Friday, December 9, 2016

Pope Francis preaches in "disasters" for Priests

‘Disasters for Priests: Worldliness, Rigidity’ Pope Says at Morning Mass
At Casa Santa Marta, Notes Attitudes Toward Children Also Are … Indicative

What are disasters for priests? To start, worldliness…..rigidity…
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis stressed this to faithful during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, drawing from today’s readings, and reflecting on the renewal that the Lord brings.
The Pope drew his inspiration from today’s readings, which reflected on the need for priests to serve as authentic mediators of God’s love.
Moreover, he warned against priests acting as intermediaries, calling them “go-betweens” or “middle-men,” who are concerned only with advancing their own interests.
“The mediator gives himself (lit. perde se stesso) to unite the parties, he gives his life. That is the price: his life – he pays with his life, his fatigue, his work, so many things, but – in this case the pastor – to unite the flock, to unite people, to bring them to Jesus. The logic of Jesus as mediator is the logic of annihilating oneself.”
St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians, the Jesuit Pontiff stated, is clear on this: ‘He annihilated himself, emptied himself, and to achieve this union, [he did so] even unto death, death on a cross. That is the logic: to empty oneself, to annihilate oneself.”
He Who Doesn’t….
“The priest who abandons the task of being a mediator and instead prefers to be an intermediary,” he explained, “is unhappy, and soon becomes sad – and he will seek happiness in vaunting himself and making his ‘authority’ felt.”
When a rigid, worldly priest becomes a functionary, Francis warned, he ends up making himself ridiculous. He also warned that being too rigid destroys one’s interior life and mental state.
To illustrate, the Pontiff shared the following anecdote.
“About rigidity and worldliness,” he reflected, “it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow – he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest – before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one.
“And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise – was able to overcome the pain,” he continued, “with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.”
Examining Conscience
The Pope then called for priests to consider this when examining their consciences: “Today, was I a functionary or a mediator? Did I look after myself, did I look to my own comfort, my own comfort, or did I spend the day in the service of others?”
“Once,” the Holy Father went on to say, “a person told me how he knew what kind of priest a man was by the attitude they had with children: if they knew how to caress a child, to smile at a child, to play with a child … It is interesting, that, because it means that they know this means lowering oneself, getting close to the little things.”
Rather, Pope Francis explained, “the go-between is sad, always with that sad face or the too serious, dark face. The intermediary has the dark eyes, very dark! The mediator is open: the smile, the warmth, the understanding, the caresses.”
3 Icons
In the final part of the homily, the Pope pointed out three who are models for being mediator-priests: St. Polycarp, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Paul.
“Three icons,” Pope Francis concluded, “that can help us. Look there: how I want to end my life as a priest? As a functionary, as an intermediary, or as a mediator, that is, on the cross?”

More Advent preaching for the Pope and his household

Special: 2nd Advent Sermon From Fr. Cantalamessa
‘The Holy Spirit and the Charism of Discernment’

Cantalamessa. Advent 2016
© PHOTO.VA - Osservatore Romano
Today, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the pontifical household, gave the the second Advent sermon of this season.
Here is a translation of the text:
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap
Secon Advent Sermon
The Holy Spirit and the Charism of Discernment
Let us continue our reflections on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. Saint Paul mentions a specific charism called “discernment of spirits” (see 1 Cor 12:10). This phrase originally had a very specific meaning: it indicated the gift that made it possible to distinguish from among the inspired or prophetic messages given during an assembly those that came from the Spirit of Christ and those that came from other spirits, such as the spirit of man, or a demonic spirit, or the spirit of the world.
For Saint John this is its fundamental meaning as well. Discernment consists in testing “the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 Jn 4:1). For Paul the fundamental criterion for discernment is confessing Christ as “Lord” (1 Cor 12:3); for John, it is confessing that Jesus “has come in the flesh” (1 Jn 4:2), meaning, the Incarnation. In John, discernment already begins to take on a theological function as the criterion by which to discern true doctrines from false ones, orthodoxy from heresy, which would become pivotal later.
  1. Discernment in ecclesial life
There are two areas in which this gift of discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit needs to be exercised: the ecclesial and the personal.In the ecclesial area, discernment of spirits is carried out by the authority of the magisterium, which, however, must take into account, along with other criteria, the “sense of the faithful.”
But I would like to dwell on one point in particular which may be helpful in the discussionche taking place today on certain moral problems: the discernment of the signs of the time. The Second Vatican Council declared,
In every age the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever-recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.[1]
It is clear that if Church has to discern the signs of the times in the light of the gospel, it does not do so by applying long-standing measures and rules to the “times,” that is, the problems and situations that emerge in society, but rather by giving new responses, “intelligible to every generation” starting each time from the gospel. The difficulty that is encountered on this path—and which must be taken seriously—is the fear of compromising the authority of the magisterium by admitting changes in its pronouncements.
There is a consideration, I believe, that can help overcome this difficulty in the spirit of communion. The infallibility that the Church and the pope claim is certainly not of a higher level than that which is attributed to revealed Scripture. Biblical inerrancy ensures that the Scripture writer expresses truth in the way and to the degree in which it could be expressed and understood at the time he wrote it. We see that many truths are articulated slowly and gradually, like the truth about the after-life and eternal life. In the moral sphere as well, many prior customs and laws are abandoned later to make way for laws and criteria that are more in accordance with the spirit of the Covenant. One example from among many: Exodus affirms that God will punish the children for the iniquities of the fathers (see Ex 34:7), but Jeremiah and Ezekiel say the opposite, that God will not punish the children for the sins of the fathers but that each person will be held responsible for his or her own actions (see Jer 31:29-30; Ez 18:1ff).
In the Old Testament the criterion by which people move beyond earlier proscriptions is a better understanding of the spirit of the Covenant and of the Torah. In the Church the criterion is a continuous re-reading of the Gospels in the light of new questions that are put to it. “Scriptura cum legentibus crescit,” said St. Gregory the Great: “Scripture grows with those who read it.”[2]
We know that the constant rule for Jesus’ actions in the Gospels, in moral questions, can be summarized in seven words: “No to sin, yes to the sinner.” No one is more severe than he is in condemning unjustly acquired wealth, but he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house, and simply by going there to meet him he brings a change. He condemns adultery, even that of the heart, but he forgives the adulteress and gives hope back to her; he reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage, but he engages in conversation with the Samaritan woman who has already had five husbands, and he reveals to her the secret he had told no one else in such an explicit way: “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah]” (Jn 4:26).
If we ask ourselves how to justify theologically such a clear-cut distinction between the sinner and sin, the answer is very simple: sinners are God’s creatures, created by him and made in his image, and they maintain their dignity despite all their aberrations; sin is not the work of God: it does not come from him but from the enemy. It is the same reason why the Son of God became everything human beings are, “except sin” (see Heb. 4:15).
One important factor in accomplishing this task is the collegiality of the bishops, which the Council itself emphasized. Collegiality allows the bishops “to reach agreement on questions of major importance, a balanced decision being made possible thanks to the number of those giving counsel.”[3] The effective exercise of collegiality brings to bear on discernment and the solution to problems the diversity of local situations, points of view, insights and different gifts, which are present in every church and with every bishop.
We have a moving example of this in the first “council” of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. That meeting allowed ample opportunity to both of the opposing points of view, those of the Judaizers and those who favored an openness to the pagans. There was “much debate,” but in the end they all agreed to announce their decision with this extraordinary formula: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” (Acts 15: 28; see Acts 15:6ff).
We can see from this how the Spirit guides the Church in two different ways: sometimes in a direct, charismatic way through revelations and prophetic inspirations, and at other times in a collegial way, through the painstaking and difficult confrontation, and even compromise, between the different parties and points of view. Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost and at Cornelius’s house is very different from the one he later gave to justify his decision in front of the elders (see Acts 11:4-18; 15:14).
We need, therefore, to have confidence in the ability of the Spirit to achieve that accord in the end, even if at times it can seem as if the whole process is getting out of hand. Whenever pastors of the Christian churches gather together at the local or international level to discern or to make important decisions, each one should have a heartfelt, confident certainty of what the Veni Creator sums up in two verses: Ductore sic te praevio / vitemus omne noxium, “So shall we not, with Thee for guide, / turn from the path of life aside.”
  1. Discernment in our own lives
Let us move on to discernment in our own lives. As a charism applied to individuals, the discernment of spirits underwent a significant evolution over the centuries. Originally, as we have seen, the gift functioned to discern the inspirations of others, of those who had spoken or prophesied in an assembly. Later, it functioned mainly to discern one’s own inspirations.
This was not an arbitrary evolution of the gift: it was in fact the same gift even though it was used for different purposes. A large part of what spiritual authors have written concerning the “gift of counsel” also applies to the charism of discernment. Through the gift, or charism, of counsel, the Holy Spirit helps us to evaluate situations and to orient our choices based not only on human wisdom and prudence but also in the light of the supernatural principles of faith.
The primary and fundamental discernment of spirits is the one that allows us to distinguish the “the Spirit of God” from “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor 2:12). St. Paul offers an objective criterion for discernment that is the same Jesus gave: the fruit. The “works of the flesh” demonstrate that a given desire has come from the old sinful nature, while “the fruits of the Spirit” reveal that a desire has come from the Spirit (see Gal 5:19-22). “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” (Gal 5:17)
At times, however, this objective criterion is inadequate because the choice is not between good and bad but between one good and another good, and the question is to discern what God wants in a specific circumstance. It was precisely in response to this need that Saint Ignatius of Loyola developed his teaching on discernment. He invites us to consider one thing above all: our own interior dispositions, the intentions (the “spirits”) that lie behind a choice. In so doing, he was aligning himself with an already established tradition. One medieval author had written,
No one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgment. Discernment is the mother of all virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life. . . . This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.[4]
St. Ignatius proposed practical ways to apply these criteria.[5] For example, when you have two possible choices before you, it is good to select one of them as though you were about to follow it, and to remain in that stance for a day or more. You then evaluate your inner reaction to that choice to see if it brings peace, if it is in harmony with other choices you have made, if there is something within you that encourages you in that direction, or, on the contrary, if it leaves you with a cloud of uneasiness. Then you repeat that process with your other potential choice.
At the root of Saint Ignatius’s teaching on discernment is his doctrine of “holy indifference.”[6] It consists in placing oneself in a state of total willingness to accept the will of God, giving up all personal preference, like a scale ready to tip to the side where the greatest weight is. The experience of interior peace thus becomes the main criterion in all discernment. After long consideration and prayer, the choice that is accompanied by the greatest peace of heart must be the one retained.
It is essentially a question of putting into practice the ancient advice that Moses’ father-in-law gave him: “present the questions to God” and wait in prayer for his response (Ex 18:19). A deep-seated habitual disposition to do God’s will in every situation puts a person in the most favorable position for good discernment. Jesus said, “My judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30).
The danger in some modern approaches to understanding and practising discernment is an emphasis on its psychological aspects to the point of forgetting the primary agent in each discernment, the Holy Spirit. Saint John sees the decisive factor in discernment in being “anointed by the Holy One” (1 Jn 2:20). Saint Ignatius also mentions that in certain cases only the anointing of the Holy Spirit allows us to discern what we should do.[7] There is a profound theological reason for this. The Holy Spirit is himself “the substantial will of God,” so when he enters into a soul, this “Will of God . . . makes himself known to the person into whom he pours himself.”[8]
Discernment, in its essence, is not an art or a technique but a charism, a gift of the Spirit! Its psychological aspects are of great importance, but they always come second. One of the ancient Fathers wrote,
Only the Holy Spirit can purify the mind. . . . So by every means, but especially by peace of soul, we must try to provide the Holy Spirit with a resting place. Then we shall have the light of knowledge shining within us at all times, and it will show up for what they are all the dark and hateful temptations that come from demons, and not only will it show them up: exposure to this holy and glorious light will also greatly diminish their power. That is why the Apostle says: Do not stifle the Spirit. [1 Thess 5:19].[9]
The Holy Spirit does not normally shed his light in our soul in an extraordinary or miraculous way but very simply through the words of Scripture. The most important exemples discernment in the history of the Church have come about this way. It was in hearing the saying from the Gospel,If you want to be perfect . . . ,” that the Desert Father Anthony understood what he needed to do, and he founded monasticism.
This was also the way that Saint Francis of Assisi received the inspiration to initiate his movement of a return to the Gospel. He writes in his Testament, “After the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel.”[10] It was revealed to him during Mass after listening to the passage from the Gospel in which Jesus tells the disciples to go into the world and “take nothing for your journey: no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (Lk 9:3).[11]
I myself remember a small example of this same sort of thing. A man came to me during a mission and shared his problem with me. He had an eleven-year-old son who had not been baptized. He said, “If I baptize him, there will be trouble at home because my wife has become a Jehovah’s Witness. If I do not baptize him, my conscience will be uneasy because when we were married, we were both Catholic and promised to raise our children in the Church.” I told him to come back the next day because I needed time to pray and reflect. The next day he came to me radiant and told me, “I found the solution, Father. I was reading in the Bible about Abraham, and I saw that when he took his son Isaac to be offered in sacrifice, he didn’t mention anything to his wife!” The Word of God enlightened him better than any human advice could have. I baptized the boy myself, and it was a great joy for everyone.
Alongside listening to the Word, the most common practice for exercising discernment on a personal level is the examination of conscience. This practice should not be limited, however, only to preparation for confession but should become a continuous excercise of placing ourselves under God’s light to let him “search” our innermost being. If an examination of conscience is not done or not done well, even the grace of confession becomes problematic: either we do not know what to confess or we are too full of psychological or voluntaristic efforts, that is, we are aiming only at self-improvement. An examination of conscience limited to preparing for confession identifies some sins, but it does not lead to an authentic one-on-one relationship with Christ. It easily becomes just a list of imperfections that we confess so that we can feel better without the attitude of real repentance that makes us experience the joy of having “so great a Redeemer” in Jesus.
  1. 3. “Led by the Spirit”
The concrete fruit of this meditation should be a renewed decision to entrust ourselves completely and for everything to the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “spiritual direction.” It is written that “whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward” (Ex 40:36-37). Neither should we undertake anything unless the Holy Spirit moves us (according to the Fathers, the cloud was a figure for him[12]) and unless we have consulted him before every action.
We have the most vivid example of this in Jesus’ life itself. He never undertook anything without the Holy Spirit. He went into the desert with the Holy Spirit; he returned in the power of the Spirit and began his preaching; he chose his apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2); he prayed and offered himself to the Father “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14).
We need to guard against a certain temptation, the temptation of wanting to give advice to the Holy Spirit instead of receiving it. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, / or as his counsellor has instructed him?” (Is 40:13). The Holy Spirit directs everyone and is himself directed by no one; he guides and is not guided. There is a subtle way of suggesting to the Holy Spirit what he should to do with us and how he should guide us. We even make our own decisions at times and then attribute them flippantly to the Holy Spirit.
Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks about this inner leading of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “instinct of the righteous”: “As in bodily life the body is not moved save by the soul, by which it has life, so in the spiritual life all of our movements should be through the Holy Spirit.”[13] This is how the “law of the Spirit” works; this is what the Apostle calls being “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18).
We need to abandon ourselves totally to the Holy Spirit, like the strings of a harp to the fingers that pluck them. Like good actors, we need to listen attentively to the voice of the hidden prompter, so that we may recite our part faithfully on the stage of life. This is easier than some might think because our prompter speaks within us, teaches us everything, and instructs us about everything. At times we need only a simple glance inward, a movement of the heart, a prayer. We read this beautiful eulogy about a saintly bishop who lived in the second century, Melito of Sardis, that we would hope could be said of each of us after we die: he “lived entirely in the Holy Spirit.”[14]
Let us ask the Paraclete to direct our minds and our whole lives with the words from a prayer recited in the Office for Pentecost in the Syrian Rite:
Spirit, dispenser of charisms to everyone;
Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, who so loves us all,
you fill the prophets, perfect the apostles,
strengthen the martyrs, inspire the teachers with teaching!
To you, our Paraclete God,
we send up our supplication along with this fragrant incense.
We ask you to renew us with your holy gifts,
to come down upon us as you came down on the Apostles in the upper room.
Pour out your charisms upon us,
fill us with knowledge of your teaching;
make us temples of your glory,
let us be overcome by the wine of your grace.
Grant that we may live for you, be of one mind with you, and adore you,
you the pure, you the holy, God Spirit Paraclete.[15]

New Vatican guidelines for the formation of Priests

Vatican issues new guidelines for priestly formation

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy - EPA
Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy - EPA

08/12/2016 12:00

(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy has issued an updated instrument for the formation of priests.
The document, entitled Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis or ‘The Gift of Priestly Vocation’, was promulgated on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 Dec and published in the Osservatore Romano.
“The gift of the priestly vocation, placed by God in the hearts of some men, obliges the Church to propose to them a serious journey of formation,” the opening line of the document reads.
In an interview with the Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, says the updated Ratio Fundamentalis is meant to provide guidelines for the formation of priests, which “needed to be revamped, renewed, and restored to the centre”.
Click here to read the full interview.
Updated norms
The last Ratio was published in 1970 and updated in 1985. Cardinal Stella said the new norms seek to take into account the rapid evolution in “historical, socio-cultural, and ecclesiastical contexts”.
He said inspiration was drawn from Pope Francis’ teachings and spirituality, especially regarding “temptations tied to money, to the authoritarian exercise of power, to rigid legalism, and to vainglory”.
Innovation and continuity
Cardinal Stella said the guidelines take up “the content, methods and orientation produced up to this day in the field of formation”, while at the same time building on the “existing patrimony” of the Church.
He said that “in the life of the Church innovations are never separate from Tradition, but, on the contrary, integrate it, and enhance it”.
The document, he said, draws on Pastores dabo vobis from 1992 to promote an “integral formation”, that is, “the ability to unite, in a balanced way, the human, as well as the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions, through a gradual instructional personalised course”.
One important innovation is the introduction of a “propaedeutic period upon entrance to the Seminary”.
The Ratio Fundamentalis proposes the propaedeutic stage of formation be “not less than one year or more than two” and is meant to validate the vocation of candidates.
The document also emphasizes the need for dioceses and religious orders to guard against admitting potential sex abusers to the priesthood.
“The greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” it says, “being vigilant lest those who seek admission to a seminary or a house of formation, or who are already petitioning to receive Holy Orders, have not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this area.”
Ratio Fundamentalis restates the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the ordination of persons with homosexual tendencies.
“The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’. Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” (cf. Ratio Fundamentalis 199; CCC nn. 2357-2358).
Cardinal Stella said the guidelines have added three stages to priestly formation: “the “stage of discipleship,” “configuration stage,” and “pastoral stage,” to each of which corresponds an itinerary and a formative content, orientated toward an assimilation with the image of the Good Shepherd.”
In brief, he said, “to be a good priest, in addition to having passed all the exams, a demonstrated human, spiritual and pastoral maturation is necessary”.
Humanity, spirituality, discernment
Cardinal Stella told the Osservatore Romano the three keywords he would choose to describe the document are: ‘humanity, spirituality, and discernment.’
He recalled Pope Francis’ recent address to the Society of Jesus: “I am noticing,” he said “the lack of discernment in the formation of priests. We are risking, in fact, becoming accustomed to ‘black and white’ and to that which is legal. We are quite closed, by and large, to discernment. One thing is clear, today in a certain quantity of Seminaries, a rigidity has been re- established which is not related to situational discernment.”
Word for priests
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy concluded with a word for priests.
He said, “To each one of them I would like to say above all: do not become discouraged! The Lord never offers less than his promises, and if you have called upon him, he will make his light shine upon you, whether you live in darkness, aridity, fatigue or a moment of pastoral failure. I would like to recommend to priests that they not let the healthy disquiet, which maintains their progress on the right path, be extinguished!”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rest in peace John Glenn

John Glenn, American Hero of the Space Age, Dies at 95

John Glenn, a freckle-faced son of Ohio who was hailed as a national hero and a symbol of the space age as the first American to orbit Earth, then became a national political figure for 24 years in the Senate, died on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 95.
Ohio State University announced his death. Mr. Glenn had recently been hospitalized at the university at the James Cancer Center, though Ohio State officials said at the time that admission there did not necessarily mean he had cancer. He had heart-valve replacement surgery in 2014 and a stroke around that time.
He had kept an office at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, which he helped found, and also had a home in Columbus.

More here:

To whom Our Lady of Gaudalupe appeared; canonized by St. Pope JPII

St. Juan Diego

Image of St. Juan Diego


Feastday: December 9
Patron of Indigenous people
Birth: 1474
Death: 1548
Beatified By: May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized By: July 31, 2002 by Pope John Paul II

Saint Juan Diego was born in 1474 as Cuauhtlatoatzin, a native to Mexico. He became the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.
Following the early death of his father, Juan Diego was taken to live with his uncle. From the age of three, he was raised in line with the Aztec pagan religion, but always showed signs of having a mystical sense of life.
He was recognized for his religious fervor, his respectful and gracious attitude toward the Virgin Mary and his Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, and his undying love for his ill uncle.
When a group of 12 Franciscan missionaries arrived in Mexico in 1524, he and his wife, Maria Lucia, converted to Catholicism and were among the first to be baptized in the region. Juan Diego was very committed to his new life and would walk long distances to receive religious instruction at the Franciscan mission station at Tlatelolco.
On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was in a hurry to make it to Mass and celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, he was stopped by the beautiful sight of a radiant woman who introduced herself, in his native tongue, as the "ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God."
Mary told Juan Diego she was the mother of all those who lived in his land and asked him to make a request to the local bishop. She wanted them to build a chapel in her honor there on Tepeyac Hill, which was the site of a former pagan temple.
When Juan Diego approached Bishop Juan de Zumarraga telling of what happened, he was presented with doubts and was told to give the Bishop time to reflect on the news.
Later, the same day, Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary a second time and told her he failed in granting her request. He tried to explain to her he was not an important person, and therefore not the one for the task, but she instead he was the man she wanted.
Juan Diego returned to the Bishop the next day and repeated his request, but now the Bishop asked for proof or a sign the apparition was real and truly of heaven.
Juan Diego went straight to Tepeyac and, once again, encountered the Virgin Mary. After explaining to her what the Bishop asked, she agreed and told him she'd provide him with proof on the next day, December 11.
However, on the next day, Juan Diego's uncle became very sick and he was obligated to stay and care for him. Juan Diego set out the next to find a priest for his uncle. He was determined to get there quickly and didn't want to face the Virgin Mary with shame for missing the previous day's meeting.
But the Virgin Mary intercepted him and asked what was wrong. He explained his situation and promised to return after he found his uncle a priest.
She looked at him and asked "No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?" (Am I not here, I who am your mother?) She promised him his uncle would be cured and asked him to climb to the hill and collect the flowers growing there. He obeyed and found many flowers blooming in December on the rocky land. He filled his tilma (cloak) with flowers and returned to Mary.
The Virgin Mary arranged the flowers within his cloak and told him this would be the sign he is to present to the bishop. Once Juan Diego found the bishop, he opened his cloak and the bishop was presented with a miraculous imprinted image of the Virgin Mary on the flower-filled cloak.
The next day, Juan Diego found his uncle fully healed from his illness. His uncle explained he, too, saw the Virgin Mary. She also instructed him on her desires to have a church built on Tepeyac Hill, but she also told him she wanted to be known with the title of Guadalupe.
News of Juan Diego's miracle quickly spread, and he became very well-known. However, Juan Diego always remained a humble man.
The bishop first kept Juan Diego's imprinted cloak in his private chapel, but then placed it on public display in the church built on Tepeyac Hill the next year.
The first miracle surrounding the cloak occurred during the procession to Tepeyac Hill when a participant was shot in the throat by an arrow shot in celebration. After being placed in front of the miraculous image of Mary, the man was healed.
Juan Diego moved into a little hermitage on Tepeyac Hill, and lived a solidarity life of prayer and work. He remained there until his death on December 9, 1548, 17 years after the first apparition.
News of Our Lady's apparitions caused a wave of nearly 3,000 Indians a day to convert to the Christian faith. Details of Juan Diego's experience and Mary's words moved them deeply.
During the revolutions in Mexico, at the beginning of the 20th century, nonbelievers attempted to destroy the Image with an explosion. The altar?s marble steps, the flower-holders, and the basilica windows were all very damaged, but the pane of glass protecting the Image was not even cracked.
Juan Diego's imprinted cloak has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to present time. The "Basilica of Guadalupe" on Tepeyac Hill has become one of the world's most-visited Catholic shrines.
St. Juan Diego was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on July 31, 2002. His feast day is celebrated on December 9 and he is the patron saint of Indigenous people.

On today's Feast Day Pope Francis offers a Thursday Angelus

ANGELUS: On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
‘In this Advent journey, God wishes to visit us and He waits for our Yes. Let us think: I, today, what Yes must I say to God?’

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
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Before the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, happy feast day! The Readings, of today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, present two crucial passages in the history of relations between man and God: we could say that they lead us to the origin of good and evil. These two passages lead us to the origin of good and evil.
The Book of Genesis shows us the first No, the No of the origins, the human No, when man preferred to look at himself rather than at his Creator; he wanted to be his own head, he chose to suffice unto himself. However, in so doing, removing himself from communion with God, he in fact lost himself and began to have fear, hiding himself and accusing the one close to him (cf. Genesis 3:10.12). These are the symptoms: fear is always a symptom of a No to God; it indicates that I am saying No to God. To accuse others and not look at oneself indicates that I am distancing myself from God. This constitutes sin. However, the Lord did not leave man at the mercy of his evil; He sought him immediately and asked him a question full of apprehension: “Where are you?” (v. 9). As if He were saying: “Stop, think: where are you?” It is the question of a father or a mother who seeks a lost son: “Where are you? In what situation have you ended up?” And God does this with so much patience, until closing the distance created at the origins. This is one of the passages.
The second crucial passage, recounted today in the Gospel, is when God comes to dwell among us, He makes Himself man like us. And this was possible through a great Yes, that of sin was a No; this is a Yes, Mary’s is a great Yes at the moment of the Annunciation. Because of this Yes, Jesus began His journey on the ways of humanity; He began it in Mary, spending his first months of life in the womb of His Mother: He did not appear already as an adult and strong, but followed the whole course of a human being. He made Himself the same as us in everything, except one thing, that No, except sin. Therefore, He chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate. With just one word in the Gospel, she is said to be “full of grace” (Luke 1:28), namely, brimming with grace. It means that in her, immediately full of grace, there was no room for sin. And, when we turn to her, we also recognize this beauty: we invoke her “full of grace,” without the shade of evil. 
Mary responds to God’s proposal saying: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (v. 38). She does not say: “Huh, this time I will do God’s will, I’ll make myself available, then I’ll see …” No, hers is a full Yes, total, for the whole of life, without conditions. And as the No of the origins closed man’s passage to God, so Mary’s Yes opened the way to God among us. It is the most important Yes in history, the humble Yes that overturns the arrogant No of the origins, the faithful Yes that heals the disobedience; the willing Yes that overturns the egoism of sin.
For each of us, there is also a history of salvation made up of Yeses and Noes to God. Sometimes, however, we are experts in half Yeses: we are good at feigning that we do not understand what God would like and our conscience suggests to us. We are also crafty, and in order not to say a true and proper No to God, we say: “I’m sorry, I can’t,” “not today, but tomorrow”; “Tomorrow I’ll be better, tomorrow I’ll pray, I’ll do good, tomorrow.” And this craftiness distances us from the Yes, it distances us from God and leads us to the No, to the No of sin, to the No of mediocrity. The famous “Yes, but …”; “Yes, Lord, but …” But in doing so, we close the door to the good, and evil benefits from these wanting Yeses. Each one of us has a collection of these inside. Let us think about it and we will find so many missed Yeses. Instead, every full Yes to God gives origin to a new history: to say Yes to God is truly “original,” is origin, not sin, which makes us old inside. Have you thought of this? That sin makes us old inside? It makes us old quickly! Every Yes to God originates histories of salvation for us and for others – like Mary with her own Yes.
In this Advent journey, God wishes to visit us and He waits for our Yes. Let us think: I, today, what Yes must I say to God? Let us think about it, it will do us good. And we will find the voice of the Lord within God, who asks us something, a step forward. “I believe in You, I hope in You, I love You. May your good will be done in me.” This is a Yes. With generosity and trust, like Mary, let each one of us say today this personal ‘Yes’ to God.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT] After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, yesterday a strong earthquake struck the Island of Sumatra in Indonesia. I wish to assure of my prayer for the victims and their families, for the wounded and for all those who lost their home. May the Lord give strength to the population and sustain the rescue work.
I greet you all affectionately pilgrims present today, especially the families and the parish groups. I greet the faithful of Rocca di Papa with the Christmas torch; the “Rebecca Project” group, which looks after needy children, and the faithful of Biella.
On this feast of Mary Immaculate, Italian Catholic Action lives the renewal of its membership. A special thought goes to all its diocesan and parish Associations. May the Virgin bless Catholic Action and render it ever more a school of sanctity and of generous service to the Church and to the world.
This afternoon I will go to Piazza di Spagna to renew the traditional act of homage and prayer at the foot of the monument to the Immaculate. Afterwards, I will go to Saint Mary Major to pray the Salus Populi Romani. I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses our filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.
I wish you all a happy feast and a good Advent journey with the guidance of the Virgin Mary. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

All about the Immaculate Conception of Mary

Mary's Immaculate Conception

by Father William G. Most
In teaching that Mary was conceived immaculate, the Catholic Church teaches that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. This simply means that from the beginning, she was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and that she was free from the sinful inclinations which have beset human nature after the fall.
History of the Doctrine
There are two passages in Scripture which point us to this truth. We look first at Genesis 3.15, in which we see the parallel between Mary and Eve of which the early Church Fathers already spoke: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." The Jews saw this passage as referring to the struggle between Christ and Satan, and so the Church see in "the woman" a prophetic foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary (Vatican II, Lumen gentium, # 55).
If there is to be complete enmity between the woman and the serpent, then she never should have been in any way subject to him even briefly. This implies an Immaculate conception.
We can also reason from the text of Lk 1:28, in which the angel calls her "full of grace". If we can validate the translation--we can, and will do so, shortly--then in this verse we can see even more strongly the complete enmity with the serpent--for God's grace is complete opposed to Satan's reign. But if Mary was "full of grace," it seems that she must have been conceived immaculate.
We turn to the early Fathers of the Church. First, many, not all of them, make sweeping statements about her holiness. That could imply an Immaculate Conception. Secondly, very many of them speak of her as the New Eve. They could have reasoned: the first Eve had an immaculate start in life--no sin was yet committed. So the New Eve, who was to share in undoing the harm of original sin, should have also an immaculate start. However, none of the Fathers actually followed this line of reasoning. (A few Fathers even tried to find sins she had committed, e.g. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on John 21. PG 59. 130ff).
During the middle ages, authors such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas denied the doctrine. At this time, the data from Scripture and the Fathers was still not clear. In addition, the understanding of original sin was not as clear as it should have been--it was often thought of as having a positive element, instead of merely being an original lack of the grace to which God calls us. This positive element was thought to be transmitted from parents to children through the marital act (which was itself thought to be somehow sinful, though pardoned by God), and so it was hard to see how there could be an immaculate conception. This conception had been found in some, though by no means all, of the Fathers. Now of course we know it to be false. Finally, it was not generally seen at this time how an Immaculate conception of Mary would not take away from the universality of redemption through Christ.
After a while, however, the theological tide began to turn, and the objections which had long obscured the content of divine revelation began to be overcome. This was due especially to the work of the Franciscan, Venerable John Duns Scotus. He showed that for God to preserve Mary from original sin was a greater redemption than to allow her to fall into it and then rescue her. Scotus wrote (cited from J. B. Carol, Mariology I, 368): "Either God was able to do this, and did not will to do it, or He willed to preserve her, and was unable to do so. If able to and yet unwilling to perform this for her, God was miserly towards her. And if He willed to do it but was unable to accomplish it, He was weak, for no one who is able to honor his mother would fail to do so."
We also note again that behind most of the objections was the rather positive notion of original sin. If we jump ahead several centuries to the clearer understanding of original sin we have now, we can remove this objection. Pope John Paul II epressed this understanding in a General Audience on Oct 1, 1986: "In context it is evident that original sin in Adam's descendants has not the character of personal guilt. It is the privation of sanctifying grace in a nature which, through the fall of the first parents, has been diverted from its supernatural end. It is a 'sin of nature' only analogically comparable to 'personal sin'". In other words: It is only the lack, or privation, of that which God wanted us to have, which we should have inherited from our first parents."
Now back to our history. After that this change in theological tide had gone far towards removing objections, the Popes began to make statements of varying clarity. Sixtus IV in 1477 (DS 1400) praised the liturgical celebration of the Immaculate Conception. The same Pope added further support in 1483 (DS 1425-26), condemning those who said it was sinful to preach and believe the Immaculate Conception. The Council of Trent explicitly declared in its decree on original sin (DS 1516): "... it is not its intention to include in this decree ... the blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Rather, the Constitutions of Sixtus [IV] of happy memory are to be observed."
After Trent, the attacks on the Immaculate Conception were greatly moderated. Then Pope St. Pius V, in 1567 (DS 1973) condemned the error of Baius who said Our Lady was subject to original sin. And in 1568 the same Pope put the feast of the Immaculate Conception on the calendar of the Roman breviary. Alexander VII in 1661 explained the doctrine much as Pius IX did later: DB 1100. Pope Clement XI in 1708 made December 8 a holyday of obligation. Further, the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in the U. S. in 1846 declared Mary Immaculate to be Patroness of the United States, and Pius IX on Feb. 7, 1847 confirmed this dedication.
The result was that about a century and a half before the definition of 1854, the whole Church believed the Immaculate Conception. Finally, in Ineffabilis Deus, in 1854, Pius IX defined this doctrine and added that Mary was conceived immaculate by anticipation of the merits of Christ. This is not strange, for to the eye of God, all time is present.
Now the Church continues to elucidate the scriptural basis of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Pius XII, in Fulgens corona, 1953 wrote: "... the foundation of this doctrine is seen in the very Sacred Scripture itself, in which God ... after the wretched fall of Adam, addressed the ... serpent in these words... 'I will put enmity....' But if at any time, the Blessed Virgin Mary, defiled in her conception with the hereditary stain of sin, had been devoid of divine grace, then at least, even though for a very brief moment of time, there would not have been that eternal enmity between her and the serpent ... but instead there would have been a certain subjection."
Preventive redemption
We have said that Mary needed redemption, although she was never subject to original sin. Nor did she have an "obligation" to contract it, as some have foolishly said: there can be no obligation to any sin. We can merely say she would have been in original sin in the sense just explained, i.e. , she would have been born without grace, were it not for the preventive redemption. The word "preventive" means anticipatory: the grace she received at her conception was given in anticipation (Latin praevenire) of Christ's merits, which earned that grace.
The nature of Mary's grace at the Immaculate Conception
In Lk 1:28 the archangel hails her as, "full of grace". Most versions today do not use that rendering, but greatly weaken it. Yet it is the correct translation as we can see from the Magisterium (Pius XII, Fulgens Corona, AAS 45, 579, and constant use of the Church) and also from philology.
For the Greek word in the Gospel is kecharitomene. It is a perfect passive participle of the verb charitoo. A perfect passive participle is very strong. In addition, charitoo belongs to a group of verbs ending in omicron omega. They have in common that they mean to put a person or thing into the state indicated by the root. Thus leukos means white, so leukoo means to make white. Then charitoo should mean to put into charis. That word charis can mean either favor or grace. But if we translate by favor, we must keep firmly in mind that favor must not mean merely that God, as it were, sits there and smiles at someone, without giving anything. That would be Pelagian: salvation possible without grace. So for certain, God does give something, and that something is grace, are share in His own life. So charitoo means to put into grace. But then too, kecharitomene is used in place of the name "Mary". This is like our English usage in which we say, for example, someone is Mr. Tennis. That means he is the ultimate in tennis. So then kecharitomene should mean "Miss Grace", the ultimate in grace. Hence we could reason that fullness of grace implies an Immaculate Conception.
Overflowing grace: Pius IX, in the document, Ineffabilis Deus, defining the Immaculate Conception in 1854 wrote: "He [God] attended her with such great love, more than all other creatures, that in her alone He took singular pleasure. Wherefore He so wonderfully filled her, more than all angelic spirits and all the Saints, with an abundance of all heavenly gifts taken from the treasury of the divinity, that she, always free from absolutely every stain of sin, and completely beautiful and perfect, presented such a fullness of innocence and holiness that none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
What about the words of Jesus in Lk 11:27-28 (cf. Mt. 12:46-50 and Mk 3:35)? A woman in the crowd exclaimed: "Blessed is the womb that bore you...." He replied: "Rather blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it."
The dignity of being Mother of God is a quasi infinite dignity, as we just saw from the words of Pius XI. Yet here, our Lord is teaching us that the holiness coming from hearing the word of God and keeping it is something greater still. Her holiness must indeed be great--so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
Even though Mary was full of grace at the start of her life, yet she could still grow, for, as it were, her capacity for grace could increase.
In general, a soul will grow in proportion to these things: (1) The greater the dignity of the person, the greater the merit In her case, the dignity of Mother of God is the highest possible for a creature. (2) The greater the work, the greater the merit: her cooperation in the redemption was the greatest work possible to a creature. (3) The greater the love, the greater the merit. Love of God means the attachment of our will to His. Her will adhered supremely, with no obstacle at all, so that even ordinary household duties, which she saw as the will of the Father for her, were supremely valuable.

Excerpted and adapted from Theology 523: Our Lady in Doctrine and Devotion, by Father William G. Most.
Copyright (c) 1994 William G. Most.
This electronic text (c) Copyright EWTN 1996. All rights reserved

St Jane parishioner making tons of honey at St Joseph Abbey

Sweet! St. Joseph Abbey raises the bar on honey production

Monasticism and beekeeping make for a union that dates from medieval times, when beeswax was used to make candles and honey was a sweet treat for monks long before Baskin-Robbins came along. Now at St. Joseph Abbey Seminary College near Covington, beekeeper Jeff Horchoff is going high tech with his bees' coveted commodity: St. Joseph Ab Bee pure honey.
On Wednesday (Dec. 7), the abbey will bless and dedicate the St. Ambrose Honey House, a 900-square foot processing and packaging center intended to let Horchoff step up his production efforts. The honey house, located behind the iconic abbey church on the sprawling campus at St. Benedict, houses modern machinery that will make Horchoff's one-person operation less labor intensive and produce more Ab Bee honey to be sold at the abbey's gift shop.
Abbott Justin Brown said the beekeeping and honey producing effort is one of several cottage industries at the abbey. Others include making caskets and baking bread.

"It's nice to be able to have it (honey production) done in such a professional manner," Brown said. "We have raised the bar, and it hasn't cost the abbey a penny."

St. Joseph Abbey 'Abbee' honey to hit shelves in July
As many as 300 bottles of honey to go on sale at abbey.

The honey is a popular, natural product that contains no additives. Profits from its sales help the abbey meet financial needs.
Horchoff, a retired postal worker, has been managing hives and extracting honey at the abbey for several years. Before the devastating spring floods hit, he had 18 active hives and was shifting the honey operation into high gear.
At the time, he was producing the honey in cramped quarters in the abbey's woodworking shop. With the need for more space and better processing equipment becoming dire, the abbey began building the new workshop earlier this year.
The building flooded in March while under construction, one of dozens of structures on the campus to take on water. The abbey overall suffered some $30 million in damage, officials said at the time.
The flood also destroyed 16 of the 18 active bee hives, forcing Horchoff to go looking for bees. While rebuilding the hives, construction was wrapping up on the bee house.
The workshop cost about $70,000 to build and equip, all raised through donations. It contains six major pieces of equipment that let Horchoff extract honey from the hives, process it and put it in 16- ounce bottles that are sold in the gift shop for $8. All proceeds go to the abbey.
The honey does not stay on the shelves long. A shipment was put out shortly after the gift shop reopened after the flood, but those bottles are now gone. Horchoff said he hopes to have as many as 500 bottles on the shelves by June, after the spring honey harvest.
The new center could let Horchoff drastically increase production and create a steady flow of honey once his hives develop. He was well on his way to a major honey output, but the flood was a major setback.
"My goal is to have honey in the gift shop year around," he said. "But for me, this is more than just honey. It's about the bees. Bees belong on a monastery."

Today's Wednesday General Audience

“When we find ourselves before a child, perhaps we might have many problems and many difficulties, but a smile comes to us from within, because we find ourselves before hope: a child is a hope! And so we must be able to see in life the way of hope, which leads us to find God, God who became a Child for us — and it will make us smile”

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Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ address during this morning’s General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a new series of catecheses, on the theme of Christian hope. It is very important, because hope does not disappoint. Optimism disappoints, but not hope! We are in such need of it, in these times that seem dark, in which sometimes we feel lost in face of the evil and violence that surround us, in face of the pain of so many of our brothers. We need hope! We feel lost and also somewhat discouraged, because we feel impotent and it seems that this darkness will never end.
However, we must not let hope abandon us, because God walks with us with His love. “I hope because God is by my side: all of us can say this. Each one of us can say: “I hope, I have hope, because God walks with me.” He walks and leads me by the hand. God does not leave us alone. The Lord Jesus has overcome evil and opened to us the way of life.
And then, particularly in this Season of Advent, which is the time of expectation, in which we prepare ourselves to receive once again the consoling mystery of the Incarnation and the light of Christmas, it is important to reflect on hope. Let us allow ourselves to be taught by the Lord what it means to hope. Therefore, we listen to the words of Sacred Scripture, beginning with the prophet Isaiah, the great prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope.
In the second part of his Book, Isaiah addresses the people with a proclamation of consolation: “Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, That she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins. A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
God the Father consoles by arousing consolers, to whom He asks to hearten the people, His children, proclaiming that the warfare is ended, sorrow is ended, and sin is pardoned. This is what heals the afflicted and fearful heart. Therefore, the prophet asks to prepare the way of the Lord, opening oneself to His gifts of salvation.
For the people, consolation begins with the possibility to walk on the way of God, a new way, straightened and passable, a way to prepare in the desert, so that one can go across it and return to the homeland. Because the people the prophet was addressing was living the tragedy of the exile in Babylon, and now, instead, it hears it said that it will be able to return to its land, through a way made easy and wide, without valleys and mountains that make the way exhausting, a way leveled in the desert. Therefore, to prepare that way means to prepare a way of salvation and of liberation from every obstacle and hindrance.
The exile was a dramatic moment in the history of Israel, when the people had lost everything. The people had lost their homeland, freedom, dignity and even their trust in God. They felt abandoned and without hope. Instead, see the prophet’s appeal, which reopens their heart to faith. The desert is a place in which it is difficult to live, but precisely there is where they will be able to walk to return, not only to their homeland but also to God, and to hope and to smile again. When we are in darkness, in difficulties, we cannot smile and it is, in fact, hope that teaches us to smile to find that way that leads to God. One of the first things that happen to persons who are tired of God is that they are persons without a smile. Perhaps they are able to have a great laugh, they do so one after another, a beat, a laugh … but a smile is lacking! Hope alone gives a smile: it is the smile of the hope of finding God. 
Life is often a desert, it is difficult to walk in it, but if we entrust ourselves to God it can become beautiful and wide as a highway. Suffice it never to lose hope, suffice it to continue to believe, always, despite all. When we find ourselves before a child, perhaps we might have many problems and many difficulties, but a smile comes to us from within, because we find ourselves before hope: a child is a hope! And so we must be able to see in life the way of hope, which leads us to find God, God who became a Child for us — and it will make us smile, it will give us all!
In fact, these words of Isaiah are later used by John the Baptist in his preaching, which invites to conversion. He said thus: “The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). It is a voice that cries where it seems that no one is able to hear — but who can hear in the desert? — that cries in the loss due to the crisis of faith. We cannot deny that today’s world is in a crisis of faith. One says ”I believe in God, I am Christian” – “I am of that religion …” But your life is very far from being Christian; it is very far from God! Religion, faith has fallen in an expression: “Do I believe?” – “Yes!” However, here it is about turning to God, converting the heart to God and of going on this way to find Him. He awaits us. This is John the Baptist’s preaching: to prepare. To prepare the encounter with this Child who will give us back a smile. When the Baptist proclaims the coming of Jesus, for the Israelites it was as if they were still in exile, because they were under Roman domination, making them strangers in their own homeland, governed by powerful occupants who decided their life. However, the true history is not that made up of the powerful but rather that made by God together with His little ones. The true history – that which will remain in eternity – is that which God writes with His little ones: God with Mary, God with Jesus, God with Joseph, God with the little ones. Those little and simple ones that we find around Jesus about to be born: Zechariah and Elizabeth, elderly marked by sterility; Mary, young virgin girl betrothed bride of Joseph, the shepherds held in contempt, accounted as nothing. It is the little ones, made great by their faith, the little ones who are able to continue to hope. And hope is the virtue of little ones. The great, the satisfied do not know hope’ thy do not know what it is.
It is the little ones with God, with Jesus that transform the desert of exile, of desperate loneliness, of suffering into a level way on which to walk to go to encounter the glory of the Lord. And we come, therefore, to allowing ourselves to be taught hope. Let us wait confidently for the coming of the Lord and no matter what the desert is of our lives – each one knows in what desert he walks — it will become a flowering garden. Hope does not disappoint!
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT] In Italian  
I give a warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the Missionaries of Charity; the Love and Freedom Community; the Aphasic Community of Puglia and the artists of the 24th edition of the Christmas Concert promoted by the “Don Bosco in the World” Foundation. Dear brothers and sisters, I exhort you to cultivate in every circumstance of life the theological virtue of hope, gift of God, who with His tenderness does not cease to console His people.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. The Liturgical Season of Advent is an occasion of special grace to reflect on our journey to encounter the Lord. May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Conception we will celebrate tomorrow, be the model for interior preparation for Christmas, so that each one’s heart becomes a cradle to receive the Son of God, face of the Father’s mercy, with the listening of His word, with works of fraternal charity and with prayer.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT] The Holy Father’s Appeal
In the forthcoming days, two important Days will be observed, promoted by the United Nations: that against corruption — December 9 — and that for human rights — December 10 –. They are two closely linked realities: corruption is the negative aspect to combat, beginning from one’s personal conscience and watching over realms of civil life, especially those that are most at risk; human rights are the positive aspect, to be promoted with ever renewed determination, so that no one is excluded from effective recognition of the fundamental rights of the human person. May the Lord support you in this twofold commitment.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]