 
these images of Jesus, 
who is about to come among us, 
may be a sign of your presence and 
love in our homes.

Good Father, 
give your Blessing to us too, 
to our parents, to our families and 
to our friends.

Open our hearts, 
so that we may be able to 
receive Jesus in joy, 
always do what he asks 
and see him in all those 
who are in need of our love.

We ask you this in the name of Jesus, 
your beloved Son 
who comes to give the world peace.

He lives and reigns forever and ever. 
Amen.

Here’s a link to Rome Reports’ account of last year’s blessing.

How the book came to be.

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Here’s some information on the new saints:

St. Giovanni Antonio Farin

In 1831 in Vicenza he founded the first school for poor girls and in 1836, the Institute of the Sisters Teachers of St Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts, to supply suitable teachers. He wanted his religious also to care for deafmutes, blind girls and the psychologically handicapped. They nursed the sick and the elderly in hospital and at home. There was no form of suffering that this farsighted founder overlooked. In 1850 Fr Farina was appointed Bishop of Treviso. Here he undertook a variety of pastoral initiatives, forming his priests and laity for evangelization and catholic action. Throughout his ten-year term, canonical problems with the Cathedral Chapter caused him constant suffering and setbacks. Here he was able to follow the preparation of Giuseppe Sarto (the future St Pius X) for the priesthood ordaining him in 1858. In 1860 he was transferred to Vicenza. Despite the turbulent period in Italian history, during his 28 years as bishop he embarked on an ambitious pastoral programme that included the spiritual and cultural formation of the priests and of the laity for evangelization, the reform of studies and discipline in the seminary, and the organization of associations for the care of the poor. He was called the “Bishop of Charity”.

From JPII’s homily during his beatification:

Looking back at his work performed for the glory of God, for the formation of young people, as a witness of charity for the poorest and most abandoned, we are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul in the second reading: everything must be done so that in everything “the name of the Lord Jesus might be glorified” (2 Thes 1,12).

 St. Ludovico of Casoria:

This change and redirection of Blessed Louis’ life occurred one day while he was at prayer before The Blessed Sacrament, he fell to ground, experiencing what he was to call later his “second baptism”. This was his call to change direction and dedicate his life to works of charity on behalf of the less fortunate. From that time forward, his ministry to the less fortunate characterized Blessed Louis’ lifestyle.

From this time of reorientation, Blessed Louis began to meet with persons of differing political and cultural orientation; he founded academies of religious culture and Homes for the aged. With the approval of Ferdinand II, he was able to redeem numerous young slaves from Cairo and Alexandria, with a view to giving them a life of dignity, a Christian education, as well as a cultural preparation in such a way to be able to send them back to Africa as missionaries themselves. Many of these youths chose to be Baptized, Confirmed, and successively became priests, and consecrated women religious. As his works of charity grew, Blessed Louis saw the need to have a corps of helpers more closely aggregated to his works of charity.

The Grey Franciscan Friars of Charity were founded by Blessed Louis of Casoria to assist him in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy established by him and to continue this patrimony grafted on to the great spiritual tree of the Franciscan Family.

St. Nicola Saggio

.Born to a poor peasant family, Giovanni was a clever boy who enjoyed study, but had to work the fields with his father instead of going to school. He was a pious child, and would spead whole days in prayer in a local Minim church. At 20, against his family’s wishes (legend says that he was struck blind when his mother objected, and only recovered his sight when she agreed to let him follow his vocation), he became an Oblate friar of the Order of the Minims, taking the name Nicola. Miracle worker.

St. Amatus Ronconi:

Born to a wealthy family, Amatus was orphaned when very young and grew up in the home of his older brother Giacomo. Feeling a call to live according to the gospel, he devoted himself to caring for the poor and helping pilgrims. Franciscan tertiary. Constructed combination chapel and shelters for pilgrims including the Beato Amato Ronconi Nursing Home which still exists. Made four pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Benedictine lay brother.

Then two saints from the Syro-Malabar Church:

(News article)

(More Syro-Malabar saints here)

St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara

From JPII’s 1998 homily at the beatification in Kerala:

Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born here in Kerala, and for nearly all of his sixty-five years of earthly life he laboured generously for the renewal and enrichment of the Christian life. His deep love for Christ filled him with apostolic zeal and made him especially careful to promote the unity of the Church. With great generosity he collaborated with others, especially brother priests and religious, in the work of salvation.

In co-operation with Fathers Thomas Palackal and Thomas Porukara, Father Kuriakose founded an Indian religious congregation for men, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. Later, with the help of an Italian missionary, Father Leopold Beccaro, he started an Indian religious congregation for women, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. These congregations grew and flourished, and religious vocations became better understood and appreciated. Through the common efforts of the members of new religious families, his hopes and works were multiplied many times over.

Father Kuriakose’s life, and the lives of these new religious, were dedicated to the service of the Syro-Malabar Church. Under his leadership or inspiration, a good number of apostolic initiatives were undertaken: the establishment of seminaries for the education and formation of the clergy, the introduction of annual retreats, a publishing house for Catholic works, a house to care for the destitute and dying, schools for general education and programmes for the training of catechumens. He contributed to the Syro-Malabar liturgy and spread devotion to the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Family. In particular, he dedicated himself to encouraging and counselling Christian families, convinced as he was of the fundamental role of the family in the life of society and the Church.

But no apostolic cause was dearer to the heart of this great man of faith than that of the unity and harmony within the Church. It was as if he had always before his mind the prayer of Jesus, on the night before his Sacrifice on the Cross: “That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” . Today the Church solemnly recalls with love and gratitude all his efforts to resist threats of disunity and to encourage the clergy and faithful to maintain unity with the See of Peter and the universal Church. His success in this, as in all his many undertakings, was undoubtedly due to the intense charity and prayer which characterised his daily life, his close communion with Christ and his love for the Church as the visible Body of Christ on earth.

St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal

From the same homily:

Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, born a century after Father Kuriakose Elias, would gladly have served the Lord with similar apostolic projects. And indeed, she possessed a personal devotion to Father Kuriakose from early in her religious life. But the path to holiness for Sister Alphonsa was clearly a different one. It was the way of the Cross, the way of sickness and suffering.

Already at a very young age, Sister Alphonsa desired to serve the Lord as a religious, but it was not without enduring trials that she was finally able to pursue this goal. When it became possible, she joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. Throughout her life, which was a brief thirty-six years, she continually gave thanks to God for the joy and privilege of her religious vocation, for the grace of her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

From early in her life, Sister Alphonsa experienced great suffering. With the passing of the years, the heavenly Father gave her an ever fuller share in the Passion of his beloved Son. We recall how she experienced not only physical pain of great intensity, but also the spiritual suffering of being misunderstood and misjudged by others. But she constantly accepted all her sufferings with serenity and trust in God, being firmly convinced that they would purify her motives, help her to overcome all selfishness, and unite her more closely with her beloved divine Spouse. She wrote to her spiritual director: “Dear Father, as my good Lord Jesus loves me so very much, I sincerely desire to remain on this sick bed and suffer not only this, but anything else besides, even to the end of the world. I feel now that God has intended my life to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering” (20 November 1944). She came to love suffering because she loved the suffering Christ. She learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord.

Sister Alphonsa knew that by her sufferings she shared in the Church’s apostolate; she found joy in them by offering them all to Christ. In this way, she seemed to have made her own the words of Saint Paul: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” . She was endowed by God with an affectionate and happy disposition, with the ability to take delight in ordinary and simple things. The weight of human suffering, even the misunderstanding or jealousy of others, could not extinguish the joy of the Lord which filled her heart. In a letter written shortly before she died, at time of intense physical and mental suffering, she said: “I have given myself up completely to Jesus. Let him please himself in his dealings with me. My only desire in this world is to suffer for love of God and to rejoice in doing it” (February 1946).

Pope Francis’ homily today:

Today the Church places before us the example of these new saints.  Each in his or her own way served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters.  They responded with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour.  They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims.  Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God.  In fact, they sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God, from whence springs forth true love for one’s neighbour.  In the hour of judgement, therefore, they heard that tender invitation: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt25:34).

Through the rite of canonization, we have confessed once again the mystery of God’s kingdom and we have honoured Christ the King, the Shepherd full of love for his sheep.  May our new saints, through their witness and intercession, increase within us the joy of walking in the way of the Gospel and our resolve to embrace the Gospel as the compass of our lives.  Let us follow in their footsteps, imitating their faith and love, so that our hope too may be clothed in immortality.  May we not allow ourselves to be distracted by other earthly and fleeting interests.  And may Mary, our Mother and Queen of all Saints, guide us on the way to the kingdom of heaven. 

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Remember, you can purchase Baminelli Sunday through any online website – for example through the Catholic Company here. Encourage your local Catholic bookstore to carry it – this is how the Daughters of St. Paul store in Charleston is displaying it

"bambinelli sunday"

(Photo courtesy of Ann, who was there a couple of weeks ago. Thanks, sisters!)

You can also purchase copies signed by both of us here.  If you would like multiple copies, let me know, and I’ll work out a discount. (Perhaps a gift for catechists?) 

Last year, Ann did an interview with Everyday Faith Live on Telecare TV.  It starts at about 18.00

(In case you haven’t seen it, take a look at this visit to her home studio in connection with the release of Adventures in Assisi)

Today, I’m also linking to a radio interview I did with Al Kresta last year on the book.  It’s here.

Remember…start planning your own parish/school/family celebration…..

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Today (Friday the 17th) is the feastday of St. Ignatius of Antioch.  I hope you’ll take some time to read a bit of the letters of the martyr-bishop who was fed to the beasts in the early 2nd century.   He wrote several, to the communities through which he passed as he was being taken in chains from Antioch to Rome.

The letters center on a few themes:  the unity of the Church, the role of the bishop, the Eucharist, warning against heresies, and, of course, martyrdom. It’s good, vivid, bracing stuff.

I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
  No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.
  The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathise with me because you will know what urges me on.

— 2 —

From Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s General Audience talk on Ignatius, several years ago:

Overall, it is possible to grasp in the Letters of Ignatius a sort of constant and fruitful dialectic between two characteristic aspects of Christian life: on the one hand, the hierarchical structure of the Ecclesial Community, and on the other, the fundamental unity that binds all the faithful in Christ.
Consequently, their roles cannot be opposed to one another. On the contrary, the insistence on communion among believers and of believers with their Pastors was constantly reformulated in eloquent images and analogies: the harp, strings, intonation, the concert, the symphony. The special responsibility of Bishops, priests and deacons in building the community is clear.

This applies first of all to their invitation to love and unity. “Be one”, Ignatius wrote to the Magnesians, echoing the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper: “one supplication, one mind, one hope in love…. Therefore, all run together as into one temple of God, as to one altar, as to one Jesus Christ who came forth from one Father, and is with and has gone to one” (7: 1-2).

— 3 —

The rest of this post will be super short and random.  Sorry about that. Maybe I’ll have more substance next week.

So..this was an interesting article – from the coming Sunday’s NYTimes magazine: it’s about the practice of begging in the predominantly Orthodox Jewish town of Lakewood, New Jersey. 

— 4 —

More New York stuff.  This was an  hilarious article in The New Yorker  by a writer attempting to see how outrageously she could game the “emotional support animal” world. Turtle? Alpaca? Not even kidding.  

— 5 —

Remember, since it’s October, that  means it’s Rosary month.  Perhaps you’d like a free e-book on Mary?

Well…here you go!

And for a not-free book on a saint…don’t forget this one…

"amy welborn"

I’ll have a couple of interviews on it over the next couple of weeks – I’ll let you know when they come on.

— 6 —

No field trips this week.  However, this weekend, the older boy is going on a scout thing to Mammoth Cave. Michael and I will be staying around here, but we will be going on a jaunt….fossil hunting!  We are to take hammers, screwdrivers and a box for our finds….this is serious, I guess…..

— 7 —

Synod? Well, sure I have…thoughts.  After it’s over, I’ll jot some of them down.  I mean, honestly, why waste time with pronouncements today when everything is going to change tomorrow…or during the next hour?  Sheesh, what a circus.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Pope Francis, today:

“In the joyful atmosphere of Christmas,” the pope noted, “this commemoration might seem out of place. Christmas in fact is the celebration of life and gives us feelings of serenity and peace. Why upset its charm with the memory of such brutal violence? In reality, from the perspective of faith, the Feast of St Stephen is in full harmony with the deeper meaning of Christmas. In martyrdom in fact, violence is overcome by love, death by life. The Church sees in the sacrifice of the martyrs their “birth in heaven.” Let us therefore celebrate today Stephen’s “birth”, which deeply stems from the birth of Christ. Jesus transforms the death of those who love him into the dawn of new life! The same clash between good and evil, between hatred and forgiveness, between gentleness and violence, which culminated in the Cross of Christ, is played out in Stephen’s martyrdom. Thus, the memory of the first martyr comes immediately to dissolve the false image of Christmas as a mushy fairy tale that does not exist in the Gospel! The liturgy brings us back to the true meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary, and reminding us that divine salvation involves a struggle against sin through the narrow gate of the Cross.”

For the pope, Saint Stephen’s martyrdom is the reason why “we are praying today especially for Christians who suffer discrimination because of their witness to Christ and the Gospel.”

“We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like Saint Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds. This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realised. In my opinion, there are more today than in the early days of the Church. As it happens however, even in countries and places that protect freedom and human rights on the paper, believers, especially Christians, encounter limitations or discrimination.”

“For these brothers and sisters, I would ask you to pray, for a moment, in silence, everyone,” the pope said off the cuff. After a brief moment of silence, he continued, saying, “Let us entrust them to Mary,” and called on everyone to say a Hail Mary for them.

 

Pope Benedict in 2012

On St Stephen’s Day we too are called to fix our eyes on the Son of God whom in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of his Incarnation. Through Baptism and Confirmation, through the precious gift of faith nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to him and with the action of the Holy Spirit, wants to continue in us his work of salvation by which all things are redeemed, given value, uplifted and brought to completion. Letting ourselves be drawn by Christ, as St Stephen did, means opening our own life to the light that calls it, guides it and enables it to take the path of goodness, the path of a humanity according to God’s plan of love. Lastly, St Stephen is a model for all who wish to put themselves at the service of the new evangelization. He shows that the newness of the proclamation does not consist primarily in the use of original methods or techniques — which of course, have their usefulness — but rather in being filled with the Holy Spirit and letting ourselves be guided by him.

The newness of the proclamation lies in the depth of the believer’s immersion in the mystery of Christ and in assimilation of his word and of his presence in the Eucharist so that he himself, the living Jesus, may speak and act in his messengers. Essentially, evangelizers can bring Christ to others effectively when they themselves live in Christ, when the newness of the Gospel is reflected in their own life. Let us pray the Virgin Mary that in this Year of Faith the Church may see an increasing number of men and women who, like St Stephen, can bear a convincing and courageous witness to the Lord Jesus.

Pope Benedict in 2011

Today, the day after the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Birth, we are celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, a deacon and the Church’s first martyr. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea describes him as the “perfect martyr” (Die Kirchengeschichte v. 2,5: GCS II, I, Lipsia 1903, 430), because in the Acts of the Apostles it is written that “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). St Gregory of Nyssa commented: “he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit. He was sustained by the goodness of his will to serve the poor and curbed enemies by the Spirit’s power of the truth” (Sermo in Sanctum Stephanum II: GNO X, 1, Leiden 1990, 98). A man of prayer and of evangelization, Stephen, whose name means “crown”, received from God the gift of martyrdom. Indeed, “full of the Holy Spirit … he saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55) and while he was being stoned he prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Then, he fell to his knees and prayed for forgiveness for those who accused him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

This is why the Eastern Church sings in her hymns: “The stones became steps for you and ladders for the ascent to heaven… and you joyfully drew close to the festive gathering of the angels” (MHNAIA t. II, Rome 1889, 694, 695).

After the generation of the Apostles, martyrs acquired an important place in the esteem of the Christian community. At the height of their persecution, their hymns of praise fortified the faithful on their difficult journey and encouraged those in search of the truth to convert to the Lord. Therefore, by divine disposition, the Church venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them with epithets such as: “teachers of life”, “living witnesses”, “breathing trophies” and “silent exhortations” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 5: PG 36, 500 C).

Dear friends, the true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian writers have called the “secret martyrdom”. Concerning this St Clement of Alexandria wrote: “those who perform the commandments of the Lord, in every action ‘testify’, by doing what he wishes, and consistently naming the Lord’s name; (Stromatum IV, 7,43,4: SC 463, Paris 2001, 130). Today too, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel can require the sacrifice of life and many Christians in various parts of the world are exposed to persecution and sometimes martyrdom. However, the Lord reminds us: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

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— 1 —

These will be super quick.  I hope.

— 2 —

I find the Pope Francis hysteria just a little bizarre.   I guess I’m glad, but I still find it, as a whole, what with the intensity and…elation – strange.  What people seem to get most excited about – or what they say they’re excited about – is what he has to say about mercy and evangelization.  Which is no different from what other recent Popes have said, including Pope Benedict.  And if you think that part of it is different, then you weren’t paying any attention to Pope Benedict.  Nor to Jesus Christ, apparently.   Some say, “Ah, but the tone is different!”  Really?   Again – were you listening to Pope Benedict?  Examples, please?   Pope Francis has a more effusive personality, and if that floats your boat, great – but if it prompts you to weep in gratitude for a new tone and a New Church in the making, I hope your 15th birthday is nice.

Short version:  let’s be concrete and specific and give examples.   What’s  is the “old” that the “newness” of Pope Francis is correcting?   

I’m not saying that his words and tone are identical to Benedict’s or John Paul II’s.  What I’m hearing is that people are excited that there is something fresh and new and super awesome here, and I just don’t understand what it is.   Because it’s not what people say it is because Francis is not saying things that his predecessors were silent about.

— 3 —

I add, quickly:  I appreciate what Pope Francis has to say, both when it affirms and when it challenges me.  I’m glad that people are being moved and am sure it will bear fruit, just as Pope John Paul II’s papacy bore fruit and Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy bore fruit.

My armchair take on Francis is that when I hear him or read him , what I hear is a fellow who has been in the hierarchy for a long time.  This hit me early on.  His concerns are those of a bishop, and they seem to come out of a bishop’s experience of dealing with interest groups vying for his ear, careerist or pastorally indifferent clerics, and a structure, on the parish and diocesan level, which, despite the best of intentions, so often seems to lose focus and evolve into a self-perpetuating, self-serving club blind to the needy and broken souls right at the doorstep.   It seems to me that much of what he says is an attempted and almost explosive corrective to all of that.

It’s also sort of like Pope Francis is having this continual discussion…even argument …but  none of the rest of us can hear what the other party’s saying.  So we’re confused and all looking at each other like

(insert amusing gif here)

?

— 4 —

Which is all to the good, but is also, I think,  just one aspect of Catholic life and even Catholic leadership.  To be honest, what doesn’t thrill me about Pope Francis is that his context and reference seems rather…narrow.   His words do not come across as thoughtfully, carefully and appreciatively situated in the experience – past and present  – of the whole Church.  Or even an awareness of all the different sorts of people who might be experiencing exclusion and alienation from Christ or his Church at any given time for a host of reasons, some of which might even surprise him. This puzzles me because, as the interview indicates, he is a deeply cultured person, but his homilies, speeches and exhortations reflect Jesus, Pope Francis and not a whole lot in between.  One could ask, well, what more is there?  Answer…a lot.   That’s what “Catholic” is.  A lot.   That is a tall order, of course, to be able to do that, but that deep and broad vision is, I would think, part of what being Pope is all about.   Unity.

The impact, then, is one of a very strong individual.   In the modern world, we like this, but quite honestly, I wonder – is this ideal?   Yes, all Popes are different, because they are human.  They have various gifts and flaws, yes.  But the ideal is that it shouldn’t really matter who the Pope is.   The only thing that Garry Wills ever wrote that I agreed with was in one of his books in which he remembered growing up Catholic when no one really ever knew or cared what the Pope said or did.   It just didn’t matter, because the experience of being Catholic was about more than the papacy.  Now, Wills probably had another agenda here – he was reacting against John Paul’s popularity – but the point stands, I think.   As interesting and inspiring as an individual Pope might be, the focus is supposed to be Christ.  If the Pope’s words or actions bring people closer to Christ – fantastic.  But if he starts functioning in too much of a 1 Corinthians 1:12 kind of way….we might need to refocus and get a grip.

— 5 —

Well.  I didn’t expect to write all that when I started.   Huh.

— 6 —

There’s a lot of rather patronizing commentary out there.  Is this patronizing?  Hmmm…. By that I mean commentary that pats worried people on the head and accuses the concerned of not trusting the Holy Spirit or being fearful reactionaries or some such.  Ascribing emotional motivations to those with theological, intellectual and spiritual questions, and therefore dismissing said concerns.   Not very merciful or compassionate, if you ask me.

There’s also this rather frantic need to harmonize this papacy with Benedict’s, with JPII’s, with Pius X’s…with…everything.   It’s a variation of the need to harmonize Catholic history into some sort of perfect consistency that just isn’t real.   I am not sure where that comes from.   It almost has that ahistorical Fundamentalist Protestant aura about it.

— 7 —

So there.  I’m trying to listen, learn, be open and realistic.  And pray!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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