Monday, December 31, 2012

Mumford and Sons: Live on Letterman

The Faith of Christians

A New Year's Resolution: Charity in Discussion


The following comes from Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture:
When I reflect on my own interaction with critics over the past year, I recall those occasions when I was decidedly not conciliatory. And in surveying various discussion groups, including some consisting only of dedicated Catholics, I’ve overheard my share of vitriolic exchanges. We’ve come to expect a low level of social discourse in political discussion, led by political advertising and the verbal maneuvering of televised debates. But there is something wrong—something spiritually wrong—when the same problem afflicts religious discussions.
Hilaire Belloc wisely wrote that the grace of God is in courtesy. Nobody likes being ignored, ridiculed, insulted or otherwise abused. Everybody appreciates being treated with respect and listened to as if his ideas matter. And while not everyone has good ideas, everyone’s ideas do matter. They give us clues to the personality, to the strengths and weaknesses of a particular character, and—perhaps most important—to the needs of a brother or sister in a family that ultimately belongs to God.
But the Christian’s call goes far beyond the mere appearance of courtesy. Our Lord requires of us a courtesy motivated by something deeper, namely charity. We all know this, yet again and again, as soon we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, we tend to plug our ears and hold our noses—when we should be opening our ears and biting our tongues.
Sometimes, of course, we find ourselves under deliberate and even malicious attack. At CatholicCulture.org, we receive numerous messages through our Contact form in which “unregistered visitors” simply open fire on the Faith, the Church and those who write for the site. Sometimes it is wisest to ignore such messages, especially if the nature of the correspondence and the available time suggest that we will not be in a position to make a positive impact. Similarly, there will be times when any Catholic will have little choice but to extricate himself as politely as possible from an unpleasant personal confrontation.
But often we are faced with disagreements caused by approaching similar questions from different directions or backgrounds, in which animosity, if any, is largely incidental. In such cases, both charity and good sense demand that we hold our fire long enough to understand the values and principles which have led to a contradictory statement. We need to determine, first, whether we’ve missed something significant in either our own thoughts or, as is quite likely, in our own brief comments on the subject at hand. Second, we must discover the strengths and weaknesses of this rival point of view so that we can address the comments reasonably, and even generously.
And third, precisely as a matter of charity, we are called to discern the motivation of our would-be opponent so that we can figure out whether there is something incomplete, weak or broken which cries out for help and healing. Who knows if Our Lord might choose to bestow a grace here through an unworthy servant—through you or me—if we can but hold ourselves open for the task.
This readiness to be used as a means of grace is admittedly difficult to maintain. We are proud, which translates into an excessive attachment to our own ideas, along with a corresponding contempt for contrary ideas and those who express them. And because we are proud, we are also very prickly, taking offense easily, and prone to unseemly distress when contradicted. We seem to be able to recognize the absurdity of such reactions only when we have no stake in the game.
Those of us with dogmatic personalities—and that includes many who take the Faith seriously in a hostile culture—have an additional spiritual hurdle, because we so often confuse our commitment to God’s principles with our own self-importance as God’s spokesmen. This can lead to a habit of self-righteous indignation, as if we must denounce others in defense of Christ, though to be sure He has already indicated His complete willingness to suffer disrespect in order to win hearts. This is usually a case of the servant not really following the Master.
Moreover, we have a tendency to assume that because we know we are right about some things—namely, the dogmas of the Faith—therefore we must be right about everything. But because we have the privilege of accepting the truths of Catholicism, it does not follow that our pastoral preferences are infallible, or our political insight, or our social theories, or our ability to separate truth from falsehood in other fields, or even our spiritual perception. Why then do we pronounce as Catholics on virtually everything under the sun with the same certainty which we ought to reserve for the most basic precepts of the catechism? How easily do all men and women assume the rightness of their own judgments! But in Catholics, who ought to know that they depend at all times on the most generous gifts of God, this belief in our own perfection is a particularly offensive fault.
Here's a sobering thought: The next person to contradict us (or to contradict the Church) may actually be at an early stage of his own interior journey home. Now it just so happens that, for better or worse, in almost every discussion we ourselves represent home. A harsh word now may drive this person away. A good rule of thumb is that we need to know someone extremely well and have a pre-existing relationship with him if we are to be in any position to speak harshly, and then only as a last resort. We dare not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Is 42:3; applied to Christ in Mt 12:20). But I know I have done it. Have you?
Therefore, as we begin a new year and consider our own resolutions, I’d like to recommend that we all strive to discuss the issues that animate CatholicCulture.org with greater charity. I don’t mean so much on the website itself, for we have precious little opportunity for discussion here, except for just a bit of it in Sound Off! or via email. I am referring instead to the deliberate and persistent cultivation of charity in our discussions with those who are not part of the CatholicCulture.org family.
Our purpose—the purpose of all those who take seriously the issues presented through CatholicCulture.org—is to enrich faith, strengthen the Church and form Catholic culture. These tasks are, inescapably, oriented toward others. None of this can be done without love and, in most cases, the first opportunity to show love is in how we talk with others.
Charity in discussion: This could easily be the most important thing we accomplish in 2012 and beyond.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron on Papal Infallibility

Coach Lou Holtz: Catholics Come Home

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hallelujah

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The WWI Christmas Truce of 1914


Hat tip to Mental Floss:


Not much about life in the trenches of World War I is very festive. What is festive-ish is that in 1914, an unofficial Christmas Truce was spontaneously declared in many trenches, as British and German troops decided to put their differences aside for a bit.

Bizarre things happened, including unarmed soldiers venturing into No Man’s Land (the space between the trenches), exchanges of gifts (apparently mostly food and cigarettes), games of soccer, and even caroling. Here’s an eight-minute film documenting the Christmas Truce through animation and a letter from a British soldier.

Saint John the Evangelist and the Cave at Patmos




The following comes from the Patron Saints Index:

Son of Zebedee and Salome. Fisherman. Brother of Saint James the Greater, and called one of the Sons of Thunder. Disciple of Saint John the Baptist. Friend of Saint Peter the Apostle. Called by Jesus during the first year of His ministry, and traveled everywhere with Him, becoming so close as to be known as the beloved disciple. Took part in the Last Supper. The only one of the Twelve not to forsake the Saviour in the hour of His Passion, standing at the foot of the cross. Made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus, and he took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb; when he met the risen Lord at the lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognize Him.
During the era of the new Church, he worked in Jerusalem and at Ephesus. During Jesus’ ministry, he tried to block a Samaritan from their group, but Jesus explained the open nature of the new Way, and he worked on that principle to found churches in Asia Minorand baptizing converts in SamariaImprisoned with Peter for preaching after PentecostWrote the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and possibly the Book of Revelation. Survived all his fellow apostles.
Traditional stories:
  • Emperor Dometian had him brought to Romebeatenpoisoned, and thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, but he stepped out unharmed and was banished to Patmos instead. This is commemorated by the feast of Saint John before the Latin Gate.
  • When John was en route to preach in Asia, his ship was wrecked in a storm; all but John were cast ashore. John was assumeddead, but two weeks later the waves cast him ashore alive at the feet of his disciple Prochoros.
  • When John denounced idol worship as demonic, followers of Artemis stoned him; the rocks turned and hit the throwers.
  • He prayed in a temple of Artemis; fire from heaven killed 200 men who worshipped the idol. When the remaining group begged for mercy, he raised the 200 from the dead; they all converted and were baptized.
  • Drove out a demon who had lived in a pagan temple for 249 years.
  • Aboard ship, he purified vessels of sea water for drinking.
  • Ceonops, a magician, pretended to bring three dead people come to life; the “people” were actually demons who mimicked people so the magician could turn people away from Christ. Through prayer, John caused the magician to drown and thedemons to vanish.
  • Once a year his grave gave off a fragrant dust that cured the sick.



The following came from Gloria TV:


Continuing our look at the Greek Island of Patmos, we walk through the Chora, a UNSECO World Heritage village of cubic whitewashed homes and narrow, crooked pedestrian lanes surrounding the monastery. Then we enter the Cave of St. John where the Evangelist wrote the Book of the Apocalypse, the final chapter of the Bible. A final look around the seaside village then we re-join our Louis Cruise ship, Cristal.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Louisiana's Richness: Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Pope Benedict: Is there room in the inn today?

The following comes from Zenit.org:


Benedict XVI is asking if Mary, Joseph and the Infant Jesus can find room in the inn even today, or if we too are guilty of turning away God himself.
The Pope made this question during tonight's Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
The Holy Father suggested that our attitude toward the homeless, towards refugees and migrants "takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself?"
The Pontiff lamented that the "faster we can move" with all of modernity's "time-saving appliances," the less time we have. "And God? The question of God never seems urgent," he said. "Our time is already completely full."
The Bishop of Rome asked if God has any place even in our thinking.
"If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the 'God hypothesis' becomes superfluous," he said. "There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so 'full' of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger."
Sounds of heaven
In contrast, the Pope noted the song of the angels, who begin their hymn with the words "Glory to God in the highest."
"God is glorious," Benedict declared. "God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds."
The Holy Father went on to speak of the second part of the angels' message -- "peace on earth among men" -- considering the role of religion in history's wars, and in peace.
"It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property," he said. "[...] [Y]et it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be."
God's peace
The Holy Father invited prayer for the places where Christ lived and for the town of Bethlehem. "Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom," he said. "Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace."
The Pontiff concluded the homily by again encouraging the faithful to give space to God.
"The shepherds made haste," he said. "Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. 
"And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us."

Pope Benedict's Urbi et Orbi Message

The following comes from the Vatican Website:


“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth”. Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).

Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that “in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven’. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones, 185, 1).

“If we believe”. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.

May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.

In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future – and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus – may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.
May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.

May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.
Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have becomeincarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!


Silent Night by Kurt Nilsen

Monday, December 24, 2012

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night

Christmas in King's College, Cambridge UK

Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth by The Priests

The First Christmas from the Gospel of Luke

Mary's Boy Child by Tom Jones

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pope's childhood letter to Baby Jesus

The following comes from EWTN News:


A Christmas letter that Pope Benedict XVI wrote to Baby Jesus when he was seven years-old demonstrates his devotion to the Sacred Heart and his desire to be a priest.

The letter is on display this Advent in the village of Marktl am Inn in Bavaria, where he was born.

"Dear Baby Jesus, quickly come down to earth. You will bring joy to children. Also bring me joy," he wrote in the 1934 letter, published on the Church-affiliated Italian website Korazym.org.

"I would like a Volks-Schott (a Mass prayers book), green clothing for Mass (clerical clothing) and a heart of Jesus. I will always be good. Greetings from Joseph Ratzinger," he wrote in German cursive hard writing called Sütterlinschrift.
The letter, found during the renovation of a house that Joseph Ratzinger's occupied when he was a professor in Regensburg, was published on Dec. 18. The message was discovered in the estate of his sister Mary, who kept the letter after the Pope's house was converted into a small museum dedicated to him.

In Korazym’s view, the “letter was uncommon for a seven-year-old since he did not ask for toys or sweets, which were always in front of the Ratzinger family's nativity for his three brothers."

The first thing the Pope wanted was a Schott, one of the first prayer books with the missal in German and a parallel text in Latin. At the time there were two editions in the country, one for adults and one for children.

But little Joseph also asked for "green clothing for Mass."

The Pope and his brothers used to play the "game of the priest," and their mother, a seamstress, would help them by making clothes similar to those worn by priests, according to an "Inside the Vatican" interview his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, gave a few years ago.

He also asked for a heart of Jesus, referring to an image of the Sacred Heart, which his family was very devoted to.
His brother noted that "each year the Nativity would have an extra miniature statue, which was a great joy … We would go with dad into the woods to gather moss and twigs of fir."

In his biography, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote that the volumes he received were "something precious and I could not dream them to have been more beautiful."

Along with his letter is another one by then 10-year-old Georg, who wanted sheet music for a song and a white chasuble, the outer vestment worn by priests when they celebrate Mass.

A third letter by "Mary," a 13-year-old who wanted a book full of drawings, was also discovered.

According to Korazym, "the letters were all on one sheet because the Ratzinger family was not rich."

Pope Benedict and his family lived in Aschau am Inn, a small town west of Munich, from 1932 to 1937.

"The Pope was very glad to find the letter and its contents made him smile," said his secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, when he inaugurated the small museum at the end of summer.

"For him, the smell of musk still belongs to Christmas," he added.

The God in the Cave by G.K. Chesterton

I came across this GKC quote at the Ignatius Insight:

This sketch of the human story began in a cave; the cave which popular science associates with the cave-man and in which practical discovery has really found archaic drawings of animals. The second half of human history, which was like a new creation of the world, also begins in a cave. There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable by the mountaineers of the uplands about
Bethlehem; who still drive their cattle into such holes and caverns at night. It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors of the crowded caravanserai had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passersby, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born But in that second creation there was indeed something symbolical in the roots of the primeval rock or the horns of the prehistoric herd. God also was a CaveMan, and, had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously colored upon the wall of the world ; but the pictures that he made had come to life. 

A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this; that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true. When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke. But about this contrast and combination of ideas one thing may be said here, because it is relevant to the whole thesis of this book. The sort of modern critic of whom I speak is generally much impressed with the importance of education in life and the importance of psychology in education. That sort of man is never tired of telling us that first impressions fix character by the law of causation; and he will become quite nervous if a child's visual sense is poisoned by the wrong colors on a golliwog or his nervous system prematurely shaken by a cacophonous rattle. Yet he will think us very narrow-minded, if we say that this is exactly why there really is a difference between being brought up as a Christian and being brought up as a Jew or a Moslem or an atheist. T he difference is that every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stones, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether be likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savor of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians; because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not. It may not be a difference of moral worth, for the Moslem or the Jew might be worthier according to his lights; but it is a plain fact about the crossing of two particular lights, the conjunction of two stars in our particular horoscope. Omnipotence and impotence, or divinity and infancy, do definitely make a sort of epigram which a million repetitions cannot turn into a platitude. It is not unreasonable to call it unique. 

Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet. Here begins, it is needless to say, another mighty influence for the humanization of Christendom. If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother, you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows I as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross. 

Archbishop Sheen: The True Meaning of Christmas

Fr. Barron on Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Story

Friday, December 21, 2012

Susan Boyle sings at Christmas in Rockefeller Center

Pope asks Christians to reassess priorities at Christmas

The following comes from the CNA:

The Dec. 20 edition of the Financial Times featured a rare article by Pope Benedict XVI in which he advises Christians to use Christmas as a time to “reassess priorities” and reflect on how to live out their faith with eternity in mind.

“While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience,” he says in the article.

“At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?” he asks readers.

Seeing an article in a newspaper by the Pope is a very unusual occurrence.

This particular story made it to print after the paper’s editorial office saw Pope Benedict’s recently published book “Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives,” which inspired them to request him to write about Christmas.

The Vatican press office said Dec. 20 that Pope Benedict has granted interviews in the past to the BBC, a few months after his trip to the United Kingdom, and to the Italian national television station RAI in the program “A sua imagine” during Easter.

On both occasions, like today's Financial Times article, he spoke about Jesus Christ.

But this time he reflects on how Christians should examine how they can live out their faith in the world with a view to the eternal.

“Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes,” he says in the piece that ran opposite the editorial page.
He notes that this response emerged from a question meant to trap Jesus into taking sides about Roman rule in the land of Israel.

“Jesus' answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth,” he says.

The 85-year-old pontiff notes that “the birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our way of life.”

Christians should use Christmas as an opportunity to read the Gospel more, he counsels.

“It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or in the stock exchange,” he states.

“Christians should not shun the world, they should engage with it,” he adds, “but their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.”

The Pope also praises Christians' work for a more equitable sharing of the earth's resources, done out of a belief that they have the duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable.

“Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life,” he explains.

And he says that because the goals of peace and justice are shared by so many, “much fruitful co-operation is possible between Christians and others.”

“Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God,” he insists, pointing out that Christians cannot always comply with governments’ demands.

Pope Benedict then responds to the frequent assertion that Christians “refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today” because of “an antiquated worldview.”

Christians will not comply, he says, because “they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.”
He ends his Christmas reflection by speaking about Italian nativity scenes that include ancient Roman buildings in the background.

These displays show Jesus' birth as an end of the pagan world "in which Caesar's claims went virtually unchallenged."

“From the manger,” the Pope writes, “Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.”

Fr. Robert Barron on The Hobbit

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Give Up Yer Aul Sins: The Birth of Jesus

Pope Paul VI Moves Toward Sainthood

The following comes from the CNA:


Pope Benedict XVI authorized an investigation on Dec. 20 which could result in proclaiming the late pontiff, Paul VI, a saint.

The Pope formally allowed the move as the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints wrote a decree stating that Paul VI had “heroic virtue,” the first step necessary in the canonization process.

The pontiff met with congregation head cardinal Angelo Amato on Thursday to let him begin the review of the “Humanae Vitae” author.

During their meeting, the Pope also authorized the congregation to continue several other canonization processes, which are usually long and complex.

They include Italian Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Colombia native Blessed Laura of St. Catherine of Sienna, as well as one Mexican, Blessed Maria Guadalupe, after miracles were attributed to all three.

He also gave the go ahead to continue the process for several martyrs, people with “heroic virtues,” and people who have had miracles proven to be attributed to them.

The list includes 33 Spaniards killed in the country's civil war between 1936 and 1939, a period when the revolutionaries killed numerous religious and practicing Catholics.

“It is more than likely that Paul VI will be beatified in 2013 at the end of the Year of Faith,” wrote La Stampa journalist Andrea Tornielli in Vatican Insider.

He noted that, just like with John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI “has closely followed the steps that has led to today's decree.”

Paul VI was the one who named Pope Benedict a cardinal, which allowed to participate in choosing a pope in two conclaves held in 1978.

The late pontiff, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was the son of a middle class lawyer, who was also a politician and journalist.

He was ordained a priest aged 22 and served as pope from 1963 to 1978, and ended the Second Vatican Council after his predecessor, pope John XXIII, had initiated it one year earlier.

He was the last pope to be crowned after he dissolved many of the Church's old traditions.

Paul VI also concluded the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the largest revision of the Church's Liturgy and the first major revision since the Council of Trent, held 400 years earlier.

He published the controversial encyclical “Humanae Vitae” in 1968 which reaffirmed the Church's stance against contraception, as well as firm affirmation of the merits of priestly celibacy.

According to Vatican journalist Tornielli, the congregation will investigate an alleged miraculous healing of a then unborn child took place 16 years ago in California.

Doctors told the pregnant mother to abort after finding a serious problem in the fetus, which normally results in brain damage.

But she entrusted her pregnancy to Paul VI and the baby, now around 15 years old, was born without problems.

The congregation may also investigate an alleged miracle after a nun with a tumor was suddenly cured.

The Church has three main steps in making a deceased person a saint, with the first providing proof that the person had “heroic virtue.”

This means the person has practiced outstanding faith, hope and charity as well as extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness over a period of time. The person who the Church declares to have had heroic virtue is given the title “Venerable,” and is also called a “Servant of God.”

The second step is “beatification,” which means the Church recognizes the person is in heaven after a miracle is proven titling them “Blessed.”

And the final step is “canonization,” where the Pope himself officially proclaims the person a saint.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

O Come O Come Emmanuel - Trace Bundy and Josh Garrels

Pope Benedict: Children of a God Who is close


The following comes from the Vatican news site:

Advent is a time of joy because in this season expectation of the Lord's coming  is wakened in the hearts of believers. His presence among men and women shows a close God “who is with us in the Church”. Benedict XVI explained this to the faithful of the Roman Parish of San Patrizio a Colle Prenestino, to which he made a Pastoral Visit on Sunday morning 16 December. The Holy Father celebrated the Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent and afterwards returned to the Vatican for the recitation of the Angelus.
The Marian prayer was also marked by the festive Christmas atmosphere of “Gaudete” Sunday, but the Holy Father did not omit to express his “closeness in prayer” to the families of the victims of the violence perpetrated in the elementary school in the United States of America. “I was deeply saddened”, he said, “by Friday’s senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut”, and he expressed this hope: “let us dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and to acts of peace”, to combat the spread of  tragedies like this one.

Among those who listened to his moved words, were also 5,000 children from the Centro Oratori Romani [Roman centre of after school recreation and prayer centres] who had come to St Peter's Square for the traditional blessing of their Baby Jesus figurines to put in their cribs at home. The Pope encouraged them as he did with the Polish faithful of the “Christmas Charity for Children”, expressing the hope that their charitable and ecumenical project would bring joy to the hearts of many little ones.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fr. Robert Barron: The Tale of Two Emperors


Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Want To Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets

SNL: Silent Night

Pope Benedict Offers Prayers for Victims of Conn. Shooting


Hat tip to the Gateway Pundit:
Pope Benedict Offers Prayers for Victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings–
“May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Need A Miracle by Third Day

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cherokee Story


This is a fantastic story for the season of Advent:
A grandfather was teaching his grandchildren about life. “Inside of me there is a terrible fight going on, it is a fight between two wolves. A good and a bad wolf. The bad wolf is fear, anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, lust, resentment, self-pity, lies, deceit. The good wolf is joy, peace, patience, love, hope, forgiveness, compassion, friendship, truth. The same fight is going on inside you, inside every person." The children thought about this for awhile. Then one said: “Which wolf wins the battle.” The old man said: “The one you feed.” Each of us has to ask ourselves the question... Which wolf am I feeding? Let's pray for one another these days of Advent that we might continue to grow in holiness by feeding the good wolf!

Vatican II-The Greatest Meeting of All Time: A Commentary by Fr. Barron

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

Pope Benedict: Remember God's Faithfulness

The following comes from Zenit.com:


In this Year of Faith, Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholics to nourish their faith by discovering the fidelity of God, and savoring the "memory" of his action in human history.
In today's general audience held in Paul VI Hall, the Pope continued with his reflections on God's revelation. 
"Faith," he said, "is nourished by the discovery and the memory of the God who is always faithful, who guides history and is the secure and stable foundation on which to build one's life."
The Holy Father spoke of God's revelation in history as entering into a "loving dialogue with man," a divine plan that "gives a new meaning to the whole human journey."
He reiterated his call to delve into Scripture during this Year of Faith, since the Bible is "the best place to discover the events of this journey."
"Reading the Old Testament, we see how God's interventions in the history of the people that he has chosen for himself and with whom he makes a covenant are not facts that pass and fall into oblivion, but become 'memory,'" the Pontiff reflected. "Together they constitute the 'history of salvation,' kept alive in the consciousness of the people of Israel through the celebration of the saving events."
Of course, the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, the "culmination of God's history with humanity," the Pope said.
The Old and New Testaments witness to the stages of God's "great plan of love," he continued, "a single plan of salvation addressed to all humanity, progressively revealed and realized by the power of God."
Advent
Benedict XVI concluded by suggesting that this liturgical season of Advent is a particularly fruitful time to reflect on God's action in history and plan for salvation.
"As we all know, the word 'advent' means 'coming,' 'presence,' and originally meant specifically the arrival of the king or emperor to a particular province," he explained. "For us Christians it means a wonderful and overwhelming reality: God himself has crossed his Heavens and stooped down to man; he has forged an alliance with him entering into the history of a people; he is the king who descended into this poor province that is Earth, and has made a gift to us of his visitation by taking on our flesh, becoming man like us."
"Advent," the Pope said, "invites us to follow the path of this presence and reminds us again and again that God has not withdrawn from the world, he is not absent, he has not abandoned us to ourselves, but comes to us in different ways, which we need to learn to discern. And we, too, with our faith, our hope and our charity, are called every day to see and bear witness to this presence, in a world often superficial and distracted, to make shine in our lives the light that illuminated the cave of Bethlehem."