Monday, February 9, 2015

Saint February 10 : St. Scholastica - Patron of Nuns - Storms - Sister of St. Benedict

Feast Day:February 10
480, Nursia, Italy
Patron of:convulsive children; nuns; invoked against storms and rain

This saint was sister to the great St. Benedict. She consecrated herself to God from her earliest youth, as St. Gregory testifies. Where her first monastery was situated is not mentioned; but after her brother removed to Mount Cassino she chose her retreat at Plombariola, in that neighbourhood, where she founded and governed a nunnery about five miles distant to the south from St. Benedict's monastery. St. Bertharius, who was Abbot of Cassino three hundred years after, says that she instructed in virtue several of her own sex. And whereas St. Gregory informs us that St. Benedict governed nuns as well as monks, his sister must have been their abbess under his rule and direction. She visited her holy brother once a year, and as she was not allowed to enter his monastery, he went out with some of his monks to meet her at a house at some small distance. They spent these visits in the praises of God, and in conferring together on spiritual matters. St. Gregory relates a remarkable circumstance of the I last of these visits. Scholastica having passed the day as usual in singing psalms and pious discourse, they sat down in the evening to take their refection. After it was over, Scholastica, perhaps foreknowing it would be their last interview in this world, or at least desirous of some further spiritual improvement, was very urgent with her brother to delay his return till the next day, that they might entertain themselves till morning upon the happiness of the other life. St. Benedict, unwilling to transgress his rule, told her he could not pass a night out of his monastery, so desired her not to insist upon such a breach of monastic discipline. Scholastica finding him resolved on going home, laying her hands joined upon the table, and her head upon them, with many tears, begged of Almighty God to interpose in her behalf. Her prayer was scarce ended when there happened such a storm of rain, thunder, and lightning, that neither St. Benedict nor any of his companions could set a foot out of doors. He complained to his sister, saying, "God forgive you, sister; what have you done?" She answered, "I asked you a favour, and you refused it me; I asked it of Almighty God, and he has granted it me." St. Benedict was therefore obliged to comply with her request, and they spent the night in conferences on pious subjects, chiefly on the felicity of the blessed, to which both most ardently aspired, and which she was shortly to enjoy. The next morning they parted, and three days after St. Scholastica died in her solitude. St. Benedict was then alone in contemplation on Mount Cassino, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he saw the soul of his sister ascending thither in the shape of a dove. Filled with joy at her happy passage, he gave thanks for it to God, and declared her death to his brethren, some of whom he sent to bring her corpse to his monastery, where he caused it to be laid in the tomb which he had prepared for himself. She must have died about the year 543. Her relics are said to have been translated into France, together with those of St. Bennet, in the seventh century, according to the relation given by the monk Adrevald.1 They are said to have been deposited at Mans, and kept in the collegiate church of St. Peter in that city, in a rich silver shrine. In 1562 this shrine was preserved from being plundered by the Huguenots as is related by Chatelain. Her principal festival at Mans is kept a holyday on the 11th of July, the day of the translation of her relics. She was honored in some places with an office of three lessons, in the time of St. Louis, as appears from a calendar of Longchamp written in his reign.

Louis of Granada, treating on the perfection of the love of God, mentions the miraculous storm obtained by St. Scholastica to show with what excess of goodness God is always ready to hear the petitions and desires of his servants. This pious soul must have received strong pledges and most sensible tokens of his love, seeing she depended on receiving so readily what she asked of him. No child could address himself with so great confidence to his most tender parent. The love which God bears us, and his readiness to succour and comfort us, if we humbly confess and lay before him our wants, infinitely surpasses all that can be found in creatures. Nor can we be surprised that he so easily heard the prayer of this holy virgin, since at the command of Joshua he stopped the heavens, God obeying the voice of man! He hears the most secret desires of those that fear and love him, and does their will: if he sometimes seems deaf to their cries, it is to grant their main desire by doing what is most expedient for them, as St. Austin frequently observes. The short prayer by which St. Scholastica gained this remarkable victory over her brother, who was one of the greatest saints on earth, was doubtless no more than a single act of her pure desires, which she continually turned toward, and fixed on her beloved. It was enough for her to cast her eyes interiorly upon him with whom she was closely and inseparably united in mind and affections, to move him so suddenly to change the course of the elements in order to satisfy her pious desire. By placing herself, as a docile scholar, continually at the feet of the Divine Majesty, who filled all the powers of her soul with the sweetness of his heavenly communications, she learned that sublime science of perfection in which she became a mistress to so many other chaste souls by this divine exercise. Her life in her retirement, to that happy moment which closed her mortal pilgrimage, was a continued uniform contemplation, by which all her powers were united to and transformed into God.


#PopeFrancis "...first response to the work of God: to be protectors of Creation" Homily

Pope Francis during morning mass at the Casa Santa Martha - OSS_ROM
09/02/2015 11:34

(Vatican Radio) Christians are called to care for God's creation. That was the Pope’s message at Mass this Monday morning at the Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father also spoke about the "second creation", the one performed by Jesus that he "re-created" from what had been ruined by sin.God creates the universe but creation does not end, "he continues to sustain what he has created." That was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily as he dwelt on a passage from Genesis, in the first reading, which recounts the creation of the universe. “In today's Gospel”, the Pope commented, we see "the other creation of God", "that of Jesus, who came to re-create what had been ruined by sin."
We see Jesus among the people, he said, and "those who touched him were saved" it is the "re-creation". "This 'second creation' Pope Francis, is even more wonderful than the first; This second work is wonderful. "Finally, there is "another job", that of "perseverance in the faith" that which the Holy Spirit works on:
"God works, continues to work, and we can ask ourselves how we should respond to this creation of God, which is born of love, because he works through love. In the 'first creation' we must respond with the responsibility that the Lord gives us: 'The earth is yours, take it forward; let it grow '. Even for us there is a responsibility to nurture the Earth, to nurture Creation, to keep it and make it grow according to its laws. We are the lords of creation, not its masters. "

The Pope warned, however, that we must be "careful not to become masters of Creation, but to make it go forward, faithful to its laws." Therefore, he added, "this is the first response to the work of God: to be protectors of Creation":

"When we hear that people have meetings about how to preserve creation, we can say: 'No, they are the greens!' No, they are not the greens! This is the Christian! This is 'our response to the' first creation 'of God. And' our responsibility. A Christian who does not protect Creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God, that work that was born from the love of God for us. And this is the first response to the first creation: protect creation, make it grow. "

On the subject of the “second creation Pope Francis looked to the figure of Saint Paul saying, this Saint tells us to let ourselves be "reconciled to God", "go on the road of inner reconciliation, community reconciliation, because reconciliation is the work of Christ." And again, echoing the words of Saint Paul, the Pope said that we should be grieved that the Holy Spirit is within us, that he is within us and works in us. The Holy Father added that we "believe in the person of God": "the person is the Father, Son and the person of the Holy Spirit":

"And all three are involved in this creation, in this re-creation, in this perseverance in re-creation. And to all three of them our response is: to preserve and nurture Creation, let ourselves be reconciled with Jesus, with God in Jesus Christ, every day, and do not be grieved by the Holy Spirit, not drive it away: he is the host of our hearts, he who accompanies us, he who makes us grow. "

"May the Lord – Pope Francis concluded - give us the grace to understand that he" is at work "and give us the grace to respond appropriately to this labour of love."

(Lydia O'Kane)

Catholic Quote to SHARE by St. Therese of Lisieux - Little Flower "For me prayer is a...."

“For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” -St. Therese of Lisieux

Latest News from #Vatican and #PopeFrancis

09-02-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 028 

- Pope's eighth meeting with the Council of Cardinals
- Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors: make the Church a “safe place” for children
- Angelus: the sick are Christ's flesh
- The Pope denounces the shameful scourge of human trafficking
- In the parish of St. Michael Archangel: maintain daily contact with the Gospel and let Jesus heal our wounds
- To the representatives of EXPO 2015: the root of all ills is inequality
- The Pope: the participation of women in the social and ecclesial spheres is a challenge that cannot be deferred
- God lives in the city
- Francis to the SECAM: Invest in education in Africa to defend the young from fundamentalism and abuse of religion
- Cardinal O'Malley reports on the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors
- Audiences
Pope's eighth meeting with the Council of Cardinals
Vatican City, 9 February 2015 (VIS) – The eighth meeting of the Council of Cardinals began this morning. To be attended by the Holy Father, the meeting will continue until 11 February. On the following days, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 February, the Consistory of the College of Cardinals is to be held in the Synod Hall.
Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors: make the Church a “safe place” for children
Vatican City, 8 February 2015 (VIS) – The members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered in Plenary Assembly from 6 to 8 February in Rome.
The members who took part in the Assembly are: Cardinal Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., U.S.A., president; Msgr. Robert Oliver, U.S.A., secretary; Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera, Colombia; Catherine Bonnet, France; Marie Collins, Ireland; Gabriel Dy-Liacco, Philippines; Sheila Hollins, England; Bill Kilgallon, New Zealand; Sister Kayula Lesa, M.S.C., Zambia; Sister Hermenegild Makoro, C.P.S., Zimbabwe; Kathleen McCormack, Australia; Claudio Papale, Italy; Peter Saunders, England; Hanna Suchocka, Poland; Krysten Winter-Green, U.S.A.; Rev. Humberto Miguel Yanez, S.J., Argentina and Rev. Hans Zollner, S.J., Germany.
The Pontifical Council subsequently issued the following communique, the full text of which is published below:
“This year’s meeting was the first opportunity for all seventeen members of the recently expanded Commission to come together and share their progress in the task entrusted them by the Holy Father, namely to advise Pope Francis in the safeguarding and protection of minors in the Church.
During the meetings, members presented reports from their Working Groups of experts, developed over the past year. The Commission then completed their recommendations regarding the formal structure of the Commission and agreed upon several proposals to submit to the Holy Father for consideration.
The Working Groups are an integral part of the Commission’s working structure. Between Plenary Sessions, these groups bring forward research and projects in areas that are central to the mission of making the Church ‘a safe home’ for children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults. These include: pastoral care for survivors and their families, education, guidelines in best practice, formation to the priesthood and religious life, ecclesial and civil norms governing allegations of abuse, and the accountability of people in positions of responsibility within the Church when dealing with allegations of abuse.
The Commission is keenly aware that the issue of accountability is of major importance. In its Assembly,members agreed on an initial proposal to submit to Pope Francis for consideration. Moreover, the Commission is developing processes to ensure accountability for everyone in the Church - clergy, religious, and laity - who work with minors.
Part of ensuring accountability is raising awareness and understanding at all levels of the Church regarding the seriousness and urgency in implementing correct safeguarding procedures. To this end, the Commission also agreed to develop seminars to educate Church leadership in the area of the protection of minors.
Following on from the Holy Father’s Letter to Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and to Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life,dated February 2, the Commission looks forward to collaborating with churches on a local level in making its expertise available to ensure best practices in guidelines for the protection of minors.
The Commission is also preparing materials for a Day of Prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse. This will underscore our responsibility to work for spiritual healing and also help raise awareness among the Catholic community about the scourge of the abuse of minors.
Pope Francis writes, in his letter to Church leaders, 'families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children'. Conscious of the gravity of our task to advise the Holy Father in this effort, we ask you to support our work with prayer”.
Angelus: the sick are Christ's flesh
Vatican City, 8 February 2015 (VIS) – World Day of the Sick will be held on 11 February, liturgical memory of the Virgin of Lourdes, and the Pope, blessing the preparatory initiatives for the day, and in particular the Vigil to take place in Rome on 10 February, dedicated his meditation prior to this Sunday's Angelus prayer to the meaning and value of illness, recalling that Jesus' main activities in his public life were preaching and healing.
“Through preaching He announces the Kingdom of God and through healing He shows that it is close, that the Kingdom of God is in our midst”, said Pope Francis to the faithful gathered at midday in St. Peter's Square, commenting on the Gospel of St. Mark that narrates the healing of Peter's mother-in-law. After the Sabbath was over and the people could leave and bring Him the sick, He healed a multitude of people afflicted by every kind of malady: physical, mental, spiritual.
“Having come to earth to announce and fulfil the salvation of every person and of all mankind, Jesus shows a particular predilection for those who are wounded in body and spirit: the poor, sinners, the possessed, the sick, the marginalised. He thus reveals Himself has a physician of both body and soul, the good Samaritan of humanity. Jesus' healing of the sick invites us to reflect on the meaning and value of sickness”.
The salvific work of Christ “does not come to an end with His person and the arc of His earthly life; it continues through the Church, sacrament of love and of the tenderness of God for mankind. Sending his disciples on their mission, Jesus confers upon them a dual mandate: to announce the Gospel of salvation and to heal the sick. Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick to be an integral part of her mission”.
The Pope emphasised Jesus' warning from the Gospel of St. Matthew - “The poor and the suffering you will always have with you” - and affirmed that “the Church continually finds them on her path, considering the sick as a privileged way to encounter Christ, to welcome and serve Him. To care for a sick person, to welcome him and serve him is to serve Christ. The sick are Christ's flesh”.
In our times, too, despite the many advances in science, “the inner and physical suffering of people raises serious questions on the meaning of sickness, pain and on the reasons for death. These are existential questions, to which the pastoral action of the Church should respond in the light of faith, keeping before our eyes the Cross, in which there appears the entire salvific mystery of God the Father, who out of love for mankind did not spare his only Son. Therefore, each one of us is called to bring the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace to those who suffer and to those who assist them – family members, doctors, nurses – so that service to the sick may be carried out with ever increasing humanity, generous dedication, evangelical love, and tenderness. The Mother Church, through our hands, caresses us in our sufferings, heals our wounds, and does so with a mother's tenderness”.
The Pope denounces the shameful scourge of human trafficking
Vatican City, 8 February 2015 (VIS) – Following today's Angelus prayer, Pope Francis commented that today, 8 February, we celebrate the liturgical memory of St. Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese nun who as a child suffered the dramatic experience of enslavement. The Union of Superior Generals of religious institutes has established a Day of prayer and reflection against trafficking in persons, to be held on that date.
“I encourage those who are committed to helping men, women and children who are enslaved, exploited and abused as instruments of work or pleasure and often tortured and mutilated. I hope that those who hold positions of responsibility in governance will act decisively to eliminate the causes of this shameful scourge, a scourge unworthy of a civilised society. May each one of us strive to be a voice for these our brothers and sisters, whose dignity is humiliated. Let us pray together to Our Lady, for them and for their families”.
In the parish of St. Michael Archangel: maintain daily contact with the Gospel and let Jesus heal our wounds
Vatican City, 8 February 2015 (VIS) – At 4 p.m. today the Holy Father visited the Roman parish of St. Michael Archangel in the Pietralata quarter, in the north of the city. Upon arrival, he made an impromptu change to the itinerary, paying a surprise visit to a settlement near the parish church, known as the “Rainbow Camp”, the home of many displaced persons from Africa, Latin America, Ukraine and Russia. At the end of his visit, the inhabitants recited the Lord's Prayer with him in Spanish. He then met with members of the parish community: the sick, families with children baptised during the past year, young catechumens, scouts and a number of homeless people cared for by the Sant'Egidio Community.
To the families with recently baptised children, Francis confessed that he liked to hear the cry of newborns as “they are a promise of life”, and that they should not be expected to leave the church when they cry. He also encouraged parents to teach their children the sign of the Cross. He comforted the sick by reminding them that the Lord is always close to them, as “a father never leaves his children alone”, and therefore “we must be trustful, and courageous in our trust … some days everything is bleak … but never lose your trust”. He thanked the homeless for not having given up hope, and for their witness in bearing their cross of solitude. “Beneath so many ashes of suffering, of solitude, know that there is the fire of the Holy Spirit; below, there is the embrace of God's love. And why does the Lord allow there to be this cross? He permitted it first for His Son. And so Jesus understands you well”. He spoke with the young catechumens about war and peace, and encouraged them to pray every day, especially to the Virgin, “Our Mother who will lead us by the hand to find Jesus, to find peace and not to descend into war”. Finally, he answered a question on how he knew whether or not his decision to become a priest was the right one. He compared his inner certainty with what a man and woman might feel when they decide to marry, and explained that in spite of the sacrifices that have to be made and the problems that may appear, love is always stronger. “This certainty comes from Jesus”, he emphasised.
Pope Francis went on to confess some of the faithful, and then proceeded to the church to celebrate Mass. In his homily, the Pope urged those present to listen to Jesus and to let Him preach to them. Jesus “speaks to us in the Gospel”, he said, “and this is a habit we no longer have: to go and seek out the word of Jesus in the Gospel. Always carry a small copy of the Gospel with you, and keep it within reach. Read it whenever you have five or ten minutes to spare: Jesus speaks to us there. Maintain daily contact with the Gospel”. He continued by encouraging those present to allow the Lord to heal their wounds: “open your heart, to let Him enter and heal you”.
To the representatives of EXPO 2015: the root of all ills is inequality
Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday afternoon Pope Francis sent a video message to the 500 national and international representatives gathered in Milan, where Expo 2015 will be held, to address the theme, “The ideas of EXPO 2015: Towards the Milan Charter”.
In his message, the Pope refers to his address in November to the Conference on Nutrition organised by the the FAO in Rome, in which he affirmed that “interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival”.
“St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the 'paradox of plenty', in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. Unfortunately, this 'paradox' remains relevant. There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis”.
To overcome the temptation of sophisms, “that nominalism of thought that goes beyond … but never touches reality”, the Pope suggests three practical approaches: turn first to urgent priorities, be witnesses of charity, and be guardians rather than masters of the earth.
“Aim your gaze and heart not towards an emergency pragmatism that shows itself to be perpetually provisional, but instead an approach aimed at removing the structural causes of poverty. Let us recall that the root of all ills is inequality”, says Francis, repeating his words in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium: “we have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. … It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. … The excluded are not the 'exploited' but the outcast, the 'leftovers'”.
“It is therefore necessary, if we really want to solve problems and not become lost in sophisms, to remove the root of all evil, which is inequality. To do this, there are some priority decisions to be made: to renounce the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and to act above all on the structural causes of inequality”.
“Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”, he continues. “Where, then, should a healthy economic policy begin? What are the necessary pillars for public administration? The answer is precise: the dignity of the human person and the common good. Unfortunately, however, these two pillars, that ought to structure economic policy, often 'seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for integral development. … Please, be courageous and do not be afraid, in political and economic projects, to allow yourselves to be influenced by a broader meaning of life as this will help you to truly serve the common good and will give you strength in 'striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all'”.
With reference to the third point, the Pope again mentioned a comment he heard many years ago from an elderly peasant: “God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction”. “Faced with the goods of the Earth, we are required 'not to lose sight of the origin or purpose of these goods, so as to bring about a world of fairness and solidarity', says the social doctrine of the Church. The Earth has been entrusted to us in order to be a Mother to us, able to give what is necessary for each person to live. … The Earth is not an inheritance we have received from our parents, but rather a loan from our offspring to us, so that we may take care of it, enable it to continue and restore it to them”.
“The stewardship of the Earth is not a task exclusive to Christians, but instead applies to all”, he continued. “I entrust to you what I said during the Mass of the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome: 'I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! … We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness'. Care for the Earth not only with goodness, but also with tenderness”.
The Pope: the participation of women in the social and ecclesial spheres is a challenge that cannot be deferred
Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) - “Women's cultures: between equality and difference” was the theme of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, an issue of great interest to Pope Francis, as he affirmed this morning while receiving in audience the participants in the event. He reiterated the importance of finding “criteria and new ways to enable women to no longer feel like guests, but instead to be full participants in the various areas of social and ecclesial life”.
“The Church is a woman, she is female!” he exclaimed. “This is a challenge that cannot be deferred. I say this to the pastors of Christian communities, here representing the universal Church, but also to lay women and men engaged in different ways in culture, education, the economy, politics, the world of work, families, and religious institutions”, he continued, offering an “itinerary” and a series of “guidelines to develop this effort throughout the world, in the heart of all cultures, in dialogue with the various religious affiliations”.
With reference to the first theme considered in the Plenary Assembly, “Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium”, Pope Francis remarked that this equilibrium must be harmonious, not merely a question of balance. “This aspect must not be faced ideologically, because the 'lens' of ideology prevents us from seeing reality clearly. Equality and difference of women – like that of men – is best perceived from the perspective of 'with', in relation to, rather than 'against'. We have long left behind, at least in western societies, the model of the social subordination of women to men, a centuries-old model whose negative effects are nonetheless not yet fully spent. We have also left behind a second model, that of parity, pure and simple, applied mechanically, and of absolute equality. A new paradigm has thus taken shape, that of reciprocity in equivalence and in difference. The relationship between man and woman, therefore, must recognise that both are necessary inasmuch as they possess an identical nature but different modalities. One is necessary to the other, since the fullness of the person is thus truly achieved”.
The second theme, “'generativity' as a symbolic code”, broadens the horizons of biological maternity to include the transmission and the protection of life. It may be summarised in four verbs: to wish for, to bring into the world, to care for, and to let go. The Pope acknowledges the contribution in this area of the many women who work in the family, in the field of education in faith, in pastoral activity, in education in schools, and also in social, cultural and economic structures. “You, women, know how to embody the tender face of God, His mercy, which translates into willingness to offer time rather than occupy space, to accommodate rather than exclude. In this sense, I like to describe the feminine dimension of the Church as a welcoming womb for the regeneration of life”.
“The female body: between culture and biology”, the third point for reflection, “reminds us of the beauty and harmony of the body God gave to women, but also the painful wounds inflicted upon them, often with brutal violence, for the mere fact of being women. A symbol of life, the female body is unfortunately not infrequently attacked and disfigured by those who ought instead to be its protectors and companions in life. The many forms of enslavement, commodification and mutilation of women's bodies require us to work to defeat this form of degradation that reduces them to mere objects to be sold on various markets”. “I wish to draw attention, in this respect, to the suffering of many poor women, forced to life in conditions of danger and exploitation, relegated to the margins of society and rendered victims of a throwaway culture”, stressed the Holy Father.
The fourth theme, “Women and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?” is of particular relevance to believers. The Pope reiterated his conviction that it is urgent to “offer space to women in the life of the Church and to welcome them, bearing in mind the specific features and changes in cultural and social sensibilities. A more capillary and incisive female presence within the Church is desirable, so that we can see many women involved in pastoral responsibilities and in accompanying individuals, families and groups, as well as in theological reflection”.
Finally, the Holy Father spoke about the indispensable role of women in the family, and highlighted the importance of “encouraging and promoting the effective presence of women in many areas of the public sphere, in the world of work and in places where the most important decisions are taken”, without prejudice to their role in the private domain. “We must not leave women to bear these burdens and take all these decisions alone; all institutions, including the ecclesial community, must guarantee freedom of choice for women, so that they have the opportunity to assume social and ecclesial responsibilities, in harmony with family life”.
God lives in the city
Vatican City, 9 February 2015 (VIS) – On Saturday Pope Francis received in audience the participants in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, “Encountering God in the heart of the city”. This year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of Vatican Council II, and to mark the occasion, the Council is preparing a ceremony to commemorate the publication of the decree on the lay apostolate, Apostolicam actuositatem. “The initiative looks not only to the past, but also the present and the future of the Church”. He remarked that the theme chosen for the assembly reiterates the invitation in Evangelii gaudium to face the challenge of urban cultures, adding that “the phenomenon of urbanisation has now reached global proportions: more than half the world's population lives in cities”.
“The urban context has a strong impact on the mentality, culture, lifestyles, interpersonal relationships and religiosity of the people. In such a varied and complex context, the Church is no longer the sole generator of meaning, and Christians absorb 'languages, symbols, messages and paradigms which propose new approaches to life, approaches often in contrast with the Gospel'”. He emphasised that, despite these risks, we must remember that God has not abandoned cities. “The title of your Plenary underlines the fact that it is possible to encounter God in the heart of the city. … It is therefore imperative not to abandon oneself to pessimism and defeatism, but to have an outlook of faith with regard to our cities, a contemplative gaze 'which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares'. God is never absent from the city, as He is never absent from the heart of man!”.
“In the city the terrain for the apostolate is often far more fertile than many might imagine. It is important, therefore, to pay attention to the formation of laypeople: to educate in having this gaze of faith, full of hope, that knows how to see the city through God's eyes … and at the same time it is necessary to nurture in them the desire for witness, so that they can give to others the gift of the faith they have received, accompanying with affection those brothers who are taking their first steps in the life of faith”. Francis commented that Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini frequently referred to the “search for the essential”, and often urged those involved in the great urban mission of Milan to be essential themselves: “that is, to be genuine, authentic and to live that which truly counts. Only in this way it is possible to propose in its strength, in its beauty, in its simplicity, the liberating proclamation of God's love and the salvation that Christ offers. Only in this way can one adopt that attitude of respect towards people: offering the essential that is the Gospel”.
Francis to the SECAM: Invest in education in Africa to defend the young from fundamentalism and abuse of religion
Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – Providing “a common response to the new challenges facing the continent,allowing the Church to speak with one voice and to witness to her vocation as a sign and instrument of salvation, peace, dialogue and reconciliation” is the mission of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the institution conceived and promoted following Vatican Council II to be at the service of the local churches in Africa. This morning Pope Francis received in audience representatives from the Symposium and, in his address, he emphasised that the institution must “remain faithful to its identity as a vibrant experience of communion and of service to the poorest of the poor”.
“To this end, pastors must remain free from worldly and political concerns, that they continually strengthen the bonds of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter, through cooperation with the Apostolic Nunciatures, and easy and direct communication with other Church bodies. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the simple ecclesial experiences available to all, as well as streamlined pastoral structures. Experience teaches that large bureaucratic structures approach problems in the abstract and risk distancing the Church from people. For this reason, it is important to be concrete: that which is concrete is in touch with reality”.
“Above all, it is the youth who need your witness. Young men and women look to us. In Africa, the future is in the hands of the young, who need to be protected from new and unscrupulous forms of 'colonisation' such as the pursuit of success, riches, and power at all costs, as well as fundamentalism and the distorted use of religion, in addition to new ideologies which destroy the identity of individuals and of families. The most effective way to overcome the temptation to give in to harmful lifestyles is by investing in education. Education will also help to overcome a widespread mentality of injustice and violence, as well as ethnic divisions. The greatest need is for a model of education which teaches the young to think critically and encourages growth in moral values. An important component in this educational process is the pastoral care of students: in Catholic or public schools there is a need to unite academic studies with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel”.
“There are various reasons why we are seeing, also in Africa, a trend towards the breakdown of the family. In response, the Church is called to evaluate and encourage every initiative to strengthen the family, which is the real source of all forms of fraternity and the foundation and primary way of peace. More recently, many priests, men and women religious as well as members of the lay faithful have admirably taken responsibility for the care of families, with a special concern for the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. Even in the most distant and remote regions, your local Churches have proclaimed the Gospel of Life and, following the example of the Good Samaritan, have come to the help of those most in need. A magnificent witness to charity has been given in response to the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has struck many communities, parishes and hospitals. Many African missionaries have generously given their lives by remaining close to those suffering from this disease. This path must be followed with renewed apostolic zeal! As followers of Christ, we cannot fail to be concerned for the welfare of the weakest; we must also draw the attention of society and the civil authorities to their plight”.
“Dear brothers, I express my appreciation for the invaluable contribution made by so many priests, men and women religious and lay faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel and the social advancement of your people. SECAM is also a means of promoting respect for the law, so as to ensure that the ills of corruption and fatalism may be healed, and to encourage the efforts of Christians in society as a whole, always in view of the common good. The great work of evangelisation consists in striving to make the Gospel permeate every aspect of our lives so that we, in turn, can bring it to others. For this reason, it must always be borne in mind that evangelisation implies conversion, that is, interior renewal. The process of purification, which is inherent in evangelisation, means accepting the call of Christ to 'repent and believe the Good News'. As a result of this conversion to salvation,not only individuals but the entire ecclesial community is transformed, and becomes an ever greater and more vital expression of faith and charity.
“May the light and the strength of the Holy Spirit sustain your pastoral efforts. May the Virgin Mary protect you and intercede for you and for the entire continent of Africa. To each of you, I give my Apostolic Blessing. Please pray for me”.
Cardinal O'Malley reports on the work of the Commission for the Protection of Minors
Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Boston, U.S.A. and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors gave an update this morning in the Holy See Press Office on the work of this entity following the letter sent by Pope Francis on 2 February to the presidents of the episcopal conferences and superiors of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life throughout the world. The cardinal was accompanied by two members of the Commission, Sister Kayula Gertrude Lesa RSC of Zambia, who works with refugees and the victims of human trafficking, and Peter Saunders, founder of the British organisation NAPAC (National Association for People Abused in Childhood).
Cardinal O'Malley began by noting that the date on which the Pope sent the letter – the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple “is symbolic as we work to make the Temple a safe place to bring children”, and added that he is writing to the various episcopal conferences to request that each one name a contact person who can help establish a line of communication with the conferences as well as with Religious Superiors. “One of the tasks of the Commission, working with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will be to reach out to help suggest best practices, especially to conferences that are finding it difficult to develop policies. The Commission is also tasked to promote education and child safety programs and to present methods for measuring compliance”.
On Friday, 6 February the first meeting of the full Commission was held, attended by all seventeen members, with new representation from Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania. “I am truly impressed by the wealth of experience and commitment that all the members bring to the Commission”, commented the archbishop of Boston.
“We are currently working to develop seminars to educate Church leadership in the area of child protection”, he continued. “We hope to offer these programs for members of the Roman Curia and for newly appointed bishops who come to Rome from throughout the world, for orientation programs sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. The Commission is also preparing materials for a Day of Prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse. Such an activity underscores our responsibility to work for spiritual healing and also helps raise consciousness among the Catholic community about the scourge of child abuse”.
“We have also begun to reach out to Catholic funding organisations, to ask them to include some requirements concerning child protection in their guidelines for eligibility for funding. Realising that many of the countries that need to do the most work to advance child protection are also often terribly lacking in resources, we are asking the funding organisations to award grants in these counties for establishing child protection programs and providing training for Church personnel”, added Cardinal O'Malley.
The Commission is currently in the process of establishing a series of working groups to call on the expertise of individuals who are not members but can provide valuable assistance. “We have one working group which has been charged with the task of outreach to survivors who might contribute to our efforts by their participation, especially concerning issues of prevention and sound guidelines”, he concluded.
Vatican City, 7 February 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

Pope Francis “Have this daily contact with the Gospel,” Mass Video/Homily

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday evening visited the parish of San Michele Arcangelo in the eastern Roman district of Pietralata. The parish is on the peripheries of Rome, and home to 8,000 families.
On his way to the parish, the Holy Father made a surprise visit to a shantytown called  “Campo Arcobaleno”, where he visited with residents for about 10 minutes.After arriving at the Parish Hall, Pope Francis met with a group of homeless people who are cared for by the Sant’Egidio Community.
“The fact that people do not know your name, and call you ‘homeless’ and you carry this: It is your cross, and your patience,” said Pope Francis. “But there is something in the heart of all of you - of this, please be assured - there is the Holy Spirit.”
He then held a meeting with parents whose children had been baptized in the previous year, and asked them to teach them the Faith well, and lamented there are “Christian children who cannot make the sign of the cross.”
In his meeting with older children, many of whom were part of the Scouting movement, Pope Francis pointed out that wars are not only those – and he asked them to make a list - which kill children in Iraq, Ukraine, and Africa. Wars are come about much earlier in people who do not possess God.
“Who is the father of war?” Pope Francis asked.  “The devil!” the children answered.
Pope Francis said the devil is the “father of hate”, “the father of lies” who seeks disunity.
“But God wants unity,” Pope Francis said. “If in your heart you feel jealousy, this is the beginning of war.  Jealousies are not of God.”
And this is the theme Pope Francis continued during his homily at Mass.
“It is sad when in a family, brothers do not speak because of something stupid,” Pope Francis said.
“Because the devil takes stupidity and makes a world,” he continued. “Then these enmities continue and multiply for years.  It destroys the family: Parents suffer because their children do not speak to each other, or with the wife of a son…And so this jealousy and envy, it is sowed by the devil.  And the only one who can drive out demons is Jesus.  The only one who can heal these things is Jesus. So to each of your: Have yourself healed by Jesus.”
As he often does during parish visits, he urged the congregation to listen to Jesus in the Gospel, to read a passage and ask themselves, what does it say to me?
“Have this daily contact with the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.  “Pray with the Gospel.” 

Today's Mass Readings : Monday February 9, 2015

Monday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 329

Reading 1GN 1:1-19

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed–the first day.

Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed–the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth,”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth that
bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed–the fourth day.

Responsorial PsalmPS 104:1-2A, 5-6, 10 AND 12, 24 AND 35C

R. (31b) May the Lord be glad in his works.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
With the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—
the earth is full of your creatures;
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. May the Lord be glad in his works.

AlleluiaSEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 6:53-56

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.

Saint February 9 : St. Apollina : Martyr : Patron of Dentists

A holy virgin who suffered martyrdom in Alexandria during a local uprising against the Christians previous to the persecution of Decius (end of 248, or beginning of 249). During the festivities commemorative of the first millenary of the Roman Empire, the agitation of the heathen populace rose to a great height, and when one of their poets prophesied a calamity, they committed bloody outrages on the Christians whom the authorities made no effort to protect. The great Dionysius, then Bishop of Alexandria (247-265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, long extracts from which Eusebius has preserved for us (Church History I.6.41). After describing how a Christian man and woman, named respectively Metras and Quinta, were seized by the seditious mob and put to death with the most cruel tortures, and how the houses of several other Christians were completely pillaged, Dionysius continues: "At that time Apollonia the parthénos presbûtis (virgo presbytera, by which he very probably means not a virgin advanced in years, but a deaconess) was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death." Apollonia belongs, therefore, to that class of early Christian martyrs who did not await the death they were threatened with, but either to preserve their chastity, or because confronted with the alternative of renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the latter in the form prepared for them. In the honour paid to her martyrs the Church made no distinction between these women and others. St. Augustine touches on this question in the first book of the "City of God", apropos of suicide (City of God I.26); "But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience thereto a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?" The narrative of Dionysius does not suggest the slightest reproach as to this act of St. Apollonia; in his eyes she was as much a martyr as the others, and as such she was revered in the Alexandrian Church. In time, her feast was also popular in the West. A later legend assigned a similar martyrdom to Apollonia, a Christian virgin of Rome in the reign of Julian the Apostate. There was, however, but one martyr of this name, i.e. the Saint of Alexandria. The Roman Church celebrates her memory on 9 February, and she is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure. She is represented in art with pincers in which a tooth is held. There was a church dedicated to her at Rome but it no longer exists. The little square, however, in which it stood is still called "Piazza Sant' Apollonia".
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