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Mary Magdalene: Apostle of the Apostles – Archbishop Arthur Roche

Mary-Magdalene-Jesus-cropped

By the express wish of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published a new Decree on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 3 June 2016, in which the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene was elevated and inscribed in the General Roman Calendar with the rank of Feast.

This decision, in the current ecclesial context, seeks to reflect more deeply upon the dignity of women, on the new evangelisation and on the greatness of the mystery of God’s Mercy. Saint John Paul II paid great attention not only to the importance of women in the mission of Christ and the Church, but also and with special emphasis on the particular role of Mary of Magdala as the first witness who saw the risen Christ, and as the first messenger who announced the Lord’s resurrection to the Apostles (Mulieris dignitatem n. 16). The importance of this continues today in the Church, as is evident in the new evangelisation, which seeks to welcome all men and women “of every race, people, language and nation” (Rev 5: 9), without any distinction, to announce to them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ while accompanying them on their earthly pilgrimage, and offering them the wonders of God’s salvation. Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of a true and authentic evangeliser, that is an evangelist who announces the central joyful message of Easter (cf. Collect for 22 July and the new Preface).

It is precisely in the context of the Jubilee of Mercy that our Holy Father Pope Francis has taken this decision, in order to underline the relevance of this woman “who so loved Christ and was so greatly loved by Christ”, as Rabanus Maurus affirms on various occasions when he speaks of her (“dilectrix Christi et a Christo plurimum dilecta”: De vita Mariae Magdalenae, Prologus), as well as Saint Anselm of Canterbury who says of her “chosen because you are beloved and beloved because you are chosen of God” (“electa dilectrix et dilecta electrix Dei”: Oratio LXXIII ad sanctam Mariam Magdalenam). It is true that ecclesial tradition in the West, especially since the time of Gregory the Great, has identified Saint Mary Magdalene, and the woman who anointed Christ’s feet with perfume in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and the sister of Lazarus and Martha, as one and the same person. This interpretation continued to influence western ecclesiastical authors, Christian art and liturgical texts relative to this Saint. The Bollandists made a detailed study of the problem of identifying these three women and prepared a path for the liturgical reform of the Roman Calendar. The outcome of this reform of the Second Vatican Council led to the texts of the Missale Romanum, the Liturgia Horarum and the Martyrologium referring to Mary of Magdala. What is certain is that Mary Magdalene was part of the group of Jesus’ disciples, she accompanied him to the foot of the Cross and, in the garden where she met him at the tomb, was the first “witness of Divine Mercy” (Gregory the Great, XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II Hom. 25,10). The Gospel of John tells us that Mary Magdalene wept because she could not find the body of the Lord (Jn 20:11); and that Jesus had mercy on her by letting himself be known as her Master, thus transforming her tears into paschal joy.

Taking advantage of this opportune moment, I would like to underline two ideas inherent in the biblical and liturgical texts of this Feast which assist us to better grasp the importance of this holy woman for today

On the one hand, she has the honour to be the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection (“prima testis” – Hymnus, Ad Laudes matutinas), the first who saw the empty tomb and the first to hear the truth about his resurrection. Christ showed special consideration and mercy to this woman who showed her love for Christ by seeking him in her anguish and suffering in the garden, or as Saint Anselm says in the prayer mentioned above with “lacrimas humilitatis” (“the tears of humility”). In this way it is possible to highlight the contrast between the woman present in the  garden of paradise and the woman present in the garden of the resurrection. The first spread death where there was life; the second announced life from a sepulchre, the place of death. As Gregory the Great underlines: “Quia in paradiso mulier viro propinavit mortem, a sepulcro mulier viris annuntiat vitam” (“Indeed because a woman offered death to a man in Paradise, a woman announces life to the men from the tomb”: XL Hom. In Evangelia, lib. II, Hom. 25). Yet, there is more, as we see precisely in the garden of the resurrection where the Lord says to Mary, “Noli me tangere” (“Do not cling to me” Jn 20:17). This is an invitation to enter into an experience of faith that goes beyond materialistic assumptions and the human grasping after the divine Mystery which is not simply addressed to Mary but to the entire Church. This is an ecclesial moment! This is an important lesson for every disciple of Jesus Christ to neither seek human securities nor the vainglory of this world, but in faith to seek the living and risen Christ!

On the other hand, precisely because she was an eyewitness to the risen Christ, she was also the first one to bear witness to him before the Apostles. She fulfils the command of the Risen Lord: “‘Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples ‘I have seen the Lord’ and she told them that he had said these things to her” (Jn 20:17-18). Thus, as already indicated she becomes an evangelist, that is a messenger who announces the Good News of the Lord’s resurrection or, as Rabanus Maurus and Saint Thomas Aquinas say, she becomes the “apostolorum apostola” because she announces to the apostles what in turn they will announce to the whole world (Rabanus Maurus, De vita beatae Mariae Magdalenae, XXVII; Saint Thomas Aquinas, In Ioannem Evangelistam Expositio, c. XX, L. III, 6). It was with good reason that the Angelic Doctor applied this term to Mary of Magdala, for she is the witness to the risen Christ and announces the message of the Lord’s resurrection just like the rest of the Apostles. For this reason it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast as that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar and that the special mission of this woman should be underlined, she who is an example and model for all women in the Church.

+Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Divine worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Decree of St. Mary Magdalene

MariaMagdalena1

The significance of today’s announcement from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments decrees that the liturgical memory of Mary Magdalene becomes a feast, like that of the other apostles. In the Mass and in the Divine Office to be celebrated on July 22, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the usual texts in the Roman Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours will be used, but the Mass will also include a specific Preface entitled “de apostolorum apostola” (Apostle of the apostles”), the full Latin text of which is given below. The bishops, upon approval by the Holy See, will make this accessible in the various vernacular languages.

Præfatio: De Apostolorum Apostola

Vere dignum et iustum est,
æquum et salutáre,
nos te, Pater omnípotens,
cuius non minor est misericórdia quam potéstas,
in ómnibus prædicáre per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
Qui in hortu maniféstus appáruit Maríæ Magdalénæ,
quippe quae eum diléxerat vivéntem,
in cruce víderat moriéntem,
quæsíerat in sepúlcro iacéntem,
ac prima adoráverat a mórtuis resurgéntem,
et eam apostolátus offício coram apóstolis honorávit
ut bonum novæ vitæ núntium
ad mundi fines perveníret.
Unde et nos, Dómine, cum Angelis et Sanctis univérsis
tibi confitémur, in exsultatióne dicéntes:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.

Working translation of preface by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

Preface of the Apostle of the Apostles

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
whose mercy is no less than His power,
to preach the Gospel to everyone, through Christ, our Lord.
In the garden He appeared to Mary Magdalene,
who loved him in life, who witnessed his death on the cross,
who sought him as he lay in the tomb,
who was the first to adore him when he rose from the dead,
and whose apostolic duty was honored by the apostles,
so that the good news of life might reach the ends of the earth.
And so Lord, with all the Angels and Saints,
we, too, give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might …

Read the full text of the decree below:

The Church, both in the East and in the West has always regarded Saint Mary Magdalene the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection and the first evangelist, and with the greatest reverence has always honoured her although in diverse ways.

Given that in our time the Church is called to reflect in a more profound way on the dignity of Woman, on the New Evangelisation and on the greatness of the Mystery of Divine Mercy, it seemed right that the example of Saint Mary Magdalene might also fittingly be proposed to the faithful. In fact this woman, known as the one who loved Christ and who was greatly loved by Christ, and was called a “witness of Divine Mercy” by Saint Gregory the Great and an “apostle of the apostles” by Saint Thomas Aquinas, can now rightly be taken by the faithful as a model of women’s role in the Church.

Therefore the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis has established that from now on the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene should be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar with the rank of Feast rather than Memorial as is presently the case.

The new rank of celebration does not involve any change of the day on which the celebration itself takes place and, as for the liturgical texts, the following is to be observed:

  • The day dedicated to the celebration of Saint Mary Magdalene remains the same as it appears in the Roman Calendar, that is 22 July.
  • The texts to be used in the Mass and in the Divine Office remain the same as those contained in the Missal and in the Liturgy of the Hours on the day of the Feast, with the addition in the Missal of a proper Preface, attached to this Decree. It will be the responsibility of the Conferences of Bishops to translate the text of the Preface into the vernacular language so that, having received the approval of the Apostolic See, it can be used and in due time included in the next reprint of the Roman Missal.

Where, according to particular law, Saint Mary Magdalene is legitimately celebrated on a different day and as a Solemnity, this day and rank remains as before.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 3 June 2016, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Robert Card. Sarah
Prefect
Archbishop Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary

Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass of Canonization of Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad and Stanislaus Papczyński

PopeCanonization

At 10:30 am on the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pope Francis celebrated mass in St. Peter’s Square and presided over the rite of canonization of Blesseds Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad (1870-1957) and Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701). Below you will find the homily given by Pope Francis following the Gospel of the day. Also included are two brief biographies of the two new saints.

The word of God, which we have just heard, points us to the central event of our faith: God’s victory over suffering and death. It proclaims the Gospel of hope, born of Christ’s paschal mystery, whose splendour is seen on the face of the Risen Lord and reveals God our Father as one who comforts all of us in our afflictions. That word calls us to remain united to the Passion of the Lord Jesus, so that the power of his resurrection may be revealed in us.

In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us. He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did. In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18).

This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints. They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.

This Sunday’s first reading and Gospel offer us amazing signs of death and resurrection. The first took place at the hand of the Prophet Isaiah, the second by Jesus. In both cases, they involved the young children of widows, who were then given back alive to their mothers.

The widow of Zarephath – a woman who was not a Jew, yet had received the Prophet Elijah in her home – was upset with the prophet and with God, because when Elijah was a guest in her home her child had taken ill and had died in her arms. Elijah says to her: “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19). What he says is significant. His words tell us something about God’s response to our own death, however it may come about. He does not say: “Hold on to it; sort it out yourself!” Instead, he says: “Give it to me”. And indeed the prophet takes the child and carries him to the upper room, and there, by himself, in prayer “fights with God”, pointing out to him the absurdity of that death. The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, for it was in fact he, God, who spoke and acted in the person of the prophet. It was God who, speaking through Elijah, told the woman: “Give me your son”. And now it was God who gave the child back alive to his mother.

God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus. We heard in the Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) of the “great compassion” (v. 13) which Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in Galilee, who was accompanying her only son, a mere adolescent, to his burial. Jesus draws close, touches the bier, stops the funeral procession, and must have caressed that poor mother’s face bathed in tears. “Do not weep”, he says to her (Lk 7:13), as to say: “Give me your son”. Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life. The young man then awoke as if from a deep sleep and began to speak. Jesus “gave him to his mother” (v. 15). Jesus is no wizard! It is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion is at work in Jesus.

The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection. From a fierce enemy and persecutor of Christians, he became a witness and herald of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:13-17). This radical change was not his own work, but a gift of God’s mercy. God “chose” him and “called him by his grace”. “In him”, God desired to reveal his Son, so that Paul might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16). Paul says that God the Father was pleased to reveal his Son not only to him, but in him, impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ. As a result, the Apostle was not only to be a messenger, but above all a witness.

So it is with each and every sinner. Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth. He says to Mother Church: “Give me your children”, which means all of us. He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church. All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy.

The Church today offers us two of her children who are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection. Both can sing forever in the words of the Psalmist: “You have changed my mourning into dancing / O Lord, my God, I will thank you forever” (Ps 30:12). Let us all join in saying: “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up” (Antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm).

Biography of Blessed Maria Elisabetta Hesselblad (1870-1957)

Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad was born in Sweden on 4 June 1870, the fifth of thirteen children. Baptized lutheran, she emigrated to the United States of America when she was eighteen. For many years (from 1888 to 1904) she worked diligently as a nurse at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York where, faced with the suffering and sickness of the patients, she honed her human and spiritual sensitivities, conforming them ever more closely to those of her fellow Swede, Saint Bridget. From her adolescence, Mary’s desire was for the unity of Christ’s flock. Guided by a learned Jesuit, she avidly studied Catholic doctrine and, by conscious decision, accepted the Catholic Faith, being conditionally baptized on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1902. In 1904 she moved to Rome and, by special permission of Pope Saint Pius X, she took the religious habit of Saint Bridget in the residence where the saint had lived, which was then occupied by Carmelites. Led by the Holy Spirit, she refounded the order of Saint Bridget (1911), responding to the circumstances and the signs of the times. Her apostolate was inspired by the great ideal “Ut omnes unum sint” (that all may be one) and this motivated her to give her life to God in order to unite Sweden to Rome. With great courage and foresight, in 1923 she brought the Bridgettine Sisters back to Sweden, to Djursholm, and then Vadstena in 1935.

Her entire life was characterized by continuous works of charity. During World War II, she provided refuge to many persecuted Jews and turned Bridgettine convents into places where her spiritual daughters could distribute food and clothing to those who were in need. on 24 April 1957, after a long life marked by suffering and sickness, she died in the Casa Santa Brigida in Rome, having a reputation for holiness among her Bridgettine sisters, the clergy and the poor, who venerated her as mother of the poor and a spiritual master. She was beatifed by Saint John Paul II on April 9th of the Jubilee year 2000.

Biography of Blessed Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701)

Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary (in the world, Jan Papczynński) was born on 18 May 1631 in Podegrodzie (Poland) to poor but fervently Christian parents. He was baptized the same day. After studying at the Podegrodzie elementary school, he went to the Jesuit college and the college of the Piarist Fathers. Having become familiar with the Piarists, at 23 years of age he entered that Institute. In 1656 he professed simple vows, and was ordained priest on 12 March 1661. He became famous throughout Warsaw both as a professor of rhetoric and as a master of the spiritual life: he authored several books, and was a noted preacher and confessor. Among his penitents was the Apostolic nuncio in Poland at the time, Antonio Pignatelli, the future Pope Innocent XII.

In 1670, having obtained the required dispensations, he left the Piarists and founded the Institute of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. The three goals of this Institute were (1) to promote devotion to the Immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, finding in Mary the heart of the Christian life, namely, God’s gratuitous gift of infinite love for humanity; (2) to offer prayers and sacrifices for the dead, especially those who were not prepared to die; (3) to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Stanislaus dedicated himself with apostolic zeal to these charitable purposes until the end of his life. He was faithful to his ascetical observances and to governing the Institute which, in 1699, received Pontifical Approbation.

Stanislaus died on 17 September 1701, in the monastery of Góra kalwaria. His last words were: “Into your hands lord, I commend my spirit”. Having expressed his ardent desire to unite himself to Christ, he blessed his religious brethren and exhorted them to fidelity. He left behind many spiritual writings. Among these are the Norma Vitæ (The rule of life), which treated religious life and the life of his Institute, and the Templum Dei Mysticum (The Mystical Temple of God) in which he proposed a spirituality for the laity. Pope Benedict XVI enrolled him among the blessed in 2007.


CNS photo/Paul Haring

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

Nutrition

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.

Tomb

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!

MPro

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.