Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Saint February 8 : St. Josephine Bakhita - #Slave to Saint + Litany Prayer - SHARE!

Happy Childhood (1869-1876)

Bakhita was born in 1869 in Olgossa, in Darfur, a territory to the South-East of Sudan, inhabited by the Dajus, one the major ethnic groups who had settled in that region centuries before. Bakhita's family was prosperous, possessing lands with plantations and cattle. She herself said, "My life was completely happy. I did not know the meaning of sorrow". Bakhita had three brothers and three sisters. In 1874 the elder sister was kidnapped.
Harsh Slavery (1876-1882)
In 1876 two men kidnapped Bakhtia, who was then about seven years of age. After a month's imprisonment she was sold to a slave-trader (the second master). With great courage the girl attempted to escape, but was recaptured by a shepherd (her third master) and sold again to a fierce-looking man (her fourth master) who sold her to a slave-trader (fifth master). One day she was beaten and left unconscious and bleeding on the ground. 
She was then sold to a Turkish general (6th master), whose wife subjected Bakhita to the torture of tattooing. Her torturer spared only her face, because it was very beautiful, while he inflicted 114 cuts with a razor on her stomach and arms.

 The poor little victim felt she was dying, especially when salt was rubbed into her wounds to keep them open. Immersed in a pool of blood, she was carried away on a pallet and left for a month without even a rag to dry the serum that oozed from her wounds.

To Freedom (1882-1885)

In 1882 the Turkish general sold Bakhita in Khartoum to the consular official Callisto Legnani (seventh master), who was very kind to her. Right away he showed his benevolence, dressing her for the first time in a tunic which restored her dignity as a woman. He would have brought her back to her own village if Bakhita had been able to remember its name, but she was too small at the time of her kidnapping to register exact details. When, in 1885, Legnani was preparing to leave Africa for Italy, Bakhita asked for and received permission to go with him. They embarked, together with a friend of the consul, Augusto Michieli. It was to the latter that Legnani gave the young African upon their arrival in Genoa.
In Italy

Mr. Michieli, a rich businessman from Venice, took Bakhita with him to his villa at Zianigo, near Mirano Venetto. Here, for three years, Bakhita was nursemaid to the little daughter, Alice, nicknamed Mimmina. The Michieli were good, honest people, but not church-goers. Mrs. Turina Michieli, who was Orthodox, had forbidden Bakhita to enter a church. However, Providence had placed on Bakhita's path the Michieli's manager, Illuminato Checchini, who played a fundamental part in her journey of faith. "A man with a heart of gold and an enlightened conscience" was how Bakhita described him; he always had a "fatherly love" for her. It was he, in fact, who concerned himself the religious education of the young African. When the Michieli returned in 1886 to Africa, where they had acquired a large hotel at Suakim and took Bakhita with them, the good Illuminato felt remorse, because he had not yet been able to speak to her about God. He was, thus, very happy, the following year, when he saw her return with his wife and the little girl, and inwardly promised to do everything he could for the benefit of that soul. "The missionaries", he said, "go to Africa to convert its inhabitants, shall we do nothing to enlighten this poor girl?" He began by presenting her with a little crucifix, saying to himself: "Jesus, I entrust her to you. Now, you look after her". He was also instrumental in placing Mimmina and Bakhita in the care of the Canossian sisters in Venice when the Michieli had to leave again for Suakim. At this Institute Bakhita was admitted to the catechumen ate. When, after nine months, Mrs Michieli returned for her daughter and the girl whom she regarded as in some way, her slave, in order to take them back again to Africa, she encountered a very firm attitude on the part of the latter. It was on that occasion that Bakhita, who was still a catechumen, displayed singular strength of spirit and great faith. In fact, when confronted with the affection and economic security offered her by the Michieli family, and the hope of rediscovering her family if she returned to Africa, she preferred God's love and abandonment to divine Providence for her future, which in human terms, was very uncertain. Thus she said, with determination: "No, I cannot return to Africa, because I would not be able to profess my faith in the Lord. I love the lady and her little girl very much, but I cannot lose my God. So I am remaining". It was 29 November 1889, as bakhita later recorded in her memoirs. This moment of courageous decision is most significant; it was to set the tone for her entire life.

In this difficult struggle Bakhita had the support of the Patriarch of Venice and the King's Procurator, who, according to Italian law, which forbade slavery, declared her to be a free person.
"If I did not die", Bakhita was to say later, "it was by a miracle of God, who had destined me for better things".
Josephine Bakhita
As preparations were made for the great day - January 9, 1890 - when she was to receive Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion at the hands of the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Agostini, Bakhita experienced very mixed feelings. On the one hand, she was profoundly aware of her own unworthiness, while on the other, she felt indescribable joy at the thought that she would become a child of God. Realizing God's ineffable love, she was at times intensely moved. She then had moments when she was unable to grasp how she, a poor black girl, a slave, an ignorant person, could be called by the Lord His daughter, she who had nothing to offer Him. She would then run to Mother Fabretti, her catechists, who calmed her, assuring her that in the eyes of God, wealth and wisdom were worth nothing: all that counted was love. "And you love the Lord, don't you?" Bakhita would agree, smiling contentedly, her eyes wet with tears. "Go in peace, then", concluded Mother Fabretti, "and call Him with confidence: "Our Father who art in Heaven...

After she had been baptized, receiving the names of Josephine, Margherita and Fortunata, Bakhita remained at the Institute of the Catechumens, where she soon became aware of the call to a life of special consecration. She did not dare expressed this desire, feeling herself to be unworthy. She feared that she might disfigure the Congregation on account of her black skin. Her confessor reassured her. God does not look at the colour of one's skin, but rather at the innermost depths of one's heart.

Bakhita was accepted, and after three years of Novitiate she made her Vows on Decembe 8, 1896. Cardinal Sarto, the then Patriarch of Venice, examined her and told her: "Pronounce your holy vows without fear. This is what Jesus wants. Jesus loves you. Love Him and serve Him always in this way". He also reassured her about the eternal salvation of her dear ones: "God has infinite ways of making Himself known and when He chooses a person to be His bride, He also thinks of her family".
After she had been baptized, receiving the names of Josephine, Margherita and Fortunata, Bakhita remained at the Institute of the Catechumens, where she soon became aware of the call to a life of special consecration. She did not dare expressed this desire, feeling herself to be unworthy. She feared that she might disfigure the Congregation on account of her black skin. Her confessor reassured her. God does not look at the colour of one's skin, but rather at the innermost depths of one's heart.

Bakhita was accepted, and after three years of Novitiate she made her Vows on Decembe 8, 1896. Cardinal Sarto, the then Patriarch of Venice, examined her and told her: "Pronounce your holy vows without fear. This is what Jesus wants. Jesus loves you. Love Him and serve Him always in this way". He also reassured her about the eternal salvation of her dear ones: "God has infinite ways of making Himself known and when He chooses a person to be His bride, He also thinks of her family".

After her religious profession, which took place in Verona, Mother Bakhita returned to Venice, and later was sent to the house in Schio. Here she spent the best part of 45 years, immediately gaining the sympathy and esteem of all the town's inhabitants, who began to call her affectionately 'Madre Moretta' (Black Mother). Bakhita achieved the ideals set by the Foundress, St. Magdalene of Canossa, who wished her daughters to be "anchorites and apostles". Whether in church or sacristy, at the door or in the kitchen, she was engrossed in her Lord, and daily bore witness to the Lord's love for all His creatures. During the First World War, with great love, she set about easing the physical suffering and moral anguish of all those around her, in particular, the soldiers looked after in the Institute, which had been turned into a military hospital. During the Second World War people attributed to her presence the fact that Schio was preserved from the bombing. In fact, when the alarm sounded, Bakhita would say, "Don't worry, because the 'Master' knows what He has to do nothing will happen here."

From the moment of her profession, she showed how close she felt to her African brothers and sisters. On that day she uttered the following heartfelt prayer: "O Lord, if I could but fly to my people and preach aloud Your goodness to everyone! Oh, how many souls would I win for you. Among the first would be my mother, my father, my brothers, my sister, still a slave... all, all the poor black people of Africa. Grant, Jesus, that they too may know and love you!" Between 1936 and 1938 Mother Bakhita was at Vimercate, the seat of the Canossian Missionary Novitiate. This was her base for journeys to various Italian cities to promote the missions. She was accompanied by another Sister, who had returned from her mission in China. Everyone wanted to hear first-hand her "wonderful story". Referring to this experience, Mother Bakhita was to say later: "Many will think I enjoyed travelling around, but for me it was real martyrdom". Wherever she went, she left goodness in her wake, even though she herself was not aware of it.

At the height of World War II, on December 8, 1943, Mother Bakhita celebrated the 50th anniversary of her religious life. Not only her own community, but the whole of Schio, celebrated, despite the adverse circumstances of the time. But now, for Bakhita, aches and pains were beginning to make themselves felt, crippling arthritis, asthmatic bronchitis with cough, convulsed her body. This was not to be wondered at, considering the suffering she had undergone in her younger years and the rigours of the northern climate to which she was not accustomed. During her long illness never a complaint passed her lips. When she was asked: "Don't you feel anything, Mother Bakhita?" She replied: "Of course I feel something - I'm alive; it's only the dead who can't feel anything". "And how is it that you never complain?" "Oh, when nature wants something, I say: now be good, we'll see about it. Then I think about Jesus on the cross, and about the Sorrowful Virgin. That way, nature is calmed, and I no longer need anything". What heroic patience! Very soon she had to abandon her walking-stick in favour of a wheelchair, until broncho pneumonia brought her inexorably to the end. Fully conscious, and to the great edification of all, she received the last sacraments. The Virgin Mary came to comfort her at the moment of her death on Saturday, February 8, 1947. "How happy I am... the Madonna, the Madonna! These were her last words as she passed from this earthly life to the full freedom of God's children.
Her Motto

From her childhood, Bakhita learnt to wonder at the beauty of creation. Even as a slave, she found comfort in admiring the sun, the moon, and the stars. She told how, when she had, finally, lost hope of ever seeing her family again, she began to appreciate more the beauties of nature. She wondered who could have been their Maker and ardently desired to know Him so as to be able to thank Him and do Him homage.

She was utterly surprised when she began to grasp the meaning of this truth: through Baptism you will become a child of God. "A child of God - I, a poor black girl!", she would repeat, filled with amazement. Her baptism gave her such great joy that she felt its beneficial effects ever after. "Here, I became a child of God!" she exclaimed with emotion, kneeling at the baptismal font when she had the good fortune to visit the church where she had been baptized. Baptism shaped her human and Christian future completely, and her whole life was overwhelmed with wonder at the goodness of a Father who orders everything for the good of those whom He has chosen. This, then, was the source of Bakhita's constant goodness.

The moment that had a great and decisive impact on her life was when she discovered the infinite love of God, manifested in his Crucified Son. Seeing the image of Jesus on the cross for the first time, Bakhita was greatly impressed, and asked: "What did that man do that was so wrong, for him to be treated in such a way?" "Nothing," was the reply, "He wished to die for us, for love of us, and also for you". "Also for me!" astonished Bakhita repeatedly. Always drawn irresistibly by the love of Jesus who had died on the cross for her, she became a strong woman, firm and unshakeable in her decision to devote herself totally to the service of her new heavenly Master. Consequently, her former resignation to her fate was transformed into free and holy abandonment to the divine will of Him whom she still gladly called "el Paron", "the Master", out of long-standing mental habit, but now no longer as a slave of arbitrary and evil masters by fate, but as a "slave of love" carrying out the orders of the good God, who loves His servants as a Father.

Her life, after death, would also depend on the will of the "Master". For this reason, when she was sick, she replied to those who asked for her prayers: "If the Lord permits, I will look after everyone from Heaven, I will obtain many graces for the salvation of souls."
Inner Face
"In St. Josephine Bakhita we find an outstanding witness to God's fatherly love and a bright sign of the enduring value of the Beatitudes. In our time, when the race for power, money, and pleasure causes distrust, violence and loneliness, the Lord is giving us Sister Bakhita as the Universal Sister, so that she may reveal to us the secret of the truest happiness: the Beatitudes. Hers is a message of heroic goodness, mirroring the goodness of the heavenly Father. She has left us a testimony of evangelical reconciliation and forgiveness, which will surely give comfort to the Christians in her homeland, Sudan, so sorely tried by conflict that has lasted for many years and caused many victims. Their faithfulness and their hope are reason fro pride and thanksgiving on the part of the whole Church. At this time of great tribulations, Sister Bakhita goes before them on the road of imitation of Christ, a deepening of the Christian life and of unshakeable attachment to the Church." (John Paul II - May 17,1992).

Mother Josephine Bakhita's life is marked by unconditional surrender to the will of God. Her motto was "What the Master Wishes". Thus she made her spiritual life very simple, because "doing God's will well" is the essence of perfection.

In all the positions she held as a Canossian - cook, embroiderer, sacristan, portress - Bakhita always showed herself to be a true "Daughter of Charity, Servant of the poor". The virtues that mark her relationship with her neighbours are: Goodness, Meekness, Tenderness. Her black hands caressed the heads of the children who attended the Institute's schools daily. Her amiable voice, which had the inflection of her African songs, was pleasing to the little children, comforting to the poor and the suffering, and encouraging to all who knocked at the door of the Institute.

The value of forgiveness is evident in Bakhita: "If I met those slave traders who kidnapped me and treated me so cruelly, I would kneel to kiss their hands, because if that had not happened, I would not be a Christian and a religious today." One is impressed above all by the excuse she makes for them: "Poor things, maybe they did not know they were hurting me so much: they were the masters, I was their slave. Just as we are used to doing good, so they did that by force of habit, not because they were wicked". As she told her terrible story, she continued to thank the Lord, who, in unimaginable ways, had led her to the faith and made her His bride. There was no hint of resentment in her words: she had forgiven everyone from her heart and prayed for them all.

St. Josephine Bakhita body remains incorrupt.

Litany of St. Josephine Bakhita

Lord, have mercy, 
Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy, 
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy, 
Lord, have mercy

Christ hear us, 
Christ, graciously hear us

God, our heavenly Father 
Have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the world 
Have mercy on us
God, the Holy Spirit 
Have mercy on us

Holy Mary 
Pray for us
St. Joseph 
Pray for us
St. Magdalen of Canossa 
Pray for us
St. Josephine Bakhita 
Pray for us

Flower of Sudan 
Pray for us
Universal Sister 
Pray for us
Model of Hope 
Pray for us
Child slave 
Pray for us
The Fortunate One 
Pray for us
Daughter of God 
Pray for us
Consecrated Virgin 
Pray for us
Bride of Christ 
Pray for us

Bakhita, most innocent 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most forgiving 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most chaste 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most courageous 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most free 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most prayer ful 
Pray for us
Bakhita, most faithful 
Pray for us

Reflection of Charity 
Pray for us
Wonderful Storyteller 
Pray for us
Lover of Children 
Pray for us
Exemplar of Hospitality 
Pray for us
Patient Model of Bead workers 
Pray for us
Diligent Sacristan 
Pray for us
Humble Porter 
Pray for us
Great Cook 
Pray for us
Mother Moretta 
Pray for us
Missionary at heart 
Pray for us
Hope of the sick 
Pray for us
Comfort to soldiers 
Pray for us
Pillar to anxious families 
Pray for us
Protector of Schio 
Pray for us
Powerful Intercessor of those in need 
Pray for us
Patron of the dying 
Pray for us
Tale of Wonder 
Pray for us

Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, 
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, 
Hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, 
Have mercy on us, O Lord.
Leader: God delivered her from slavery and given her true freedom in ChristAll: And made her his daughter and his bride.Leader: Let us pray

Heavenly Father, Your Son Jesus Christ, through His suffering and death on the cross, gave Himself as a gift of love for the reconciliation and salvation of all his peoples. He continues to express this love by giving us St. Josephine Bakhita. She too offered herself through her suffering in slavery. We humbly pray that through her intercession, she may obtain for us this favour which we now ask ______________, for the needs of our parish community, for her brothers and sisters in Sudan, and for the whole world the gift of justice and peace. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Saint February 8 : St. Jerome Emiliani : Patron of #Orphans - Founder of the Order of #Somascha

Feast Day:
February 8
1481, Venice Died:
8 February 1537, Somasca
1767 by Pope Clement XIII
Patron of:
Founder of the Order of Somascha; b. at Venice, 1481; d. at Somascha, 8 Feb., 1537; feast, 20 July; son of Angelo Emiliani (popularly called Miani) and of Eleonore Mauroceni, joined the army, and in 1508 defended Castelnuovo against the League of Cambray. Taken prisoner and miraculously liberated, he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Treviso, in fulfillment of a vow. He was then appointed podestà of Castelnuovo, but after a short time returned to Venice to supervise the education of his nephews. All his spare time was devoted to the study of theology and to works of charity. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1518, the hospitals and the hovels of the poor were his favourite resorts. In the year of plague and famine (1528), he seemed to be everywhere, and showed his zeal especially for the orphans, whose number had so greatly increased. He rented a house for them near the church of St. Rose and, with the assistance of some pious laymen, ministered to their wants. To his charge was also committed the hospital for incurables, founded by St. Cajetan. In 1531 he went to Verona and induced the citizens to build a hospital; at Brescia he erected an orphanage, at Bergamo one for boys and another for girls. Here also he founded the first home for fallen women who wished to do penance. Two priests, Alessandro Besuzio and Agostino Bariso, now joined him in his labours of charity, and in 1532 Jerome founded a religious society, placing the motherhouse at Somascha, a secluded hamlet between Milan and Bergamo. In the rule, Jerome puts down as the principal work of the community the care of orphans, poor, and sick, and demands that dwellings, food and clothing shall bear the mark of religious poverty. Jerome fell a martyr to his zeal; contracting a disease at Bergamo, he died at Somascha. He was beatified by Benedict XIV in 1747, and canonized by Clement XIII in 1767. The Office and Mass in his honour were approved eight years later. His biography was first written by Scipio Albani (1600); another by Andreas Stella (1605). The best was written by Aug. Tortora (Milan, 1620; in "Acta SS.", Feb., II, 217 sq.).
After the death of Jerome his community was about to disband, but was kept together by Gambarana, who had been chosen superior. He obtained the approval (1540) of Paul III. In 1547 the members vainly sought affiliation with the Society of Jesus; then in 1547-1555 they were united with the Theatines. Pius IV (1563) approved the institution, and St. Pius V raised it to the dignity of a religious order, according to the Rule of St. Augustine, with solemn vows, the privileges of the mendicants, and exemption. In 1569 the first six members made their profession, and Gambarana was made first superior general. Great favour was shown to the order by St. Charles Borromeo, and he gave it the church of St. Mayeul at Pavia, from which church the order takes its official name "Clerici regulares S. Majoli Papiae congregationis Somaschae". Later the education of youth was put into the programme of the order, and the colleges at Rome and Pavia became renowned. It spread into Austria and Switzerland, and before the great Revolution it had 119 houses in the four provinces of Rome, Lombardy, Venice, and France. At present the order has ten houses in Italy two of which are in Rome. The general resides in Rome at S. Girolamo della Carita.

(Taken frrom Catholic Encyclopedia) 

Pope Francis "..the Word of Jesus, which is in the Gospel, is living and reaches one’s heart." FULL TEXT + Video at Audience

FULL TEXT Translation Share of Zenit
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue with the catecheses on the Holy Mass. We had arrived at the Readings. The dialogue between God and His People, developed in the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass, reaches its culmination in the proclamation of the Gospel. It is preceded by the singing of the Alleluia – or, in Lent, by another acclamation – with which “the assembly of the faithful receives and greets the Lord, who is about to speak in the Gospel.”[1] As Christ’s mysteries illumine the whole of biblical revelation, so, in the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel constitutes the light to understand the meaning of the biblical texts that precede it, be it of the Old or of the New Testament. In fact, Christ is the center and fullness of the whole of Scripture, as well as of the whole liturgical celebration.”[2] Jesus Christ is always at the center, always.
Therefore, the liturgy itself distinguishes the Gospel from the other Readings and surrounds it with particular honour and veneration.[3] In fact, its reading is reserved to the ordained minister, who ends by kissing the Book; we stand to listen to it and trace the sign of the cross on the forehead, on the mouth and on the breast; the candles and incense honour Christ that, through the evangelical reading, makes His effective word resound. The assembly acknowledges with these signs the presence of Christ who gives it the “Good News,” which converts and transforms. It’s a direct discourse that takes place, as if attesting the acclamations with which one responds to the proclamation: “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise be to You, O Christ.” We stand to listen to the Gospel, but it’s Christ who is speaking to us there. And so we are attentive, because it’s a direct conversation. It’s the Lord that is speaking to us.

Therefore, we don’t read the Gospel in the Mass to know how things happened, but we listen to the Gospel to become aware of what Jesus did and said once; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus, which is in the Gospel, is living and reaches one’s heart. This is why it’s so important to listen to the Gospel with an open heart, because it’s a living Word. Saint Augustine wrote: “the Gospel is the mouth of Christ. He reigns in Heaven, but doesn’t cease to speak on earth.”[4] If it’s true that in the liturgy “Christ proclaims the Gospel again,”[5] it follows that, taking part in the Mass, we must give Him a response. We listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our life.
To bring His message, Christ also makes use of the word of the priest that, after the Gospel, gives the homily.[6] Earnestly recommended by Vatican Council II as part of the liturgy itself,[7] the homily isn’t a circumstantial discourse or a catechesis, such as the one I’m giving now –, or a conference or not even a lesson; the homily is something else. What is the homily? It’s “a taking up again of the dialogue already open between the Lord and His people, so that it finds fulfilment in life. The Gospel’s authentic exegesis is our holy life! The Lord’s word ends its course becoming flesh in us, translated into works, as happened with Mary and the Saints.  Remember what I said the last time, the Word of the Lord enters by the ears, reaches the heart and goes to the hands, to good works. And the homily also follows the Lord’s Word and follows this course as well to help us, so that the Lord’s Word, passing through the heart, reaches the hands.
I have already addressed the argument of the homily in the Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, where I recalled that the liturgical context “calls for the preaching to orient the assembly, and also the preacher, to a communion with Christ in the Eucharist, which transforms life.”
One who gives the homily must fulfil well his ministry – he who preaches, the priest, or the deacon or the Bishop –, offers a real service to all those taking part in the Mass, but those who hear him must also do their part. First of all, by paying due attention, namely, by assuming the right interior dispositions, without subjective demands, knowing that every preacher has merits and limitations. If sometimes there is reason to be bored by a long, or unfocused, or incomprehensible homily, at others times, in stead, it’s prejudice that is the obstacle. And one who gives a homily must be conscious that he’s not doing something of his own; he is preaching, giving voice to Jesus, he is preaching the Word of Jesus. And the homily must be well prepared; it must be brief, brief! A priest said to me that once he went to another city where his parents lived and his father said to him: “You know, I’m happy, because along with my friends we found a church where there is Mass without a homily!” And how often we see that during the homily some fall asleep, others chat or go outside to smoke a cigarette . . . Therefore, please, make the homily brief, but it must be well prepared. And how is a homily prepared, dear priests, deacons and Bishops? How is it prepared? With prayer, with the study of the Word of God and by doing a clear and brief synthesis; it must not go beyond ten minutes, please.
By way of conclusion we can say that, through the Gospel and the Homily, in the Liturgy of the Word God dialogues with His people, who listen to Him with attention and veneration and, at the same time, recognize Him present and operating. If, then, we listen to the “Good News,” we will be converted and transformed by it, therefore we will be capable of changing ourselves and the world. Why? Because the Good News, the Word of God enters the ears, goes to the heart and reaches the hands to do good works.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
In Italian
I’m happy to receive the Delegation from the Lithuanian Episcopate, headed by Monsignor Gintaras Grusas, Archbishop of Vilnius; the participants in the Week of Studies for Formators of Seminarians, organized by the Pontifical University of the Sacred Heart; the Women Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the lay Institute of Volunteers of Don Bosco. I hope that for all of you the visit to the Eternal City will stimulate and deepen the Word of God to be able to proclaim that Jesus is the Saviour.
I greet the Group of the “Open Doors” Project of Guardiagrele, accompanied by Monsignor Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto; the parish groups and the Directors and Artists of the “Medrano” Circus and of the “Rony Rollert Circus.” I also want to thank you for your work, a work of beauty; with your art, you express beauty and do it so that by art all of us arrive up higher, close to God. Your work of beauty does good to all, thank you so much!
I greet the representatives of the Pharmaceutical Bank Foundation that, next Saturday, will collect drugs in Italian pharmacies for indigent people.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Observed next Sunday will be the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, day in which the World Day of the Sick will also be observed. Dear young people, dispose yourselves to be providence for those that are suffering; dear sick, always feel yourselves supported by the prayer of the Church; and you, dear newlyweds, love life, which is always sacred, even when it is marked by frailty and sickness.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeals
Appeal for the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking
Observed tomorrow, February 8, liturgical Memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, is the World Day of Prayer and reflection against Trafficking. This year’s theme is “Migration without Trafficking. Yes to Freedom! No to Trafficking!” Having few possibilities of regular channels, many migrants decide to venture by other ways, where often abuses of all sorts await them, exploitation and being reduced to slavery. Criminal organizations, dedicated to the trafficking of persons, use these migratory routes to conceal their victims among migrants and refugees. Therefore I invite all, citizens and institutions, to join forces to prevent trafficking and guarantee protection and assistance to the victims. Let us all pray so that the Lord will convert the heart of traffickers – this is an awful word, traffickers of persons – and give the hope of reacquiring freedom to those that suffer due to this shameful scourge.
* * *
Appeal for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics
Day after tomorrow, Friday, February 9, the 23rd Winter Olympic Games open in the city of PyeongChang in South Korea, with 92 countries taking part.
This year the traditional Olympic respite acquires special importance: delegations of the two Koreas will parade together under one flag and will compete as one team. This fact gives hope that conflicts in the world can be resolved with dialogue and in mutual respect, as sport also teaches one to do.
My greeting goes to the International Olympic Committee, to the men and women athletes taking part in the PyeongChang Games, to the Authorities and to the people of the Korean Peninsula. I accompany all with prayer while I renew the Holy See’s commitment to support every useful initiative in favour of peace and the encounter of peoples. May these Olympics be a great celebration of Friendship and sport! May God bless and protect you!
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
[1] Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, 62
[2] Introduction to the Lectionary, 5.
[3] Cf. Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, 60 and 134.
[4] Sermon 85, 1:PL 38, 520; Cf. also Treatise  on the Gosep of John, XXX, I: PL 35, 1632; CCL 36, 289.
[5] Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 33.
[6] Cf. Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, 65-66; Introduction to the Lectionary, 24-27.
[7] Cf. Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52.

Mary Our Mother who Leads us to Jesus in the Eucharist - Reflections for Life by Dr. Gary Knight

Mary our mother by Dr. Gary Knight
“Like a mother hen who gathers her chicks” .. “as I am lifted up, I draw all souls unto me”. The altar and monstrance, and the priest before them, certainly lift Jesus up. And who continues to hold and present Him to us is always the one He chose: his very own mother.
“Son” he said (or daughter) “behold your mother”. To avert our gaze might have seemed a distraction, but our mind moves to her who lifted Him to the adoring magi, and to the shepherds of Israel. He moves us to love her gentle hand: all is His and the Spirit’s, and comes to us through this mother and spouse. “The Lord is with thee” we may say with the angel, and the monstrance filled with Him we would kiss and hold as Mary’s cheek or mantle. To the senses this metal montage is not so warm and soft, lest it detract from Him that is our bread of life, our milk of grace. That too is as his mother will have it.
To ponder His teaching presence, for here Truth is enthroned, floods our souls with incalculable light. The mind was made for truth: truth its staple food, and here is fed beyond all expectation. A suckling babe guesses no limit to its mother’s milk, and drinks until it can no more. It’s not that it draws on the source so much as the mother, like a pelican, pours forth until the sated child is asleep. In God, springs of living water “well up”within, as from an unseen boundless aquafer. Mother of Grace, put us in mind of that image so loved by Augustine. There are many noble renditions of the black Madonna, some more resplendent than others in her bedecking with the stars and galaxies as so many jewels on her breast, arms and crown. It is as if each signified the light of a soul her son has justified and glorified, making for her a gown of the night, a mantle of the deep that calls to deep, though no voice is heard. The figure of our queen mother emerges as from the starry canopy, holding in her arms its King. So too the monstrance and its light is a figure of the dancing cosmos and all the angels who minister to it. Lord, like Jacob we behold that glorious procession, angels ascending and descending, on your sacred host. We say that Mary, Christ’s mother, is the passive luminary reflecting the sun; but in truth she is full of light, full of grace and brilliance, not as a passive reflector but as an active ‘magnifier’. My soul magnifies the Lord, she simply said. As Jesus put it, ‘because I go to the Father you will do yet greater things’: things that like Mary proclaim His glory. With Mary it begins at the beginning; for in her, Jesus comes from the Father. Therefore every monstrance or pyx is but our rough-hewn ersatz or avatar for the womb and the hands of Mary. O Mary conceived without sin, show unto us the fruit of thy womb, Jesus . Mary laid the boy in fodder straw, in the town of Beth- lehem (l’chayim), house of bread (or life). Jesus, staff of new Life, was longed by ages to be seen. Desert manna, supernatural in provenance, had to be gleaned after dew on hands and knees. Now without labour and cost all come to be fed; for He has become our altar “like the dew- fall”. O dew-fall from on high, quench our hungry thirst.
Sanctity of Life
Angels are heavenly messengers, intermediaries, guardians or epiphanic manifestations of God’s presence. We need angels in every aspect of life to administer help.
But at the blessed sacrament we are in God’s presence unmediated. Angels there help us from being smitten, as I nearly was in my conversion experience before the tabernacle. But Jesus’ presence is a healing presence, a timeless elixir which guardian angels may help us to savour and digest, and its graces to preserve. He whom we greet before us is more: the very radix of human life’s sanctity. So great a mystery is found not in a question mark, but in a sliver of the bread of heaven, Heaven’s living portal laid before us by His mother and ours. Here is the real ‘centre of the universe’ - the purpose for which every visible and invisible body was made. The focus of angels who adore the Lamb of God, even those tasked to be guardians, is this apple in God’s eye: the union of God-and- man enthroned here in the flesh. Asked to express the Gospel in few words, I learned before the sacrament that human life is sacred. I might have said ‘death is overthrown’, but silence instructed that this too has its compelling reason. Confirmation came very soon after with pope John Paul’s ‘Evangelium Vitae’. The news Jesus had his disciples offer the towns they’d visit was “the kingdom of God has come near”. Near indeed: it is your very life; and here before you in the monstrance resides Life, and the very meaning of yours. When we gaze on Him we are looking on more than our death and even our second birth ‘from above’. We are contemplating Life itself, and all its sanctity.
O Jesus, my life, and the life of the world, breathe in me. (Again let Him speak: “I am closer to you than hands and feet”) Lord, as your Word is, so your Spirit gives: defining even what life is.
Over centuries the quest was sought: “what is the meaning of life ?”: in widening circles it flew to no robust answer. But in this limpid disc the right question: “who is the meaning of your life?” has its answer in the person of God himself: I am. God, root of existence is further still the giver of life and its meaning: Father as ground of being, Spirit as giver of life, Son as its meaning. Indeed, I am. Natural theology
Here then in the indivisible God we peer to the heart of our reality. Even the monstrance bearing the Lord owes its continued existence to what it embraces or lifts. If this holy of holies pedestal were to dissolve and the host fall, we’d be wrong to suppose gravity had precedence: on the contrary, it is something the Lord deigns to emplace throughout the cosmos. Of it, He alone is master and ‘gravitating centre'.
A quaint expression for gravity is ‘the love of masses’. The outlook of general relativity gives the centre of the world an arbitrary choice: no sun, earth, galactic centre, or outlying black hole, is preferable to another. The theory’s author quipped “the centre of the universe is here, where I place my finger”. The Lord who fashioned all does no insult to physical cosmology to add, ‘and here you find the real and purposed centre’. Jesus is the moral centre of all things, for through him everything was made, visible and invisible. He is present anywhere and everywhere, more even than the so-called quantum vacuum state of the universe, which is but one of those invisible things made. Being God he can and does choose to vest his substantive presence in the sacred host, anywhere it is confected on a Christian altar. This exalted locus is the definitive sign that “His kingdom has come”. We sometimes are at a disadvantage in reiterating the prayer of our Lord in words recorded, only because they need to receive the semiotic of the New Testament. Before His passion and death, the meaning of “thy kingdom come” was a plaintive plea or conjoined desire that this divine work be completed. On the cross our Lord said “it is finished”. At Pentecost, after His resurrection and ascension, we come into the full realization: His kingdom has come; He has conquered the world. For us the semiotic of “thy kingdom come” is, “in thy Son Jesus, King and Lord of the universe, it has come”. Enthroned before us, on whom we gaze with physical eyes and mind’s telescope, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world as John proclaimed him or “my Lord and my God” as did Thomas. If He has begun to take away the sins of the world, then resurrection of men, starting in our souls, our second birth ‘from above’, is underway.
We offer an emotive therefore: “may now thy will be done throughout earth as it is in the heavens”. The physical heavens are all in order: those geysers of entropy, heat- spewing cores of galaxies, so far from disrupting it are fully engaged in the tapestry. Here below the overcoming of life by entropy learns that death is itself overthrown. The testament lies in the living Word here before us: He has died and conquered death, and is Life. What has been put in order throughout the heavens, even the invisible ranks of angels and dominions, has its Personal focus down here and now.
O Holy one of God, how wonderful is your order, the first rule of heaven. This is what we mean when we say the sacred host is the moral centre of all things.
Unity in communion
The host is the effectual signifier of unity. If drawn to the Lord lifted up, all are drawn together. This gravitating centre of love forges brotherhood. Signs of contradiction are left behind when we together of one mind gaze on the same undivided host, the unblemished piece that is of a piece, the undivided body of Christ .. his Mystical body, pared out from His heart for any to partake. In one fragment is the whole.
A question asked of catechumens is“for what purpose did immortal God come into the world?” The answer “to die” produces a shock of recognition, as it should. To die for us, saving us from everlasting death, is the simple answer, and we may follow it with the question “what purpose then does He have in the host which we here adore?” As I live, says the Lord: to be consumed, that you may live. This holds infinite depth. In saying “zeal for my Father’s house consumes me” Jesus means “I am on fire, and not quenched”, like the burning bush. What ‘consumes’ His attention is rapt absorption undistracted from its single - minded purpose, as a face set as flint toward Jerusalem. To Jeru-salem, Peace of the Judge, we ascend into his presence. There the light of God is unquenchable, dismissing sun or moon, for the sight is interior, like the reflective gaze of the Madonna and her son. If flinty or dark, it is because the effulgence of light would blind us. St. Augustine realized, when we consume the sacred host, it is Christ who builds us into the spiritual. He is consumed with desire to be partaken in this meal: a communion that incorporates us in Him. To eat of the physical is to work it into our temporal bodies; to eat the flesh of the Son is to be drawn into His own order, an immortal order nurtured in the womb of life until death gives us second birth from above, as Jesus said to Nicodemus.
O bless’t communion the song goes, for we do not eat alone. Offering private Mass (none is strictly private, but might be unassisted by others) a priest knows he’s not alone by far. He invites ‘brothers and sisters’ to respond: all the angels and saints thronging to the eternal banquet, of which this sacrifice is an instant portal on earth, not merely a memorial re-enactment of events long past. The sacrifice is once for all, in which the divine has so vested Himself as to pierce both time and space.
Sweet stillness
We ought not be stunned at a piercing of time and space, a threading of place or span. Just consider physical cosmology. Down to its tiniest scale, so-called quantum mechanics - a vastly successful describer of the fabric - is non-local. It actually embraces ghostly action-at- a- distance: if not instantaneous then at the speed of light. An electron (‘fermion’) can be - and feasibly is - dancing with another, far removed. If assumed to be unpartnered or disentangled it may not actually be, for its unbound correlate is not at likely to remain nearby. Chemical bonds can be treated as entanglements, which is also shown to link the action of one charge to the sudden state of a paired one afar off: a principle being applied to cryptography and reliable deep-space communication. Time also is thickly woven. A photon sent toward a slit or doubly slit screen goes as if ‘knowing’ whether a slit is alone or doubled. It’s informed as if a pilot had gone forth, sampled the vast ways and angles for arriving on the other side, and retrieved the facts, instantly. Passing a sole slit, it will expose a far film in one pattern; entering either of two slits it will paint a different one. If the screen is grated with minuscule sawteeth instead, it will diffract and self- interfere as if having guessed that too.
The familiar observation of rays bending on entering water is explained as light taking the least time or action to get where it’s going. It does so likewise, being proactively informed by its environment. Getting informed involves time standing still, the result of a time-advanced and time- retarded aspect.
Then again, at the extreme other scale, great streams of stars are consumed by a gravitational black hole, whose skin is a place where time has stopped progressing, or whose advance is not measurable. More galaxies are visible to a scanning telescope than the milky splash of stars in our own or in any of them, and most have such a core where time is arrested.
You may guess this suspension is owed to the huge mass densities that curve space-time, but that’s not the only occasion. A photon free in open space, moving many light- years, spends no time of its own reckoning: in its moving frame time stops. As far as concerns it from the moment of existence, a photon gets to be everywhere it’s going to be at one instant of its proper time. In saying "let there be light” God might well have phrased it “let light be”. All this is a challenge to digest, framed by the words of a founder “whoever says they understand QM does not in the least”. But if basic physics is not to be understood yet believed because so often right and precise, we need to rethink what’s meant in naming any mystery an enigma. And why should He who made all of it, not be wrapped in mystery? Yet for all that, He makes himself palpable, ingestible, and delectable. Here at hand is the bread of Heaven .. containing in itself all sweetness. Be still my soul ! The sweet spot on a racket is where it’s still, despite the force of ball impact. A bat’s sweet-spot is least jarring for the batter, and most moving for the ball. A player calls stillness in the motion sweet because you can there ‘speak to’ or address the pinging ball or popping ski. Physicists also find something sweet when discussing motion, namely what remains still, quiet and invariant. A ‘constant of the motion’ or stationarity solves dynamics and gives implicit sense. It may be the path of least action (a stationarity), or constant energy, momentum, period and frequency of repeated motion, matched impedance (even the impedance of empty space), an oscillator’s Q (measure of signal strength and stability), or just the unchanged shape of a wave that passes, like a rogue soliton wave at sea or the flame of a candle. These images of sweetness indicate the experiential nature of that ‘still quiet voice’ we hear in God’s presence. The deep night’s silence in which Christ was born, or that announced Him to Elijah on the mountain or to Moses at the burning bush. Our souls and psyches harken, finding rest and assurance in what is still, dependable, and solid like the rock of Meribah whose sweats were sweet. If the rock is a figure of Christ, the suspended host is no figure but the reality: the sweetest, most stately, constant and abiding presence we can possibly find. Still O Lord, you say: “come away with me for a time and rest your soul”. The centre of all things, being their origin and keeper, rests here. The moral centre too, that calms the troubled soul. The mind’s centre, that gives space to and enlivens sleeping conscience: where God speaks unbidden so said John Henry Newman. The fulcrum of all meaning, the touchstone of all solving, the pirouette of all grace, the gravitational centre of all love, the pivot of all breath. In the end, only so much can be said of those attractors of existence: truth, beauty and goodness. They have to be experienced to be known; and that is the one key to being in God’s eucharistic presence. Much more than known, Truth is to believed; goodness loved more than admired; and with beauty to be enraptured more than enthralled. All of these are in the Person of the eucharist. Yours O Lord is the true beauty, all ancient, and ever new.
May Jesus here, in his very heart pierced with love for you and me, divine portal of heaven, be believed and loved, and, may we in Him be enraptured forever. Amen

#BreakingNews Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes New Letter "...I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.”

Benedict, Pope emeritus: I am on a pilgrimage towards Home
In a letter to an Italian newspaper, Pope emeritus Benedict responds to questions about how he is spending the last phase of his life.
By Christopher Wells
Pope emeritus Benedict has sent a short letter to the editor of the Italian news daily Il Corriere della Sera.
The Pope emeritus was responding to the many inquiries from readers as to how he is spending “this last period of his life.” Noting the “slow decline” of his “physical strength,” Benedict says in the letter that “interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.” The former Roman Pontiff admits that “this last stretch of the road” is “at times difficult,” but says, “It is a great grace for me to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could not have imagined.”
Concluding his letter, Benedict said he considers the concern of the readers for his well-being as an “accompaniment” for the journey. In closing, he expresses his gratitude, and assures everyone of his prayers.
In 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope since Gregory XII in 1415 to resign the papacy. In the announcement of his resignation, Benedict said he would continue to serve the Church “through a life dedicated to prayer. Since May of 2013, the pope emeritus has resided in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery within the borders of Vatican City State.
Text shared from Vatican News - Latest Image Share of Pope Emeritus from Facebook Fondazione Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger - Benedetto XVI

#BreakingNews RIP Fr. Peter Colapietro - Beloved New York Priest dies at 69 - Friend of Actors and NYPD

The Rev. Peter M. Colapietro — one of the city’s most beloved priests and The Post’s resident Catholic expert — died of emphysema on Monday night at the age of 69.
He spent two decades at Church of the Holy Cross parish on West 42nd Street, where he served as pastor and parish administrator then  reassigned to St. Monica’s on the Upper East Side.
Father Pete grew to become one of New York’s most personable priests. He famously stopped actor Mickey Rourke from killing someone by placing the gun behind the statue of Saint Jude.
Everyone from Mickey Rourke to former NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton pulled up a stool to shoot the breeze with Father Pete.
 Richard Johnson, former editor of Page Six is reported to have said, "But Father Pete Colapietro was a real priest. He loved people, all people, and they loved him back.”
Father Pete befriended dozens of Post reporters and editors over the years, and also penned columns.
“He was the Pope of 42nd Street,” joked former Postie Jeane MacIntosh.
In the past few months, MacIntosh had been visiting Father Pete in the hospital.
It was that lovable sense of humor and down-to-earth attitude that made Father Pete a favorite among residents, particularly police officers.
“In some respects, he’s one of the iconic figures of the city of New York,” explained Bratton. 
Bratton told The Post that Father Pete was considered one of the NYPD’s “unofficial chaplains,”
Bratton added, “He was just a great guy. He brought humanity to the religion. If there were more Father Petes, churches would be overflowing.”
Edited from the NyPost

#BreakingNews 6.4 Mag. Earthquake hits Taiwan Hundreds Injured - at least 4 Dead - some Missing - Please Pray

Hualien earthquake: four dead and hundreds injured

ASIANEWS IT Report: The magnitude 6.4 quake hit the island at 23.50. Damage and collapse of roads, bridges and buildings. 140 missing.

Taipei (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least four people were killed and 200 injured in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday in Hualien, a city on the eastern coast of the island. Dozens of people have been trapped in collapsed buildings, and roads and bridges have suffered extensive damage.
The epicenter of the quake is located 21 km north-east of the Hualien coast, where more than 100 thousand people live. The earth shook at 9.5 km deep, at 11.50 pm (local time).
Two of the people who lost their lives worked at the Marshal hotel, one of the four collapsed buildings. About 140 are missing, and rescuers suspect that they are trapped inside damaged structures. The Yunman Cuidi, with both commercial and residential floors, hangs worryingly to one side.
At the moment, 35 thousand families have been left without running water and 200 have no electricity, while the aftershocks continue. About 800 people found refuge in public buildings.
The earthquake is the second in a few days to hit the coast of Hualien. The city is located inside the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific Ocean, famous for the intense seismic activity between Alaska and Southeast Asia. Exactly two years ago, a shock of the same force hit the south of the country, causing the collapse of a condominium and the death of 115 people. In September 1999, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake resulted in 2,400 deaths.

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Wed. February 7, 2018 - #Eucharist

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 331

Reading 11 KGS 10:1-10

The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon's fame,
came to test him with subtle questions.
She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue,
and with camels bearing spices,
a large amount of gold, and precious stones.
She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject
in which she was interested.
King Solomon explained everything she asked about,
and there remained nothing hidden from him
that he could not explain to her.

When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon's great wisdom,
the palace he had built, the food at his table,
the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters,
his banquet service,
and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD,
she was breathless.
"The report I heard in my country
about your deeds and your wisdom is true," she told the king.
"Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes,
I have discovered that they were not telling me the half.
Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard.
Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours,
who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom.
Blessed be the LORD, your God,
whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel.
In his enduring love for Israel,
the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice."
Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents,
a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones.
Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices
as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Responsorial Psalm PS 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40

R. (30a) The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
The mouth of the just man tells of wisdom
and his tongue utters what is right.
The law of his God is in his heart,
and his steps do not falter.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

AlleluiaSEE JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth:
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”