Thursday, December 27, 2012


Holy Innocents
Feast: December 28

Feast Day:December 28
Our Divine Redeemer was persecuted by the world as soon as he made his appearance in it. For he was no sooner born than it declared war against him. Herod, in persecuting Christ, was an emblem of Satan and of the world. That ambitious and jealous prince had already sacrificed to his fears and suspicions the most illustrious part of his council, his virtuous wife Mariamne, with her mother Alexandra, the two sons he had by her, and the heirs to his crown, and all his best friends. Hearing from the magians who were come from distant countries to find and adore Christ that the Messias, or spiritual king of the Jews, foretold by the prophets, was born among them, he trembled lest he was come to take his temporal kingdom from him. So far are the thoughts of carnal and worldly men from the ways of God, and so strangely do violent passions blind and alarm them. The tyrant was disturbed beyond measure and resolved to take away the life of this child, as if he could have defeated the decrees of heaven. He had recourse to his usual arts of policy and dissimulation, and hoped to receive intelligence of the child by feigning a desire himself to adore him. But God laughed at the folly of his short-sighted prudence, and admonished the magians not to return to him. St. Joseph was likewise ordered by an angel to take the child and his mother, and to fly into Egypt. Is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord of the universe, to be banished as soon as born I What did not he suffer I What did not his pious parents suffer on his account in so tedious and long a journey, and during a long abode in Egypt, where they were entirely strangers and destitute of all succour under the hardships of extreme poverty I It is an ancient tradition of the Greeks, mentioned by Sozomen, St. Athanasius, and others, that at his entrance into Egypt all the idols of that kingdom fell to the ground, which literally verified the prediction of the prophet Isaiah. Mary and Joseph were not informed by the angel how long their exile would be continued; by which we are taught to leave all to divine providence, acquiescing with confidence and simplicity in the adorable and ever holy will of Him who disposes all things in infinite goodness, sanctity; and wisdom.

Herod, finding that he had been deluded by the magians, was transported with rage and anxious fears. To execute his scheme of killing the Messias, the desired of all nations and the expectation of Israel, he formed the bloody resolution of murdering all the male children in Bethlehem and the neighbouring territory which were not above two years of age. Soldiers were forthwith sent to execute these cruel orders, who, on a sudden, surrounded the town of Bethlehem and massacred all the male children in that and the adjacent towns and villages which had been born in the last two years. This more than brutish barbarity, which would almost have surpassed belief had not Herod been the contriver and ambition the incentive, was accompanied with such shrieks of mothers and children that St. Matthew applies to it a prophecy of Jeremiah, which may be understood in part to relate more immediately to the Babylonish captivity, but which certainly received the most eminent completion at this time: "A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." Rama is a village not far from this town, and the sepulchre of Rachel was in a field belonging to it. The slaughter also was probably extended into the neighbouring tribe of Benjamin, which descended from Rachel. The Ethiopians in their liturgy, and the Greeks in their calendar, count fourteen thousand children massacred on this occasion; but that number exceeds all bounds, nor is it confirmed by any authority of weight. Innocent victims became the spotless Lamb of God. And how great a happiness was such a death to these glorious martyrs! They deserved to die for Christ, though they were not yet able to know or invoke his name. They were the flowers and the first fruits of his martyrs, and triumphed over the world without having ever known it or experienced its dangers. They just received the benefit of life to make a sacrifice of it to God and to purchase by it eternal life. How few perhaps of these children, if they had lived, would have escaped the dangers of the world which, by its maxims and example, bear everything down before it like an impetuous torrent! What snares, what sins, what miseries were they preserved from by this grace! With what songs of praise and love do they not to all eternity thank their Saviour, and this his infinite mercy to them! Their ignorant, foolish mothers did not know this, and therefore they wept without comfort. So we often lament as misfortunes many accidents which in the designs of heaven are the greatest mercies.

In Herod we see how blind and how cruel ambition is, which is ready to sacrifice everything, even Jesus Christ, to its views. The tyrant lived not many days longer to enjoy the kingdom which he feared so much to lose. About the time of our Lord's nativity he fell sick, and as his distemper sensibly increased, despair and remorse followed him and made him insupportable both to himself and others. The innumerable crimes which he had committed were the tortures of his mind, whilst a slow imposthume, inch by inch, gnawed and consumed his bowels, feeding principally upon one of the great guts, though it extended itself over all the rest and, corroding the flesh, made a breach in the lower belly and became a sordid ulcer, out of which worms issued in swarms, and lice were also bred in his flesh. A fever violently burnt him within, though outwardly it was scarce perceptible; and he was tormented with a canine appetite which no victuals could satisfy. Such an offensive smell exhaled from his body as shocked his best friends; and uncommon "witchings and vellications upon the fibrous and membraneous parts of his body, like sharp razors, cut and wounded him within; and the pain thence arising overpowered him at length with cold sweats, tremblings, and convulsions. Antipater, in his dungeon, hearing in what a lamentable condition Herod lay, strongly solicited his jailer to set him at liberty, hoping to obtain the crown; but the officer acquainted Herod with the whole affair. The tyrant, groaning under the complication of his own distempers, upon this information vented his spleen by raving and beating his own head, and, calling one of his own guards, commanded him to go that instant and cut off Antipater's head. Not content with causing many to be put to barbarous deaths during the course of his malady, he commanded the Jews that were of the principal rank and quality to be shut up in a circus at Jericho, and gave orders to his sister Salome and her husband Alexas to have them all massacred as soon as he should have expired, saying that as the Jews heartily hated him, they would rejoice at his departure; but he would make a general mourning of the whole nation at his death. This circumstance is at least related by the Jewish historian Josephus. Herod died five days after he had put his son Antipater to death.

Parents, pastors, and tutors are bound to make it their principal care that children, in their innocent age, be by piety and charity consecrated as pure holocausts to God. This is chiefly to be done by imprinting upon their minds the strongest sentiments of devotion, and by instructing them thoroughly in their catechism. We cannot entertain too high an idea of the merit and obligation of teaching God's little ones to know him, and the great and necessary truths which he has revealed to us. Without knowing him no one can love him or acquit himself of the most indispensable duties which he owes to his Creator. Children must be instructed in prayer and the principal articles of faith as soon as they attain to the use of reason, that they may be able to give him his first fruits by faith, hope, and love, as by the law of reason and religion they are bound to do. The understanding of little children is very weak, and is able only to discover small glimpses of light. Great art, experience, and earnestness are often required to manage and gradually increase these small rays, and to place therein whatever one would have the children comprehend.
The solicitude and diligence of parents and pastors to instruct others in this sacred science ought not to lessen; neither must anyone regard the function as mean or contemptible. It is the very foundation of the Christian religion. Hence Pope Paul III, in a bull in which he recommends this employment, declares that "nothing is more fruitful or more profitable for the salvation of souls." No pastoral function is more indispensable, none more beneficial, and generally none more meritorious; we may add, or more sublime. For under a meaner exterior appearance, without pomp, ostentation, or show of learning or abilities, it joins the exercise of humility with the most zealous and most profitable function of the pastoral charge. Being painful and laborious, it is, moreover, an exercise of patience and penance. Neither can anyone think it beneath his parts or dignity. The great St. Austin, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril, and other most learned doctors, popes, and bishops applied themselves with singular zeal and assiduity to this duty of catechizing children and all ignorant persons; this they thought a high branch of their duty, and the most useful and glorious employment of their learning and talents. What did the apostles travel over the world to do else? St. Paul said, "I am a debtor to the wise and to the unwise. We became little ones in the midst of you, as if a nurse would cherish her children; so desirous of you, that we would gladly have imparted to you not only the gospel of God, but even our own souls." Our Divine Lord himself made this the principal employment of his ministry. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me: he hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor." He declared the pleasure he found in assisting that innocent age when he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for the kingdom of God is for such. And embracing them, and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.

Shared from:


Vatican Radio REPORT Pope Benedict's third and final volume in his international bestselling series, Jesus of Nazareth, was presented to the press in the Vatican on Tuesday. Entitled "The Infancy Narratives," the book explores the infancy and early life of Jesus and details how they are as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. 

The text of the report follows:

Pope Benedict’s latest book is being published in nine languages simultaneously and hits bookstores in 50 countries on November the 21st. A further 20 languages are in the pipeline and will be published during the coming months. Editors say the worldwide print run of the first edition will be more than a million copies. 

Divided into a forward, four chapters and an epilogue, the Pope's latest book traces and analyses the gospel narratives from the annunciation of John and Jesus' birth up the events surrounding his presentation in the temple at the age of 12. Numbering 127 pages in the English edition, the book is defined by its author as a “small antechamber to the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth. The two previous volumes of the trilogy written by the Pope dealt with the adult life of Jesus and his public ministry. 

At a news conference in the Vatican where the book was presented to the press, the director of the Holy See’s Press Office Father Federico Lombardi said he was filled with admiration and gratitude that the Pope managed to complete this work, begun 8 years ago, despite his very busy schedule. 

The book begins with the Pope discussing the genealogy of Jesus whilst Chapter two discusses the annunciation of the birth of St John the Baptist and that of Jesus. Chapter three is centred on the birth of Jesus and its historical context and the last Chapter is dedicated to the three Magi. 

Like the two earlier books in the trilogy, this latest work by Pope Benedict is bound to be another international bestseller. 
 Monsignor Philip Whitmore translated this final volume in the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth trilogy. 



In this past year my family and I have been inspired by the courage and hope we have seen in so many ways in Britain, in the Commonwealth and around the world. We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another.
Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within. Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.
When Prince Philip and I visited Australia this year we saw for ourselves the effects of natural disaster in some of the areas devastated by floods, where in January so many people lost their lives and their livelihoods. We were moved by the way families and local communities held together to support each other.
Prince William travelled to New Zealand and Australia in the aftermath of earthquakes, cyclones and floods and saw how communities rose up to rescue the injured, comfort the bereaved and rebuild the cities and towns devastated by nature.
The Prince of Wales also saw first hand the remarkable resilience of the human spirit after tragedy struck in a Welsh mining community, and how communities can work together to support their neighbours.
This past year has also seen some memorable and historic visits – to Ireland and from America.
The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us all with hope. Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long term friendship. It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.
Of course, family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organisation or nation. The Commonwealth is a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals.
It is this which makes the Commonwealth a family of people in the truest sense, at ease with each other, enjoying its shared history and ready and willing to support its members in the direst of circumstances. They have always looked to the future, with a sense of camaraderie, warmth and mutual respect while still maintaining their individualism.
The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.
For many this Christmas will not be easy. With our armed forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home. The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival.
Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin
And enter in
Be born in us today
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas!


by Sr. Donatella Lessio
Sister Donatella Lessio, from Bethlehem's Caritas Baby Hospital, talks to AsiaNews about Christmas in the town of Bethlehem. For the nun, lights decorating homes and religious buildings are far different from those of consumerism. They are a small sign of the immense light of God Almighty who gave us his son.

Bethlehem (AsiaNews) - As a Catholic I am not that happy that the festive spirit is stronger on Fridays than on Sundays, but that is normal in a predominantly Muslim country. However, when Christmas comes along, things are different. A unique atmosphere comes alive at the start of Advent. As days follow each other, expectations intensify, for in Bethlehem, the city and Christmas are one and the same.
In no other country is the symbiosis so strong. After all, the Prince of Peace, whose birth Catholics celebrate on 25 December, was born right here. Here Christmas also comes in three versions. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates it on 25 December; the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates it on January 6 and the Armenian Catholic Church on 18 January, three days to remember the day that changed the fate of humanity.
Some people complain about the three days as if they were different children to celebrate, a token of divisions among Churches. That's one way of looking at it but I prefer to think that our God deserves three celebrations. He did an extraordinary thing sending us his son in flesh and blood to tell us that he loves us. When extraordinary and important events occur do we not celebrate them more than one day? Does our God not have a right to the three feast days?
Despite a somewhat turbulent political situation, the atmosphere here in Bethlehem is festive. Various Christmas concerts have been performed one after the other. Orchestras and choirs have performed carols that warmed the hearts of listeners. Prayers have been held by parishes and various groups to meditate on the Word that became flesh. Patriarchs and the Custodian (of the Holy Land) have come to Bethlehem, as eastern kings did, to pay homage to the Child Jesus whose light has illuminated the way against darkness since time immemorial.
The patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem came to the Caritas Baby Hospital on 17 December for a moment of intense prayer and brotherhood with the facility's medical, nursing and support staff. For the latter, it was an intense moment, one of communion, with the bishop of Jerusalem.
Everyone got ready for the great celebration of Christmas Night. There was a lot of excitement in the air. During Midnight Mass, local and foreign choirs sang in the square, filling the air with their voices, imitating and perhaps trying to outdo the choir of angels whose melodious voice resounded more than 2,000 years as it sang 'Gloria in excelsis Deo'.
Every street was illuminated. Lights fit in here; they do not smack of consumerism as they do elsewhere in the world. They are a small sign of the immense Light that Almighty God gave us with the birth of his Son. As Saint John said in his prologue, "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." There is no darkness in Bethlehem's main streets, lights show the way to those who follow in them, a "theological light" I would say.
At Caritas Baby Hospital, we prepared for Christmas. Decorations in the hospital announced the approaching festivity. Crèches were set up in each ward. In the grotto, only the child was missing. In the past, a Muslim child or a Muslim mother would place him at midnight on 24 December, since for Muslims, Jesus is a prophet.
In the afternoon of Christmas Eve, a boys' choir from Lugano (Switzerland) sang Christmas carols, a show of closeness and solidarity by healthy children to ill children recovering at the Caritas Baby Hospital. Children understand each other better than adults.
On the feast day of St Stephen, doctors dressed up as clowns gave patients gifts received from around the world.
Usually, gifts are sent throughout the year and we put aside them aside for this occasion so that even the poorest children can have one. It is one way of recreating that moment in Jesus' nativity when the shepherds gave the child what they had. For us, the children who come to our hospital are a bit today's 'child Jesus'.
From Bethlehem, Merry Christmas to all!


 RUHR NACHRICHTEN SHARE - In their Christmas sermons have the bishops on Tuesday addressed social problems and called for a self-confident Christian faith. Even on Christmas Eve both large churches had warned of an increasing division of society in Germany and called for solidarity with weaker.Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg denounced on Christmas Day at the increasing violence in schools and football stadiums. One reason for this he looks in the entertainment media. "In a country where television stations even broadcast on Christmas hours action movie and brutal thriller, where snipers and gangster films dominate the festival of love and peace, many living rooms, should not that actually really surprised," said Chairman the German Catholic Bishops Conference in Freiburg.The Berlin Archbishop Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki called for solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world."Christians today are the world's most discriminated and persecuted religious community. And be summoned in an age in which human rights and religious freedom so much, "Woelki said in his sermon. With great concern that he should look at the situation of Christians in many countries around the world - in Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, even in the Holy Land.Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, appealed to the self-esteem of Christians. At Christmas, the festival will celebrate the incarnation of God, Meisner said in his sermon. In Bethlehem, God has entered human history, man has become a household of citizens with the saints and God, Meisner of Cologne Cathedral quoted the Apostle Paul. Even the first Christians did this so fascinating that it "charges against the top trend of the time head led a politically incorrect way of life."The Bishop of Fulda, Heinz Josef Algermissen, warned to leave the depraved human dignity at the mercy of technology and "uncontrollable forces". "Preimplantation genetic diagnosis, blood tests for the detection of Down syndrome in unborn children and their selection as a consequence, but also easier ways to commit suicide reveal a lack of respect in terms of human dignity." Christians would have "in a Christmas consequence" press there massively as "troublemakers" wherever " the powers of death at work were "whether political, economic or military.The Bishop of Speyer, Karl-Heinz Wiesemann criticized the proposed law by the Federal Government on euthanasia in its current form. It lacked a clear rejection of the organized euthanasia Wiesemann said on Christmas Day in the cathedral of Speyer. "Even euthanasia organizations change their constitutions in order to pursue the new law met its goal can continue. What people need but is assisted in life, not participation in the dying. "Man is not the master of life and death, warned the Catholic Bishops.


John 20: 1 - 8
1Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag'dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
3Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.
4They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first;
5and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying,
7and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;


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