Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pope preaches today in Ecatepec Mexico

Pope’s Homily at Mass in Ecatepec, Mexico
‘We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one; we want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy.’
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Here is a Vatican translation of the prepared text of the homily the Pope gave as he celebrated Mass this morning in Ecatepec, Mexico:
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Last Wednesday, we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, to not let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in some “memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.
Our Father, he is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father”, not “my father” or “your stepfather”.
God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.
Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society. A society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often – and it pains me to say it – have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.
Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us:
There are three temptations of Christ… three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.
Wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking the “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.
Vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gives way to the third temptation:
Pride: or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others…”.
Three temptations of Christ… Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.
And so it is worth asking ourselves:
To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?
How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?
To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?
We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one; we want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”. Let us repeat these words together: “You are my God and in you I trust”.
In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospelfills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus…”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).

Celebrating World Marriage Day

What’s the Point of World Marriage Day?

Good marriages can be choked by the cares and worries of everyday life. Here's a chance to clear those troubles away


          
 
 
 
  
Cynics already mock Valentine’s Day as a marketing-driven campaign that generated $18.9 billion last year. Why do we need spin-off events like World Marriage Day, which also comes on the heels of National Marriage Week and International Marriage Week? Think of it as an effort to reclaim the culture for Christ.
World Marriage Day is an outgrowth of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, an apostolate aimed at helping couples make good marriages even better. World Marriage Day began in 1983 and is celebrated every second Sunday of February in dioceses across the country. This year it falls on February 14, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. The purpose of World Marriage Day is to highlight the beauty of marriage and to honor husbands and wives for their faithfulness and sacrifices.
In our sex-saturated culture, it’s essential to proclaim that romantic love is not the pinnacle of human happiness. As the schoolchildren’s rhyme goes, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” Romance leads to marriage, and marriage leads to families that are domestic churches forming souls for Christ. World Marriage Day redirects us to that truth.
Every year the Archdiocese of New York marks World Marriage Day by honoring the longest married couple in the diocese. This year’s couple, Connie and Daniel Russo, have been married 76 years. The Diocese of Brownsville (Texas) schedules an annual Mass where couples are recognized for celebrating wedding anniversaries of 25 years and above. Other dioceses and parishes host dinner dances or hold ceremonies to renew marriage vows.
Couples are also invited to celebrate World Marriage Day in their own way. Lis Luwia of Catholic Mommy Blogs and her husband, Ryan, are planning to watch their wedding video. “During our first dance song, he’ll probably ask me to dance, and we’ll get to relive those moments from when we took our first steps together as husband and wife so many years ago,” said Lis.
Amy Brooks of Prayer Wine Chocolate and her husband, Matt, are keeping it simple, taking the day off just to be present for one another. “For years I prayed, ‘Lord, I want to get married! Please send me a good husband!’ Life is so busy. We forget how the Lord sent us a partner, a best friend and yes, a soul mate,” said Amy.
Like the good seed that is choked by thorns in the parable of the sower, good marriages can be choked by the cares and worries of everyday life. World Marriage Day gives us a chance to clear those troubles away.
World Marriage Day does not emphasize marriage to the detriment of other vocations, however. The mission of its founding organization Worldwide Marriage Encounter is “to proclaim the value of Marriage and Holy Orders in the Church and in the world.” Or in the words of Kimberly Cook of The Lion of Design, “We are all called to support each other in our respective vocations.” For World Marriage Day, Kimberly, her husband, Cory, and their three kids will be attending the Solemn Profession of Vows of Sr. Mary Veronica of the Cross, OP, at the cloistered Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey. They’ll show their children that marriage and perpetual celibacy both entail a lifelong, total gift of self.
Katie Sciba of The Catholic Wife and her husband, Andrew, are inspired by World Marriage Day and Valentine’s Day falling on the same date this year. According to Katie, “The beauty of World Marriage Day coupled with St. Valentine’s Day has an added depth. It’s an opportunity to discover real romantic passion; the kind that transcends physical attraction to discover my husband’s soul. It’s delighting in my husband, being captivated by who he is and drawing happiness from the fact that God intended us just for each other.”
Since Easter is so early this year, World Marriage Day also falls during the season of Lent, a poignant reminder that lifelong love always requires sacrifice, according to John-Paul and Annie Deddens of Pray More Novenas and Catholic Wife, Catholic Life. “The sins that separate us from God are also the sins that keep us further away from a more perfect union with our spouse. So when we enter into Lent and begin to share in Christ’s redemptive suffering by practicing some small sacrifice, it also reminds me to do the same work in my marriage,” said Annie.
World Marriage Day provides us with an opportunity to talk about true married love, and according to the Deddenses, “It can look a lot like Lent.” Ultimately, this is a reason to rejoice, not despair. “Sacrifice and denying ourselves is not a bad thing, but a beautiful one that can produce so much fruit!” they said.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Valentine's Day the Church honors these two Saints of the Slavic people

Sts. Cyril and Methodius

 
Image of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

Facts

Feastday: February 14

Cyril and Methodius must have often wondered, as we do today, how God could bring spiritual meaning out of worldly concerns. Every mission they went on, every struggle they fought was a result of political battles, not spiritual, and yet the political battles are forgotten and their work lives on in the Slavic peoples and their literature.
Tradition tells us that the brothers Methodius and Constantine (he did not take the name Cyril until just before his death) grew up in Thessalonica as sons of a prominent Christian family. Because many Slavic people settled in Thessalonica, it is assumed Constantine and Methodius were familiar with the Slavic language. Methodius, the older of the two brothers, became an important civil official who would have needed to know Slavonic. He grew tired of worldly affairs and retired to a monastery. Constantine became a scholar and a professor known as "the Philosopher" in Constantinople. In 860 Constantine and Methodius went as missionaries to what is today the Ukraine.
When the Byzantine emperor decided to honor a request for missionaries by the Moravian prince Rastislav, Methodius and Constantine were the natural choices; they knew the language, they were able administrators, and had already proven themselves successful missionaries.
But there was far more behind this request and the response than a desire for Christianity. Rastislav, like the rest of the Slav princes, was struggling for independence from German influence and invasion. Christian missionaries from the East, to replace missionaries from Germany, would help Rastislav consolidate power in his own country, especially if they spoke the Slavonic language.
Constantine and Methodius were dedicated to the ideal of expression in a people's native language. Throughout their lives they would battle against those who saw value only in Greek or Latin. Before they even left on their mission, tradition says, Constantine constructed a script for Slavonic -- a script that is known today as glagolithic. Glagolithic is considered by some as the precursor of cyrillic which named after him.
Arriving in 863 in Moravia, Constantine began translating the liturgy into Slavonic. In the East, it was a normal procedure to translate liturgy into the vernacular. As we know, in the West the custom was to use Greek and later Latin, until Vatican II. The German hierarchy, which had power over Moravia, used this difference to combat the brothers' influence. The German priests didn't like losing their control and knew that language has a great deal to do with independence.
So when Constantine and Methodius went to Rome to have the Slav priesthood candidates ordained (neither was a bishop at the time), they had to face the criticism the Germans had leveled against them. But if the Germans had motives that differed from spiritual concerns, so did the pope. He was concerned about the Eastern church gaining too much influence in the Slavic provinces. Helping Constantine and Methodius would give the Roman Catholic church more power in the area. So after speaking the brothers, the pope approved the use of Slavonic in services and ordained their pupils.
Constantine never returned to Moravia. He died in Rome after assuming the monastic robes and the name Cyril on February 14, 869. Legend tells us that his older brother was so griefstricken, and perhaps upset by the political turmoil, that he intended to withdraw to a monastery in Constantinople. Cyril's dying wish, however, was that Methodius return to the missionary work they had begun.
He couldn't return to Moravia because of political problems there, but another Slavic prince, Kocel, asked for him, having admired the brothers' work in translating so much text into Slavonic. Methodius was allowed by the pope to continue saying Mass and administering baptism in the Slavonic tongue. Methodius was finally consecrated bishop, once again because of politics -- Kocel knew that having a Slavonic bishop would destroy the power of the Salzburg hierarchy over his land. Methodius became bishop of Sirmium, an ancient see near Belgrade and given power over Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Moravian territory.
The German bishops accused him of infringing on their power and imprisoned him in a monastery. This lasted until Germany suffered military defeats in Moravia. At that time the pope intervened and Methodius returned to his diocese in triumph at the same time the Germans were forced to recognize Moravian independence. There was a loss involved -- to appease the Germans a little, the pope told Methodius he could no longer celebrate liturgy in the vernacular.
In 879 Methodius was summoned to Rome to answer German charges he had not obeyed this restriction. This worked against the Germans because it gave Methodius a chance to explain how important it was to celebrate the liturgy in the tongue people understood. Instead of condemning him, the pope gave him permission to use Slavonic in the Mass, in Scripture reading, and in the office. He also made him head of the hierarchy in Moravia.
The criticism never went away, but it never stopped Methodius either. It is said that he translated almost all the Bible and the works of the Fathers of the Church into Slavonic before he died on April 6 in 884.
Within twenty years after his death, it would seem like all the work of Cyril and Methodius was destroyed. Magyar invasions devastated Moravia. And without the brothers to explain their position, use of the vernacular in liturgy was banned. But politics could never prevail over God's will. The disciples of Cyril and Methodius who were driven out of Moravia didn't hide in a locked room. The invasion and the ban gave them a chance to go to other Slavic countries. The brothers' work of spreading Christ's word and translating it into Slavonic continued and laid the foundation for Christianity in the region.
What began as a request guided by political concerns produced two of the greatest Christian missionaries, revered by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and two of the fathers of Slavonic literary culture.

Appropriately, February 14th gives us the patron Saint of engaged couples, happy marriages, love and lovers and his name is Valentine

St. Valentine

  
 
Image of St. Valentine

Facts

Feastday: February 14
Patron of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages
Death: 269


Saint Valentine, officially known as Saint Valentine of Rome, is a third-century Roman saint widely celebrated on February 14 and commonly associated with "courtly love."
Although not much of St. Valentine's life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, it is highly agreed that St. Valentine was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.
In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so little is known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14 spot of Roman Martyrolgy.
The legends attributed to the mysterious saint are as inconsistent as the actual identification of the man.
One common story about St. Valentine is that in one point of his life, as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, he was on house arrest with Judge Asterius. While discussing religion and faith with the Judge, Valentine pledged the validity of Jesus. The judge immediately put Valentine and his faith to the test.

St. Valentine was presented with the judge's blind daughter and told to restore her sight. If he succeeded, the judge vowed to do anything for Valentine. Placing his hands onto her eyes, Valentine restored the child's vision.
Judge Asterius was humbled and obeyed Valentine's requests. Asterius broke all the idols around his house, fasted for three days and became baptized, along with his family and entire 44 member household. The now faithful judge then freed all of his Christian inmates.
St. Valentine was later arrested again for continuing to try to convert people to Christianity. He was sent to Rome under the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II). According to the popular hagiographical identity, and what is believed to be the first representation of St. Valentine, the Nuremberg Chronicle, St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during Claudius' reign. The story tells that St. Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes. A relationship between the saint and emperor began to grow, until Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius became raged and sentenced Valentine to death, commanding him to renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded.
St. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269. However, other tales of St. Valentine's life claim he was executed either in the year 269, 270, 273 or 280. Other depictions of St. Valentine's arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn't have to go to war. Another variation of the legend of St. Valentine says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer's blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, "Your Valentine."
Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini.
The romantic nature of Valentine's Day may have derived during the Middle Ages, when it was believed that birds paired couples in mid-February. According to English 18th-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, Valentine's Day was most likely created to overpower the pagan holiday, Lupercalia.
Although the exact origin of the holiday is not widely agreed upon, it is widely recognized as a day for love, devotion and romance.
Whoever he was, Valentine did really exist, because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.
Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and were identified as Valentine's. These were transported for a special Mass dedicated to those young and in love.
Fr. John Spratt received a gift from Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 contianing a "small vessel tinged" with St. Valentine's blood. This gift now stands placed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Other alleged relics were found in Prague in the Church of St Peter and Paul at Vysehrad; in the parish church of St. Mary's Assumption in Chelmno Poland; at the reliquary of Roquemaure in France; in the Stephansdom in Vienna; in Balzan in Malta and also in Blessed John Duns Scotus' church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland.
St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.

Pope Francis at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Pope’s Homily at Mass in Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Just as she went along the paths of Judea and Galilee, in the same way she walked through Tepeyac, wearing the indigenous garb and using their language so as to serve this great nation
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Here is a Vatican translation of the text of the homily the Pope gave as he celebrated Mass this afternoon in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
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Homily of Pope Francis
Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saturday 13 February 2016
We have just heard how Mary went to meet her cousin Elizabeth.  She sets out without delay, without doubts, without lessening her pace, to be with her relative who was in the last months of her pregnancy. Mary’s encounter with the angel did not hold her back since she did not consider herself privileged, or make her hesitate in leaving those around her.  On the contrary, it renewed and inspired an attitude for which Mary is, and always, will be known: she is the woman who says “yes”, a “yes” of surrender to God and, at the same time, a “yes” of surrender to her brothers and sisters.  This is the “yes” which prompted her to give the best of herself, going forth to meet the others.
Listening to this Gospel passage in this place has a special significance.  Mary, the woman who gave her “yes”, wished also to come to the inhabitants of these American lands in the person of the Indian Saint Juan Diego.  Just as she went along the paths of Judea and Galilee, in the same way she walked through Tepeyac, wearing the indigenous garb and using their language so as to serve this great nation.  Just as she accompanied Elizabeth in her pregnancy, so too she has and continues to accompany the development of this blessed Mexican land.  Just as she made herself present to little Juan, so too she continues to reveal herself to all of us, especially to those who feel, like him, “worthless” (cf. Nican Mopohua, 55).  This specific choice, we might call it preferential, was not against anyone but rather in favour of everyone.  The little Indian Juan who called himself a “leather strap, a back frame, a tail, a wing, oppressed by another’s burden” (Ibid.), became “the ambassador, most worthy of trust”.
On that morning in December 1531, the first miracle occurred which would then be the living memory of all this Shrine protects. On that morning, at that meeting, God awakened the hope of his son Juan, and the hope of his People.  On that morning, God roused the hope of the little ones, of the suffering, of those displaced or rejected, of all who feel they have no worthy place in these lands.  On that morning, God came close and still comes close to the suffering but resilient hearts of so many mothers, fathers, grandparents who have seen their children leaving, becoming lost or even being taken by criminals.
On that morning, Juan experienced in his own life what hope is, what the mercy of God is.  He was chosen to oversee, care for, protect and promote the building of this Shrine.  On many occasions he said to Our Lady that he was not the right person; on the contrary, if she wished the work to progress, she should choose others, since he was not learned or literate and did not belong to the group who could make it a reality.  Mary, who was persistent – with that persistence born from the Father’s merciful heart – said to him: he would be her ambassador.
In this way, she managed to awaken something he did not know how to express, a veritable banner of love and justice: no one could be left out in the building of that other shrine, the shrine of life, the shrine of our communities, our societies and our cultures.  We are all necessary, especially those who normally do not count because they are not “up to the task” or “they do not have the necessary funds” to build all these things.  God’s Shrine is the life of his children, of everyone in whatever condition, especially of young people without a future who are exposed to endless painful and risky situations, and the elderly who are unacknowledged, forgotten and out of sight.  The Shrine of God is our families in need only of the essentials to develop and progress.  The Shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day…
Visiting this Shrine, the same things that happened to Juan Diego can also happen to us.  Look at the Blessed Mother from within our own sufferings, our own fear, hopelessness, sadness, and say to her, “What can I offer since I am not learned?”.  We look to our Mother with eyes that express out thoughts: there are so many situations which leave us powerless, which make us feel that there is no room for hope, for change, for transformation. And so, some silence does us good as we pause to look upon her and repeat to her the words of that other loving son:
Simply looking at you, O Mother,
to have eyes only for you,
looking upon you without saying anything, 
telling you everything, wordlessly and reverently.
Do not perturb the air before you; 
only cradle my stolen solitude 
with your loving Motherly eyes, 
in the nest of your pure ground.
 
Hours tumble by, and with much commotion, 
the wastage of life and death sinks its teeth into foolish men. 
Having eyes for you, O Mother, simply contemplating you
with a heart quietened by your tenderness
that silence of yours, chaste as the lilies.
And in looking at her, we will hear anew what she says to us once more, “What, my most precious little one, saddens your heart?” (Nican Mopohua, 107). “Yet am I not here with you, who have the honour of being your mother?” (Ibid., 119).
Mary tells us that she has “the honour” of being our mother, assuring us that those who suffer do not weep in vain.  These ones are a silent prayer rising to heaven, always finding a place in Mary’s mantle.  In her and with her, God has made himself our brother and companion along the journey; he carries our crosses with us so as not to leave us overwhelmed by our sufferings.
Am I not your mother?  Am I not here?  Do not let trials and pains overwhelm you, she tells us.  Today, she sends us out anew; today, she comes to tell us again: be my ambassador, the one I send to build many new shrines, accompany many lives, wipe away many tears.  Simply be my ambassador by walking along the paths of your neighbourhood, of your community, of your parish; we can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone, that Mary accompanies us.  Be my ambassador, she says to us, giving food to the hungry, drink to those who thirst, a refuge to those in need, clothe the naked and visit the sick.  Come to the aid of your neighbour, forgive whoever has offended you, console the grieving, be patient with others, and above all beseech and pray to God.
Am I not your mother?  Am I not here with you?  Mary says this to us again.  Go and build my shrine, help me to lift up the lives of my sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters.

The death of a GREAT Supreme Court Justice who loved his precious Catholic faith and loved the Constitution

Supreme Court Justice Scalia dies

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
February 13, 2016

 
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a tart-tongued champion of conservative interpretation of the Constitution, has died at a West Texas ranch resort, government officials said Saturday. Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the court and its first Italian-American member, was 79.
President Barack Obama, on a trip to California, praised Scalia as “a larger than life presence on the bench” and a deeply influential “brilliant legal mind” with an “incisive wit.”
And Obama flatly rejected Republican demands that he leave the job of replacing the late justice to whomever wins the November elections.
“I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time,” he said, pressing the Senate to “fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.”
Scalia’s death had instantly triggered a pitched political battle in Washington, with Democrats urging President Obama to nominate a new justice rather than leave a vacancy for the next occupant of the White House. But top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several of the party’s presidential candidates, immediately called for leaving the decision to Obama’s successor.
 
Obama learned of Scalia’s passing while on a trip to California, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a brief statement that offered no clues as to the president’s plans. “The president and first lady extend their deepest condolences to Justice Scalia’s family,” Schultz said. Obama was expected to say more later.
A knowledgeable source with close ties to the White House, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared a short list of potential Obama nominees.
The list included Sri Srinivasan, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia circuit; Merrick Garland, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit; Attorney General Loretta Lynch; Neal Katyal, a Georgetown Law professor who spent one year as Obama’s acting solicitor general; Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; Solicitor General Don Verrilli, beloved in the White House for his high-profile successes in defending Obamacare before the court; and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
One long-shot contender could be Charles Wilson, U.S. circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals 11th Circuit, in Florida.
But any Obama nominee has only a “1 out of 1,000 chance of getting confirmed” in the face of Republican opposition, the source said. Still, the president could make things difficult for the GOP by nominating a woman or minority to the Supreme Court, the source said.
Obama has told friends that he views nominating two women to the court as a key part of his legacy. The president could now try to name a third, after Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

His death meant that his votes on a series of high-stakes and controversial cases will be invalidated. The surviving eight justices will have to renegotiate their decisions on issues from whether universities can continue to use affirmative action to whether unions can collect fees from nonmembers to survive.

Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent 2016

There's just something about 40!  I remember when I was turning 40 and was aghast.  I thought, man you are really getting old.  Now that I'm approaching 60, I can only smile and recall how silly I was.

Maybe somebody at this very Mass is turning 40 or has recently turned 40. Take it from me; it's all good!

Think about how long 40 is in terms of years or even days.  40 years ago would be 1976; Gerald Ford was President, disco was the big craze and the New Orleans Saints had yet to experience a winning season.  40 days ago was the earliest days of the New Year. 

As people of faith it's time to embrace these 40 days of Lent!

Let's take a look at Lent for a moment.  Lent began on ash Wednesday and concludes at the evening celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.  If you count the days, that totals 46.  Now the Church does not include the 6 Sundays of Lent in the 40 days because Sunday's are not penitential days.  Sundays are designated as days of celebration and commemoration of the Resurrection so they are not counted in the 40 days of Lent.

Why 40?  The number 40 is huge in the story of salvation history.  In Genesis and the time of Noah and the Ark, God sent rain for 40 days and 40 nights.  In Exodus, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt yet they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  In today's Gospel, St. Luke tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit to the desert for 40 days to be tempted.  Tradition tells us that the body of Jesus laid in the tomb for 40 hours before the Resurrection.  Mentioned 146 times in the Bible, the number 40 is always associated with times of trial, testing and great temptation leading to victory and greater glory!

Jesus indeed was tempted by the devil in today's Gospel.  He overcame every temptation the devil threw at Him so we can say that Jesus redeemed temptation.  This means that even now, our own temptations can give glory to God.  We too can overcome the temptations of the devil but not falling into despair but to see these temptations as an opportunity to exercise our love and mercy.  Because of the example of Jesus, we too can defeat every temptation the devil hurls at us!

In Lent, we remember the three pillars of this Lenten season: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  In these 40 days, God may be calling us to deeper prayer: daily mass, daily prayerful devotions, reading Scripture daily, praying the rosary.  We may be called to return to reconciliation and receive God's mercy in this Jubilee of Mercy.  We are strongly encouraged to attend Stations of the Cross, every Friday evening during Lent.  We also are called to be present at our only 1st Friday in Lent, when we have day long Adoration with evening Benediction.  This will happen on March 4th.  Finally, we are all strongly encouraged to plan now to attend our parish mission, February 29th thru March 3rd.  Attending a parish mission has long been considered a very worthy devotion for the faithful to participate in during Lent!

We may also be called to fast during Lent beyond the normal prescriptions for abstinence and fasting on Good Friday.  We could add a day every week in Lent that we fast, withholding a meal so to focus more on prayer and penance.  Fasting is more than giving up food, it truly is a powerful prayer that moves us closer to God.

In giving alms we acknowledge already that we are a generous people.  Lent calls all of us to give more.  Perhaps you will be moved to make a financial contribution or donation but our gifts of time and talent are equally valuable.  Giving of ourselves for others is a very charitable thing to do!

Yes, Lent is 40 days of prayer, fasting and alms giving while defeating the devil and overcoming all his wicked temptations!

Allow me to mention also that on this St. Valentine Day, the Church celebrates World Marriage Sunday.  We ask God to continue to pour out His blessings on the Sacramental union of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony!  Marriage is a Sacrament, a sacrament of service ordered to the good of the other.  The graces of this Sacrament help us to help our spouse both in this life and on their journey to eternal life.  May God bless each and every marriage represented here today and may we always honor marriage as God always intended it to be!  Amen!

Spent her life in the convent devoted to prayer

St. Catherine de Ricci

  
 
Image of St. Catherine de Ricci

Facts

Feastday: February 13
Birth: 1522
Death: 1589

St. Catherine was born in Florence in 1522. Her baptismal name was Alexandrina, but she took the name of Catherine upon entering religion. From her earliest infancy she manifested a great love of prayer, and in her sixth year, her father placed her in the convent of Monticelli in Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun. After a brief return home, she entered the convent of the Dominican nuns at Prat in Tuscany, in her fourteenth year. While very young, she was chosen Mistress of Novices, then subprioress, and at twenty-five years of age she became perpetual prioress. The reputation of her sanctity drew to her side many illustrious personages, among whom three later sat in the chair of Peter, namely Cerveni, Alexander de Medicis, and Aldo Brandini, and afterward Marcellus II, Clement VIII, and Leo XI respectively. She corresponded with St. Philip Neri and, while still living, she appeared to him in Rome in a miraculous manner.She is famous for the "Ecstacy of the Passion" which she experienced every Thursday from noon until Friday at 4:00 p.m. for twelve years. After a long illness she passed away in 1589. Her feast day is February 13.

Pope Francis addresses the Mexican civil authorities

Pope’s Address to Mexican Authorities, Diplomatic Corps
‘I believe and I dare to say that Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people … This makes it possible to contemplate and plan for a future, for a tomorrow.’
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Pope to Authorities
Below is the Vatican provided text of Pope Francis’ address to Mexican authorities and the diplomatic corps this afternoon in Mexico City:
***
Mr President,
Members of Government of the Republic,
Distinguished Authorities,
Representatives of Civil Society,
Brothers in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank you, Mr President, for your words of welcome. I am happy to set foot on Mexican soil which holds a special place in the heart of the Americas. Today I come as a missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care.
Endeavouring to be a good son, following in our mother’s footsteps, I wish in turn to pay my respects to this people and to this land which is so rich in culture, history, and diversity. Through you, Mr President, I would like to greet and embrace the Mexican people in its numerous expressions and in the most diverse of situations it experiences. Thank you for welcoming me to your land.
Mexico is a great country. It is blessed with abundant natural resources and with an enormous biodiversity that extends across its vast territory. Its privileged geographical position makes it a reference point for America; and its indigenous, mestizo and criollo cultures endow it with its own identity that facilitates a cultural richness not always easy to find and, particularly, to value. The ancestral wisdom shown by your multiculturalism is, by far, one of your greatest biographical resources. It is an identity that learned gradually how to shape itself amid diversity and that now constitutes, without any doubt, a rich patrimony to be valued, encouraged and protected.
I believe and I dare to say that Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people. Just over half of the population is made up of youth. This makes it possible to contemplate and plan for a future, for a tomorrow. This offers hope and future prospects. A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now. This reality inevitably leads us to think about one’s own responsibilities when it comes to constructing the kind of Mexico we want, the Mexico that we want to pass on to coming generations. It also leads us to the realization that a hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of men and women who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good, the “common good” which in this twenty-first century is not in such great demand. Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development.
The Mexican people anchors its hope in an identity which has been shaped in the trying and difficult moments of its history. It was forged by the wonderful witness of citizens who understood that, in order to overcome situations born of the obstinacy of individualism, it was necessary to have agreement between the political, social and financial institutions, and of all men and women committed to the common good and the promotion of the dignity of the human person.
An ancestral culture together with encouraging human resources such as yours, should be a stimulus to find new forms of dialogue, negotiation, and bridges that can lead us on the way of committed solidarity. Starting with those who call themselves Christians, it is a commitment to which all of us must give of ourselves, for the construction of a “political life on a truly human basis” (Gaudium et Spes, 73), and a society in which no one feels a victim of the culture of waste.
Leaders of social, cultural and political life have the particular duty to offer all citizens the opportunity to be worthy contributors of their own future, within their families and in all areas where human social interaction takes place. In this way they help citizens to have real access to the material and spiritual goods which are indispensable: adequate housing, dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and peaceful environment.
This is not just a question of laws which need to be updated and improved – something always necessary – but rather a need for urgent formation of the personal responsibility of each individual, with full respect for others as men and women jointly responsible in promoting the advancement of the nation. It is a task which involves all Mexicans in different spheres, public or private, collective or individual.
I assure you, Mr President, that in this effort, the Government of Mexico can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.
I am ready to travel around this beautiful and wide country as a missionary and as a pilgrim who wishes to renew with all of you the experience of mercy as a new horizon of opportunity which inevitably brings justice and peace. I also entrust myself to the gaze of Mary, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, so that by her intercession, the merciful Father may grant that these days and the future of this land be an opportunity for encounter, unity and peace. Thank you.