Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Vatican City, 19 December 2012 (VIS) - The faith of Mary in the light of the mystery of the Annunciation was the theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis during the last general audience of 2012, celebrated in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

during the Advent journey, the Virgin Mary has a special place as she who waited for the fulfilment of God’s promises in a unique way, welcoming Jesus, the Son of God, in faith and in the flesh, in full obedience to the Divine will. Today I would like to briefly reflect on Mary's faith beginning with the great mystery of the Annunciation.

"Chaîre kecharitomene, ho Kyrios meta sou", "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). These are the words - recounted by the Evangelist Luke - in which the archangel Gabriel greets Mary. At first glance the term Chaîre, "hail", looks like a normal greeting in the usual Greek, but this word, when read against the background of the biblical tradition, takes on a much deeper meaning. This same term is present four times in the Greek version of the Old Testament and always as a proclamation of joy at the coming of the Messiah (cf. Zeph 3:14; Joel 2:21; Zech 9:9; Lam 4:21). The angel's greeting to Mary is then an invitation to joy, a deep joy, announcing the end of the sadness that is in the world in front of the limits of life, suffering, death, wickedness, the darkness of evil which seems to obscure the light of the Divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News.

But why is Mary invited to rejoice in this way? The answer is in the second part of the greeting: "The Lord is with you." Here, too, in order to understand the meaning of the expression we must turn to the Old Testament. In the Book of Zephaniah we find this expression "Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, ... the King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst... The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty savoir" (3:14-17). In these words there is a double promise made to Israel, to the daughter of Zion, God will come as a saviour and will dwell in the midst of his people, in the womb of the daughter of Zion. In the dialogue between the angel and Mary this very promise is realized: Mary is identified with the people married to God, she really is the daughter of Zion in person; in her the waiting for the definitive coming of God is accomplished, the living God comes to dwell in her.

In the angel's greeting, Mary is called "full of grace": in Greek the word "grace," charis, has the same linguistic root of the word "joy." Even in this expression we further clarify the source of Mary’s rejoicing: the joy comes from the grace that comes from communion with God, by having so vital a connection with him, from being the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, totally shaped by God’s action. Mary is the creature of God who, in a unique way, that has opened the door to her Creator, has placed herself in His hands, without limits. She lives entirely in and of her relationship with the Lord; it is an attitude of listening, careful to recognize the signs of God in the journey of His people; she is inserted into a story of faith and hope in the promises of God, which constitutes the fabric of her existence. And freely submits herself to the received word, to the will of God in the obedience of faith. 

The Evangelist Luke tells the story of Mary through a subtle parallel with the story of Abraham. As the great patriarch was the father of believers, who responded to God's call to leave the land in which he lived, to leave his certainties, to begin the journey to an unknown land, and possessed only in the divine promise, so Mary fully entrusts herself to the word that announces God’s messenger and becomes a model and mother of all believers.

I would like to emphasize another important point: the opening of the soul to God and His action in faith also includes the element of darkness. The relationship between human beings and God does not erase the distance between the Creator and creature, does not eliminate what the Apostle Paul said in front of the depth of the wisdom of God, "How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" (Rom 11 , 33). But he who - like Mary - is completely open to God, comes to accept the will of God, even if it is mysterious, although it often does not correspond to his own will and can be a sword that pierces the soul, as Simeon prophetically tells Mary, when Jesus is presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:35). The journey of faith of Abraham includes the moment of joy for the gift of his son Isaac, but also a time of darkness, when he has to climb Mount Moriah to carry out a paradoxical gesture: God asks him to sacrifice his son, who has he only just gifted him. On the mountain, the angel tells him: " Do not lay your hand on the boy. Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one"(Gen 22:12); Abraham’s complete trust in God,faithful to his promise is not lacking even when his word is mysterious and difficult to understand. So it is with Mary, her faith lives the joy of the Annunciation, but also passes through the darkness of the Crucifixion of her Son, in order to reach the light of the Resurrection.

It's no different in our own journey of faith: we encounters moments of light, but also passages where God seems absent, His silence weighs on our hearts and His will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like to . But the more we open ourselves to God, the more we receive the gift of faith, the more we place all our trust in Him - like Abraham and like Mary - the more He empowers us with his presence, to live every situation of life in peace and assurance of His faithfulness and His love. But this means going outside of ourselves and beyond our own projects, so that the Word of God can be a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions.

I want to focus again on one aspect that emerges in the stories on the Infancy of Jesus narrated by St. Luke. Mary and Joseph bring their son to Jerusalem, to the Temple to present him to the Lord and consecrate him as required by the law of Moses, "Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord" (Lk 2:22-24). This gesture of the Holy Family of Nazareth takes on an even deeper significance when read in the light of the Gospel knowledge of the twelve year old Jesus who, after three days of searching, is found in the Temple questioning the teachers. Responding to Mary and Joseph’s words full of concern: "Son , why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety "is the mystery of Jesus' answer:" Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? "(Lk 2.48 to 49). Mary must renew the deep faith with which she said "yes" at the Annunciation; she must accept that the true Father of Jesus has precedence, she must learn to let go of the Son she gave birth to so he may follow his mission. And the "yes" of Mary to the will of God, the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life, until the most difficult moment, that of the Cross.

Faced with all this, we can ask ourselves: how could Mary live this journey next to her Son with so strong a faith, even in darkness, without losing full confidence in God? There is an underlying attitude that Mary assumes in the face of what is happening in her life. At the Annunciation she is disturbed at hearing the words of the angel – it is the fear that man feels when touched by the closeness of God - but it is not the attitude of those who are afraid in front of what God may ask. Mary reflects, ponders the meaning of this greeting (cf. Lk 1:29). The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this "reflection", "dielogizeto" refers to the root of the word "dialogue." This means that Mary comes into an intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but dwells on it, allows it to penetrate her, her mind and heart, to understand what the Lord wants from her, the meaning of the announcement. Another reference to the interior attitude of Mary before the action of God we find, again in the Gospel of St. Luke, at the time of the birth of Jesus, after the adoration of the shepherds. It is said that Mary "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:19), we could say that she "held them together", "placed" all the events that were happening in her heart; placed each element , every word, every fact together as a whole and pondered it, held it, recognizing that everything comes from the will of God. Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what is happening in her life, but knows how to look deeper, she allows herself to be challenged by events, she processes them, discerns them, and gains the understanding that only faith can provide. This is the profound humility of Mary’s obedient faith that welcomes even what it does not understand of God’s action, allowing God to open her mind and heart. "Blessed is she who believed in the word of the Lord" (Lk 1:45), says her relative Elizabeth. It is for her faith that all generations will call her blessed.

Dear friends, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord which we will soon celebrate, invites us to live this same humility and obedience of faith. The glory of God is manifested in the triumph and the power of a king, which does not shine in a famous city, in a sumptuous palace, but dwells in the womb of a virgin and is revealed in the poverty of a child. The omnipotence of God, even in our own lives, acts with the often silent strength of truth and love. Faith tells us, then, that the defenceless power of the Child, in the end, defeats the noise of the powers of the world.

As part of our catechesis for this Year of Faith, it is fitting, during these last days of Advent, to consider the faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with an invitation to rejoice because the Lord is with her. This joy is that of the messianic hope of God’s people, the daughter of Zion, now being fulfilled in her. It is also the fruit of the grace which fills Mary’s heart and shapes her obedience to God’s word. Mary’s faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord’s promises with a certain “unknowing”. In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God’s will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the Angel’s message. Her example reminds us that faith, while fully obedient to the Lord’s will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. In this holy season, may Our Lady’s prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God’s grace in our hearts and in our world. 
Vatican City, 19 December 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Fr. Peter Loy Chong of the clergy of Suva as archbishop of Suva (area 18,333, population 1,297,683, Catholics 101,050, priests 81, religious 162), Fiji. The archbishop-elect was born in Natovi, Fiji in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1992. He has fulfilled pastoral roles in the parishes of Lautoka, Vatukoula and Soleva, and received his doctorate in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology of the Santa Clara University in California, United States of America. He succeeds Archbishop Petero Mataca, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the Chaldean Church presented by His Beatitude Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq, and convoked the Synod of Bishops of the same Church in Rome on 28 January 2013 to elect a successor. The Synod will be presided by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The Holy Father appointed Archbishop Jacques Ishaq as administrator of the Chaldean Church pending the election of the patriarch.


by Joseph Yun Li-sun
In an election that saw one of the highest turnouts, projections indicate that the Saenuri (conservative) party candidate won 52.8 per cent of the vote. Daughter of a former dictator, she apologised for her father's methods but not for his achievements. Source tells AsiaNews that she must "choose between Beijing and Washington."

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Conservative Park Geun-hye is the new president of South Korea. First woman to occupy this post, she is the daughter of the late Park Chung-hee, who ruled the country as a dictator. The announcement came after a day of heavy voting. With 52.8 per cent of the projected vote against 46.6 per cent for adversary, Democratic United Party Moon Jae-in, Ms Park is expected to speak to the nation in downtown Seoul. Official results should be released shortly by the National Election Commission.
Even though the president-elect said she would abolish upper class privileges to rebalance South Korean society, she was heavily favoured by big business. Her campaign team is also largely made up of people from the business community. In September, although she apologised for her father's dictatorship, she never condemned his actions.
The campaign went down to the wire. Despite his smaller war chest, Moon was able to cut an 8 per cent gap in early December. Exit polls today saw him trailing his opponent by 0.5 to 1 per cent.
Although not centred on North Korea, the presidential campaign included security. Economically, diplomatic and military, South Korea still relies on its special relationship with the United States ever since the Korean War ended in 1953. Some 50,000 US troops are still stationed in South Korea and both nations signed a free trade agreement that still is not well liked by South Koreans.
The new president "must now decide what to do with the issue from her first day in office," a source in the Interior Ministry told AsiaNews. "She has to choose whether to stay with the United States or open up to China and Japan, looking at Beijing's free trade ambitions in East Asia. Whatever decision she makes, it will have major consequences, and there is no more time for ambiguities."
"The president-elect will have to reassure people," the source added. "She will have to earn their trust, especially in terms of the people she appoints. Previous leaders appointed unknown people to key posts only on a partisan basis. This practice must end."
In any case, these elections are a milestone in the history of South Korean democracy. This year's poll saw the highest turnout since the first free elections were held after the end of the dictatorship.
According to government figures, 75.8 per cent of eligible voters cast their vote, 13 per cent more than in 2007 and 5 per cent more than in 2002.
A high number of young people also voted.


Agenzia Fides REPORT - A Brazilian priest Fr. Eduardo Teixeira (35) was murdered on the evening of Sunday, December 16, in the village Novo Hamburgo (state of Rio Grande do Sul), during a robbery. According to a note sent to Fides Agency by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Fr. Teixeira was with Fr. Rafael Barbieri when they were at a traffic light in the neighborhood Jardim Mauá and were approached by two robbers.
According to the testimony of the priest who survived, the two priests were forced to follow the criminals in a park, and after giving them the wallet, Fr. Eduardo was hit by at least two shots of gunfire while attempting to return to the car.
Fr. Teixeira, was a pastor of Santa Terezinha, de Campo Bom, and this month he would have celebrated three years of priesthood. The funeral was held yesterday, on December 18, in the church of Campo Bom in the presence of many faithful. The priest’s body was buried in the Catholic Cemetery de Campo Bom.
He was born on June 19, 1977, in Campo Bom, Fr.Teixeira was ordained a priest on 18 December 2009.
In 1992 he entered the Minor Seminary of Mary Help, in Dois Irmãos. After studying philosophy and theology at the Major Seminary São Luiz Gonzaga, in Viamão, from 2003 to 2008, he worked as a teacher in the Institute Estatale "Professora Nena" until he was ordained a priest. He was recently appointed pastor of the Parish São Jorge, in the Campina (SL) district, a position he would have started in January 2013. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 19/12/2012)



Preparing our hearts for the Christmas Lord

Go to Bishop Anthony's December 2012/January 2013 Letter at the Catholic Outlook site
"Christ is coming, the lone voice of God in our world."
Listen Now

Fifty years ago, at the end of that momentous day when the Second Vatican Council commenced, Blessed John XXIII looked out from his window to see a huge crowd of waiting, hoping, needing humanity in St Peter’s Square below.
At that moment he inaugurated a less formal way of speaking than was customary for popes till then but has become commonplace since. He came to the window and spoke impromptu from his heart. The speech became known as the Discorso della Luna – the Moonlight Speech or the Sermon on the Moon.
A ‘lone voice’ in the darkness somehow spoke for the whole world. Even the moon, the Pope said, seemed to draw close to witness the spectacle of the 21st ecumenical council. A half-century later Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke from that same window before a torch-lit square and inaugurated a Year of Faith.
Right now our Church in Australia needs kindly light to lead her amidst the encircling gloom. She needs to be renewed in faith in that even more important jubilee, that in which we join the moon and stars drawing close to the spectacle of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
We also begin our new year a little earlier than others with Advent, the season of expectancy. Christ is coming, the lone voice of God in our world, and He will speak first in a baby’s cry and last in the cry of desolation from the cross, first in human language and later in signs and wonders. We look forward to that coming, at Christmas, at the end of time, at the end of our own lives.
Advent has its own ‘lone voice’, one ‘crying in the wilderness’. John the Baptist cried ‘Repent, get ready, Christ is coming.’ He pointed away from himself to the One-who-is-to-come, like Good Pope John who said from the window sill:
“My own person counts for nothing: it’s a brother who speaks to you, become a father by our Lord’s will. Altogether, fatherhood and brotherhood and God’s grace … express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love; love of God, love of neighbour, all aided by the Lord’s holy peace … So let’s continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whomever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
Such faith, hope and love despite the difficulties means Advent waiting is never mere passivity or sleepiness, like watching grass grow. No, the Baptist’s kind of waiting actually helps God’s kingdom come, by preparing the way, preparing hearts for the Christmas Lord, preparing ears to hear His voice.
Just as John XXIII looked out upon humanity at the inauguration of the Council, so too did God look out ‘from heaven’ upon all creation in its need and gave His answer, His last word, that New Testament of love that is Christ’s presence in the world.
That presence today is found in His people, His priests, His Scriptures, above all in His Blessed Sacrament that our golden Council called ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’.
What better way in this new Year of Faith to prepare for Christ’s advent than by going regularly to Mass. If we don’t go every Sunday, as we should, let’s resolve to try harder to at least give Him that hour each week. If we already do go on Sundays, how about going sometimes during the week as well?
Let’s also let go of the selfishness, laziness, grudges, whatever it is that is holding us back from throwing ourselves headlong into the life of God’s kingdom.
Our Year of Grace calls forth in us a receptivity to all God’s gifts; our Year of Faith calls forth a response that seeks to deepen and live our holy faith. Let this be our New Year of Faith resolution!
To you and all your loved ones every blessing in the Holy Season of Christmas ahead and in the New Year of grace and faith 2013. May Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation, light up any darkness in our hearts and homes and world.

Grace at Christmas dinner

Don’t forget to say grace before your Christmas dinner. Here’s one you might use:
God of Christmas and of every day, giver of all good gifts, we thank you for the many ways you have blessed us. We are grateful for each person gathered around this table. Bless us, our food and our company today. Bless those we love who are not with us.
With gratitude and love, we remember your humble birth into our lives and so pray for those without food or family or friendship at this time. We remember the stable in which you were born and so pray for those with no place to live.
We join your angels in giving glory to God in the highest and in praying for peace and goodwill on earth. Help us to see what really matters and to respond with faith, hope and love.
Make of our hearts a crib in which to place the Christ child. Keep us safe and close to you in the year ahead. For you are our Christmas Lord, now and forever.




The following article was written by journalist Ellen Teague for Justice magazine,  shortly before the latest mass shooting of school children and their teachers - at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday.
Many in the cinema audience thought the gun blasts were fireworks in a stunt designed to put an additional thrill into the movie experience. It was a midnight screening on 21 July 2012 of the new Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' in the Denver suburb of Aurora. But as people were hit by bullets and screaming in terror it was quickly clear that the man in a gas mask and body armour throwing tear gas canisters and firing on the crowd was no actor. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history, 24-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others. 

The location was only 20 miles away from the Columbine High School where two students killed 12 classmates and one teacher and wounded another 21 students before committing suicide on 20 April 1999. Incidences of appalling gun violence have hit the news in the US with regularity ever since, and yet, Holmes had legally bought his weapons, and the thousands of rounds of ammunition stockpiled in his apartment.
Love of guns
America's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world's 23 "rich" countries, the US gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately-owned firearm per person, the US's ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of the US.
Four years ago, US President Barack Obama pledged to address gun control. His statement on urban policy included a commitment to permanently renew an expired ban on new assault weapons, curbs to limit the unregulated trade in weapons at gun shows, and greater powers for law enforcement agencies to trace guns. That statement has since disappeared from the president's website as politicians generally steer clear of the issue of gun control. It is regarded as toxic, in the face of an unrelenting campaign by the powerful pro-gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), to scrap or ease existing laws regulating guns. The NRA has 4.3 million members and is one of the most effective advocacy groups in Washington.

The most significant piece of gun control legislation of recent years was the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. It barred the manufacture and import of an array of semi-automatic weapons for use by civilians, including the AR-15 used by Holmes. The production of some other types of rapid-fire weapons for the civilian market, including some pistols and shotguns, was also stopped. Magazines were limited to a maximum of 10 bullets. However, the Law had a built-in time limit of 10 years. In March 2004, the US Senate blocked its extension and repeated efforts since then to renew it have failed.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill of Rights includes a guarantee of the personal right to own a gun. The decision was both a measure of how far the pro-gun debate had moved, and a blow to many of the stricter gun control laws adopted by cities like Washington and Chicago. In January 2011, a gunman in Tucson, Arizona shot and killed six people and wounded 14 others, including former politician Gabrielle Giffords. In the wake of this incident, gun control advocates said they believed the shock of the attack would alter the political atmosphere, in no small part because one of the victims was a member of Congress. But the bills that were introduced, including ones to restrict sales of 100-bullet magazines or to tighten background checks, went nowhere.
Today, there are no federal restrictions on how much ammunition an individual can buy. In many states, bullets are sold on supermarket shelves alongside everyday household goods. Bullets and shotgun shells can also be bought in bulk online. It was from websites that Holmes ordered thousands of rounds for his assault rifle and hundreds of shells for the shotgun. The sellers were not legally obliged to report these large purchases of ammunition to the authorities.
Election issue

A string of shootings over summer 2012 brought the contentious issue of gun control to the fore in an election year. The Aurora shootings were followed by a gunman killing of six worshippers in a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin. In August, an ex-Marine shot and killed two of his co-workers in a New Jersey supermarket before taking his own life. He was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and an automatic pistol. Yet, amidst calls for tighter regulation of weapons, US newspapers and websites were flooded with comments such as, "Guns don't kill people, people do. Just like a fork doesn't make you fat. Many are killed in car accidents. Should we ban cars?"

Some take the view that the case of Holmes has nothing to do with the availability of guns. They feel the issue is more one of how the US deals with individuals suffering psychiatric problems. Such people can harm others without using guns. Criticism has been thrown at the fragmented state of psychiatry in the US and an unwillingness to educate the public how to recognise symptoms of mental illness and what to do when those symptoms are identified. The fact that the killers at Columbine and Aurora were either students or recently students suggests there should be more screening and support for young people who are vulnerable mentally on campus.
While Democrats generally favour gun control laws, Republicans swear by the second amendment which gives citizens the right to bear arms. Now, in election season, both parties have generally shied away from a debate on the issue. However, Obama, called for a "common sense" approach to assault rifle sales after the Colorado shooting saying "a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals”. Fearing that Obama will use a second term to unleash a rash of gun control laws, the NRA rallied its members and political officials at the Republican National Convention in August. "We see him as the most anti-gun president in modern times," said NRA President David Keene.

Guns in churches

In July, after the Aurora killings, the President of the National Council of Churches US called for more gun control. Kathryn Lohre cited her organisation’s efforts to advocate for new regulations on assault weapons and handguns. She called upon elected officials at every level of government to “seek policies that will foster greater peace in our communities and throughout this country”. Earlier that month, the Episcopal Church renewed its opposition to gun violence at its annual convention by approving a Resolution which “requests every parish and every diocesan place of work to declare their establishments ‘Gun Free Zones’”. The resolution’s explanation noted that some states allow people to bring weapons into churches under varying conditions, while others have outlawed the practice. “Laws vary from state to state, but posting Gun Free Zone information prominently is one way for parishes and dioceses to exercise private property rights on behalf of community safety,” said a statement.
An August poll analysing views about gun control in the context of people's faith groups found that a majority of Americans believe gun rights are as important as other constitutional rights, but they draw the line at guns being permitted in places of worship. The survey by Public Religion Research Institute found that three quarters of respondents said there should be a prohibition against carrying guns into churches, government buildings or college campuses. Fifty-two percent overall favoured stricter gun control laws; sixty-two percent of Catholics. In various breakdowns by religion, Catholics were less likely than other groups to have guns in their homes or to support allowing concealed guns in churches. They were more likely than mainline Protestants, evangelicals or people unaffiliated with churches to support stronger enforcement of existing gun control laws, the study said. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said stricter gun control is the most important way to prevent mass shootings. Twenty-two percent said better mental health screening and support are also necessary. Nineteen percent said placing more emphasis on God and morality is the key.
Security of Guns
Despite the horror of gun crime in the US, evidence shows that gun sales have always risen after significant shooting incidents in recent years. The number of people seeking to buy guns in Colorado soared immediately after the Aurora shootings. In the three days after the shooting, applications for the background checks needed to buy a gun legally were up 43% on the previous week. The pattern was the same other states. Florida, for example, recorded a 14% rise from the previous week. At one Aurora gun shop, around 20 people were waiting outside when staff arrived at work on the day after the shooting. "People are saying, 'I didn't think I needed a gun, but now I do'," said the shop owner. “When it happens in your backyard, people start reassessing”, the man continued; “they say, 'Hey, I go to the movies'”.

Japan’s gun control

Japan is perhaps the world's strictest controller of firearms. In 2008, while the US had over 12,000 firearm-related killings, Japan experienced only 11. That year, 587 Americans were killed just by guns discharging accidentally. Almost no one in Japan owns a gun of any kind and handguns and completely banned. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Small-calibre rifles have been illegal to buy, sell, or transfer since 1971. Anyone who owned a rifle before then is allowed to keep it, but their heirs are required to turn it over to the police once the owner dies. Whereas US law is designed to enshrine access to guns, Japan starts with the premise of forbidding it.



Opening Prayer:
V. O God, come to my assistance.
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to
the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now
and ever shall be, world without
Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Day 3 Prayers

The Expectation of Birth.
O most sweet infant Jesus, who waited for nine months
enclosed in the womb, and inflamed the heart of the
Virgin Mary and St. Joseph with the most powerful love
and expectation, all for the salvation of the world. 
Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, 0 Lord. Have mercy on us.
Hail Mary...
NOVENA PREPARATORY TO CHRISTMAS In order to the devout preparation of ourselves for the glorious Birthday of our most loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, which the holy Church recalls to our memory every year on the 25th of December, and at the same time to render Him thanks for this great benefit, Pope Pius VII., by a Rescript of the Segretaria of the Memorials, dated August 12th, 1815 (which said Rescript is preserved in the Segretaria of the Vicariate), granted to all faithful Christians who, being contrite in heart, should prepare themselves for that great solemnity by a novena, consisting of pious exercises, prayers, acts of virtue, &c. -
i. An indulgence of 300 days each day of the said novena, and -
ii. A plenary indulgence to be gained on Christmas day, or on some day in its octave, by those who, after Confession and Communion, shall have made the said novena every day, and who shall pray according to the intentions of the Sovereigns Pontiff: and note that the Confession and Communion may be made on  any one of the days of the said novena, provided the novena is correctly kept. This was declared by Pope Pius VIII., of holy memory, by means of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, July 9, 1830. These indulgences were extended by the above-named Pius VII. to one other time in the year, besides the the specified, when any one should make the aforesaid novena in honour of the Child Jesus.


Luke 1: 5 - 25

5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari'ah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.8Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,9according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.10And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.11And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.12And Zechari'ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.13But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechari'ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth;15for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.16And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God,17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."18And Zechari'ah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."19And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.20And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."21And the people were waiting for Zechari'ah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple.22And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb.23And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.24After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying,25"Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."


Bl. Urban V
Feast: December 19

Feast Day:December 19
Born:1310 Grizac, Languedoc, France
Died:December 19, 1370 Avignon, France
Guillaume de Grimoard, born at Grisac in Languedoc, 1310; died at Avignon, 19 December, 1370. Born of a knightly family, he was educated at Montpellier and Toulouse, and became a Benedictine monk at the little priory of Chirac near his home. A Bull of 1363 informs us that he was professed at the great Abbey of St. Victor at Marseilles, where he imbibed his characteristic love for the Order of St. Benedict; even as pope he wore its habit. He was ordained at Chirac, and after a further course of theology and canon law at the universities of Toulouse, Montpellier, Paris, and Avignon, he received the doctorate in 1342. He was one of the greatest canonists of his day; was professor of canon law at Montpellier, and also taught at Toulouse, Paris, and Avignon; he acted successively as vicar-general of the Dioceses of Clermont and Uzès, was at an unknown date (before 1342) affiliated to Cluny, became prior of Notre-Dame du Pré (a priory dependent on St. Germain d'Auxerre), and in 1352 was named abbot of that famous house by Clement VI. With this date begins his diplomatic career. His first mission was to Giovanni Visconti, Archbishop and despot of Milan, and this he carried out successfully; in 1354 and 1360 he was employed on the affairs of the Holy See in Italy; in 1361 he was appointed by Innocent VI to the Abbacy of St. Victor at Marseilles, but in 1362 was once more dispatched to Italy, this time on an embassy to Joanna of Naples. It was while engaged on this business that the abbot heard of his election to the papacy. Innocent VI had died on 12 Sept. The choice of one who was not a cardinal was due to jealousies within the Sacred College, which made the election of any one of its members almost impossible. Guillaume de Grimoard was chosen for his virtue and learning, and for his skill in practical affairs of government and diplomacy. He arrived at Marseilles on 28 Oct., entered Avignon three days later, and was consecrated on 6 November, taking the name of Urban because, as he said, "all the popes who had borne the name had been saints". The general satisfaction which this election aroused was voiced by Petrarch, who wrote to the pope, "It is God alone who has chosen you".
On 20 November King John of France visited Avignon; his main purpose was to obtain the hand of Joanna of Naples, ward of the Holy See, for his son Philip, Duke of Touraine. In a letter of 7 November Urban had already approved her project of marriage with King James of Majorca, a king without a kingdom; by so doing the pope safeguarded his own independence at Avignon, which would have been gravely imperilled had the marriage of Joanna, who was also Countess of Provence, united to the Crown of France the country surrounding the little papal principality. The letter written by Urban to Joanna on 29 Nov., urging the marriage with Philip, was probably meant rather to appease the French king than to persuade the recipient. The betrothal of the Queen of Naples to James of Majorca was signed on 14 Dec. The enormous ransom of 3,000,000 gold crowns, due to Edward III of England from John of France by the treaty of Bretigny, was still in great part unpaid, and John now sought permission to levy a tithe on the revenues of the French clergy. Urban refused this request as well as another for the nomination of four cardinals chosen by the king. John also desired to intervene between the pope and Barnabò Visconti, tyrant of Milan. He was again refused, and when Barnabò failed to appear within the three months allowed by his citation, the pope excommunicated him (3 March, 1363). In April of the same year Visconti was defeated before Bologna. Peace was concluded in March, 1364; Barnabò restored the castles seized by him, while Urban withdrew the excommunication and undertook to pay half a million gold florins.
The Benedictine pope was a lover of peace, and much of his diplomacy was directed to the pacification of Italy and France. Both countries were overrun by mercenary bands known as the "Free Companies", and the pope made many efforts to secure their dispersal or departure. His excommunication was disregarded and the companies refused to join the distant King of Hungary in his battles with the Turks although the Emperor Charles IV, who came to Avignon in May, 1365, guaranteed the expenses of their journey and offered them the revenues of his kingdom of Bohemia for three years. War now broke out between Pedro the Cruel of Navarre and his brother Henry of Trastamare. Pedro was excommunicated for his cruelties and persecutions of the clergy, and Bertrand Duguesclin, the victor of Cocherel, led the companies into Navarre; yet they visited Avignon on their way and wrung blackmail from the pope. The Spanish war was quickly ended, and Urban returned to his fomer plan of employing the companies against the Turk. The Count of Savoy was to have led them to the assistance of the King of Cyprus and the Eastern Empire, but this scheme too was a failure. Urban's efforts were equally fruitless in Italy, where the whole land was overrun with bands led by such famous condottieri as the German Count of Landau and the Englishman Sir John Hawkwood. In 1365, after the failure of a scheme to unite Florence, Pisa, and the Italian communes against them, the pope commissioned Albornoz to persuade these companies to join the King of Hungary. In 1366 he solemnly excommunicated them, forbade their employment, and called on the emperor and all the powers of Christendom to unite for their extirpation. All was in vain, for though a league of Italian cities was formed in September of that year, it was disolved about fifteen months later owing to Florentine jealousy of the emperor.
Rome had suffered terribly through the absence of her pontiffs, and it became apparent to Urban that if he remained at Avignon the work of the warlike Cardinal Albornoz in restoring to the papacy the States of the Church would be undone. On 14 September, 1366, he informed the emperor of his determination to return to Rome. All men rejoiced at the announcement except the French; the king understood that the departure from Avignon would mean a diminution of French influence at the Curia. The French cardinals were in despair at the prospect of leaving France, and even threatened to desert the pope. On 30 April, 1367, Urban left Avignon; on 19 May he sailed from Marseilles, and after a long coasting voyage he reached Corneto, where he was met by Albornoz. On 4 June the Romans brought the keys of Sant' Angelo in sign of welcome, and the Gesuati carrying their branches in their hands and headed by their founder, Blessed John Colombini, preceded the pope. Five days later he entered Viterbo, where he dwelt in the citadel. The disturbed state of Italy made it impossible for Urban to set out to Rome until he had gathered a considerable army, so it was not till 16 Oct. that he entered the city at the head of an imposing cavalcade, under the escort of the Count of Savoy, the Marquess of Ferrara, and other princes.
The return of the pope to Rome appeared to the contemporary world both as a great event and as a religious action. The pope now set to work to improve the material and moral condition of his capital. The basilicas and papal palaces were restored and decorated, and the Papal treasure, which had been preserved at Assisi since the days of Boniface VIII, was distributed to the city churches. The unemployed were put to work in the neglected gardens of the Vatican, and corn was distributed in seasons of scarcity; at the same time the discipline of the clergy was restored, and the frequentation of the sacraments encouraged. One of Urban's first acts was to change the Roman constitution, but it may be questioned whether "the sacrifice offered to the Pontiff as the reward of his return was the liberty of the people" (Gregorovius).
On 17 October, 1368, the emperor joined the pope at Viterbo. Before leaving Germany he had confirmed all the rights of the Church, and Urban hoped for his help against the Visconti, but Charles allowed himself to be bribed. On 21 Oct. the pope and emperor entered Rome together, the latter humbly leading the pontiff's mule. On 1 Nov. Charles acted as deacon at the Mass at which Urban crowned the empress. For more than a century pope and emperor had not appeared thus in amity. A year later the Emperor of the East, John V Palaeologus, came to Rome seeking assistance against the infidel; he abjured the schism and was received by Urban on the steps of St. Peter's. These emperors both of West and East were but shadows of their great predecessors, and their visits, triumphs as they might appear, were but little gain to Urban V. He felt that his position in Italy was insecure. The death of Albornoz (24 Aug., 1367), who had made his return to Italy possible, had been a great loss. The restlessness of the towns was exemplified by the revolt of Perugia, which had to be crushed by force; any chance storm might undo the work of the great legate. At heart, too, the pope had all a Frenchman's love for his country, and his French entourage urged his return to Avignon. In vain were the remonstrances of the envoys of Rome, which had gained "greater quiet and order, an influx of wealth, a revival of importance" from his sojourn; in vain were the admonitions of St. Bridget, who came from Rome to Montefiascone to warn him that if he returned to Avignon he would shortly die. War had broken out again between France and England, and the desire to bring about peace strengthened the pope's determination. On 5 Sept., 1370, "sad, suffering and deeply moved", Urban embarked at Corneto. In a Bull of 26 June he had told the Romans that his departure was motived by his desire to be useful to the Universal Church and to the country to which he was going. It may be, too, that the pope saw that the next conclave would be free at Avignon but not in Italy. Charles V joyfully sent a fleet of richly adorned galleys to Corneto; the pope did not long survive his return (24 Sept.) to Avignon. His body was buried in Notre-Dame des Doms at Avignon but was removed two years later, in accordance with his own wish, to the Abbey Church of St. Victor at Marseilles. Miracles multiplied around his tomb. His canonization was demanded by King Waldemar of Denmark and promised by Gregory XI as early as 1375, but did not take place owing to the disorders of the time. His cultus was approved by Pius IX in 1870.
Urban V was a man whose motives cannot be called in question: his policy aimed at Eurpoean peace; shortly before his death he had given orders that preparations should be made to enable him personally to visit and reconcile Edward III and Charles V. He had shown great zeal for the Crusade. On 29 March, 1363, Pierre de Lusignan, King of Cyprus and titular King of Jerusalem, appeared at Avignon to appeal for assistance against the Turks, and on 31 March (Good Friday) Urban preached the Crusade and gave the cross to the Kings of France, Denmark, and Cyprus; the chivalrous King John, who was to have been chief commander, died a quasi-prisoner at London in 1364, and though the King of Cyprus captured Alexandria (11 Oct., 1365), he was unable to hold the city. The crusading spirit was dead in Europe. In an age of corruption and simony Urban stood for purity and disinterestedness in church life: he did much for ecclesiastical discipline and caused many provincial councils to be held; he refused to bestow place or money on his relatives, and even caused his own father to refund a pension bestowed on him by the French king. His brother, whom he prompted to the cardinalate, was acknowledged by all to be a man most worthy of the dignity. The pope's private life was that of a monk, and he was always accessible to those who sought his aid.
But Urban was a patriotic Frenchman, a defect in the universal father of Christendom. He estranged the English king by the help given to his rival, and aroused hostility in Italy by the favour shown to men of his own race whom he made his representatives in the States of the Church. He was a great patron of learning, founded universities at Cracow (by a Bull of 1364) and at Vienna (by a Bull of 1365), and caused the emperor to create the University of Orange; he revised the statutes of the University of Orléans; and gave great assistance to the universities of Avignon and Toulouse. At Bologna he supported the great college founded by Albornoz and paid the expenses of many poor students whom he sent thither. He also founded a studium at Trets (later removed to Manosque), but his greatest foundations were at Montpellier. His buildings and restorations were considerable, especially at Avignon, Rome, and Montpellier. He approved the orders of Brigittines and Gesuati, and canonized his godfather, St. Elzéar of Sabran.