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Pope Francis 2016 Lenten Message

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Pope Francis released his 2016 Lenten Message based on the verse ” I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Read the full text of his message, titled ‘The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee,’ below:

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee

  1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.

After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.

  1. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy

The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.

This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by theShema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.

This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (Evangelii Gaudium, 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” (ibid., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.

  1. The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk1:38).

From the Vatican, 4 October 2015

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

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CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

Pope Francis’ Homily for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God & World Day of Peace; Angelus Address

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Pope Francis delivered the homily at Mass on New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of the Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Below, please find the full text of the official English translation of his prepared remarks.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – World Day of Peace, 1 January 2016

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”?  If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded.  Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might.  The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars.  Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom.  For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times.  To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint.  It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil his promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity.  History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness.  For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise.  As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world.  He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:1-3).  The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God himself in our history.  Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made “little” in a baby.  Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness.

Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history.  Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that he is absent.  The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family.  Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world.  We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims.  How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights?  A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ.

And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world.  All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing.  The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace.  In her, the ancient promise finds fulfilment.  She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord.  Through her, through her “yes”, the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk2:19).  She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright.  Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world.  Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot reach, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can reach, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world.  But even more blessed are you for having believed in him.  Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 215,4).  Send us your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour.  Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace.

Pope Francis: Angelus appeal for peace on New Year’s Day

Pope Francis renewed his calls for peace and goodwill throughout the Earth on Friday, New Year’s Day, the Solemnity of the Mother of God and the World Day of Peace. The Holy Father’s appeal came at the Angelus prayer with pilgrims and visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square after Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Today we celebrate the World Day of Peace, whose theme is: ‘Overcome Indifference and win Peace’,” said Pope Francis. “That peace, which God the Father wants to sow in the world, must be cultivated by us,” he continued. “Not only: it must also be ‘conquered’. This involves a real struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place in our hearts, for the enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves and creates barriers, suspicions, fears and closures [of mind and heart].”

Pope Francis went on to say, “We have, thank God, much information; but sometimes we are so inundated with news that we are distracted from reality, from the brother and sister who needs us: let us begin to open our hearts, awakening attention to the next.”

“This,” said Pope Francis, “is the way to win the peace.”

After the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis returned the New Year’s greetings he received the evening before from the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and offered thanks to all those involved in peace initiatives in Rome, throughout Italy and in all the world.

“I express gratitude for the many initiatives of prayer and action for peace organized all over the world on the occasion of today’s World Day of Peace,” he said, making particular mention of the National March that took place New Year’s Eve in the city of Molfetta, under the joint sponsorship of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Caritas Internationalis, Pax Christi and Catholic Action. “It is good to know that many people, especially young people, have chosen this way of ringing in the New Year.”

The Angelus prayer followed shortly after the conclusion of Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the New Year’s Solemnity of the Mother of God, over which Pope Francis presided and at which he delivered the homily. “At the beginning of a new year,” said Pope Francis, “the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace.  In her, the ancient promise finds fulfilment.” The Holy Father went on to say, “She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord.  Through her, through her ‘yes’, the fullness of time came about.”

The Gospel reading of the day tells of how the Virgin Mary treasured all the words the Angel spoke to her, and contemplated them in her heart (Cf. Lk2:19). “She appears to us,” continued Pope Francis, “as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright.”

“In this day,” he said, “Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world.”

Watch Pope Francis celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God below:

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Mary: Model and Paradigm of Belief for Christians

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Reflection for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Friday, January 1st, 2016

The Christian New Year is celebrated on Jan. 1, one week after the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jan. 1 has been given several different names that reveal something of the nature of the feast. First of all, the Christian New Year is within the Octave of Christmas (i.e., eight days after the birth of Jesus.) Before the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus or the Naming of Jesus (Holy Name of Jesus) was celebrated on this date to commemorate the Gospel account of Jesus’ circumcision according to the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic law, thus becoming officially a member of the people of the covenant: “At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus” (Luke 2:21-24).

Following the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council, Jan. 1 has now been known as the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of the Lord, and it has also been designated as the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

We may wonder if New Year’s Day has accumulated so many different meanings that people no longer pay attention to the feast. Is it also not true that the atmosphere of revelry attached to New Year’s Eve hardly leaves anyone with the energy, desire or willingness to consider New Year’s Day as a religious feast? Let us consider some of the biblical foundations for the various meanings attached to the Christian New Year.

Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

In antiquity and in the Scriptures, it is a common belief that the name given to a person is not just a label but part of the personality of the one who bears it. The name carries will and power. The name conjures up the person; there is a desire to know the name and even a reluctance to give it in the Scriptures.

Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem to Jewish parents (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). At his conception, it was announced by an angel that his name would be “Jesus.” The Hebrew and Aramaic name “Yeshua” (Jesus) is a late form of the Hebrew “Yehoshua” or Joshua. It was a very common name in New Testament times. The meaning of the name is “The Lord is salvation” and it is alluded to in Matthew 1:21 and Luke 2:21.

“Yeshua” refers to the Savior and was one of the Christian ways of naming and identifying Jesus. The Greek christos translates the Hebrew mashiah, “anointed one”; by this name Christians confessed their belief that Jesus was the Messiah. In the New Testament, the name, person and work of God are inseparably linked to those of Jesus Christ. True disciples of Jesus are to pray in his name (John 14:13-14). In John 2:23 believing in the name of Jesus is believing in him as the Christ, the Son of God (3:18). The name of Jesus has power only where there is faith and obedience (Mark 9:38-39). Believing in the holy name of Jesus leads to confession of the name (Hebrews 13:15). Calling on this name is salvation.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of the Lord

The second person who is celebrated and honored on the Christian New Year is the mother of Jesus. This young woman of Jewish descent took upon herself the full responsibility of the word “yes” to a mysterious visitor at the Annunciation. By her response, she broke out of the cultural and religious boundaries of her time, manifesting great courage and faith. She literally brought heaven down to earth. Mary of Nazareth lived the memory of events and their meaning — always showing the ability to interpret the whole thread of her life through repeatedly calling to mind words and events.

“Mary” comes from the Hebrew “Miriam” whose etymology is probably from the Egyptian word meaning “beloved.” She is the disciple par excellence who introduces us to the goodness and humanity of God. Her womanhood is not in itself a sign of salvation but it is significant for the manner and way in which salvation happens. There is salvation in no other name but that of the man Jesus; but through this woman, Mary, we have humanity’s assent to salvation. Only in this way can we speak of a feminine realization of God’s salvation.

Today we celebrate the Mary, Mother of God, who is a model for every believer. I cannot help but recall the powerful words of Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright of Durham, England, during the 2008 synod on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. Bishop Wright, one of the papally-appointed fraternal delegates to the synod, spoke of the four great moments of Mary’s life with four words: Fiat, Magnificat, Conservabat and Stabat. Through her “fiat,” Mary gave assent to God’s Word with her mind. Through her “magnificat,” the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth reveals her strength and courage. In her heart, Mary meditated on and kept God’s Word: “conservabat.” Her fidelity to the end is described by the word “stabat” as she stood at the foot of the cross and waited patiently in her soul for the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy and experienced the new, unexpected and perhaps unwelcome, but yet saving revelation.

God calls each one of us through Scripture in complete love and grace, and the response of the obedient mind is “fiat”: Let it be to me according to your word. We, too, celebrate, with our strength, the relevance of the word to new personal and especially political situations: “magnificat.” Then we ponder in the heart what we have seen and heard: “conservabat.” But Scripture tells us that Mary, too, had to learn hard things: She wanted to control her son, but could not. Her soul is pierced with the sword, as she stands “stabat” at the foot of the cross. We too must wait patiently, letting the written Word tell us things that may be unexpected or even unwelcome, but which are yet salvific. We read humbly, trusting God and waiting to see his purpose unfold. Mary is truly a model and paradigm of belief for Christians.

World Day of Prayer for Peace

The World Day of Peace is an observance launched by the Church under Pope Paul VI in 1967. Christians are invited to begin a New Year praying for peace. The message of Pope Benedict XVI for the celebration of the 43rd World Day of Peace had as its theme: “If You Want To Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” a deliberate play on Paul VI’s famous words, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

In his message that year Pope Benedict presented “a cosmic vision of peace” a peace which “comes about in a state of harmony between God, humankind and the creation. In this perspective, environmental degradation is an expression not only of a break in the harmony between humankind and the creation, but of a profound deterioration in the unity between humankind and God.”

Benedict XVI had already earned a reputation as the “green Pope” because of his repeated calls for stronger environmental protection. The Pope’s language in that New Year’s message was quite forceful. “How can one remain indifferent in the face of problems such as climate change, desertification, the degradation and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase in extreme weather, and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical areas?

“How can one overlook the growing phenomenon of so-called ‘environmental refugees,’ meaning persons who, because of environmental degradation, have to leave — often together with their belongings — in a kind of forced movement, in order to escape the risks and the unknown? How can we not react to the conflicts already underway, as well as potential new ones, linked to access to natural resources? […]

“These are all questions that have a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the rights to life, to food, to health and to development.”

Benedict accented a vision of the cosmos as a gift of God, which human beings have an obligation to “care for and cultivate.” The Pope called for “a profound and farsighted revision of the model of development,” based not only on the needs of today’s “living beings, human and non-human,” but those of generations to come.

At the same time, Benedict XVI insisted that protecting the environment is “the duty of every person,” one which demands changes in personal habits and attitudes. Benedict called for “new styles of life,” based not solely upon the logic of consumption but also “sobriety and solidarity,” as well as “prudence.” For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.”

“Our present crises … are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are traveling together.”

Today, as we celebrate the Mother of the Lord who truly reconciled the many meanings given to today’s feast in her very life and witness, let us echo the words of St. Basil the Great whose feast immediately follows today’s celebration (Jan. 2):

“Let us give glory to God with the shepherds,
Let us dance in choir with the Angels,
for “this day a Savior has been born to us, the Messiah and Lord,”

He is the Lord who has appeared to us,
not in divine form, in order to terrify us in our weakness,
but in the form of a Servant, that He might set free
what had been reduced to servitude …”

Pope Francis’ Homily at Christmas Midnight Mass

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On Thursday, December 24, 2015, Pope Francis celebrated the Christmas Eve Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica. Read the full text of his homily below:

Tonight “a great light” shines forth (Is 9:1); the light of Jesus’ birth shines all about us. How true and timely are the words of the prophet Isaiah which we have just heard: “You have brought abundant joy and great rejoicing” (9:2)! Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled. Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the skeptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.

Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Saviour of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are! Tonight we have been shown the way to reach the journey’s end. Now must we put away all fear and dread, for the light shows us the path to Bethlehem. We must not be laggards; we are not permitted to stand idle. We must set out to see our Saviour lying in a manger. This is the reason for our joy and gladness: this Child has been “born to us”; he was “given to us”, as Isaiah proclaims (cf. 9:5). The people who for for two thousand years has traversed all the pathways of the world in order to allow every man and woman to share in this joy is now given the mission of making known “the Prince of peace” and becoming his effective servant in the midst of the nations.

So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak. Let us take his words to heart in rapt contemplation of his face. If we take him in our arms and let ourselves be embraced by him, he will bring us unending peace of heart. This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, “to reject godless ways” and the richness of the world, in order to live “temperately, justly and devoutly” (Tit 2:12).

In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.

Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: “Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation” (Ps 85:8).

Watch Pope Francis celebrate Christmas Eve Mass below:

Remembering ourselves through Jesus at Christmas

A Nativity scene and Christmas tree decorate the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A Nativity scene and Christmas tree decorate the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Each Christmas season, as carols fill the December air, we remember ourselves.

We’re awakened by this remembering as we treasure Christmas memories. A nostalgic escape, this process of remembering is a profoundly human act. In the Bethlehem story, we see ourselves. If in the birth of Jesus, God’s only son (a mystery known as Incarnation), we discover beauty, simplicity, poverty and vulnerability. Then we can find that same God in the simplicity and poverty and vulnerability of our lives, our relationships and our society.

There is a profoundly simple message in the Christmas story for all women and men of good will.

The Word of God took flesh in the womb of a young girl of Nazareth, who trusted a strange angelic visitor. She was in an irregular situation: Her husband, not the father of the child she was carrying, could have disowned her. But an angel appeared to him in a dream, and Joseph cherished Mary and the child to be born.

The child was greeted at his birth not by the powerful and mighty, nor by leaders of the religious establishment of the day. Rather it was the poor – shepherds and strangers, probably Zorastrian astrologers from the East – who came to pay homage to this helpless baby in a manger.

No one described the whole scene better than Pope Francis this past September at a Vigil Ceremony for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He told the crowd of over one million people gathered on Benjamin Franklin Parkway: “And where did God send his Son? To a palace, to a city, to an office building? He sent him to a family. God came into the world in a family. And he could do this because that family was a family with a heart open to love, a family whose doors were open.”

This little family was humble, poor, faithful and knew the life of refugees, having to flee to Egypt (or most likely Gaza) to avoid the terror of a despotic ruler.

The feast of Christmas reminds humanity of one profound message: that God has mixed with the human family and loved them all – the women and the men, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, those who love and those who hate.

And only God knows who is close and who is far from him. Who are we to judge?

At Christmas we are taught where to find God: in the midst of humanity, in the thick and thin of the human race, in the smiles and tears of every newborn baby, in the wrinkled faces of the elderly. We find Him in the suffering of the dying, in the hospitality to strangers and the poor among us, in the cherished gift of friendship, and in the welcome of refugees. And we can find Him in the bold, courageous leadership of a young Prime Minister who goes against the tide of other political leaders not far from our borders, who have put up barriers and shields to keep strangers out because of fear.

Anyone who really understands that God became human at one shining moment in human history over 2,000 years ago in an outpost of the Roman Empire will never be able to speak and act in an inhumane way.

That is what the real spirit of Christmas is all about.

Thomas Rosica
The Globe and Mail
Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015

Father Thomas Rosica is the CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and assistant to the Holy See Press Office.


*This article was originally published in The Globe and Mail.

Experiencing the Possibility of the Impossible

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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C – December 20, 2015

The Infancy Narrative of Luke’s Gospel contains some of the most touching, well-known biblical scenes in the New Testament.

Not only does the annunciation of the Baptist’s beginnings precede that of Jesus (1:5-24), but the birth of John the Baptist precedes Jesus’ birth (1:26-38). The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:39-45) is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John.

In both stories the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision (Luke 1:11-12, 26-29), and then told by the angel not to fear (Luke 1:13, 30). After the announcement is made (Luke 1:14-17, 31-33) the parent objects (Luke 1:18, 34) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Luke 1:20, 36). The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David (Luke 1:32-33) and Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35).

In the very personal scene of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth (1:39-45), the Precursor and the Lord are both hidden from each other. Yet even before the two women embrace, John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb, having recognized the presence of the Lord and Messiah in the womb of Mary. Both births are hailed by two beautiful canticles: the Benedictus sung by Zechariah, father of the Baptist, at his son’s birth (1:68-79), and the “Nunc Dimittis” prayed by Simeon, the “righteous and devout” man in the Jerusalem temple, as he takes the infant Jesus in his arms (2:22-35).

The two pregnant women of today’s Advent gospel, Mary and Elizabeth, recognized in each other signs from God. The angel Gabriel offered Mary a lesser parallel to her own virginal conception: “Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36). Elizabeth in her turn senses in the movement of the child in her womb on Mary’s arrival that something extraordinary was happening. “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Each of the women experienced in herself the possibility of the impossible.

Trust in God

The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth turned out to be a divine visitation, the Ark of God bringing not terror but blessing as it did to the house of Obededom the Gittite (1 Samuel 6:9-11). Unlike Sarah, who had laughed at the notion that she could conceive and bear a child in her old age to Abraham (Genesis 18:12), and unlike Zechariah, her husband, who had been struck dumb for questioning God’s power in this matter (Luke 1:8-20), Elizabeth gives thanks to God and trusted in his providence: “So has the Lord done for me at that time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others” (Luke 1:25). Mary, for her part, deserved to be acclaimed by Elizabeth as “she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”

Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. The Magnificat celebrates the wonders of God’s graciousness in the lives not only of these two Advent women but of all for whom “the Mighty One has done great things” (Luke 1:49).

There are two aspects of today’s Visitation scene to consider. The first is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is put aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives.

Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two great biblical women consoled each another, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced: Elizabeth after her long years of barrenness and now sudden pregnancy, and Mary, after her meeting with the heavenly messenger, and her “irregular” marriage situation and pregnancy.

The second point to consider is Mary’s quick response and movement. Luke tells us that she undertook “in haste” the long and perilous trek from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.

In his commentary on Luke’s Gospel, St. Ambrose of Milan describes this haste with a difficult Latin phrase, “nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia,” which could mean: “the grace of the Holy Spirit does not know delayed efforts,” or “delayed efforts are foreign to the grace of the Holy Spirit.” Mary’s free choice to move forward and outward reflects a decision taken deep within her heart followed by immediate action.

Procrastination

How many things exist in our lives that we dreamed of doing, should have done, and never did — letters that should have been written, dreams that should have been realized, gratitude that was not expressed, affection never shown, words that should have been spoken, etc.? Postponements and delays weigh heavily upon us, wear us down and discourage us. They gnaw away at us. How true St. Ambrose described Mary’s haste: The Spirit completely possessed the Virgin Daughter of Nazareth and compelled her to act.

The story of the Visitation teaches us an important lesson: When Christ is growing inside of us, we will be led to people, places and situations that we never dreamed of. We will bear words of consolation and hope that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will be consoled. We will be at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life and issues seem to be, from them Christ is forming himself.

The women of today’s Gospel show us that it is possible to move beyond our own little, personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry and service in the Church. Ministry and service are not simply doing things for others. Authentic Christian ministers and servants allow themselves to serve and be served, taught, cared for, consoled and loved. Such moments liberate us and enable us to sing Magnificat along the journey, and celebrate the great things that God does for us and His people.

Consider these words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997):

“In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life — gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique.

“Thus, the first Eucharist was such: Mary’s offering of her Son in her, in whom he had set up the first altar. Mary, the only one who could affirm with absolute confidence, ‘this is my body,’ from that first moment offered her own body, her strength, all her being, to form the Body of Christ.”

God’s choice

Let me conclude with these thoughts given to me years ago by an elderly Italian religious sister who made a retreat I preached in a small Umbrian town in Italy just prior to Christmas. The poem is entitled “Bellezza” meaning “Beauty,” and speaks about God’s choice of Mary for a special mission.

Don’t smile, brothers and sisters,
And don’t shrug your shoulders:
Our God is fascinating and what he does always surpasses the impossible.

God looked upon a woman and loved her,
And he who loves even before looking at the face
Seeks the beauty that lies in the heart.

God looked upon a woman who was from the race
Of the little ones without name,
Those that live far away from palaces.

Those who work in kitchens,
Those who come from the numbers of the humble and the forgotten,
Those that never open their mouths and who are accustomed to poverty.

God looked upon her and found her to be beautiful,
And this woman was joined to him as if she were his beloved —
For life and for death.

From now on all generations will call her blessed.
God looked upon a woman. Her name was Mary.

As a woman who gives herself, she believed,
And during the night, in a grotto, she cried out with pain,
And from her womb God himself was born,
Brining with him salvation and peace, like treasures for all eternity.

As a woman who surrenders herself and never regrets it,
She believed against all the obscurity that enveloped her,
Against all the doubts that filled her.

From now on her name will be sung, because God took her
And she gave herself to him, she, Mary, one of us.

And God crowned her with stars and robed her with the sun,
And under her feet God placed the moon.

Her name is Mary, and if you looked upon her Lord, it is because on Our earth filled with women and men, you found such beauty.

[The readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent are: Micah 5:1-4a; Hebrews 10:5-10; and Luke 1:39-45]

(Image: Visitazione by Domenico Ghirlandaio)

Shout for Joy, O Daughter Zion!

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Third Sunday of Advent, Year C – December 13, 2015

Advent, far from being a penitential time, is a time of rejoicing. Christians proclaim that the Messiah has indeed come and that God’s reign is at hand. During these days we are invited to quietly prepare our hearts and our lives for the coming of the Son of God in the flesh.

On this third Sunday of Advent — known as Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing — I would like to focus on two important themes found in today’s scripture readings: the biblical expression “Daughter of Zion” and what it means to “rejoice.”

The rich text of today’s first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah [3:14-18a-20] speaks of the Daughter of Zion, the personification of the city of Jerusalem. Let us reflect on the significance of this title of the holy city of Jerusalem and see how and why the Church appropriated the title for Mary, Mother of the Lord.

Daughter of Zion is the personification of the city of Jerusalem. Zion was the name of the Jebusite citadel that later became the City of David. In the many texts of the Old Testament that speak of the Daughter of Zion, there is no real distinction to be made between a daughter of Zion and the city of Jerusalem itself.

In the Old Testament, the title Virgin of Israel is the same as the Daughter of Zion. The image of the bride of the Lord is found in Hosea, Chapters 1-3: It reflects the infidelity of the people to their God.

Jeremiah 3:3-4 speaks of prostitution and the infidelity of the bride. Virginity in the Old Testament is fidelity to the Covenant. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul speaks of the Church as a pure virgin. Here, virginity is the purity of faith.

Throughout the Old Testament, it is in Zion-Jerusalem that God shall gather together all of his people. In Isaiah 35:10, the tribes of Israel shall gather in Zion. In Ezekiel 22:17-22, the prophet describes God’s purification of his people that shall take place “within” the walls of the city, in the midst of Jerusalem.

The Hebrew word used to describe this inner section of the city is “beqervah,” a word formed from the root “qerev” meaning something deep, intimate, situated deep within a person. It also means the maternal womb, the intestines, the breast, the insides of a person, the most secret area of one’s soul where wisdom, spirit, malice and the Law of the Lord dwell. Therefore, the city of Jerusalem has a definite maternal function in the history of salvation.

In the Christian Tradition

The Second Vatican Council formally called Mary “Daughter of Zion” in the dogmatic constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium” (No. 52). The Church’s appropriation of this title for the Mother of the Lord has a rich Scriptural foundation. Mary illustrates the prophecies of the Old Testament that ascribed value to the eschatological role of woman as mother both of the Messiah and of the new people of God.

The title Daughter of Zion evokes the great biblical symbolism of the Messianic Zion. Mary illustrates the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures which ascribed value to the eschatological role of woman as mother both of the Messiah and of the new people of God: the individual person and the whole people being very closely united, in line with the cultural structures of Israel.

For the prophets, the Daughter of Zion was the spouse of the Lord when she observed the covenant. Mary’s role as Daughter of Zion, or for that matter any of her roles in the life of God’s people, can never be understood independently of Christ and of the Spirit, which he bestows upon all humanity in dying on the cross.

“Lumen Gentium” says that all theology and Marian piety belong to the mystery of Christ and to the mystery of the Church.

Mary, Daughter of Zion, is the archetype of the Church as Bride, Virgin and Mother. It is not only biological virginity, but also spiritual virginity, which means fidelity to the Scriptures, openness toward others, and purity in faith.

Mary’s words to the servants at the wedding banquet in Cana (John 2:1-12) are an invitation to all peoples to become part of the new people of God. Mary is the new “Daughter of Zion” because she has invited the servants to perfectly obey Jesus the Lord. At Cana this new Daughter of Zion has given voice to all people.

Both at Cana and at Calvary (in John’s Gospel), Mary represents not only her maternity and physical relationship with her son, but also her highly symbolic role of Woman and Mother of God’s people. At Calvary, more than any other place in the fourth Gospel, Mary is “Mother Zion”: her spiritual maternity begins at the foot of the cross.

As “Mother Zion,” she not only welcomes and represents Israel, but the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant. At the foot of the cross, Mary is the mother of the new messianic people, of all of those who are one in Christ.

She who bore Jesus in her womb now takes her place in the assembly of God’s holy people. She is the new Jerusalem: In her own womb was the Temple, and all peoples shall be gathered back to the Temple, which is her Son. The Mother of Jesus is indeed the Mother of all of God’s scattered children. She is Mother of the Church. Mary is the first Daughter of Zion, leading all of God’s people on the journey toward the Kingdom.

I cannot help but recall the words of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City, in his profound, opening address to the Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” in October 2008: “A woman, Mary, perfectly accomplishes the divine vocation of humanity by her ‘yes’ to the Word of Covenant and her mission. Through her divine motherhood and her spiritual motherhood, Mary appears as the permanent model and form for the Church, like the first Church.”

Rejoice in the Lord

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always [Philippians 4:4-7; see also Philippians 2:18; 3:1;4.4). The rejoicing to which St. Paul invites us, and which forms the heart of the Advent season. But we must ask ourselves, what did persecuted Christians have to rejoice about?

The answer is their relationship with the Lord, which can even become stronger and more intimate in times of persecution. Their joy is not in their circumstance; indeed it is often in spite of their circumstance. Rather it is in the Lord.

Sheer joy arises out of a deep and abiding relationship with God that carries the believer through all sorts of trials and tribulations. Rejoicing in the Lord is a sort of adoration, and adoration often takes the form of prayer. Rejoicing constantly leads to praying and praising repeatedly. Since Paul refers to giving thanks after he mentions prayer, it is probable that the term “praying” refers to petitioning God in some form, perhaps interceding for self and others in some manner.

The opposite of rejoicing

The opposite of rejoicing and happiness is not sorrow, but deadness that often manifests itself through cynicism, meanness of spirit and smallness of mind and heart. Many of us know what that feels like: the deadness and dissatisfaction induced by a consumer culture that stimulates our senses and bombards us with largely meaningless choices, while leaving us starved for some deeper purpose.

Then there is jealousy, envy, and that gnawing feeling that we have accomplished so little because we have been so poorly motivated and made some bad choices. And when we realize that others have been able to do much because they have been rooted in God, we become jealous and envious. These are not new phenomena!

The desire to escape such deadness and dissatisfaction was one of the motives of the early desert fathers and mothers. They rejected a world whose agenda was defined by the pursuit of power, property, and pleasure. They went into the desert to tap into the source of life and joy, and discover their own true selves through constant prayer. Having found the emptiness of what their culture defined as happiness, they sought another way.

Let me conclude with the words of Pope Paul VI in his wonderful apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, “Gaudete in Domino:”

“[Mary] has grasped, better than all other creatures, that God accomplishes wonderful things: His name is holy, He shows His mercy, He raises up the humble, He is faithful to His promises. Not that the apparent course of her life in any way departs from the ordinary, but she meditates on the least signs of God, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:19; 51).

“Not that she is in any way spared sufferings: she stands, the mother of sorrows, at the foot of the cross, associated in an eminent way with the sacrifice of the innocent Servant. But she is also open in an unlimited degree to the joy of the resurrection; and she is also taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.

“The first of the redeemed, immaculate from the moment of her conception, the incomparable dwelling-place of the Spirit, the pure abode of the Redeemer of mankind, she is at the same time the beloved Daughter of God and, in Christ, the Mother of all. She is the perfect model of the Church both on earth and in glory.”

This Advent, may the example of John the Baptist give us the strength and courage necessary to transform our deserts into gardens, and our emptiness into rich Catholic meaning and experience. May the boldness of St. Paul and the example of Mary, Virgin Daughter of Zion, teach us how to rejoice in the Lord, whose coming is very near.

[The readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent are: Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Philippians 4:4-7; and Luke 3:10-18]

(Image: Annunciazione di Cestello by Sandro Botticelli)

Explaining Catholic Teaching on Mary

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Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., explains the Immaculate Conception and other Catholic teachings on Mary, the mother of God, and reflects on what an authentic revival of Marian piety and devotion might look like. This video is part of a new series of reflections on Scripture from America and the American Bible Society.

Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing! — A Reflection for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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On December 8, when the whole Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother, my mind goes back to my first visit to beautiful shrine of Lourdes tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains on the French-Spanish border. When I first visited Lourdes in 1978 as a university student at the end of a summer study program in Brittany, France, I volunteered my time as a “brancardier”, transporting many sick people from the “Accueils” to the grotto and the healing baths. I discovered then an extraordinary story that still remains hidden from many in the world today, especially in North America.

The Grotto of the Apparitions where Bernadette encountered the Mother of the Lord is truly holy ground. Each time I have returned to Lourdes, I appreciated more and more that holy ground. This little town is one of the most well known pilgrimage sites in the Catholic world. Though hidden in a corner of France, Lourdes has a universal vocation to all of humanity. It has lived this vocation since 1858 when Mary of Nazareth, herself a model of discretion and humility sought out another of her humble sisters in faith, Bernadette Soubirous.

Both Mary and Bernadette were sent by God, each in their own time and places, to bear a message of hope to waiting humanity. Even the initial skepticism of the local church authorities served as a time of purification of the great message of Lourdes that continues to resound throughout the world. Lourdes is a constant invitation to humanity that we are pilgrims on a journey of faith.

At Lourdes, Mary revealed herself to the peasant girl, Bernadette with the words: “Que soy era Immaculada Conceptiou,” spoken in the local dialect of the girl (neither French nor Spanish, but Provencal), that translates “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

The Immaculate Conception is a complex dogma that has interested theologians more than the ordinary faithful. Many people still wrongly assume that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Christ. In fact, it refers to the belief that Mary, by special divine favor, was without sin from the moment she was conceived. The main stumbling block for many Catholics is original sin. Today we are simply less and less aware of original sin. And without that awareness, the Immaculate Conception makes no sense. Through the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, God was present and moving in Mary’s life from the earliest moments. God’s grace is greater than sin; it overpowers sin and death.

When we honour the Mother of God under the title “Immaculate Conception”, we recognize in her a model of purity, innocence, trust, childlike curiosity, reverence, and respect, living peacefully alongside a mature awareness that life isn’t simple. It’s rare to find both reverence and sophistication, idealism and realism, purity, innocence and passion, inside the same person as we find in Mary. Something inside us yearns always for innocence, purity, freshness and trust. If we lose these we find ourselves cynical and disillusioned with an unhappiness that comes precisely from having been around, from having had our eyes opened, from having knowledge without innocence. We need to hold that innocence and experience in a proper tension. Mary, Mother of the Lord teaches us how to do just that. In Mary we have an image of humanity and divinity at home. God is indeed comfortable in our presence and we in God’s.

Tourists pass quickly through places, but the places pass slowly through pilgrims, leaving them forever changed. I am one of those grateful pilgrims to Lourdes whose life was changed, and continues to be changed when I visit that holy place. As we celebrate Mary under the title of “Immaculate Conception,” let us give thanks to God for the graces, blessings, messages and meaning of Lourdes. They continue to work many miracles throughout the world today.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Television Network

1. CNS Photo/courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston: “The Immaculate Conception” by Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez
2. CNS Photo / Crosiers: A mosaic of Mary in an outdoor chapel in Lourdes, France.

Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple at Jerusalem

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According to the tradition in the Eastern Church, when Mary was three years of age, Joachim and Anne took her to the Temple so that she might be consecrated to the service of the Lord. The legend says that they invited the young girls of the town to walk before her with lighted torches. As soon as they had reached the Temple, Mary, alone and unhesitatingly, went up the steps of the sanctuary where she was to remain, living in the contemplation of God and miraculously fed by the Archangel Gabriel, until the day she was espoused to Joseph, shortly before the Annunciation.

The theme of the feast is that Mary the Immaculate One, the Temple of the Living God, is offered to the Almighty in his holy house in Jerusalem. This day witnesses the bond between the Word and the Virgin predestined in eternity: this day is the fountainhead of all her privileges.

A more historical view is that the feast originates in Jerusalem in 543. In the Latin rite, it took many years for the feast to be widely accepted; it entered the Western calendar in 1585. Today, the feast celebrates the recognition of Mary as a temple in whom God dwells. In a very special way, the Blessed Virgin is herself a holy temple when she conceived the very Son of God in her immaculate womb, she became a true temple of the true God; when she cherished the word of God in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51), loved Christ so ardently, and faithfully kept his word, the Son and the Father came to her and made their home with her, in accordance with the promise of the Lord (see John 14:23).

Basilian logoNovember 21 is the date upon which we celebrate Pro Orantibus Day marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple. The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders. It’s a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work. Many contemplative communities throughout the world pray for Salt and Light Television.  For our part, we remember with gratitude these religious women of who as St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote choose to abide in the ‘heart’ of the Church.

Marian devotion has always been important for my own religious family, the Congregation of Priests of St. Basil (Basilian Fathers). Their support of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network has been constant over the past 12 years. In his History of the Basilian Fathers, Fr. Charles Roume, CSB, recalls that it was on November 21, 1822, Feast of the Presentation of Mary, that all the French confrères finally agreed to come together for their first ‘Chapter’.  They elected Fr. Joseph LaPierre as the first Superior General of the Basilian Community. For this reason, Basilians chose November 21 as our foundation day.

Here is a link to the documentary on our foundation in France after the French Revolution: http://saltandlighttv.org/whenithinkofannonay/

In remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presentation in the Temple at Jerusalem on this day, we honour one whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. May her example give all consecrated religious, and those with whom we live and work, the courage to seek wisdom, the strength to radiate light and warmth to the Church, and the ability to become dwelling places of God’s consoling and compassionate presence on earth.

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Let us pray:

Almighty and ever living God, today we honour the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose hidden life brings light and warmth to the Church in every place. Her presentation in the temple at Jerusalem reveals her as a temple where God truly lives among us. May Mary’s example give us the strength to radiate that light and warmth to the Church, and help us to be dwelling places of God’s joyful presence on earth. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation