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Thank you, John Paul II!

JPII

A video tribute to a great saint who walked among us on the 11th Anniversary of his death.

The Home of Joseph, the Just One in Nazareth – A Reflection on the Feast of St. Joseph

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The house of Nutrition, Nazareth

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

One of the highlights of our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the time spent in Nazareth and the visit to the excavations under the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth. While Nazareth is well known for the imposing Basilica of the Annunciation, built over the grotto of the Annunciation to Mary, and entrusted to the care of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, less known are the fascinating excavations under the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth just across the street from the Annunciation Basilica. The relatively unknown site of the Sisters of Nazareth has revealed a house dating to the first century and now thought to be the place where Jesus was brought up by Mary and Joseph. The house is partly made of mortar-and-stone walls, and was cut into a rocky hillside. These excavations are slowly coming to be recognized as the “House and Church of the Nutrition” (where the Holy Family settled and lived) and the nearby tomb of the Just One of Nazareth, St. Joseph.

The first excavations at the convent date back to 1884. At that time, the sisters were repairing a cistern in their cellar when they uncovered some ancient stonework, which turned out to be an underground room with a vault. The Sisters and the young girls at their school, with some workmen, dug further, and unearthed other stone structures, including two rock-cut tombs. In 1936, when Jesuit priest Henri Senès, who was an architect before becoming a priest, visited the site, he recorded in great detail the structures the Sisters had uncovered in their basement. His work remained unpublished and so it was unknown to anyone but the Sisters and the people who visited their convent. The famous Italian Franciscan archeologist, Fr. Bellarmino Bagatti (1905-1990), who investigated the site in 1937, thought the whole complex consisted of tombs. That was the opinion of most experts at that time. It seemed impossible that a Jewish house could have been built near a tomb because Jewish purity laws would have forbidden it.

In 2006, the Sisters granted the Nazareth Archaeological Project full access to the site, including Fr. Senès drawings and notes, which they had carefully stored. Archaeologists led by Ken Dark, a professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, and other archaeologists surveyed the site, and by combining their findings, a new analysis of Fr. Senès’ findings, notes from the Sisters’ earlier excavations and other information, reconstructed the development of the site from the first century to the present. They dated the house to the first century, and identified it as the place where people, who lived centuries after Jesus’ time, believed Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph. “Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds,” Professor Dark wrote in an article published in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review. “On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted.”

Professor Dark and his team have uncovered evidence of a Crusader-era church, as well as an earlier Byzantine one, all built over the first-century stone structure. They discovered that centuries after Jesus lived, the Church of the Nutrition was built around this house and the two adjacent tombs, but the church fell into disuse in the eighth century. It was rebuilt in the 12th century, when Crusaders controlled the area, only to be burnt down in the 13th century. Both the tombs and the house were decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine period, suggesting that they were of special importance, and possibly venerated by pilgrims.

Professor Dark became convinced that this structure was venerated as the home of the Holy Family. He also discovered that the tombs were cut into the walls of the house and must have been built after it was abandoned; this would not conflict with Jewish purity laws. In fact Dark found that the rock tombs on each side of the structure precisely match a detail mentioned in the pilgrim account of Arculf, a French bishop who visited the Church of the Nutrition in the year 670 and mentioned in his pilgrimage account a church “where once there was the house in which the Lord was nourished in his infancy.” This led Dark to believe it is the same church described in Arculf’s account.

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The Tomb of Joseph, Nazareth

The tomb adjacent to the first-century house is today commonly called ‘the Tomb of the Just One,’ and it was certainly venerated in the Crusader period, so perhaps they thought it was the tomb of St. Joseph.

I would like to borrow from my new profession of television production and zoom in on St. Joseph on his feast day – March 19. To “zoom” in on the foster father of the Lord gives us some profound insights into the family background of our Savior and the place where he may have been raised in Nazareth. Joseph is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience. Luke and Matthew both mark Joseph’s descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge about him: he was “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:18).

Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23). Holy Family Statue Nazareth

We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph wasn’t a wealthy man, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb.

Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God’s truth by word and deed. His paradoxical situation of “foster father to Jesus” draws attention to the truth about fatherhood, which is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children. He was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father.

Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken when he named his son “Jesus” and called him “Emmanuel.” When the child stayed behind in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48).

Joseph’s life reminds us that a home or community is not built on power and possessions but goodness; not on riches and wealth, but on faith, fidelity, purity and mutual love.

Visiting the extraordinary excavations at the convent of the Sisters of Nazareth, I cannot help but think of Joseph’s key role in salvation history, how he loved his wife, Mary, and how he taught his son so many things. The entire circumstances surrounding the discovery of the excavations in Nazareth, revealing what may indeed be the home of the Holy Family and the final resting place of St. Joseph, is a deeply moving experience and an opportunity to remember this quiet, humble, just servant of the Lord who still has much to teach us today.
The present challenges to fatherhood and masculinity cannot be understood in isolation from the culture in which we live. The effect of fatherlessness on children is deeply alarming. How many young people today have been affected by the crisis of fatherhood and paternity! How many have been deprived of a father or grandfather in their life?

It is not for naught that St. Joseph is patron of the Universal Church and principal patron of Canada. If there was ever a time when we needed a strong, holy, male role model who is a father, it is our time. And the feast of the St. Joseph this year is a very significant day to go to Joseph and beg him to send us good fathers who will head families. Joseph and Mary, more than anyone else, were the first to behold the glory of their One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Let us pray that we may imitate the humble worker from Nazareth, who listened to the Lord, treasured a gift that was not his, all the while modeling to Jesus how our own words must become flesh each day of our lives. From Nazareth’s latest discoveries, may we learn from Joseph’s example of transforming our own homes and communities into houses and centres of “nutrition” where we feed not only the body but the soul of each and every person who comes to us.

For more information:

The Antiquaries Journal,

EARLY ROMAN-PERIOD NAZARETH AND THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH CONVENT

http://subcreators.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Dark-Sisters-of-Nazareth.pdf

 

Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ: Viva Cristo Rey!

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During the Pope’s brief meeting at the Apostolic Nunciature last evening with Jesuits in Mexico, his confrères gave Pope Francis a relic of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Martyr killed in 1927, during the anti-clerical regime of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. (1891-1927). Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico, Miguel “Miguelito” Pro was the son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother. From his earliest days, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he kept all of his life. At age 20, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Father Pro suffered from chronic stomach ailments and when, after several operations his health did not improve, his Jesuit superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in 1926 despite the horrible religious persecution underway in Mexico.

Churches were closed and priests fled into hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. He strengthened people in their faith and was deeply involved in serving the poor in Mexico City. He was known for wearing all kinds of disguises that enabled him to work quietly among the poor. Miguel would dress as a beggar and go during the night to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to wealthy neighborhoods to provide for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable executive with a fresh flower on his lapel. His was the stuff of a modern spy movie or award winning television series! However in all that he did, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

Miguel Pro martyrdom

He was falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president and declared a wanted man. Handed over to the police, he was sentenced to death without recourse to any legal process. On the day of his execution by a firing squad, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!”

There exists very powerful images of Blessed Miguel Pro, boldly kneeling before his executioners and forgiving them, before proclaiming the real kingship of the non-violent Lord. Christian faith is rooted firmly in Jesus of Nazareth who was declared a king at his execution. He was not a king who craved for power, nor a dictator who dominated and trampled underfoot those who encountered him. In his kingdom, his poor subjects were cherished and loved; they were his friends, the little ones, his brothers and sisters who partook in his very life. Worldly kingdoms will come and go. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never pass away. Together with Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, Pope Francis and Christians throughout the world acclaim their King: Viva Cristo Rey!

St. Josephina Bakhita – Model of True Emancipation

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Called the “Madre Moretta” (the Black Mother), Josephina Bakhita was a former slave who became a Canossian Sister (Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa) in Italy. She was born in the Sudan, in northeastern Africa, about 1870, and at the age of nine was stolen by slavers. The slave traders gave her the name Bakhita, meaning “the Lucky One.” She escaped from these slavers only to be caught by another, who took her as a gift to his daughter in El Obeid. There she was treated well until she broke a vase. Then she was sold to a Turkish officer who sold her again in the market in Khartoum. She was brought by the Italian vice-council, who returned to Italy, taking Josephine with him. There she was given to a Signora Michieli in Genoa. She was sent to a convent by her new owner, to be educated in the school operated by the Daughters of Charity of Canossa. Josephina became a Christian on January 9, 1890, and was baptized by the cardinal patriarch. She refused to leave the convent after discovering her religious vocation, despite the demands of Signora Michieli, who claimed ownership. The cardinal patriarch and the king’s procurator were called upon to mediate the matter, and they decided in favor of Josephina’s vocation. Josephina was welcomed into the Canossian convent, and she made her novitiate and took religious vows. Her holiness and devotion were demonstrated in her labors as a cook, gate keeper, and keeper of linens. It was obvious that God had brought Josephina out of Africa to glorify him among the Europeans. With this in mind, Josephina, the Madre Moretta, traveled throughout Italy to raise funds for the missions. She served as a Canossian for half a century, dying in Schio, Italy, on February 8, 1947, and was revered by the people of her adopted land. She has not been forgotten by the Sudanese either. Her portrait hangs in the cathedral at Khartoum.

Pope John Paul II beatified Josephina on May 17, 1992, in the presence of three hundred Canossian Sisters and pilgrims, many from the Sudan. The Holy Father declared:

In our time, in which the unbridled race for power, money, and pleasure is the cause of so much distrust, violence, and loneliness, Sister Bakhita has been given to us once more by the Lord as a universal sister, so that she can reveal to us the secret of true happiness: the Beatitudes….Here is a message of heroic goodness modeled on the goodness of the Heavenly Father.

During his homily at her canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II said that in St. Josephine Bakhita:

We find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return them to their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
Former National Director and C.E.O., World Youth Day 2002
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, Canada

Pope Francis – Deeply Ignatian and Deeply Jesuit

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By Peter Schineller, S.J.

The first Jesuit Pope! We have moved beyond the original surprise and shock. What does it mean? How is Pope Francis deeply Ignatian and deeply Jesuit? I see one key link between Francis and Ignatius, a link that Francis himself has pointed. It is found in a Latin phrase, not easily translated, which Pope Francis has quoted several times.

“Non coerceri maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est.” “To suffer no restriction from anything however great, and yet to be contained in the tiniest of things, that is divine.”

The maxim was composed in 1640 as a way to describe the genius of St. Ignatius – his ability to hold together the great and the small, the global and the local, in a tension of seemingly opposites. Ignatius, with his world wide vision and desire to set the world on fire, could spend the last 16 years of his life working from his room in Rome composing the Jesuit Constitutions. The Ignatian scholar Hugo Rahner incidentally wrote that “no description of Ignatius has ever equalled these words.”

This maxim cited by Pope Francis shows, I believe, how he sees himself in accord with the mind and heart of St. Ignatius. The pope tries to keep in mind great visions and dreams, the larger picture, but at the same time, he urges us to reach down and out to the peripheries, to serve the needy and vulnerable. Thus in an essay of 1981 entitled “Leadership: The Big Picture and the Tiny Detail,” Bergoglio writes that in the maxim “Non coerceri maximo, contineri tamen a minimo, divinum est, we find a happy balance in the heart’s attitude towards things great and small.” He explains that Ignatius was able to combine severity with sweetness, rigor with gentleness. He was always ready to make exceptions. The key is discernment, first know what is big and what is little, and then to correct the big, and gloss over the small, always keeping the whole, the larger picture in mind.

In his book Open Mind, Faithful Heart then Archbishop Bergoglio speaks against apathy: “Occasionally it reveals itself in those who elaborate magnificent plans without any concern for the concrete means by which they will be realized. Conversely, it is seen in those who get so wrapped up in the minutiae of each moment that they cannot see beyond them to the grand plan of God. We do well to recall the epigram attributed to Saint Ignatius: ‘not being overwhelmed by what is greatest, while still being attentive to what is smallest – that is divine’.”

In June 2013 Pope Francis calls for students to be magnanimous.

“Magnanimity: this virtue of the great and the small (Non coerceri maximo contineri minimo, divinum est), which always makes us look at the horizon… means having a great heart, having greatness of mind; it means having great ideals, the wish to do great things …Hence also, to do well the routine things of life… doing the little everyday things with a great heart open to God and to others.”

He echoes this in an interview in America Magazine, entitled “A Big Heart Open to God.” When asked “what does it mean for a Jesuit to be pope?” he replies:

I was always struck by a saying that describes the vision of Ignatius: (‘not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest – this is the divine’). ….it is important not to be restricted by a larger space, and it is important to be able to stay in restricted spaces.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium he writes that “We need to pay attention to the global to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground ”(No. 234). We must see and seek the greater good but must also work on a small scale, in our own neighborhood, always keeping the large perspective in mind (No. 235).

Preaching during Advent 2013, Pope Francis explains that at Christmas:

“God, in the Christmas mystery, reveals himself not as One who remains on high and dominates the universe, but as the One who bends down, descends to the little and poor earth, …to be like him, we should not put ourselves above others, but indeed lower ourselves, place ourselves at the service of others, become small with the small and poor with the poor….”

In February 2014, addressing newly created cardinals, Pope Francis refers to the words of St. Paul on charity linking them with the maxim describing St. Ignatius:

It means being able to love without limits, but also to be faithful in particular situations and with practical gestures. It means loving what is great without neglecting what is small; living the little things within the horizon of the great things, since ‘non coerceri maximo, contineri tamen a minimo divinum est’.

In my view, it is significant, amazing and not accidental that Pope Francis has frequently referred to the maxim. As Pope and as Jesuit, he is following the example of St. Ignatius who quietly worked in his room in Rome, writing and refining the myriad of details in the Constitutions, and at the same time sent Xavier around the globe to the Indies. Ignatius worked with kings and princes, popes and bishops, but at the same time ministered to the least, the women of the streets of Rome.

Pope Francis keeps the big picture in mind as he calls together the group of nine cardinals as a type of cabinet to advise him, as he strives to reform and renew the Roman curia, as he appoints new cardinals from the peripheries. Daily he meets with heads of state, church leaders and world leaders. At the same time, in his pastoral visits he instinctively reaches out to the handicapped, the child, the sick, the elderly. He visits prisoners and soup kitchens, He travels simply in a Ford Focus. For Pope Francis, as for Jesus, the child is the least and the greatest. The weak and the handicapped are the most precious and most important.

The ongoing challenge facing Pope Francis, St. Ignatius – indeed, any leader, is to keep the larger or greater in mind, and at the same time take into account the little ones – the poor, the needy – those Jesus Christ identifies with. Nothing, no one is too small; in fact, the smaller and weaker, the more he or she calls forth our Christian response!

The Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis is one way to urge and encourage the faithful to put on Christ, the Christ who reaches down and out to the poor and needy. This is the Christ enshrined in the maxim: “Not to be restrained by what is greatest, yet to be contained by what is least – that is divine.”

CNS photo/Paul Haring


Fr. Peter Schineller, a Jesuit priest from New York, after teaching theology at seminaries in the USA, (Chicago and Boston) Africa (East and West Africa) and Vietnam, is now assisting at the Jesuit Center and Sacred Heart Parish, an English-language parish in Amman, Jordan.

Connect5: Pierluigi Molla, on his mother, St. Gianna

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Pierluigi Molla, son of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, shares memories of his mother and the lessons Catholics can learn from her life.


How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network every Friday at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.

Behind Vatican Walls: Apple vs. Android?

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This week the Pope’s message for the World Day for Social Communication was released with some fanfare at the Vatican. The real fanfare, however, was going on inside the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The meeting comes one week after the pope met with Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The meetings have set off a storm of speculation: Is the Vatican hoping to work with the two tech giants in some capacity? If so, what is this project?

Both executives are also philanthropists: Schmidt and his wife founded the Schmidt Family Foundation to support initiatives focused on renewable energy, ecological agriculture and human rights. Meanwhile Cook quietly announced in 2015 that he plans to give away most of his fortune and has reportedly spoken about human rights, immigration reform and HIV transmission as issues he is passionate about.

Much ado was also made about the fact that Cook is openly gay, with some reporters saying it is the first official audience the pope has held with an openly gay person. Such statements ignore a big part of the Church’s message on sexuality issues: a person is not defined by that one trait. Almost certainly Cook’s sexuality had nothing to do with the whatever was discussed during his meeting with Pope Francis.

What is clear though is that something is brewing involving the digital world. Whatever it is should be very interesting.

* * * *

A more usual type of audience happened at the Apostolic Palace: Pope Francis met with Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for Saints Causes. As usual Cardinal Amato came with a list of potential saints whose heroic virtues, holy deaths, or miracles need to be recognized by the pope. Among the causes that moved forward as a result of this audience:

-Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero

 Brochero was a diocesan priest from Córdoba, Argentina who is often referred to as the “gaucho priest”. He founded a house for spiritual exercises and dedicated himself to being available to all the faithful wherever they lived and in whatever circumstances they lived. He got the nickname “gaucho priest” precisely because he would travel by mule, as far as needed, to minister to whomever needed him. Pope Francis recognized the miraculous healing of an eight year old girl who suffered a stroke and should have been left severely, permanently brain damaged.

– Blessed José Sanchez del Rio

The fourteen year old Mexican was put to death during the Cristero war after refusing to renounce his faith. A miracle attributed to his intercession was approved by the Congregation for Saints Causes and accepted by Pope Francis.

-Venerable Engelmar Unzeitig

The Czech born priest was a member of the Marianhill Missionary Society. Ordained in 1939 he was sent to Austria and assigned to a parish. In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Unzeitig ultimately died in Dachau of Typhoid, which he contracted after volunteering to live in the Typhoid barrack so that he could minister to those in need. Pope Francis recognized his martyrdom.

-Takayama Ukon

Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of this Japanese Samurai who died in 1614. Takamaya refused to give up his faith, which led him to disobey his chief. His decision led to him being forced into exile. He led a group of 300 Catholics to the Philippines, but died shortly after settling in Manila as a result of the journey.

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below!

Photo/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/incredibleguy/5979571763)


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Behind Vatican Walls: Saint Mother Teresa

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Call it an early Christmas Gift, call it a message about the kind of mercy Pope Francis wants us to show to the world. Whatever you want to call, the end result is the same: Mother Teresa is going to be canonized. A second miracle attributed to her intercession has been approved by Pope Francis.

The miracle involves the unexplainable healing of a then-35 year old man suffering from “multiple cerebral abscesses with hydrocephalus obstruction.”  He had undergone a kidney transplant and was on immune suppressors. He was in a coma with little hope for survival when his wife and family began praying to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

According to a report in the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, the man was scheduled to undergo surgery. There was a 30 minute delay in the surgery and when the surgeon finally arrived in the operating room the man was awake and asking what was going on. Upon examination the surgeon found no sign of any major health problem. His family was in the hospital chapel praying to Blessed Mother Teresa.

Vatican officials travelled to the diocese of Santos, Brazil where the man lives to study the case. It was forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints Causes where a medical panel found there was no explanation for the man’s healing. A Theological panel also approved the miracle. Pope Francis accepted the congregation’s report on the miracle in a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the congregation, December 18.

No date was announced for Blessed Mother Teresa’s canonization, but Archbishop Rino Fisichella who is overseeing Jubilee Year events, stated earlier in the year that she could be canonized September 4, 2016. That would be one day before the anniversary of her death on September 5, 1997.

Fraudulent Blessings

This week 3,500 fake papal blessing parchments were seized from souvenir shops around the Vatican. While blessings cannot be sold or purchased, an official commemorative parchment communicating the blessing can be purchased. Those parchments are sold only by the Office of the Papal Almoner. The money from the sale of these parchments goes to the papal charity fund and helps finance the various projects the pope undertakes to help the poor.

There are several ways to order a papal blessing: in person, by fax, by mail (regular mail, not e-mail). Typically a papal blessing costs between 13 and 25 euros, depending on the type of parchment chosen. If you’re ordering a blessing for a special event, i.e. wedding, anniversary, ordination, be sure to do so several weeks in advance.

For full details on ordering a papal blessing visit the website for the Office of the Papal Charities.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

This week’s episode of Vatican Connections will be available below shortly.


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

 

Fr. Rosica on CNN: Mother Teresa’s Second Miracle

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On Friday, December 18, 2015, Fr. Thomas Rosica appeared on the CNN International Desk to discuss Pope Francis’ recent announcement on the approved second miracle for Mother Teresa, confirming her path to sainthood. See the full clip here.

Read more about Mother Teresa.

 

The Face of Mercy in Calcutta’s Gutters: Mother Teresa to be proclaimed a Saint

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Teresa Calcutta window detailBlessed Teresa of Calcutta will be proclaimed a saint in 2016. On Thursday afternoon, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Teresa (nee Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu). The Pope’s approval for these decrees came during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Blessed Teresa, known around the world as Mother Teresa was born August 26, 1910 in Skopje, then part of the Kosovo Vilayet in the Ottoman Empire, into a Kosovar Albanian family. She was foundress of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity and the Missionaries of Charity. It’s been eighteen years since Mother Teresa suffered a heart attack and died at 87 years old on Sept. 5, 1997 in Calcutta.  She would have turned 105 years old this year. The day after she died, she was set to lead an interfaith memorial prayer service in Calcutta for her friend, Diana, Princess of Wales, who had been tragically killed in a car accident one week earlier.

I commentated her funeral for several national television networks in Canada, which marked my first time ever doing commentary on television!  The pomp, precision and somber majesty of Princess Diana’s London farewell one week earlier were hardly visible in the chaotic scenes of Mother Teresa’s simple wooden casket riding on a gun carriage through the mobbed and chaotic streets of Calcutta for her State funeral.

Mother Teresa’s life was not a sound byte, but rather a metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness.  Her most famous work began in 1950 with the opening of the first Nirmal Hriday (Tender Heart) home for the dying and destitute in Calcutta.  Mother’s words remain inscribed on the walls of that home: “Nowadays the most horrible disease is not leprosy or tuberculosis. It is the feeling to be undesirable, rejected, abandoned by all.”

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There are critics in the Church who say that Mother Teresa personified a “pre-Vatican-Council” view of faith and did not address systemic evils.  She is politely and sometimes unpolitely dismissed because her life is hardly “prophetic” in the eyes of some people.  In fact, many saints and blessed are dismissed by such folks who have no understanding of the meaning of biblical prophecy.  They criticize Mother and her followers for their relentless condemnation of abortion.  Some have said that in Mother Teresa, there was no element of prophetic criticism in her teachings and her lifestyle.  Instead of acting sensibly by applying for government grants to create programs to eliminate poverty, Mother Teresa and her sisters moved into neighborhoods and befriended people.  Their houses often become oases of hope and peace, like the ones in Canada. When Mother Teresa speaks of ‘sharing poverty,’ she defies the logic of institutions that prefer agendas for the poor, not communion with individual poor people. Agents and instruments of communion are often called irrelevant and not considered by the world.

Mother Teresa holding childn in armsThough Mother Teresa left this world scene eighteen years ago, this tiny nun made the news big time several years ago with the publication of her letters. Many journalists, magazine editors, television newscasters and bloggers completely distorted the story with their sensational headlines: “Mother Teresa’s secret life: crisis and darkness,” or  “Calcutta’s Saint was an atheist,” or even “Mother and the Absent One.”  Some commentators wrote: “She lost her faith and the Church rewards her for it.” These people seem unaware that those who prepared Mother’s Beatification in 2003 cited the letters as proof of her exceptional faith and not the absence of it.

Mother Teresa tells us in those deeply personal messages that she once felt God’s powerful presence and heard Jesus speak to her. Then God withdrew and Jesus was silent. What Mother Teresa experienced thereafter was faith devoid of any emotional consolation. In the end Mother Teresa had to rely on raw faith, hope and charity. These are the virtues of all Christians, not just the spiritual elite. She was one of us after all.

What the Church looks for in saints is not just good works – for that there are Nobel Peace Prizes and other such worldly awards – but solid evidence that the candidate for canonization or beatification was transformed, inwardly and outwardly, by God’s grace and embodied a deep love of God and neighbour.

Years ago, during my graduate studies in Rome, I met Mother Teresa of Calcutta several times while I was teaching her sisters in a slum neighborhood on the outskirts of the Eternal City. At the end of our first visit, she blessed my forehead before placing into my hands one of her famous business cards unlike any I had ever seen.

On one side of the card were these words: “The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE. God bless you. –Mother Teresa.”

I still carry that card with me. There was no address, phone number, e-mail FAX number, or Twitter handle on the card. Mother Teresa didn’t need an address back then. Today, we don’t need any of her contact information, as she is available to all of us in the communion of saints. Everyone knows where she is and how to reach her.  She still has her hands full with our requests.

TR Mother Teresa May 20, 1989 sm

Mother Teresa was proclaimed blessed by her friend, St. John Paul II, on October 19, 2003. A crowning gift of the Jubilee of Mercy will be Mother Teresa’s canonization by Pope Francis in 2016. Let us ask this great woman of faith to intercede for a world at war, nations filled with fear, terror and dread. May this tiny woman and towering spiritual giant help us to open the doors of our nations, communities, homes and hearts to welcome strangers and offer them hospitality and love. May soon-to-be St. Teresa of Calcutta pray for us and teach us how to love God and neighbor in unity and harmony. May she teach us how to be the face of mercy and charity in our world today.