Archive for December, 2005

St Stephen

December 26, 2005

Catholic Online

Feast day: December 26
Patron of Stonemasons

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Stephen’s name means “crown,” and he was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr’s crown. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.

God worked many miracles through St. Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen’s preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they got men to lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.

The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.

After such an expression of love, the holy martyr went to his heavenly reward. His feast day is December 26th.

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And it came to pass…

December 25, 2005

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Luke Chapter 2

2:1. And it came to pass that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.

2:2. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.

2:3. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.

2:4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David.

2:5. To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.

2:6. And it came to pass that when they were there, her days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

2:7. And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2005

Irish Heritage E-mail Group

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This next treat was sent out by George through his Irish Heritage E-Mail Group (link above). It’s a beautiful rendition of

‘Silent Night’ by Enya.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

The Meaning of Christmas: Look Deeper

December 25, 2005

Catholic Education

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“Cristmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it.

But there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.”

>>Read on

Happy Holidays from the Children’s Literature Web Guide

December 25, 2005

Christmas Stories

“What better way to celebrate the holidays than to gather the family around the computer and read a story? I’m only kidding. Really. However, there are a lot of Christmas stories available online. Here is a selection of what I have found.”

**That is the introduction to a wonderful website for the whole family with lots of Christmas cheer stories.

Mass Readings

December 25, 2005

EWTN

Sunday, December 25, 2005
The Nativity of the Lord – Christmas (Solemnity)

Dawn
First Reading: Isaiah 62:11-12
Psalm: Psalm 97:1, 6, 11-12
Second Reading: Titus 3:4-7
Gospel: Luke 2:15-20

During the Day
First Reading: Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm: Psalm 98:1-6
Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel: John 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14

A light shall shine upon us this day: for the Lord is born to us: and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come: of whose reign there shall be no end.Is. ix. 2, 6

NATIVITY SHOWS MARY’S CLOSENESS TO JESUS

December 18, 2005

EWTN

Pope John Paul II
General Audience, November 20, 1996

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1. In the story of Jesus’ birth, the Evangelist Luke recounts several facts that help us better understand the meaning of the event.

He first mentions the census ordered by Caesar Augustus, which obliges Joseph, “of the house and lineage of David”, and Mary his wife to go “to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Lk 2:4).

In informing us about the circumstances in which the journey and birth take place, the Evangelist presents us with a situation of hardship and poverty, which lets us glimpse some basic characteristics of the messianic kingdom: a kingdom without earthly honours or powers, which belongs to him who, in his public life, will say of himself: “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk 9:58).

2. Luke’s account contains a few seemingly unimportant notes, which are meant to arouse in the reader a better understanding of the mystery of the Nativity and the sentiments of her who gave birth to the Son of God.

The description of the birth, recounted in simple fashion, presents Mary as intensely participating in what was taking place in her: “She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…” (Lk 2:7). The Virgin’s action is the result of her complete willingness to co-operate in God’s plan, already expressed at the Annunciation in her “let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Mary shares in Son’s redeeming mission

Mary experiences childbirth in a condition of extreme poverty: she cannot give the Son of God even what mothers usually offer a newborn baby; instead, she has to lay him “in a manger”, an improvised cradle which contrasts with the dignity of the “Son of the Most High”.

3. The Gospel notes that “there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). This statement, recalling the text in John’s Prologue: “His own people received him not” (Jn 1:11), foretells as it were the many refusals Jesus will meet with during his earthly life. The phrase “for them” joins the Son and the Mother in this rejection, and shows how Mary is already associated with her Son’s destiny of suffering and shares in his redeeming mission.

Rejected by “his own”, Jesus is welcomed by the shepherds, rough men of ill repute, but chosen by God as the first to receive the good news of the Saviour’s birth. The message the Angel gives them is an invitation to rejoice: “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people” (Lk 2:10), along with a request to overcome all fear: “Be not afraid”.

Indeed, as it was for Mary at the time of the Annunciation, so too for them the news of Jesus’ birth represents the great sign of God’s goodwill towards men. In the divine Redeemer, contemplated in the poverty of a Bethlehem cave, we can see an invitation to approach with confidence the One who is the hope of humanity.

The angels’ song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”, which can also be translated as “men of goodwill” (Lk 2:14), reveals to the shepherds what Mary had expressed in her Magnificat: Jesus’ birth is the sign of God’s merciful love, which is especially shown towards the poor and humble.

4. The shepherds respond enthusiastically and promptly to the angel’s invitation: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2: 15).

They did not search in vain: “And they … found Mary and Joseph, and the babe” (Lk 2:16). To them, as the Council recalls, “the Mother of God joyfully showed her first-born Son” (Lumen gentium, n. 57). It was the defining moment of their lives.

Mary pondered these events in her heart

The shepherds’ spontaneous desire to make known what “had been told them concerning this child” (Lk 2:17), after the wondrous experience of meeting the Mother and her Son, suggests to evangelizers in every age the importance and, even more, the necessity of a deep spiritual relationship with Mary, in order to know Jesus better and to become the joyful proclaimers of his Gospel of salvation.

With regard to these extraordinary events, Luke tells us that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). While the shepherds passed from fear to wonder and praise, the Virgin, because of her faith, kept alive the memory of the events involving her Son, and deepened her understanding of them by reflecting on them in her heart, that is, in the inmost core of her person. In this way she suggests that another mother, the Church, should foster the gift and task of contemplation and theological reflection, in order better to accept the mystery of salvation, to understand it more thoroughly and to proclaim it with renewed effort to the people of every age.

Bethlehem and Divine Providence

December 18, 2005

The Real Presence

By Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

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All the mysteries of Christ’s life tell us something about reliance on the Providence of God in our lives. But the event of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem is especially revealing. We begin by asking ourselves, what are the lessons that the mystery of Bethlehem should teach us? Among others, Bethlehem teaches us: to believe in Divine Providence; to trust in the Lord’s providential wisdom; and with emphasis, to resign ourselves to God’s provident care.

Faith in Divine Providence

As we read St. Luke’s narrative of what Mary and Joseph were called upon to do, we marvel at their simple faith in the Providence of God. By all merely human standards, going to Bethlehem at that time was not the right thing to do – in fact, it was the wrong thing to do. Bethlehem was far from Nazareth. Joseph had work to do and Mary was expecting. Besides, here was a pagan emperor putting thousands of people to endless trouble. Why? To get a count of his empire. Why count the people? To satisfy his ego and make sure he collected all the taxes possible. Talk about the profane meeting the sacred.

Yet God had His purpose, using the emperor’s pride and avarice to accomplish His designs. Whatever else we are called upon to believe, it should be that God’s Providence includes people, good people and bad people. Why did God do it? To identify for all times that the Messiah came from the royal house of David and that His Son, who was King of Kings as God, was also a King as man; to verify the prophecies of the Old Law, notably that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem; and of course one of the divine purposes was to teach us.

Revelation tells us that the Providence of God is the eternal plan by which He governs the whole universe towards the fulfillment of His all wise designs. We are to believe that nothing ever just happens. Everything in the world at large and in our world has a purpose. There is no such thing as chance with God, there is no such things as mistakes with God. We make mistakes; we do wrong; we commit error and sin – never God! But God uses our mistakes and errors and even sins to effect His designs.

In His loving wisdom, God has a good reason for everything in our lives: the people we meet; or the people God makes sure we don’t meet, the ones we “just missed”. No we didn’t. God planned it that way. There is a reason for the temperaments and personalities we deal with, that we have been living with. There is a reason why we were born when we were, in this age, in a particular country and city, of just those parents. Our parents didn’t chance to meet; we didn’t happen to be born. All of that was planned by God.

We are further to believe that Divine Providence is the normal way that God shows us His Will. No book of Scripture is ever so specific; no writing by a master of the spiritual life is so detailed as the circumstances into which God’s Providence places us to manifest His will. God is behind every breath of wind. To believe this is to have the Faith.

Trust in God’s Providential Wisdom

Faith in Divine Providence is only the beginning. We are also to trust in the Lord’s providential wisdom, even as Mary and Joseph trusted in what they were called upon to do. The circumstances in which they found themselves were God’s way of telling them what to do. Joseph simply got up, left Nazareth, and went to Bethlehem to register. Mary did not, absolutely speaking, have to come along with Joseph. Since he was the legal head of the family, only his presence in Bethlehem was required. But it was the prudent thing for Mary to go along with Joseph, or accurately, to have Joseph be with her. She is not for nothing called Virgin Most Prudent. Here we have the key to trusting in the wisdom of Providence. It is the prudent thing to do. What is prudent? Prudence is doing what God’s providence shows us we should do. We have our plans, projects, and designs. But a large part of trusting in God’s Providence is to lay aside our plans in favor of what He wants us to do.

From all the evidence, when the angel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation, this was the last thing she expected. Leave it to God: His Providence will often mean the last thing we expect. When the angel appeared to Joseph again and told him to take Mary, already with child, as his wife, Matthew makes it very plain that Joseph already had other plans. When Mary’s days for her to be delivered were approaching, to leave home and go to a strange city was not in either Mary’s or Joseph’s designs. The secret of living a holy life like that of Mary and Joseph is to trust implicitly that God knows best. Thus our faith is twice tested: once by giving up on what we had decided and once again as we undertake what God tells us we should do, even though we are unprepared. “This is not my plan,” we tell the Lord. He tells us, “Yes, I know, but it’s mine.”

Resignation to God’s Providence

The last step at Bethlehem in imitation of the Holy Family is to resign ourselves to God’s providential care. His Providence not only places demands on our faith, to believe He has a purpose in everything in our lives even though we don’t see the purpose. Divine Providence also places a burden on our generosity. It can evoke some of the hardest sacrifices of our love.

We read in St. Luke’s Gospel that when Jesus was born, Mary wrapped Him in “swaddling clothes”. I have been using the Vulgate. Here the Latin is revealing. Mary is said to have wrapped Jesus in “pannis”, which means torn pieces of cloth, otherwise known as rags. We are further told that she laid Him “in a manger”. Manger is a poetic expression for “trough” from which animals are fed. We are finally told that Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room for them in the Inn. It does not really matter why there was no room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But this is the way that God provided for His Son’s visible entrance into the world. What a lesson, or rather, what a rebuke to us.

God expects a lot of those whom He loves. He requires sacrifices of those who are dearest to Him, and the heaviest sacrifices of those whom He loves the most. He demands a price of all whom He wants to use as He wanted to use these three persons – – Jesus, God in human flesh; Mary, His Mother; and Joseph, His foster father – to bring not just souls, but the whole human race to Himself. In the degree to which we resign ourselves to whatever this Providence expects of us, in that measure will God use us far beyond our natural capacity or wildest dreams. He will use us to cooperate with Him in the Redemption of the world.

Marian Ignatian Catechist Newsletter
Issue No. 2, A.M.D.G., December 1993

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2005

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And in that region
there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
– Luke 2:8

Mass Readings

December 18, 2005

EWTN

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Fourth Sunday of Advent

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Psalm: Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
Second Reading: Romans 16:25-27
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.~Catechesi tradendae 5