Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Catholics go to Mass on New Year's Day? Because Mary is the Mother of God.

Mary the Blessed Virgin
Mary the Blessed Virgin
Mary the Blessed Virgin
Feastday: January 1
Died: 1st century

The Mother, of God, Mother of Jesus, wife of St. Joseph, and the greatest of all Christian saints. The Virgin Mother “was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men”. Mary is venerated with a special cult, called by St. Thomas Aquinas, hyperdulia, as the highest of God’s creatures. The principal events of her life are celebrated as liturgical feasts of the universal Church. Mary’s life and role in the history of salvation is prefigured in the Old Testament, while the events of her life are recorded in the New Testament. Traditionally, she was declared the daughter of Sts. Joachim and Anne. Born in Jerusalem, Mary was presented in the Temple and took a vow of virginity. Living in Nazareth, Mary was visited by the archangel Gabriel, who announced to her that she would become the Mother of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. She became betrothed to St. Joseph and went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was bearing St. John the Baptist. Acknowledged by Elizabeth as the Mother of God, Mary intoned the Magnificat. When Emperor Augustus declared a census throughout the vast Roman Empire, Mary and St. Joseph went to Bethlehem, his city of lineage, as he belonged to the House of David. There Mary gave birth to Jesus and was visited by the Three Kings. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, where St. Simeon rejoiced and Mary received word of sorrows to come later. Warned to flee, St. Joseph and Mary went to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. They remained in Egypt until King Herod died and then returned to Nazareth. Nothing is known of Mary’s life during the next years except for a visit to the Temple of Jerusalem, at which time Mary and Joseph sought the young Jesus, who was in the Temple with the learned elders. The first recorded miracle of Jesus was performed at a wedding in Cana, and Mary was instrumental in calling Christ’s attention to the need. Mary was present at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem, and there she was given into John’s care. She was also with the disciples in the days before the Pentecost, and it is believed that she was present at the resurrection and Ascension. No scriptural reference concerns Mary’s last years on earth. According to tradition, she went to Ephesus, where she experienced her “dormition.” Another tradition states that she remained in Jerusalem. The belief that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven is one of the oldest traditions of the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII declared this belief Catholic dogma in 1950. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception - that Mary, as the Mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, was free of original sin at the moment of her conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 . The feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8. The birthday of Mary is an old feast in the Church, celebrated on September 8 since the seventh century. Other feasts that commemorate events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary are listed in the Appendices. Pope Pius XII dedicated the entire human race to Mary in 1944. The Church has long taught that Mary is truly the Mother of God . St. Paul observed that “God sent His Son, born of a woman," expressing the union of the human and the divine in Christ. As Christ possesses two natures, human and divine, Mary was the Mother of God in his human nature. This special role of Mary in salvation history is clearly depicted in the Gospel in which she is seen constantly at her son’s side during his soteriological mission. Because of this role exemplified by her acceptance of Christ into her womb, her offering of him to God at the Temple, her urging him to perform his first miracle, and her standing at the foot of the Cross at Calvary Mary was joined fully in the sacrifice by Christ of himself. Pope Benedict XV wrote in 1918: “To such an extent did Mary suffer and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated him - insofar as she could in order to appease the justice of God, that we might rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ” . Mary is entitled to the title of Queen because, as Pope Pius XII expressed it in a 1946 radio speech, “Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through him, with him, and subordinate to him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election.” Mary possesses a unique relationship with all three Persons of the Trinity, thereby giving her a claim to the title of Queenship. She was chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son; God the Holy Spirit chose her to be his virginal spouse for the Incarnation of the Son; and God the Son chose her to be his mother, the means of incarnating into the world for the purposes of the redemption of humanity. This Queen is also our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother, for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person. As Mediatrix of All Graces, she is ever present at the side of each person, giving nourishment and hope, from the moment of spiritual birth at Baptism to the moment of death. The confidence that each person should have in Mary was expressed by Pope Pius IX in the encyclical Ubipriinum : “The foundation of all our confidence. . . is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary.”

Pray with Pope Francis throughout January 2014

Pope's January 2014 Prayer Intentions Released

Calls for Promotion of Authentic Economic Development, Christian Unity

Vatican City, (Zenit.org)        

The Vatican has released Pope Francis' prayer intentions for January 2014.
The Holy Father's universal prayer intention is “that all may promote authentic economic development that respects the dignity of all peoples”.

His prayer intention for evangelization is “that Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity desired by Christ”.

Tolerance for all, except the faithful, religious or spiritual

Religious Believers Face Discrimination for Marriage Views  


12/30/2013 Comments                  
Wedding cake designed by Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo.
– masterpiececakes.com
The conflict between Duck Dynasty reality TV stars and the A&E television network has received massive media coverage. It is, however, only one skirmish in a larger conflict between the right of believers to express their faith and the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community not to be offended by that expression of faith.
In response to a number of cases in which courts ruled against small businesses run by persons who refused for religious reasons to participate in celebrations of same-sex relations, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has introduced the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” (H.R. 3133).
According to Rep. Labrador, “Our bill will ensure tolerance for individuals and organizations that affirm traditional marriage, protecting them from adverse federal action.”
The law would prohibit the federal government from discriminating in any way against “individuals and institutions that exercise religious or moral conscience regarding marriage as the union of one man and woman.” While this would not affect state laws, it would prevent the federal government from denying benefits, positions or exemption from taxation to persons who voice support for traditional marriage.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore support the act. According to Archbishop Cordileone, “It would prevent the federal government from discriminating against religious believers who hold to the principle that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is of fundamental importance, as increasingly such individuals and organizations are being targeted for discrimination by state governments — this must not spread to the federal government.”
A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign — a homosexual-rights group — argued that there was no reason to believe that federal programs would discriminate against people based on their support of traditional marriage.
However, when sexual orientation was added to anti-discrimination laws, those opposed argued that such a change could have a negative effect on freedom of religion. Such concerns were brushed aside by the supporters of the change. When courts and legislatures redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, opponents pointed out that such a change could lead to discrimination against those who defend traditional marriage. It now appears these concerns were justified.
A photographer in New Mexico was fined $7,000 for refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony. Her lawyer, Jordan Lorence of Alliance Defending Freedom, questioned the ruling: “Should the government force a videographer who is an animal-rights activist to create a video promoting hunting and taxidermy? Of course not; and neither should the government force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience.”
In another case, Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Washington state, is being sued under anti-discrimination laws for refusing to provide flowers for the wedding of two male customers. She had sold flowers to them on other occasions, but she felt she couldn’t participate in their wedding.
Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, politely refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple who were going to have a wedding ceremony in Massachusetts (such weddings are not legal in Colorado, where marriage is defined as between one man and one woman), followed by a reception in Colorado.
Judge Robert Spencer ruled that Phillips must bake wedding cakes for homosexual couples: “At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses. This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are.”
Phillips, however, did not discriminate against the two men because of who “they are,” but because of the message they wanted him to send with his craftsmanship. Philips offered to sell them other baked goods or birthday cakes, just not a wedding cake. Phillips has been consistent in the defense of his faith. He has also refused to bake Halloween treats.
These rulings raise a number of questions: Does the government have the right to force an artist or craftsman to create whatever a potential client demands, even if it sends a message with which the creator disagrees? Do some people have a right not to have their feelings hurt? Are LGBT persons’ hurt feelings sufficient cause to deny other persons’ freedom of religion and creative speech?
Georgetown law professor Chai Feldblum, an openly lesbian Obama appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in a 55-page paper entitled “Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion,” argued that the conflict between homosexual rights and religion is a zero-sum game, and “society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people,” because if LGBT persons are denied service, they would experience an “intense and tangible hurt.”
According to homosexual activists, the hurt feelings of LGBT persons are sufficient cause to ignore the fundamental rights of people of faith. On the other hand, calling views of believers “bigotry,” “vile” or “hate” is considered to be acceptable.
Feldblum further argues that if a legislature “passed a LGBT equality law, with no exceptions for religious persons based on belief liberty,” then it would be “perfectly reasonable” to assume that the legislature intended to come down on the side of LGBT rights and against the rights of people of faith.
According to Feldblum’s reasoning, if explicit language acknowledging the right to freedom of religion and speech in these areas is not included in anti-discrimination legislation, then laws prohibiting discrimination against persons based of sexual orientation could be used to prosecute those who refuse to participate in celebrations of same-sex relationships. A number of judges have ruled accordingly.
The federal law proposed by Rep. Labrador is narrowly focused and would not apply to state prosecutions or the actions of businesses or institutions that discriminate against persons who express their belief in traditional marriage. Only a more sweeping federal law or legislation in individual states would protect freedom of religion and speech in this area.
Currently, there is a push to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to anti-discrimination laws. This could further burden religious freedom, free speech and the right to privacy. At Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash., a man living as a woman used the women’s dressing room of the school’s pool, revealing to a high-school girls’ swim team using the same facility that he was most definitely not female. Following the school’s policy of non-discrimination against the transgendered, the offended girls were moved to another room.
The conflict between the patriarch of Duck Dynasty and A&E has ended with A&E backing down. The U.S. Congress and state legislatures may pass laws protecting freedom of religion and speech in defense of traditional marriage. Higher courts may eventually uphold the freedom of religion and speech of those who refuse to lend their talents to the celebration of same-sex relationships. However, even if defenders of traditional marriage win these battles, they may find themselves characterized not as people who have taken a principled stand for a sane social policy, but as having won the right to be ignorant, mean-spirited bigots.
The defenders of traditional marriage have to do more than defend their fundamental rights; they will have to demonstrate convincingly that restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman is not only good for society in general, but also for children and for persons with same-sex attraction. While such arguments rarely receive media attention, the evidence is mounting up that children raised by same-sex couples fall behind in a number of areas and that same-sex relationships are more unstable and unfaithful. If the case is not made for defense of traditional marriage as good for all, the next generation will be lost.
Dale O’Leary is a freelance writer and lecturer
and is the author of
She currently resides in Florida.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/religious-believers-face-discrimination-for-marriage-views/#ixzz2p3KwxBbA

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Saint for the Year is a 4th century Pope

St. Sylvester

St. Sylvester
St. Sylvester
Feastday: December 31

St. Sylvester, born in Rome, was ordained by Pope St. Marcellinus during the peace that preceded the persecutions of Diocletian. He passed through those days of terror, witnessed the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, and saw the triumph of Constantine in the year 312. Two years later he succeeded St. Melchiades as Bishop of Rome. In the same year, he sent four legates to represent him at the great Council of the Western Church, held at Aries. He confirmed it's decision and imparted them to the Church.
The Council of Nice was assembled during his reign, in the year 325, but not being able to assist at it in person, on account of his great age, he sent his legates, who headed the list of subscribers to its decrees, preceding the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch. St. Sylvester was Pope for twenty-four years and eleven months. He died in the year 335. His Feast Day is December 31st.

10 great New Years Resolutions for Catholics thanks to R.I. Bishop Tobin

Bishop Tobin Suggests Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Catholics

new yrs resolutions2In 2014 I resolve to . . .
1) Be more aware of God’s presence in my life by spending a few moments in quiet prayer every day.
2) Do my very best to attend Holy Mass every Sunday and Holy Day.
3) Receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) on a regular basis.
4) (Re)Introduce at least one individual to the Catholic Faith and invite that person to attend Mass with me.
5) Increase the financial support I give to the Church – to my parish, the Diocese or in special collections.
6) Read Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Evangelium Gaudium.
7) Pray and work for an increase of vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life, and pray also for our current seminarians.
:) Be reconciled with at least one person from whom I’ve been separated, granting forgiveness and seeking forgiveness wherever it’s needed.
9) Promote and defend the Catholic Faith in the secular media or with elected officials whenever important public issues arise.
10) Get involved in at least one community program or Church ministry that promotes charity and justice.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Little known Greek martyr in the early Church

St. Anysia

St. Anysia
St. Anysia
Feastday: December 30
284 - 304

Martyr of Greece. She was a wealthy woman of Salonika, in Thessaly, who used her personal funds to aid the poor. A soldier accosted her in the street and tried to drag her to a pagan sacrifice. Anysia resisted and was killed when the soldier attacked her with his sword.
from Wikipedia
Saint Anysia of Salonika was a Christian virgin and martyr of the 4th century.
Anysia was born to a wealthy and pious Christian family in Salonika. She dedicated herself to vows of chastity and poverty, praying and helping the poor. The legend of her martyrdom states that in 304, a Roman soldier apprehended her as she was on her way to services. Discovering she was a Christian, he beat her, and intended to drag her to a pagan temple to sacrifice to Roman gods. When he tore off her veil (a reminder of her vow of chastity), she spit in his face, and he murdered her.[1]

Saints win and the season continues; both football and Christmas that is!

By the time the Saints polished off the hapless Tampa Bay Bucs we all knew that Carolina had won the division. Still, the Saints went out and did what they had to do today to make the playoffs.  Beating Tampa gives the Saints an 8-0 record at home but a sad 3-5 road tally led to the Saints limping into the second season.  While the win was a complete butt whipping, there still is something that stinks about giving away the South division and a #2 seed because you can't win on the road, most especially the Jets and the Rams; inexcusable performances.  Of course being a lifelong Saint fan and follower, any last week of the season that held the promise of a playoff game was a rare treat.  Since the Super Bowl win I guess my tastes are high class!  Since winning the Super Bowl the Saints are 1-2 in the playoffs and did not even go last year.  Another ominous sign, Sean Payton, coaching guru he may be, is a disappointing 0-3 on the road in the playoffs.  Yet, tonight I guess we all should be thankful for what we have and not what we don't have!  Let the magic begin, c'mon Saints, just win wherever you go.  At least the season continues!

Speaking of season continuing, Merry Christmas!!  Yes it still is Christmas and you better still have your tree, lights and nativity scenes up for celebrating.  After all, this is still the octave of Christmas and the season runs all the way, this year, to January 12th, the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus!  We still have all the excitement of New Years Eve and Day, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Peace and a big LSU bowl game and next Sunday, the Epiphany!  At least the Christmas season continues.

As for me, I'm battling some nasty stuff as the holidays march on.  It could be the flu but this cough is what annoys the heck out of me.  Ah yes, the cold and flu season continues.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Geaux Tigers, Just win Saints, and you and me: get better soon!

Pope Francis writes new prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.

Game Changer: Pope Francis

‘This Week’ Game Changer Pope Francis is the ‘World’s Parish Priest’

By Amber Kiwan
Dec 29, 2013 9:00am
ABC timothy dolan 16x9 608 This Week Game Changer Pope Francis is the Worlds Parish Priest
Pope Francis became the leader of the Catholic Church in March, bringing to the Vatican a series of firsts: the first pope to choose St. Francis as a namesake, the first Latin American pope, and the first Jesuit pope.
His conversational first words from St. Peter’s balcony asked the people to pray for him ­­ a humble greeting that captured many hearts. The messages he has spread since then — those of tolerance, equality, and humanitarianism — make him a “This Week” game changer for 2013.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York explained “The Francis effect” in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“This pope has successfully, finally shattered the caricature of the church that his predecessors have tried hard to do. What’s that caricature? That the church is kind of mean and dour and always saying no and always telling us what we can’t do and always telling us why we should be excluded,” Cardinal Dolan said. “He’s saying ‘Oh no, come on in, the church is about warmth and tenderness.’”
Pope Francis’ efforts are clearly working. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 92 percent of American Catholics have a favorable opinion of the new pope, and 85 percent think he is moving the church in the right direction.
Cardinal Dolan said he knew Pope Francis would make positive change, but said the extent of his impact has been a pleasant surprise.
“What we were after was a good pastor with a track record of solid administration, fatherly warmth, tender care for his sheep, for his people, and boy, we got that on steroids with Pope Francis. He’s the world’s parish priest,” Dolan said.
Pope Francis is a star among both the young and the old, speaking out in new ways that excite believers and nonbelievers alike. Though he holds to the church doctrine, he strives to downplay what he calls the church’s obsession with social issues. Pope Francis has made headlines for saying that atheists can go to heaven and when asked about homosexuality, responded, “Who am I to judge?”
“The teaching of the church is a timeless gift, you can’t change it, it’s ours, we inherit it, we’re given it, but the way we gift wrap it, the way we make it more attractive, and more compelling to the world, that can always change, and that’s what Francis is saying,” Dolan said.
In Pope Francis’ first exhortation outlining his vision for the church, he took a critical stance against capitalism, denouncing society’s “idolatry of money” and an economy that kills.
“There’s only one God and money ain’t it,” Dolan agreed.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the new head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reinforced that Pope Francis is serious about Catholicism’s sacred tradition.
“He is giving us a new zeal, he’s giving us new expressions and a new method,” Kurtz said. “He is saying the same time-honored, beautiful message of Christ, but in a way that’s really touching hearts.”
But not everyone is touched. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said the pope’s recent criticisms of capitalism sound like “pure Marxism.”
Time Magazine, however, is not in the camp of pope criticizers, with the magazine recognizing Pope Francis’ widespread impact by naming him 2013′s Person of the Year. And the pope’s understated reaction? Most would say it was fitting.
“He doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He wants others to be the center,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “Gosh, that’s a great Francis effect, isn’t it?”

The Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr for the Catholic Faith

St. Thomas Becket

St. Thomas Becket
St. Thomas Becket
Feastday: December 29
1118 - 1170

There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.

Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.
Read the rest including an incredible account of his martyrdom:

Great article on the Feast of the Holy Family

December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

The Holy Family

The Holy Family is the name given to the family unit of Jesus: The Divine Son of God Jesus, his mother Mary, and his foster-father Joseph. We know very little about the life of the Holy Family through the Canonical Scriptures. They speak of the early years of the Holy Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, and the finding of Jesus in the temple.
Various non-canonical works, including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, try to fill in the blanks. However, even though these apocryphal works may contain some truth from oral tradition, they have been deemed unworthy of canonical status because of the way they present Jesus. While the exact details of the day-to-day life of the Holy Family may be unknown, we can still learn a lot from the stories we do have.
Devotion to the Holy Family is a recent development, but one that naturally grows out of a love for Jesus and his family. The cult of the Holy Family grew in popularity in the 17th century, and several religious congregations have been founded under this title. The Holy Family also became portrayed in popular art of the period. On October 26, 1921 the Congregation of Rites (under Pope Benedict XV) inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the Latin Rite general calendar. Until then it had been celebrated regionally.
Popes before and including Benedict XV (especially Leo XIII) promoted the feast as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit. Today the Church celebrates the Feast on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day (Known as the Feast of Mary Mother of God in the Catholic Church). If both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays, no Sunday exists between the two dates, so the Church celebrates the Holy Family Feast on December 30th. If the feast falls on the 30th, attendance is not obligatory. Up until 1969, the Holy Family feast was kept on the first Sunday after the Epiphany. It was transferred to its current date in 1969.
The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the “domestic church” or the “church in miniature.” St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a “family church,” and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ and his Church the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include: reading scripture regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the actions of the Holy Family, and so forth, all done together as a family unit.
In addition to cultivating positive actions, the Church understands that various actions and behaviors are contrary to God’s Divine plan for the family, and these should be avoided. These include abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, polygamy, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, and co-habitation. Catholic Teaching is that a marriage must be open to children. Anything artificial that prevents this is contrary to divine law. Also, poverty, lack of health care, and other social justice concerns must be addressed by faithful Christians because of the negative effect these conditions have on the family unit.
The Holy Family feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. We also may take this feast to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit, and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do? Finally, we can use this feast to ask ourselves what are we doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighborhoods, and communities.

Homily for 2010 offered here again as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family

I offered this homily 3 years ago on the Feast of the Holy Family when our greatest joy personally was having Elizabeth home with us from college.  Now she lives nearby, a teacher working close to home!  Our joy this year was the pre-Christmas visit of #1 grandson Calvin with his parents, Jimmy and Sara!  We even had all members of both sides of the family together for one exciting afternoon!  Even with these great memories I am always reminded that families have their ups and downs.  I hope this homily from 2010 can be of some assistance to you as we celebrate the Holy Family:

TV families have always intrigued me. As a young boy growing up in my family home I enjoyed watching shows like the Walton’s and Little House on the Prairie. Even today, in reruns, I enjoy these shows. But honestly, my favorite all time family show was about a very dysfunctional family in Queens, NY; All in the Family. There was something about good ole Archie Bunker that reminded me of so many adults I knew during my earlier years.

My family has been together for Christmas over these past few days and my wife and I are enjoying having our daughter home from college. One of the things we do is watch a couple of Christmas family movies, the Christmas story (you’ll shoot your eye out) and Christmas Vacation which just makes us laugh. And we also watch White Christmas together every year as a nice remembrance of one of my mom’s all time favorites.

I trust all of us have had some great family times during this Christmas season and cherish the gift of family.

Today the Church gives us the wonderful feast of the Holy Family, just one day after Christmas. As we read the Gospel of St. Matthew today we realize we are fast forwarding past the visit of the magi, which we will celebrate next week, and focusing on the family trials of the Holy Family. Yes, in the human condition, Jesus, Mary & Joseph are not immune from family concerns and difficulties. Herod is alarmed at the news of a newborn king, so he sets out to have Jesus killed. The angel tells Joseph what to do and the young family flees to Egypt. After Herod dies, Joseph, the loving and caring father, takes his family to Nazareth. Here the Holy Family would live and love and be together for many years.

Why did the Holy Family have to endure such challenges? Why did God just not make things easy and convenient for Jesus, Mary and Joseph? Could it be that the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies must be realized in this family drama? Is it possible that these events help us realize that Jesus is indeed the descendant of David as prophesized in Isaiah? Or quite simply, has God used the Holy Family to leave us a wonderful example of what every family must do? We certainly can learn about love and trust from the Holy Family and we can learn about total dependence on God from their obedience. If we think about it, the Holy Family is not holy because Mary & Joseph never struggled, never faced obstacles, never wondered what to do; the Holy Family is holy because they never lost faith and trust in God. Can we, in our own families, make that claim?

In our own family situation, can we imitate the love and concern for each other as the example of the Holy Family? If this question causes us to pause, and if it does that’s o.k., perhaps we can look to St. Paul whose letter to the Colossians tells us how we can be more like the Holy Family. His use of words like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love can be our guide. The church, then and now, challenges us to make our families the domestic church. Husbands and wives love each other, support each other, and pray with and for each other. Moms & Dads, love your children; show them affection and use discipline in a manner that will demonstrate your love. Children, love your parents, your brothers and sisters and be obedient.

And families make God first in your lives. Pray together! Can I suggest a prayer? The first mystery of the Rosary of the 7 Sorrows is this flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. Pray and reflect on their journey in the days ahead. Share meals together. Do something fun together. Make Jesus the center of your family life.

And in the week ahead, as a family, remember that we are still celebrating Christmas. As a family, approach the nativity scene and gaze upon our Holy Family as the example of our family. Do something special this week to keep Christmas alive and going, as a family.

You know, those crazy antics of Archie and Edith, Gloria and the meathead, were funny and provocative. But in the end, they really did put aside those family arguments and disagreements to love each other and stay together.

The Bunkers may not be the ideal example of family life, but Jesus, Mary & Joseph most certainly are. May we pray for the wisdom to follow their example and make God first in our family’s lives; and that’s truly All in the Family!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reading the abitadeacon in 2013: The Top Ten posts of 2013!

Reaching the end of 2013 I like to look back to see what were the most read posts during the year.  I am gratified that readership is way up from last year and that the top read post was an essay I wrote personally.  Without further delay, here they are:

Top Ten stories read on this blog, abitadeacon, in 2013:

#10:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/05/deacons-wives-are-incredible-i-know.html
Read 251 times

#9:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/09/pastor-preaching-murdered-in-cold-blood.html
Read 264 times

#8:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/11/pope-francis-apostolic-exhortation.html
Read 270 times

#7:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/11/remembering-50th-anniversary-of.html
Read 312 times

#6:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-picture-three-popes-what-blessing.html
Read 314 times

#5:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/03/one-picture-three-popes-part-ii.html
Read 500 times

#4:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-memory-of-deacon-patrick-becnel.html
Read 559 times

#3:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/04/new-priestly-assignments-for.html
Read 618 times

#2:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/10/mourning-death-of-permanent-deacon-in.html
Read 696 times

And the #1 read post for all of 2013:

#1:  http://abitadeacon.blogspot.com/2013/09/alone-with-my-thoughts-concept-of-being.html
Read 732 times

Thank you for reading and please, come on by for a visit now and in 2014 ahead!

Amazing story of Mandeville Catholic Church's continued outreach to Haiti and the lessons learned at Christmas time from a Haitian visitor

Mary, Queen of Peace visitor shines light on life in Haitian village

St. Benoit Catholic Church, the church that hope -- and help from a group of Mandeville parishioners -- built. (Muguet Bolette)
Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune By Sheila Stroup, The Times-Picayune The Times-Picayune
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on December 28, 2013 
Talking with Jean-Bernard Orival was a revelation. Orival, who grew up in southern Haiti, talked about Christmas in his homeland, and about Christmas Day in Dessources, when he was a boy. He talked about his country's version of Santa Claus, and he talked about his community's traditional Christmas meal.
Orival, 25, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Quebec in Montreal, visited parishioners at Mary, Queen of Peace Church in Mandeville during the holidays. Members of the church’s Haiti Solidarity Partnership Ministry held a reception for him before the annual Christmas concert. Orival's village includes St. Benoit Catholic Church, the partner parish of Mary, Queen of Peace, so ministry members wanted to know all about his life there.
Orival grew up in southern Haiti, 60 miles and five bumpy hours up the mountainside from Port-au-Prince.
He explained that Haitians have Pere Noel, or Father Christmas, but their version of Santa doesn't visit the children in Dessources. Parents in his village can’t afford to give their children Christmas presents.
“In Port au Prince, the children may have toys, but in the village, the children don’t have toys,” he explained. “Sometimes, they don’t even have good clothes to wear to church.”
He remembered one year when his godfather gave him a toy car. “That was very exciting,” he said.
The people of Dessources don’t have a big Christmas dinner -- with too much food -- like we're used to in New Orleans. “They might have rice and chicken,” he said. “Most of the time, it’s like an ordinary day.”
There are no stores for buying food and toys in the village, he reminded us. The villagers eke out a living, raising beans, corn and pumpkins on the mountainous land. If they’re lucky, they might have a few chickens or a goat. On Jan. 1, there is a tradition of visiting neighbors and sharing a meal of pumpkin soup. It’s a time of reconciliation.
“It’s a day when people who have been mad with each other get together,” he said.

Jean-Bernard Oriva.jpgJean-Bernard Orival is the first person in his small Haitian village to go to college. He is now working on a master's degree in Montreal, thanks in no small measure to the help of parishioners at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville, which partnered with his village church after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. 
One Christmas tradition Orival talked about is a service at midnight on Christmas Eve, to celebrate the birth of Jesus. People would walk from 10, even 20 miles away, to attend, spending hours traveling from their huts, navigating with the help of the moon and the stars. When the service was over, they would head back home in the darkness.
“Now, they have flashlights,” he said, smiling.
But when Orival was growing up, there was no priest in the village, and so, no Mass. His father, Sauveur Orival, a teacher and village leader, conducted the midnight prayer service at the mission. There were no decorations. There was no music.
“With Monsignor Wildor, it’s different,” Orival said. “The church will be decorated. They will have music. The people are really, really, really happy to have him there.”
Priest establishes a parish
Msgr. Wildor Pierre arrived in Orival's village to start a parish in 2009. I first heard about him from Muguet Bolotte and Teresan Sister Marina Aranzabal shortly after they returned from a mission trip to Dessources.
The two women head up the Haiti ministry, which was started at Mary, Queen of Peace a year after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti, on Jan. 12, 2010. After the earthquake, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond invited parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to partner with a parish in Haiti. Through Catholic Relief Services, Mary Queen of Peace was put in touch with Pierre, the pastor of St. Benoit. Pierre was born in Haiti and went to seminary in Miami, but always planned to go home after he was ordained, determined to improve the lives of Haitians.
“It was like a blind date, but we got the right priest,” Bolotte said. “Monsignor Wildor is passionate about helping his people.”
You could say it was a match made in heaven. When Pierre was sent to Dessources by the local bishop, he had almost nothing to work with in the village. The chapel had a leaky tin roof, and there was no money to make repairs or build school rooms. There was no electricity in the village and no running water. Getting drinking water required an hour’s walk down the mountain.

Haitian-schoolchildren-morning-assembly.jpgView full sizeSchoolchildren line up for morning assembly at St. Benoit Catholic school. St. Benoit is the partner parish of Mary, Queen of Peace in Mandeville.
With a few building materials and the help of villagers, Pierre went to work on the chapel. But the earthquake washed away everything they had done, and much more.
So he prayed to God: “Help me, and bring people to help me.” His prayer was answered through the ministry of Mandeville's Mary, Queen of Peace. Working together, the two parishes have done wonders.
This is how the Mandeville ministry leaders described the people of Dessources in the spring of 2012: “They ask for so little, and they need so much,” Bolotte said. “They are building a community from scratch,” Aranzabal added.
'Building a community from scratch'
Pierre’s first request was for help rebuilding the church and rectory. His second was for help building an elementary school under the same roof as the church.
Much progress has been made in the past three years: A lovely little church was finished in February, and about 400 children attend the school, in first through sixth grades. A school lunch program was started, and the outdoor cooking area has been replaced by a real school kitchen. The villagers are happy to help with the building projects.
Once the church and school were finished, the Mandeville ministry group started raising money for a well. Now complete, the well cap is inside the gates of the school/church/rectory complex, and a distribution line takes the water from the well to the front of the church.
“It was like a blind date, but we got the right priest. (He) is passionate about helping his people.” -- Muguet Bolotte of Mary, Queen of Peace

Haitian schoolchildren church.jpgA lovely little church was finished in February, and about 400 children attend the school, in first through sixth grades. Although the village is small, the villagers believe education is the key to their children's futures.
“Now, all of the community has access to the water,” Bolotte said. "No more walking an hour down the hill.”
Ministry funds have also gone to help pay teacher salaries and provide scholarships for the most promising students to attend secondary school. In a country where half the children don’t get to go to school, an education means everything.
“The people told us, ‘All we want is a school for our children,’” Aranzabal said.
'A miracle man'
At the recent reception for Orival at the church in Mandeville, Aranzabal called the young computer science student “a miracle man.” He is the first person from his village to go to graduate school. We asked him how he was able to do that.
“I’m a very lucky man,” he said shyly. “My father is a teacher. I don’t know how he found the money to send me to high school. We had relatives in Port au Prince I could stay with, so that helped.”
He graduated No. 1 in his high school class and went on to study computer science at INUQUA, or Institut Universitaire Quisqueya-Amerique. Then he received an internship at the University of Montreal in Quebec, and now he is working toward a master’s degree in computer science with the help of a pair of Mary, Queen of Peace parishioners.
The couple, who asked me not to use their names, heard about Orival’s accomplishments through the ministry and found out he needed a laptop. They had one they weren’t using, so they had it refurbished and sent it to him in Canada. That was all they planned to do, in the beginning.
The next time Orival came to Mandeville, though, they had the chance to meet him, and, as soon as they sat down and talked to him, they decided to help him further his education.
“He was just so grateful, and he’s such an amazing kid, and he’s so committed to going home to make things better,” the woman said. “Jean-Bernard will have a chance to make a difference in Haiti.”
At the reception, Orival talked about a few of the things Dessources needs: a hospital or mobile clinic where villagers can get medical care, a vocational school for older students, a high school within walking distance.
“The parents have the determination to send their children to get a better education, but they don’t have the resources,” he said.
None of his ideas seemed impossible to the people gathered at the reception. One ministry member said he sensed "a culture of optimism" in the village.
“It's all about 'before Wildor' and 'after Wildor,'" Bolotte said. "Now, they have a vision."
Orival talked about returning to the village for the first time since the new church was finished. “I said, ‘Wow! Oh, my God, a church!’ I was so happy,” he said.
Bolotte explained that Pierre has a solar panel and a generator he can use to bring electricity to the rectory and the church. “Just not both at once,” she explained.
Last Sunday, the village priest staged a Christmas concert, where he handed out food for the hungry and trinkets for the children. And this year, for the first time, Christmas lights grace the church.
When the reception in Mandeville was almost over, Orival played Haitian rhythms on his guitar, then everyone sang a French Christmas carol together. While we sang, I imagined midnight Mass at St. Benoit, and I could just see the smiles on the faces of the children as they marveled at the twinkling lights.

Contact Sheila Stroup at sstroup@bellsouth.net.

Awesome article on the deeper meaning of Christmas by Dr. DÁmbrosio

The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. on December 25, 2013     
shutterstock_125353379In the days of Caesar Augustus, an era of peace was established in the Mediterranean world after centuries of strife. But this peace was forged by the proud ambition of emperors and the edge of their armies’ swords.
Upon this stage appears a baby acclaimed as king by eastern dignitaries. Neither Caesar nor Herod will brook any rivals. So brutal hordes are sent to slay Him at birth, though He himself comes without armies. The thugs are thwarted, but only for a season. For the royal child is laid in a manger, and the wood of that manger foreshadows the wood of the cross.
Caesar and Herod were bound to misunderstand Him. They climbed their way to the top, stepping on all who stood in their way. He emptied himself and plunged to the bottom, from the glory of heaven to the squalor of a stable. Pharaohs and Caesars strained towards immortality. Yet He who was Immortal by nature embraced mortality. The great ones of the world took every opportunity to exalt themselves. In the very act of being born, He humbled himself.
You would think that He would have chosen Rome or Athens as the place of his appearance. But He selects an obscure desert town in a dusty provincial outpost. Even in this humble spot, not even a seedy inn would make room for Him. So they had recourse to a cave, welcomed only by the animals. Isaiah said it well: “an ox knows its owner, and an ass its master’s manger; but Israel does not know, my people has not understood” (Isaiah 1:2).
Everything was in fulfillment of Scripture. He was born in Bethlehem, a town whose name means “house of bread.” His crib was a manger, a feeding trough. But they did not understand that He was the Bread of Life. He was wrapped, like Solomon, in swaddling clothes (Wisdom 7:4-5), but they did not recognized him as the new King and embodiment of divine wisdom.
The only people who recognize Him are shepherds, the humblest in society, and Magi, the wisest. But most Israelites, like us, were neither very humble nor very wise, so they missed it. They especially missed this–that one of the birthday gifts was incense, used in the worship of gods. He was not only king, wise man, messiah, and savior–he was God incarnate.
How could Jews have believed this? God is infinite, invulnerable, and omnipotent. What is more vulnerable, fragile, and helpless than an infant? Can the Eternal be born in time? Can the Divine Word be a child at the breast, incapable of speech? Can a mere teenage girl be the Mother of God?
It was just as hard for the pagans to believe it. For their philosophers had taught that God is spirit and the body is a prison. Salvation means liberation from the confines of the physical body. So the idea that a divine Savior would embrace human flesh just did not compute.
Love sometimes does strange things. It takes great risks and goes to extreme lengths that many would call foolish. On that first Christmas day, God’s foolishness was wiser than men, and his weakness was stronger than men. It took them all by surprise.
But this, of course, was part of God’s strategy. The element of surprise is critical in warfare. And Christmas was an act of warfare. In fact it was D-Day, the day of deliverance. The preparation had taken centuries, but now it was time for the Conqueror to land on enemy occupied territory. He came in humility, and would finish the conquest thirty years later by the greatest act of humility the world had ever seen.
“Peace on Earth, Good will towards men.” True peace can never be forged by steel, but only by love. It is the humble babe in the manger, not Caesar in his chariot, who is the real Prince of peace.