Monday, December 29, 2014

Anti-Religious Indoctrination is happening today - Signs to look for..Part 1

Special to JCE CatholicNewsWorld by Scott Ventureyra: 
 On Anti-Religious Indoctrination
Throughout academia there are many thoughtful educators. There are also those who have agendas to indoctrinate their students through uncritically accepting and adopting their personal philosophies. 
Anti-Religious Indoctrination
Indoctrination is defined as: “to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.” This definition serves well for understanding anti-religious indoctrination - the presentation of ideologies that are set to challenge traditional theistic thought and values, even when couched in seemingly neutral and subtle ways. 
There is an inherent assumption in modern Western society that people who believe in God are irrational.  Popular culture is suffused with anti-religious material whether it is through newspapers, TV shows, documentaries, out- spoken celebrities or popular books. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that there are many good reasons to believe in God’s existence.  Many modern versions of arguments for God’s existence are defended by highly intelligent Christian philosophers and theologians.  Much of this argumentation provides a convincing explanation for the following phenomena: the origin of the universe, the existence of the universe, the origin of the laws and constants of physics, the origin of consciousness, the existence of objective morality, the correspondence of our minds to understand reality in an accurate way which permits scientific study and the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.  It is worth pointing out that one can be rationally justified (a natural intuitive belief known as properly basic) in believing in God and trusting in Him wholly apart from arguments but the beauty is that these arguments back up Christian beliefs.
There also exists the postulation that people who question naturalistic evolution (a view that excludes God from intervening in His Creation or sustaining it) are irrational.  A great deal of intelligent individuals including scientists believe that either God directly intervened or was somehow involved in the process of biological evolution.  This could encompass a variety of positions comprising Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution (either planned or guided).  Nonetheless, to suggest evolution is purposeless or unguided are metaphysical claims and not scientific ones.  The empirical science behind evolutionary theory cannot on its own answer questions of value and meaning unless coupled with a particular philosophy whether it be naturalistic, deistic, theistic, pantheistic etc… Nonetheless, the irrationality associated with questioning naturalistic evolution has permeated popular culture. 
Treating questions about certain issues respectfully is good pedagogy whereas stifling questions through intimidation and appeals to authority is a form of indoctrination.  This is what is occurring throughout North America from the starting point of our education systems (e.g., kindergarten) to the graduate level (PhD). 

Examples of Anti-Religious Indoctrination
Anti-religious indoctrination is beginning at earliest levels of North American educational systems; at the elementary school and even kindergarten levels. The GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered) activists have made some serious advances in the public school systems in an attempt to challenge and transform traditional theistic morality on such issues.  Old Testament scholar, Michael Brown indicates that: “Pro-gay books are being read in elementary school classrooms, teachers are being mandated to use gender neutral language, gay activists have been welcomed in the White House, and young evangelicals see no problem with same-sex marriage.”[i]  The inroads have been made into mainstream culture and are being deeply absorbed into the educational system where by kindergarten students are being taught terms such as gender queer and queer theology.  There has also been a dramatic increase in the use of pro-gay books in elementary school classrooms including titles such as: Two Daddies and Me; Oh The Things Mommies Do!: What Can Be Better Than Having Two?[ii]  
Another form of anti-religious indoctrination involves the conflation of the philosophical interpretation of scientific theories with scientific methodology.  In more technical terms, the conflation between metaphysical naturalism with methodological naturalism. Evolutionary biologists of the highest rank such as Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Monod and George Gaylord Simpson have been guilty of this when they have declared that humanity’s purpose is illusory from their personal interpretations of evolutionary biology.  
A commonly associated mantra includes the regurgitation that the ultimate purpose of life is to pass on our genes. Such a naturalistically rooted sentiment is repeated at all levels of education.  Typically it seems to be repeated in high school and university classrooms, particularly in biology classes by secular educators.
Its contemporary formulation can be found in Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’ contention in his book is that an organism merely acts as a vehicle to copy genes to subsequent generations via a Darwinian selection process. It is a gene centric view; everything must ultimately bow down to the transferring of genetic information.  Obviously, this in and of itself says nothing about the meaning or purpose of life.  Dawkins himself seems to contradict this view in chapter 11: “We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators.  We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”[iii] This flies in the face of genetic determinism that many proponents of Neo-Darwinism adhere to. 
A third form of anti-religious indoctrination includes the denial of truth.  This is common at the university level.  The remnants of the “death of God movement” are still rearing their ugly heads in faculties of theology. When you couple this with postmodern epistemology, a number of professors of theology have made declarative statements akin to “there is no truth.”  Anyone who understands anything about logic will realize that such a claim is literally self-refuting since it contradicts what it sets to establish, i.e., it unwittingly claims there is a truth; through the affirmation that there is none. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that such professors may not last too long in faculties of traditional Christian theology.  Who knows what such theologians truly believe.
The concept of truth is fundamental to theological reflection. The removal of it places the act of analyzing truth claims associated with the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) on the same level as deciding which McDonald’s meal you prefer. 
Such agendas are made clear when such professors subsequently speak of the resurrection of Jesus, as not being any “less real” if it had been solely experienced in the minds of the disciples as opposed to something that had objectively happened to Jesus.  This position is clearly rooted in Kierkegaardian existentialism. Kierkegaard expounded a form of fideism whereby experience was elevated over reason.  Kierkegaard went much too far with his emphasis on the experiential dimension while attempting to eradicate the rational element of the faith.  Nevertheless, faith and reason are more intimately involved than that and neither should be compromised over the other. Traditionally the two have operated harmoniously. PART 2 -
Scott Ventureyra
by: Scott Ventureyra is a doctoral candidate in theology at Dominican University College in Ottawa, Canada.

[iii] Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 201.

Today's Mass Readings : Monday December 29, 2014

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Lectionary: 202

Reading 11 JN 2:3-11

The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Responsorial Psalm PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 5B-6

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
The LORD made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty go before him;
praise and grandeur are in his sanctuary.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

Alleluia LK 2:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A light of revelation to the Gentiles
and glory for your people Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 2:22-35

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Breaking News Nuns at Pope Francis Retreat House Robbed on Christmas Day

The convent at Pope Francis' summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo was robbed on Christmas Day.  The group took the mother superior hostage. Italian police are checking the television footage and fingerprints  Three men forced came in through a window at the Pius XII Institute in Rome just after midnight. The men reportedly began went through the mother superior's office. Then the nuns woke up and came to see what was going on. The men grabbed the Mother Superior and walked her to her bedroom. She was forced to give them over 5,000 euros from the cash box. The men locked her in her bedroom before escaping through holes cut in the fence at the backyard. They escaped in a car.  The nuns were in "a state of shock," according to Il Messaggero, a newspaper. The convent also houses a school and in Castel Gandolfo. The men were described as being between 30 and 40 years old. They spoke with southern accents, perhaps from Campania, where Camorra mafia have a strong presence.

Free Catholic Movie : Becket : Stars Peter O'Toole - Drama on St. Thomas Becket

In honor of the Feast of St. Thomas Becket JCE News is sharing the entire film BECKET. This Hollywood production stars the award winning Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.
St. Thomas Becket


Feast: December 29
1118 - 1170 AD
Becket was in conflict with King Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the king in Canterbury Cathedral.

Latest News from Vatican Information Service and Pope Francis - Official Release

29-12-2014 - Year XXII - Num. 228 

- Francis' visit to Naples to begin in Pompeii
- Enthusiastic participation in Pope Francis' encounters with the faithful in 2014
- Angelus: Jesus brings the generations together
- Large families are the hope of society
- Telegram for the death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J.
- Other Pontifical Acts
- The Nativity of the Lord
Midnight Mass: “do I allow God to love me?”
- Christmas Message: “many tears, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus”
- The gift of Christian integrity is coherence: think, feel and live as Christians
Francis' visit to Naples to begin in Pompeii
Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – Pompeii will be the first port of call on Pope Francis' trip to the Italian region of Campania. On 21 March the Holy Father will begin his pilgrimage to Naples, starting from the statue dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii, according to the prelate archbishop and pontifical delegate of the shrine, Tommaso Caputo, who added that the Pope's visit constitutes an event of extraordinary ecclesial importance.
“The filial and tender Marian devotion that the Pope continues to show is also at the root of the Church of Pompeii's strong commitment towards the humblest and neediest among us”, explained the prelate. “Today, more than ever before, the motivating forces of charity, intimately linked to the needs of justice and respect for the dignity of every person, are strongly felt. Aside from our joy for his visit, we hope that Pope Francis will show us the path to take to be even closer to and more united with our people”.
St. John Paul II also visited Pompeii on 21 October 1979, during his visit to Naples, and he returned there on 7 October 2003 for the conclusion of the Year of the Rosary. Benedict XVI also visited the shrine, again during the month of the Rosary, October 2008.
Enthusiastic participation in Pope Francis' encounters with the faithful in 2014
Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – In a communique published today, the Prefecture of the Papal Household reports that during the year 2014, more than 5,900,000 faithful participated in the various encounters with Pope Francis: audiences, both general (1,199,000) and special (567,100); liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and St. Peter's Square (1,110,700), and the Angelus and Regina Coeli (3,040,000). These data refer only to the encounters that took place in the Vatican and do not include other activities that involved a high level of participation among the faithful, such as the apostolic trips to the Republic of Korea, Turkey or the Holy Land, or the various trips in Italy and visits within the diocese of Rome. The total number of faithful involved in the Vatican events is estimated at 5,916,800.
The Prefecture of the Papal Household reiterates that these are approximate data, calculated on the basis of requests for attendance at events and the invitations distributed by the Prefecture. Similarly, the data regarding participation in the Angelus and large celebrations in St. Peter's Square are based on estimates.
Angelus: Jesus brings the generations together
Vatican City, 28 December 2014 (VIS) – “Jesus brings the generations together”, affirmed Pope Francis, addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square today for the midday Angelus. The Gospel reading narrated the episode of the Presentation in the Temple, when Mary and Joseph, forty days after Jesus' birth, take Him to the temple in Jerusalem, in obedience to the Law of Moses. There, they meet the elderly people Simeon and Anna.
“We can imagine this little family, in the midst of so many people, in the great courtyard of the temple. They do not stand out, they are not distinguished. However”, observed the Holy Father, “they do not go unnoticed. Two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, approach them and praise God for that Child, in Whom they recognise the Messiah, the light of the peoples and the salvation of Israel. It is a simple moment, yet rich in prophecy: the meeting between a young couple full of joy and faith by the grace of the Lord, and two elderly people also full of joy and faith by the action of the Spirit. Who brings them together? Jesus. Jesus brings about the encounter between the young and the elderly. Jesus is the One who brings the generations together. He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all distrust, all isolation, every distance. … Good relations between the young and the elderly are fundamental to the path of civil and ecclesial community. Looking at these two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, we greet with applause all the grandparents in the world”, exclaimed Francis.
“The message that comes from the Holy Family is above all a message of faith”, he continued. “This is why the family of Nazareth is holy. Why? Because it is centred on Jesus. When parents and children breathe together the same climate of faith, they possess an energy that allows them to face difficult trials, as shown by the experience of the Holy Family, for example, during the dramatic events of the flight into Egypt”.
The child Jesus with his mother Mary and St. Joseph are the icon of the family, simple yet illuminating. The light they radiate is a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, a light of truth for every man, for the human family. … The light that comes from the Holy Family encourages us to offer human warmth in those family situations that, for various reasons, lack peace, harmony or forgiveness. Our concrete solidarity is not lacking, especially in relation to those families who experience difficult situations such as sickness, unemployment, discrimination, or the need to migrate”. He concluded by asking those present to pray a moment in silence for these families.
Following the Angelus prayer, the Pope mentioned the passengers on the aircraft that disappeared in flight between Indonesia and Singapore, and those on the ferry that caught fire in the Adriatic Sea. "I am close, with affection and prayer, to the relatives of the victims, those who are living through these difficult situations with anxiety and suffering, and those involved in the rescue operations”.
Large families are the hope of society
Vatican City, 28 December 2014 (VIS) – On the feast day of the Holy Family, Pope Francis received in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall a group of large Italian families, present in Rome for to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Associazione Nazionale Famiglie Numerose (National Association for Large Families). The audience was also attended by families from other countries throughout Europe.
“You have come here with the most beautiful fruits of your love. Maternity and paternity are gifts from God, your task is to receive this gift, to be amazed by its beauty and to let it shine in society. Each one of your children is a unique creation that will never be repeated in the history of humanity. When we understand this, that each person is willed by God, we are astonished by the great miracle that is a child”.
“And you, boys and girls”, he continued, addressing the children present, “are precisely this: each one of you is the unique fruit of love, you come from love and grow in love. You are unique, but you are not alone. And the fact of having brothers and sisters is good for you: the sons and daughters of large families are more inclined to fraternal communion from early childhood. In a world that is frequently marked by selfishness, the large family is a school of solidarity and sharing; and these attitudes are of benefit to all society”.
“You, children and young people, are the fruit of the tree that is the family: you are good fruit when the tree has good roots – grandparents – and a good trunk – the parents. … The presence of large families is a hope for society. This is why the presence of grandparents is very important: a valuable presence both in terms of practical assistance, but above all for their contribution to education. Grandparents conserve the values of a people, of a family, and they help parents transmit them to their children. Throughout the last century, in many countries in Europe, it was the grandparents who transmitted faith”.
“Dear parents, thank you for your example of love for life that you protect from conception to its natural end, in spite of all the difficulties and burdens of life, that unfortunately public institutions do not always help you to bear. … Every family is a cell of society, but the large family is a richer, more vital cell, and the state has much to gain by investing in it”, Francis remarked. He concluded by praying for those families who are most affected by the economic crisis, those in which the mother or father have lost their jobs and in which the young are unable to find work, and those families in which the closest relationships are marked by suffering and who are tempted to give in to loneliness and separation”.
Telegram for the death of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J.
Vatican City, 2 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolences to the Prepositor General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas Pachon, for the death in Tokyo, Japan of Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, S.J., former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, at the age of 86.
The Pope describes the archbishop as an “exemplary minister of God, who lived for the cause of the Gospel” and underlines his “generous missionary apostleship” in Japan, where his earthly existence came to an end. He also gives thanks to the Lord for the service Archbishop Pittau rendered to the Apostolic See as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, for his commitment as rector of the Sophia University of Tokyo, and as Magnificent Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome, as well as for his devotion to the Society of Jesus. The Pope entrusts the soul of the departed to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, “in the light of Christ's resurrection”, and imparts an apostolic blessing to those who mourn the late archbishop's passing.
Other Pontifical Acts
Vatican City, 29 December 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Angel Javier Perez Pueyo as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon (area 8,321, population 101,320, Catholics 95,127, priests 96, permanent deacons 3, religious 171), Spain. The bishop-elect was born in Ejea de los Caballeros, Spain in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1980. He holds a licentiate in philosophy and science of education from the Civil University of Salamanca, Spain. He has served in a number of roles, including formator and professor in the seminaries of Tarragona and Salmanca and member of the Central Council of the Fraternity of Working Diocesan Priests and pastoral coordinator of the same Fraternity. He has collaborated in courses for formators in various seminaries in Latin America and in those organised by the Episcopal Commission of Seminaries of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. He is currently rector of the “San Jose” Pontifical Spanish College in Rome. He succeeds Bishop Alfonso Milian Sorribas, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
The Nativity of the Lord
Midnight Mass: “do I allow God to love me?”
Vatican City, 24 December 2014 (VIS) – This evening at 10 p.m. the Holy Father celebratedMidnight Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, 2014. During the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Holy Gospel, Pope Francis pronounced the following homily:
“'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined'. 'An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them'. This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.
“We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the 'great light'. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.
“The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel. As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. God was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself. Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples. The patience of God. How difficult it is to comprehend this: God’s patience towards us.
“Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns; and every day, with patience. The patience of God.
“Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: 'This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger'. The 'sign' is in fact the humility of God, the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.
“On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? 'But I am searching for the Lord' – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?
“More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.
“The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realise that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: 'Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict'.
“'Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light'. People who were unassuming, people open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: 'O Mary, show us Jesus!'”.
Christmas Message: “many tears, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus”
Vatican City, 25 December 2014 (VIS) – At midday today, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Pope gave his traditional Christmas message from the central balcony of the Vatican Basilica and imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
“Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, is born for us, born in Bethlehem of a Virgin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies. The Virgin’s name is Mary, the wife of Joseph.
“Humble people, full of hope in the goodness of God, are those who welcome Jesus and recognise him. And so the Holy Spirit enlightened the shepherds of Bethlehem, who hastened to the grotto and adored the Child. Then the Spirit led the elderly and humble couple Simeon and Anna into the temple of Jerusalem, and they recognised in Jesus the Messiah. 'My eyes have seen your salvation', Simeon exclaimed, 'the salvation prepared by God in the sight of all peoples'.
“Yes, brothers and sisters, Jesus is the salvation for every person and for every people!
Today I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution. May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigours of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity. May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
“May Jesus, Saviour of the world, protect all who suffer in Ukraine, and grant that their beloved land may overcome tensions, conquer hatred and violence, and set out on a new journey of fraternity and reconciliation.
“May Christ the Saviour give peace to Nigeria, where more blood is being shed and too many people are unjustly deprived of their possessions, held as hostages or killed. I invoke peace also on the other parts of the African continent, thinking especially of Libya, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and various regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I beseech all who have political responsibility to commit themselves through dialogue to overcoming differences and to building a lasting, fraternal coexistence.
“May Jesus save the vast numbers of children who are victims of violence, made objects of trade and trafficking, or forced to become soldiers; children, so many abused children. May he give comfort to the families of the children killed in Pakistan last week. May he be close to all who suffer from illness, especially the victims of the Ebola epidemic, above all in Liberia, in Sierra Leone and in Guinea. As I thank all who are courageously dedicated to assisting the sick and their family members, I once more make an urgent appeal that the necessary assistance and treatment be provided.
“The Child Jesus. My thoughts turn to all those children today who are killed and ill-treated, be they infants killed in the womb, deprived of that generous love of their parents and then buried in the egoism of a culture that does not love life; be they children displaced due to war and persecution, abused and taken advantage of before our very eyes and our complicit silence. I think also of those infants massacred in bomb attacks, also those where the Son of God was born. Even today, their impotent silence cries out under the sword of so many Herods. On their blood stands the shadow of contemporary Herods. Truly there are so many tears this Christmas, together with the tears of the Infant Jesus.
“Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit today enlighten our hearts, that we may recognise in the Infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, the salvation given by God to each one of us, to each man and woman and to all the peoples of the earth. May the power of Christ, which brings freedom and service, be felt in so many hearts afflicted by war, persecution and slavery. May this divine power, by its meekness, take away the hardness of heart of so many men and women immersed in worldliness and indifference, the globalisation of indifference. May his redeeming strength transform arms into ploughshares, destruction into creativity, hatred into love and tenderness. Then we will be able to cry out with joy: 'Our eyes have seen your salvation'.
“With these thoughts I wish you all a Happy Christmas!”
The gift of Christian integrity is coherence: think, feel and live as Christians
Vatican City, 26 December 2014 (VIS) – At midday the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff gave a brief address to those present, on the subject of coherence with faith.
“The Gospel of this feast day shows a part of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples in the moment in which He sends them on their mission. Among other things, He says, 'You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved'. These words of the Lord do not disrupt the celebration of Christmas, but strip it of that false saccharine-sweetness that does not belong to it. It makes us understand that in the trials accepted on account of the faith, violence is overcome by love, death by life. To truly welcome Jesus in our existence, and to prolong the joy of the Holy Night, the path is precisely the one indicated in this Gospel: that is, to bear witness in humility, in silent service, without fear of going against the current, able to pay in person. While not all of us are called, as St. Stephen was, to shed their own blood, every Christian is nonetheless required in every circumstance to lead a life coherent with the faith he or she professes. Christian integrity is a grace that we must ask of the Lord. To be coherent, to live as Christians rather than merely saying, 'I am Christian' while living like a pagan. Coherence is a grace we must ask for today”.
Francis explained that following the Gospel is a “demanding but beautiful path, and those who follow it with devotion and courage receive the gift promised by the Lord to men and women of goodwill”. He asked those present to pray “in a special way for those who are discriminated against, persecuted and killed for their witness of Christ … so that due to the sacrifice of these latter-day martyrs, of whom there are many, the commitment to recognising and guaranteeing religious freedom, an inalienable right of every human being, may be reinforced in every part of the world”.
After the Angelus prayer, the Pope conveyed his wishes for peace to all those present and prayed to St. Stephen for the grace of Christian coherence: “thinking, feeling and living as a Christian, not thinking as a Christian and living as a pagan”.

Saint December 29 : St. Thomas Becket : Archbishop of Canterbury : Martyr : Patron of Clergy

Feast Day:December 29
Born:21 December 1118 at London, England
Died:29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England
Canonized:21 February 1173 by Pope Alexander III
Patron of:clergy
There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the  story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.
Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry announced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in  the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier.

According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge—and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment.

Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers.

Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid.

Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.
At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door.

Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me.

Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily.

Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in  defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead. The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.