Monday, December 31, 2018

Don't forget to pray all January long with this special intention of Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ 2019 Monthly Intentions

Evangelization – Young People

That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.

A Biblical defense and the historicity of the Solemnity known as Mary, Mother of God

1) Mary the “Mother of God” (Theotokos) The official, dogmatic proclamation of this dogma was made at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431, in response to the heresy of Nestorianism.
Scripture implicitly affirms Mary’s Divine motherhood by attesting, on the one hand, the true Divinity of Christ, and on the other hand, Mary’s true motherhood. Thus Mary is called: “Mother of Jesus” (John 2:1) ... “Mother of the Lord” (Luke 1:43). Mary’s true motherhood is clearly foretold by the Prophet Isaiah: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) . . . . the woman who bore the Son of God is Progenitress of God, or the Mother of God [ see also Matt. 1:18, 12:46, 13:55; Luke 1:31, 35; Gal 4:4]. (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 196-197)
The doctrine of Mary as Theotokos flows consistently and straightforwardly from the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, Jesus. Cardinal Gibbons explains:
We affirm that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God, who in His divine nature is from all eternity begotten of the Father, consubstantial with Him, was in the fullness of time, begotten, by being born of the Virgin, thus taking to Himself, from her maternal womb, a human nature of the same substance with hers.
But it may be said the Blessed Virgin is not the Mother of the Divinity. She had not, and she could no have, any part in the generation of the Word of God, for that generation is eternal; her maternity is temporal. He is her Creator; she is His creature. Style her, if you will, the Mother of the man Jesus or even of the human nature of the Son of God but not the Mother of God.
I shall answer this objection by putting a question. Did the mother who bore us have any part in the production of our soul? Was not this nobler part of our being the work of God alone? And yet who would for a moment dream of saying “the mother of my body,” and not “my mother”? . . . (Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, 137-138)
In like manner . . . the Blessed virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, by communicating to the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity, as mothers do, a true human nature of the same substance with her own, is there really and truly His Mother.

What January 1st is really all about

January 1: Why is Mary Called Mother of God?

On the very first day of every new year, January 1st, the Church appropriately honors the Blessed Virgin Mary with a Marian feast day and a Holy Day of Obligation.  And the title by which she is honored on this day is also the first Marian dogma defined by the Church: Mary, the Mother of God.  Today we celebrate the Motherhood of Mary as the vessel through whom the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature.  This feast day also appropriately falls on the 8th day after the Nativity of Our Lord, or on the final day of the Octave of Christmas.
Many non-Catholics have a problem with Mary being called the Mother of God.  But we must remember, especially on this feast day, that Mary’s title as Mother of God is not only an ancient one officially given to her by the early Church, but also that the title says more about Jesus than it does about Mary.  In fact, this title of Mary was given precisely in order to reinforce the teaching on Christ’s nature handed down from the Apostles—that Jesus was truly God and truly man—in the face of a heresy that threatened it.
Mary was called the Mother of God from very early in the Church’s history.  One of her earliest titles in the liturgy is Theotokos which translates “God-Bearer”.  From this title she began to be called “Mother of God”.  Among those who objected to this title was Nestorius, whose false ideas on the nature of Christ is labeled Nestorianism.  Nestorius claimed instead that Jesus was born of Mary as human and not as Divine, thereby doctrinally dividing the nature of Christ.  St. Cyril defended the title by affirming with the Church fathers that Mary did indeed give birth to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who is called Jesus, who is simultaneously and completely both God and man from his birth. The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) was called to settle the dispute between Nestorius and St. Cyril.  The council rightly affirmed St. Cyril and declared Nestorius a heretic.
Thus the dogma of Mary as the Mother of God was established at the Council of Ephesus. From the decree: “If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh), let him be anathema.”  The decrees of the Council were then approved by Pope Sixtus III.
So there you go.  The universal Church declared once for all that Mary is indeed the Mother of God, and this title was established to protect the true doctrine of Christ’s nature from every heresy that denies it.  Don’t let anyone shame you for a belief in this true title of Mary that is handed down with the authority of the Church founded by Christ.
Now that we have defended the use of the title we can glean from its depth of theological wisdom. In the Holy Father’s homily on this feast day last year he notes at least five ways that the title of Mary as Mother of God bears special significance for Christians:
1) “Mary is the mother and model of the Church, who receives the divine Word in faith and offers herself to God as the ‘good soil’ in which he can continue to accomplish his mystery of salvation.”
2) “The Church also participates in the mystery of divine motherhood, through preaching, which sows the seed of the Gospel throughout the world, and through the sacraments, which communicate grace and divine life to men. The Church exercises her motherhood especially in the sacrament of Baptism, when she generates God’s children from water and the Holy Spirit.”
3) “Like Mary, the Church is the mediator of God’s blessing for the world: she receives it in receiving Jesus and she transmits it in bearing Jesus.”
4) “The mystery of her divine motherhood that we celebrate today contains in superabundant measure the gift of grace that all human motherhood bears within it, so much so that the fruitfulness of the womb has always been associated with God’s blessing.”
5) “The Mother of God is the first of the blessed, and it is she who bears the blessing; she is the woman who received Jesus into herself and brought him forth for the whole human family. In the words of the liturgy: ‘without losing the glory of virginity, [she] brought forth into the world the eternal light, Jesus Christ our Lord’.”

Today give special honor to Mary as Mother of God, and don’t forget to go to Mass!

My homily from many years ago; Mary is the Mother of God

I prepared this homily back in 2009, about one year after my ordination.  My intent then as it would be today is to reaffirm Catholics that yes indeed we believe Mary is the Mother of God.  And that statement really says more about Jesus than it does Mary for Jesus is the 2nd person of the Trinity, God the Son.  Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God as defined dogmatically in 1950.  Take a read:

Homily for Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

I was thinking about making a New Year’s resolution this year. I did not make any last year and it was a pretty good year. Quite simply, I really would like to get in better shape.

All of us at one time or another have made a New Year’s resolution. Most studies show that about 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken in about 20 days and completely abandoned before we turn the calendar to February. Ouch!

Then some of us have this wacky tradition of eating certain foods on New Year’s Day. My wife swears by a meal of cabbage, black eyed peas and pork. This is supposed to bring happiness, health and wealth. Well, over the years I guess one out of three ain’t bad.

As people of faith, I have a few questions for us today. Do we take time to reflect this New Year’s Day on this wonderful solemnity the Church provides in honor of Mary the Mother of God? Do we follow the example of Mary to resolve to do God’s will in our lives? And how can we make this our top priority in the year ahead?

You know last week someone asked me why did the Church makes us go to Mass just to celebrate New Years. Then one of my non-Catholic friends asked me recently how can we call Mary the Mother of God when God always existed?

These questions revealed to me that a little catechism lesson may be in order on this first day of the New Year. Of course for all of us here gathered in church today we pretty much know what today’s celebration is all about. Yet I wonder how many Catholics go to church on January 1st and pay little attention to the solemnity. Here are some interesting facts that may help us all appreciate how we come to celebrate this solemnity on January 1st.

From as early as the year 230, Mary was honored by the Church with the title Mother of God. She was referred to as the “theotokos”, which is Greek for “God-bearer”. It is important to note that all this was designed to say more about who Jesus is than to assign titles to Mary. You see there was a great debate in the early church about whether Jesus is fully God and fully human, or if he was two distinct persons, or if his divinity is separate from his humanity. Two great church councils, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Ephesus and Chalcedon, both in the 5th century, declared once for all that Jesus is one, fully human and fully divine. Therefore, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, she bore the Son who is God and man, the second person of the Holy Trinity. In no way has the Church declared that Mary preexisted God or is mother of God the Father. But since she indeed gave birth to Jesus, her title as Mother of God is affirmed.

In many ways and in different forms, the celebration of Mary as Mother of God has existed since around the year 500. In the mid 18th century, the Pope formally allowed a celebration of Mary’s maternity in Portugal. It gained wide acceptance in Europe and in 1931, was made a universal feast day, although in October. It was Pope Paul VI in 1974 that fixed this solemnity on January 1st and made it a universal celebration.

It is completely and entirely fitting to celebrate Mary as Mother of God on this the octave day of Christmas. We see the Church giving us the Gospel story of the visit of the shepherds to the manger scene in Bethlehem. As the shepherds made known the message they received from the angel, St. Luke writes that Mary kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart. Mary continues to follow God’s will, to reflect on His divine plan and willingly trusting her very life and that of her family in God’s hand.

That’s what we all need to take home with us today. This is what should replace all those silly New Year’s resolutions. Yes, we all can resolve to be better; to improve our health or do something for others in the year ahead. But using Mary, the Mother of God, as our model, we can simply resolve to do God’s will, to reflect more deeply on God’s plan for us in this life and the life to come and follow that plan. And while the journey may not always be easy, like Mary we can keep all these things in our heart. We can be comforted by God in tough times and joyful with God at all times. Just like Mary’s motherhood gave flesh to Jesus, God made man; we too can give flesh to Jesus in our lives and our personal relationship with Him. Mary is our model. We can respond to God with our yes, we can give flesh to our faith life by more devout prayer, responding to the sacraments and being present to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we can ponder these things, and keep them in our heart, all year long.

Go ahead and make that New Year’s resolution; down that cabbage and black-eyed peas. But resolve to follow God in the year ahead by following Mary’s example with your most sincere yes.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Breaking news about Vatican communications; incredibly unexpected

Copyright: Vatican Media

BREAKING: Pope Accepts Resignation of Holy See Press Office Director & Vice-Director

Vatican Journalist Alessandro Gisotti will serve Ad Interim in Their Place

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, and Vice-Director, Paloma G. Ovejero, gave Pope Francis their resignation, they announced today, Dec. 31, 2018.    
The Holy Father accepted their resignation and appointed, ad interim, in their place, Italian journalist Alessandro Gisotti, 44, who has been serving in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications as social media coordinator.
Greg Burke comments in English on his Twitter account: “Paloma and I have resigned, effective Jan. 1. In this period of transition in Vatican communications, we think it’s best the Holy Father is completely free to assemble a new team.”
He also tweeted: “I joined the Vatican in 2012. The experience has been fascinating, to say the least. Thank you, Pope Francis. Un abrazo muy fuerte.”
“New year, new adventures,” he tweeted.
Paloma Ovejero also tweeted in Spanish: “A page is turning. Thank you, Holy Father, for these two and a half years! Thank you, Greg, for your trust, your patience and your example.”
In this phase of Vatican Communications’ reform, Italian journalist Paolo Ruffini was appointed on July 5 as Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications. Italian Vaticanista journalist Andrea Tornielli was appointed editorial director of the dicastery on December 18th.
American Greg Burke and Spanish Paloma García Ovejero were appointed to lead the Press Office on July 11, 2016.
In a statement published after the announcement, Paolo Ruffini says he learned of their decision and pays tribute to their “professionalism, their humanity, their faith,” while thanking them for their dedication.
Referring to their “autonomous and free” choice, he recalls that they were the first direction after the launch of the Holy See’s communication system reform: “Their significant engagement has contributed to the path of reform that today requires- as they say – a quick witnessing passage, in the spirit of service of the Church. ”
The new acting director, Alessandro Gisotti, has been with the Vatican for many years, including serving as deputy editor at Vatican Radio and was involved in managing communication for the October 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.
In a statement, Gisotti thanked Pope Francis for his trust, “in such a delicate moment for the communication of the Holy See” and expressed his esteem and friendship for Greg Burke and Paloma Ovejero.
“I will seek,” he assured, “to carry out the task entrusted to me as best I can, with this spirit of service to the Church and the Pope that I have had the privilege of learning from Father Federico Lombardi for almost 20 years. ”
Paolo Ruffini assures of his will to continue the reform of the Vatican communication, emphasizing that the year 2019 promises to be “dense of important meetings which require the maximum of efforts of communication”. He confides his certainty that Alessandro Gisotti “will guide the Interim Press Office, waiting for his new framework to be defined as soon as possible”

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ending the year with the feast of a Pope

St. Sylvester

Image of 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.

Sunday Angelus in Christmastime for the Feast Day of the Holy Family, 12-30-2018

Vatican Media Screenshot

Angelus Address: On the Feast of the Holy Family

‘The Family Is a Treasure: It Must Always Be Protected and Defended’

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave December 30, 2018, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Before the Angelus:
 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and the liturgy invites us to reflect on the experience of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, united by an intense love and animated by great trust in God. Today’s evangelical passage (Cf. Luke 2:41-52) recounts the journey of the family of Nazareth to Jerusalem, for the feast of Passover. However, on the return journey, the parents realized that their 12-year-old son was not in the caravan. After three days of searching and of fear, they found Him in the Temple, seated among the Doctors, intent on discussing with them. At the sight of the Son, Mary and Joseph “were astonished” (v. 48) and his Mother expressed their apprehension, saying: “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Ibid.). Astonishment — they “were astonished”and anxiety – “anxiously, your father and I” —  are the two elements on which I would like to call your attention: astonishment and anxiety.
In the family of Nazareth, astonishment never failed, not even in a dramatic moment as the loss of Jesus: it’s the capacity to be astonished in face of the gradual manifestation of the Son of God. It’s the same astonishment that struck the Doctors of the Temple, amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47). But what is astonishment, what does it to be astonished? To be astonished and to marvel is the opposite of taking everything for granted; it’s the opposite of interpreting the reality that surrounds us, and the events of history, only according to our criteria. And a person who does this doesn’t know what marvel is, what astonishment is. To be astonished is to open oneself to others, to understand others’ reasons: this attitude is important to heal compromised relations between people, and it’s also indispensable to heal the open wounds in the realm of the family. When there are problems in families, we take it for granted that we are right and we close the door to the others. Instead, it’s necessary to think: “But what good does this person have?” And to marvel at this “good.” And this helps family unity. If you have problems in the family, think of the good things that your relative has with whom you have problems, and marvel at this. And this will help to heal family wounds.
The second element that I would like to take from the Gospel is the anxiety that Mary and Joseph felt when they couldn’t find Jesus. This anxiety manifests the centrality of Jesus in the Holy Family. The Virgin and her husband had received that Son, they protected Him and saw Him grow in age, wisdom, and grace in their midst, but He grew especially in their heart; and, little by little their affection and understanding grew in their relations with Him. See why the family of Nazareth is holy: because it was centered on Jesus; all Mary’s and Joseph’s attentions and solicitudes were directed to Him.
That anxiety they felt during the three days that Jesus was lost, should also be our anxiety when we are far from Him when we are far from Jesus. We should feel anxious when we forget Jesus for more than three days, without praying, without reading the Gospel, without feeling the need of His presence and of His consoling friendship. And often days pass without my remembering Jesus, but this is bad, this is very bad. We should feel anxiety when these things happen. Mary and Joseph looked for Him and found Him in the Temple while He was teaching. We too, especially in the house of God, can encounter the divine Teacher and receive His message of salvation. In the Eucharistic celebration, we have a living experience of Christ. He speaks to us, He offers us His Word, He illumines us, He illumines our path; He gives us his Body in the Eucharist from which we draw vigor to face the difficulties of every day.
And today we go back home with these two words: astonishment and anxiety. Am I able to be astonished when I see others’ good things, and so resolve family problems? Do I feel anxious when I have moved away from Jesus?
Let us pray for all the families of the world, especially those in which, for different reasons, peace and harmony are lacking. And we entrust them to the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
After the Angelus:
 Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us pray together for all those that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffer from violence and from Ebola. I hope that everyone will be committed to maintaining a peaceful atmosphere, which will make possible a regular and peaceful carrying out of the elections. Let us pray together: “Hail Mary . . . “
I greet you all, Romans and pilgrims; the parish groups, the Association, and the young people. A special greeting goes today to the families present here. Applaud all the families that are here — all, and also those taking part from home on television and radio. The family is a treasure: it must always be protected and defended.  May the Holy Family of Nazareth protect you and illuminate your path always.
I greet the Mercedarian Religious who have come together with ministers from various parts of Italy, as well as the faithful of Legnaro and Gragnano. I greet the scouts of Villabate; the Confirmation youngsters of the united ministry of Codogne (diocese of Vittorio Veneto) and those of some parishes of the diocese of Bergamo: Curno, Palazzago, Gromlongo, Barzana, Almenno. And I greet these two groups of Sisters with the Spanish flag and with the Polish flag.
I wish you all a happy Sunday and a serene end of the year. End the year with serenity.
I thank you again for your good wishes and your prayers. And, please continue to pray for me.
Enjoy your lunch and goodbye!