Posted by: Fr Chris | December 12, 2018

Guadalupe Day, 1531

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We remember the appearances of Our Lady in 1531 from Dec 9 – 12. In 1521 the Spanish invaders and their native allies defeated the Aztec Empire. The Spaniards had been horrified when they discovered that the Aztec religion required the constant sacrifice of hundreds of people a day, with their blood running down the temple steps, which the Aztecs believed kept the universe in harmony and fed their gods. With the conquest, the religion was overthrown, but what came to replace that worldview?

The friars who came to preach the Gospel faced serious challenges at converting anyone in Mexico because of the awful behavior of many conquistadors, who themselves killed people, stole from them, raped the women, and enslaved entire towns. Many Spaniards questioned if Indians were even human beings with a soul. Even though the Spanish Crown intervened on the side of the native peoples, and even though the Church decreed that Native Americans were indeed fully equal human beings, the seeds of racist behavior had already been planted.  As for the Aztecs, most of the population was in a severe state of spiritual apathy and depression, to the point of suicide. They had no hope  in the future, their past religion had been shown to be based on falsehoods, their nobility had joined the Spanish, and they were ruled by foreigners.  Very few people converted to Catholicism.

St Juan Diego (1474-1548), his wife Maria, and his uncle Bernardino were among the few – by 1531 his wife Maria had died, and it was he and his uncle remaining.  Juan Diego’s birth name was “The eagle who speaks” which is very important for the story. The eagle was the main symbol of the Aztec state. God chose The Eagle Who Speaks to convey the message of heaven to the bishop and other Spaniards, that God indeed recognized the Native people not only as human beings, but as His children who were to be instructed in the faith. When Juan Diego first meets the Virgin on Tepeyac hill, she says to him: “Know, my dear son, that I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and it is my desire that they erect a temple to me in this place from where, as a loving Mother of you and your people, I will show my loving clemency and compassion that I have for the natives and those that love and seek me. I will hear their prayers and supplications to give them consolation and relief. And so that my will be done, you should go to Mexico City to the bishop’s palace and you will tell him that I sent you and that it is my will that he build a temple in this place. You will tell him what you saw and heard. I will thank you for what you do for me and I will give you prestige and exalt you.”

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The bishop asks for a sign. But when Juan Diego prepares to ask the lady for the sign, his uncle is dying, and he has to find a priest to give him the sacraments. He tries to evade Tepeyac, but Mary finds him again. Not only does she assure him that his uncle will recover, she says these wonderful words: “Do not be afflicted about anything, not even with illness or any other harmful things. Am I not here, am I not your Mother? Are you not under my protection and care? Am I not life and health? Are you not in my lap and walk under my care? Do you need anything else?”… That is the first miracle, the uncle’s cure, and in fact she appears to his uncle. Then she provides the sign: Spanish roses, of the type found in Castile, which Juan Diego collects in his cactus cloth. Of course when he presents the roses, instead the greater miracle with what we in the Christian East call an icon-made-without-hands, the miraculous image left by Mary on that simple cloth.

If you go to Mexico City, that image remains as radiant as it was on December 12, 1531. Our Lady appears with brown skin, a mestiza, or woman of mixed race. In 1531, the children of Spanish men and Native women were scorned as the products of rape or at best illegitimate, and they were forced to scrounge and beg for food and clothing as no one wanted them. But the Virgin Mother of God appears as one of them, the sign of the mestizo race which now dominates Latin America. The despised are exalted, the poorest and most humble are lifted up to the level of the Mother of God herself.

Her robes are covered with symbols:

She stands on the moon, which was the Aztec god of darkness: she has conquered, as she and her Son have defeated Satan.

She stands in front of the sun, that Aztec god who demanded a constant flow of blood, showing that she has defeated the old gods.

She bends her head down, looking at Juan Diego, but Aztec gods looked straight ahead, never at their worshippers – she shows herself to be a mother who listens.

She is carried by an angel – in the Aztec world, only royalty were lifted up and carried by others. The angel has eagle wings – the eagle was the messenger of the gods who led the Aztecs to settle in Mexico City.

The stars are the exact ones that appeared over Mexico City on December 12, 1531.

The glyphs are all powerful symbols from the original Nahuatl style of writing – one is of jasmine, a sacred flower to the Aztecs, and marking the Child inside the womb as divine; the glyphs for mountains, rivers, and nation are turned upside down to reveal the human heart with arteries. Instead of tearing hearts out of captives, the Christian God presents His own divine sacred heart for the Natives to turn to.

Her dress is the color of the dawn sky, a new age appearing for the people.

Her black rope shows that she is a virgin, but her swollen stomach declares that she is also pregnant with the Eternal Word of God, and she is bringing Him to the natives.

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Juan Diego himself became a great missionary, as a layman living next to the chapel built at Tepeyac. His intercession with God was credited with many miraculous cures during his lifetime and after his death, but his Cause for sainthood was delayed for centuries, and he was not beatified until 1990 and canonized only in 2002.

The Catholic Church in the Americas is facing repeated scandals connected with violation of vows of celibacy and poverty, with decades of abuse of children, teenagers, and adults at the hands of various priests, bishops, and even a cardinal. For every person who converts to the Catholic Faith, six Catholics walk away from the Church. In 1532, the spread of the message of Guadalupe by Juan Diego, his uncle Bernardino, and the Franciscan friars resulted in a flood of nine million people being baptized and accepted into the Church. These millions went on to lead lives of strong devotion, people who sought out confession on a regular basis, who turned their backs on human sacrifice and the temptation to despair and suicide and moved into the light of the Gospel.

This is very much a moment for you, the laity. People expect priests to still preach the Gospel and uphold Catholic truths, but fewer and fewer will listen to us thanks to the sins of those priests who molested youngsters and adults, and thanks to the bishops who protected them for the last 70 years. Now is most especially the moment of the laity. Ask Saint Juan Diego, the eagle who talks, to intercede for you with God so that like him, you can proclaim the message of Jesus Christ and His Church to those around you. Ask the Virgin Mother to strengthen your own commitment to her Son’s Church, and to make this Christmas not a Christmas of gifts but a Christmas of proclamation, of salvation, of lifting the members of the Body of Christ  away from despair and into the proclamation of joy to the world. We are thirteen days away from the Nativity of Christ – we must be the light of Jesus to the darkened world around that is so torn with anger, division, despair, fear. We must be the ones who speak the truth boldly, to anyone, that Jesus Christ comes to save us, and He founded a Church which, despite the sins of its members, continues to proclaim the fullness of truth and revelation.

Christ is among us!

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 6, 2018

St Nicholas Day

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Saint Nicholas 

When my mother was leaving St. Francis Hospital with me in 1956 after one of my early medical issues, an old German Sister stopped her and said, “Saint Nicholas will be very important in this child’s life.” My mother made a point of putting out our shoes on Dec. 5 for treats from the saint when we were children, but never said anything. I just figured it was because Dad was German. But in 1976 she came to the Byzantine Catholic church in Olean, NY, with me. There  I pointed out the icons, and when I got to the big Saint Nicholas, and I told her that he is on every iconostas because of his importance, she then said, “Oh, that’s what that nun meant” and then told me the story. Little did I know Nicholas had been guiding me to the Byzantine Catholic Church, as I pursued Eastern Catholicism as a boy and teenager!

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The little  church on Fountain Street in Olean 

As a friend of mine noted recently, Saint Nicholas left us no sermons, no theological treatises, no writings of any kind. He is known mostly through stories of his miracles which God worked through him in answer to his prayers while serving as bishop of Myra: the innocent are saved from execution; girls saved from prostitution; abandoned children rescued; sailors saved at sea during storms. He is the patron of Greece, Russia, navies, children, falsely accused, archers, bakers, brewers, pawnbrokers, students and multiple cities across Europe. In particular one legend acclaims him for defending the full divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, a council which he did indeed attend. The legend says that he was deprived of his episcopal regalia after striking an Arian who denied Jesus’ divinity. But then the bishops all had a dream where Jesus and Mary appeared to him, asking Nicholas “Why are you in prison?” His reply?”Out of love for you.” And with that, Our Lady restored his omophorion and Jesus the Gospel book – and in the morning all the bishops (many of whom were pro-Arian) shamefacedly restored him to his role as bishop of Myra.

St. Nicholas saves innocent men from execution – Ilya Repin’s painting  

You can read more about him here: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/. And you can read about  the 2014 reconstruction of his face here: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/real-face/  based on his relics which rest in the port city of Bari, Italy.

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You will see how faithful the icons are to what he actually looked like – a great proof of just how traditional icon painting is!

So – how will I be remembered? By my books, my sermons, my spiritual direction? Hopefully I will be remembered by what I have done for others in the Name of Christ, and for being a faithful Catholic priest,  as our holy father Nicholas is still known today.

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St. Nicholas the Wonderworker 

 

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 3, 2018

Catching up, and St. Francis Xavier

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St. Francis Xavier in front of Immaculate Conception cathedral, Beijing, China

Goodness! I have not posted in six weeks. Life got a little hectic, between parish, some health issues, and then my father’s physical decline.  He fell asleep in the Lord on November 14 and I was able to celebrate his Mass of Christian Burial on the 17th, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Kenmore, NY. He was 94, would have been 95 on December 9th. An interesting point to ponder: who comes to mourn a man of that age, who has outlived nearly all of his contemporaries? Well, if you have lived well and cared for others, it turns out a couple hundred people came to the wake, where we spent four hours with a nonstop line of mourners, and again at the church and cemetery.  We heard many good stories of his actions on behalf of other people, and the importance he placed on doing the right thing. As we prepare for the Birth of Christ, it is worth asking ourselves, what will my legacy be as a follower of Christ? 

Today is the feast of St. Francis Xavier on the Roman calendar. He is probably the most prolific missionary in the history of the Catholic Church, covering territory from western India to Japan. A gifted linguist, this Basque co-founder of the Jesuits was also blessed at least twice with the gift of tongues, when diverse people heard him preach in their own languages at Travancore (India) and Amaguchi (Japan). God granted many miracles in answer to Xavier’s prayers, and after his death – he died waiting to enter China in 1532 – the various Catholic communities founded by him reported a plethora of miracles that were sent to Rome for study.

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Why do I like him so much? My home parish of Saint John’s in Kenmore is one of the two churches where the annual Novena of Grace is preached every March (the other being Saint Michael in downtown Buffalo). I served the novena Masses or attended all through grammar school and high school. The novena was so popular in Buffalo that it occasionally showed up on the evening news on television. And as an Eastern Catholic, it is great to record that unlike so many missionaries and soldiers who followed in his wake, he accepted the ancient Syriac Church of India as solidly orthodox in faith. Had his example been followed by the Portuguese churchmen who devastated that Church in the 1500s and 1600s, the Christian history of India would have been much better. Instead they launched a violent purge, destroying ancient manuscripts, Latinizing the liturgy and sacraments almost beyond recognition, and breaking the Syriac Church’s ties with the mother Church in Iraq. Tens of thousands broke with Rome as a result, and the Syriac-Malabar Catholic Church was forbidden to conduct Catholic missionary work in India, despite it being of apostolic origin* and well adapted to Indian life. The Malabar Catholics were only allowed to preach the Gospel to non-Christians after Vatican II!

Tomb of Saint Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier’s body reposes today in Bom Jesus basilica in Old Goa, the city where he first landed in India. He remains very popular in Asia, where his many miracles of his lifetime are well-known. As persecution of Christianity intensifies in India – and other Asiatic countries – may his prayers bring about many blessings for the faithful! 

This is a good article on the miracles of Saint Francis Xavier during his lifetime.  http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Miracles/Miracles_005.htm

*The Syriac Churches of India all trace their founding to the work of Saint Thomas the Apostle, whose tomb lies in Chennai, India. Excavations of the tomb found not only items that matched the ancient stories of the apostle, but brickwork done in the style of first-century Rome. There was a steady trade between western India and the Roman Empire using the trade winds of the Indian Ocean.

Posted by: Fr Chris | October 19, 2018

1.3 billion Catholics, 18% of world

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Official statistics for 2016 from the Holy See

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – As every year, in view of World Mission Day, which this year celebrates its 92nd anniversary on Sunday, October 21, 2018, Fides News Service offers some statistics chosen to give a panorama of the missionary Church all over the world. The tables are taken from the latest edition of the “Church’s Book of Statistics” published (updated to 31 December 2016) regarding members of the Church, church structures, healthcare, welfare and education. Please note that variations, increase or decrease, emerging from our own comparison with last year’s figures (2015), are marked increase + or decrease – in brackets

World population
To 31 December 2016 the world population was 7.352.289.000 with an increase of 103.348.000 units compared with the previous year. Population growth was registered on every continent, including Europe: increases were registered above all in Asia (+ 49.767.000) and Africa (+ 42.898.000), followed by America (+ 8.519.000), Europe (+ 1.307.000) and Oceania (+ 857.000).

Catholics
On the same date Catholics in the world numbered 1.299.059.000 units with an overall increase of 14.249.000. The increase affects all continents, except Europe for the third consecutive year (- 240.000). Increases were registered above all in Africa (+6.265.000) and in America (+ 6.023.000)* followed by Asia (+ 1.956.000) and Oceania (+ 254.000). The world percentage of Catholics decreased by 0.05 %, settling at 17.67%. By continent: increases were registered in America (+ 0.06), Asia (+ 0,01) and Oceania (+ 0.02), decrease in Africa (- 0.18) and Europe (- 0,11).

*America means the entire Western hemisphere

Persons and Catholics per priest 
This year the number of persons per priest in the world increased by 254 units, average 14,336. The distribution by continent: increase in Africa (+ 271), America (+ 108), Europe (+ 66) and Oceania (+ 181). The only decrease in Asia (- 264).
The number of Catholics per priest in the world increased by 39 units, average 3.130. There are increases in Africa (+ 7), America (+ 74); Europe (+ 22), Oceania (+ 52). Asia unvaried (-13). 

Ecclesiastical circumscriptions and mission stations 
The number of ecclesiastical circumscriptions are 10 more than the previous year to 3,016 with new circumscriptions created in Africa (+3), America (+3), Asia (+3), Europe (+1). Oceania unvaried.
Mission stations with a resident priest number 2,140 (581 more than in the previous year). Decrease was registered only in Africa (- 63), while and an increase was registered in America (+ 98), Asia (+ 151) Europe (+ 364) and Oceania (+ 31).
Mission Stations without a resident priest decreased in number by 513 units, to 142.487. Increase were registered in Africa (+ 135), Europe (+ 456), and Oceania (+ 91). The number dropped in America (- 35) and Asia (- 1.160).

Bishops 
The total number of Bishops in the world increased by 49 units, to 5,353. Diocesan Bishops and Religious Bishops increased in numbers. Diocesan Bishops number 4,063 (27 more), while Religious Bishops number 1,263 (22 more).
The increase in diocesan Bishops is registered in America (+ 20); Asia (+ 9), Europe (+ 3), while a decrease was registered in Africa (- 2) and Oceania (- 3). The number of religious Bishops increased in all continents except Asia (- 7): Africa (+ 5), America (+ 14), Europe (+ 8), Oceania (+ 2).

Priests 
The total number of priests in the world decreased even this year, to 414.969 (- 687). The only continents which registered a major decrease was again Europe (- 2.583). There was also a decrease in America (-589). Increases were registered in Africa (+ 1.181) and Asia (+ 1.304) Oceania unvaried. Diocesan priests increased by 317 units, reaching a total of 281.831 with a decrease only in Europe (- 1.611) and increases in Africa (+ 983); America (+ 180), Asia (+ 744) and Oceania (+ 21). The number of Religious priests decreased by 1.004 units to a total 133.138. Increases were registered as in recent years in Africa (+ 198) and in Asia (+ 560), whereas numbers dropped in America (- 769), Europe (- 972), Oceania (- 21)

Permanent Deacons 
Permanent deacons in the world increased by 1.057 units to 46.312. The highest increase was registered again in America (+842) followed by Europe (+145), Oceania (+45), Africa (+22) and Asia (+3).
Permanent Diocesan deacons in the world are 45.609, with an overall increase of 982 units. They increased on every continent except in Asia (- 38): Africa (+ 36), America (+ 807), Europe (+130) and Oceania (+ 47).
Religious permanent deacons number 703, increased by 75 units compared to the previous year, with decreases in Africa (- 14) and Oceania (- 2), increases in Asia (+41), America (+35) and Europe (+15).

Men and women religious 
The number of non-religious priests decreased for the fourth consecutive year by 1.604 units to 52.625. Situation: a decrease was registered in all continents: in Africa (-50), America (-503), Asia (-373), Europe (-614) and Oceania (-64). Even this year there is an overall decrease in the number of women religious by 10.885 units to 659.445. An increase was registered in Africa (+ 943) and Asia (+ 533), decrease in America (- 3.775), Europe (-8.370) and Oceania (-216).

Members of secular institutes, male and female
Members of male secular institutes number 618 with a decrease of (-79) after an increase compared to the previous year. At a continental level there is an increase in Africa (+2) and Asia (+ 4), while a decrease in America (- 77), and Europe (-8), Oceania unvaried also this year.
The members of female secular institutes decreased this year, by 459 units to a total of 22.400 members. Increase only in Africa (+ 113), while a decrease was registered in America (-33), Asia (-35) Europe (- 502) and Oceania (-2).

Lay missionaries and Catechists 
The number of lay missionaries in the world is 354.743 units, with an overall increase of 2.946 units in particular in America (+ 4.728) and Africa (+759). Decrease was registered in Asia (- 1.569), Europe (-921) and Oceania (- 55). Catechists in the world decreased by 36.364 units to a total of 3.086.289. An increase was registered in only in Africa (+ 10.669). A decrease was registered in America (- 20.407), Asia (- 12.896), Europe (- 13.417) and Oceania (- 313).

Major seminarians 
The number of major seminarians, diocesan and religious decreased this year, they are globally 683 units, reaching a total of 116.160. Increases occurred in Africa (+1.455) and in Asia (+9), while even this year a decrease in America (-1.123), Europe (-964) and Oceania (-60). 
Major diocesan seminarians number 71.117 (+999 more than the previous year) and Religious major seminarians 45.043 (-1.682). Diocesan seminarians increased in Africa (+1.059), America (+16) and Asia (+310). Decreases are in Europe (-381) and Oceania (-5). Religious Seminarians increased only in Africa (+396), while decreased in America (-1.139), Asia (-301), Europe (-583) and Oceania (-55).

Minor seminarians 
The number of minor seminarians, diocesan and religious this year decreased by 2.735 units to 101.616. Overall decrease on all continents: Africa (-69), America (-1.299), Asia (-871), Europe (-581), Oceania (-5).
Minor diocesan seminarians number 78.369 (-1.729) and religious seminarians number 23.247 (-1.006). The number of diocesan minor seminarians increased in Africa (+ 236) and Oceania (+7). Decrease in America (-684), Asia (-988), Europe (-300), Religious minor seminarians increased in number only in Asia (+207), while decreases in Africa (-305), America (-615), Europe (-281) and Oceania (-12).

Catholic schools and Education 
In the field of education, the Catholic Church runs 72.826 kindergartens with 7.313.370 pupils; 96.573 primary schools with 35.125.124 pupils; 47.862 secondary schools with 19.956.347 pupils. The Church also cares for 2.509.457 high school pupils, and 3.049.548 university students.

Catholic charity and healthcare centres
Charity and healthcare centres run in the world by the Church include: 5.287 hospitals, most of them in America (1.530) and Africa (1.321); 15.937 dispensaries, mainly in Africa (5.177); America (4.430) and Asia (3.300); 610 Care Homes for people with Leprosy, mainly in Asia (352) and Africa (192); 15.722 Homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability, mainly in Europe (8.127) and America (3.763); 9.552 orphanages, mainly in Asia (3.660); 11.758 creches, mainly in Asia (3.295) and America (3.191); 13.897 marriage counselling centres, mainly in Europe (5.664) and America (4.984); 3.506 social rehabilitation centres and 35.746 other kinds of institutions. 
Ecclesiastical Circumscriptions dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples 
The ecclesiastical Circumscriptions dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Cep) are 1.114 with an increase of 3 circumscriptions compared to last year. Most of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions are mainly in Africa (511) and in Asia (482), followed by America (75) and Oceania (46).
(S.L. – Agenzia Fides, 21/10/2018)

LINK
Special Dossier Catholic Church statistics 2018 -> http://www.fides.org/de/attachments/view/file/Dossier_Statistiche2018_FIDES_ENG.pdf
Posted by: Fr Chris | September 26, 2018

Resources on Pius XII and the Holocaust

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Pope Pius XII, pontiff from 1939-1958 

Want to hear Pius’ voice? This film shows his address in English to Allied soldiers who liberated Rome in 1944: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=149&v=tGzOwh8TjhY

I did a presentation for university students on Sept 25, 2018, on Pius XII and the Holocaust. The video of my talk will be on You Tube on our CAFE Catholic Apologetics Evangelization Fellowship Channel in Fall 2018  ‘https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcwCLAZoVjRCyUCB96m-cJQ

Below are first books, and then good internet resources, that cover his years as nuncio in Germany (Munich 1917- 1920, Berlin 1920-1929), Secretary of State at the Holy See, and Pope. These deal with the Empire, Weimar Republic, and the National Socialists (Nazis) in Germany,  and his actions on behalf of German and Italian Jews while working in the Vatican Secretariat (1929-1939), and his actions as Pontiff during the War (1939-1945). Pius himself questioned if he did enough, or spoke out enough, but at the same worried that if he was too open in speaking, that the Jews would suffer even more.

These should all be of interest to anyone who wants to read more on the topic. I have to say that I am amazed at the amount of misinformation, or outright lies on the internet, e.g., “the Catholic Church did nothing to help Jews during the Holocaust.”  It is a difficult area to read about, but important given the rise in Anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere, and the actual denying that the Holocaust even took place! 

Pius XII Resources

Bartley, Peter. Catholics  Confronting Hitler.

Blet, Pierre, ed. Pius XII and the Second World War

Bottum and Dalin, eds. The Pius War: Response to the Critics of Pius XII

Caroll-Abbing, John Patrick. But For the Grace of God. Autobiography includes this priest’s work in the Italian Resistance and the rescue of Jews in occupied Italy 1943-44.

Chadwick, Owen. Britain and the Vatican in the Second World War.

Dalin, Rabbi David. The Myth of Hitler’s Pope

Gallo, Patrick. Pius XII, the Holocaust and the Revisionists.

Harris, Robin. Stepinac: His Life and Times

Krupp, Gary, ed. Pope Pius XII and World II: The Documented Truth.

Kurzman, Dan. A Special Mission: Hitler’s Secret Plot to Seize the Vatican and Kidnap Pius the XII.

Pacepa, Ion. Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism (former spy chief for Romania and USSR)

Riebling, Mark. Church of Spies.

Rychlak, Ronald. Hitler, the War, and the Pope.

Sanchez, Jose. Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Concerns.

Tittman, Harold.  Inside the Vatican of Pius XII: Memoir of an American Diplomat During World War II.

“Roman Convents Opened to Jews During the Occupation: Orders from the Top. L’Osservatore Romano, 30 January, 2015, p. 2.

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Breslau Synagogue ablaze, Kristallnacht, 1938 

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/02/2662/  Did Pius XII Lie to Save Jews? Details about the roundup of Jews in Rome in 1943

http://college.holycross.edu/faculty/vlapomar/hiatt/hiatt.htm  Catholics and the Holocaust Hiatt Collection at Holy Cross College with links to other sites (some of which are not the best, FYI)

http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/2001Feb/feb17nr1.htm  New Book Defends Pius XII, Attacks Critics

http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-index.html  Nizkor Project: Timeline with links on how Nazis came to power in Germany   This link:  http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/nca/nca-01/nca-01-07-means-34.html    includes information on attacks against the Catholic Church

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pius-XII,-the-Pope-who-opposed-Hitler-17173.html   Deals with the Black Legend of Pius XII

https://www.firstthings.com/search?q=pius+xii+   Links to articles in First Things on Pope Pius XII, the Nazis, the Holocaust and his role as pope during the war.

https://contemporarychurchhistory.org/2015/06/papal-rescue-in-wartime-rome-a-new-documentary-and-commentaries/   Doino, William. Papal Rescue in Wartime Rome

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/claims-that-pius-xii-was-framed-gaining-support Claims that Pius XII was framed gaining support – 1

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/claims-that-pius-xii-was-framed-gaining-support-part-2

Pave the Way Foundation: http://legacy.ptwf.org/members/vatican_documents.aspx.

-Contains the entire French-language series of wartime Vatican documents and letters 1939-1945;

-relevant copies of L’Osservatore Romano in Italian, 1938 – 1945;

-19 video interviews with researchers or co-workers; and  120 collections of documents from the Holy See, Germany, Italy, the American OSS, letters, testimonies of survivors;

-Argentina’s role in hiding Nazi war criminals; radio interviews;

-article on the concordat of 1933. You have to register to use the site, but there is no fee.

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/02/kevin-madigans-offenses-against-history   Critique by William Doino of the various charges against Pius XII during the war

https://www.ewtn.com/library/issues/pius12gs.htm The Good Samaritan: Jewish Praise for Pius XII

http://www.newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=2848  The Cold War How Moscow framed Pope Pius XII as pro-Nazi

http://www.ewtn.com/library/CHISTORY/germjew34.htm In 1934 The Pope Hired a German Jew

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3315  Pius XII: The Martyrdom of Silence

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3593 Graham, Robert. Pius XII’s defense of Jews and Others 1944-45

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3926 Dalin, Rabbi David. Pius XII Saved More Jews Than Schindler

http://paulonpius.blogspot.com/2011/09/abbot-marcone-and-croatia.html  Abbot Marcone and  Croatia

http://michaelhesemann.info/11_5.html  Pius XII and the Armenian Genocide

http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?print=1&did=0508-bemis  Hitler’s Mad Plot to Sack the Vatican

http://www.catholic.co.il/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=302:martin-gilbert-on-pope-pius-xii&catid=41&lang=en&Itemid=148 Martin Gilbert on Pope Pius XII

http://www.thedailybeast.com/the-vatican-spys-plot-to-kill-hitler

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/historian-catholic-church-pivotal-in-rescue-of-roman-jews

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2014/04/03/john-xxiii-and-the-jews/

http://sib-catholic.ru/podobno-noevu-kovchegu-tyisyachi-bezhentsev-v-papskih-dvortsah-kastel-gandolfo-vo-vremya-ii-mirovoy-voynyi/  Russian article on refugees in Castel Gandolfo

http://www.lastampa.it/2013/01/23/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/pius-xii-the-diplomatic-pope-who-was-excommunicated-by-the-nazis-3ljnyT98RbLcKtepv5HNNM/pagina.html

https://insidethevatican.com/magazine/people/interview/flight-defeat-helped-germans-escape-europe/ Flight from Defeat: Who Helped the Germans Escape Europe?

https://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=11330   Holy See’s Apostolic Visitor intervened on behalf of Croatian Jews

file:///C:/Users/hp15/Documents/5601-10936-1-SM.pdf     Ventresca, Robert ” The Vatican Was For Us Like a Mountain”Reassessing the Vatican’s Role in Jewish Relief and Rescue during the Holocaust (2014).

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Posted by: Fr Chris | September 14, 2018

The Holy Cross and Our Situation Today

September 14, 2018

Today’s official feast day title is The Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross.  This reflects the paradox that Saint Paul writes about – the Cross is a stumbling block to pagans, Jews, Muslims, nonbelievers of all kinds. Why would a merciful and loving God require the death of His Divine and Human Son in such a terrible way?

Ave Crux, Spes Unica! is an old Latin phrase: Hail O Cross, our unique hope! The instrument of death becomes an instrument of salvation. In imperial Japan, they crucified people who were discovered to be secret Catholics, part of a network of faithful that waited nearly 200 years for Catholic missionaries to return. In the Soviet Gulag, there were cases of priests nailed to doors and then doused with water in the middle of winter, leaving them crucified and frozen to death. Muslims routinely call Christians as Worshippers of the Cross.  In the recent upsurge of Islamic fundamentalism, many Christians have been crucified on church doors or along the roads to punish them for continuing to believe in Jesus  Christ, and to frighten remaining  Christians into converting. In all of these examples and more, the Cross on which Jesus died has been used by  pagan, communist, and Muslim regimes to frighten people, where instead it simply increased their resolve to imitate their Savior by accepting such a death in His honor, confident of what awaited them after death.

The original Cross is said to have been buried, and Saint Helen to have been directed to it during excavations of Jerusalem in the early 300s. A sick person who touched the cross was cured, but when a funeral procession went by, Helen had them stopped and touched the cross to the corpse. The man immediately came back to life. The instrument of death gives life and healing, both literally in these two cases but also spiritually and psychologically for millions over the last twenty centuries.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the city – that was a death reserved for the worst criminals. The Jewish leadership wanted to get rid of Him and His miracles, His challenges to their authority, His constant call to conversion. The Romans were the only ones with the authority to kill him, and do so because the procurator is too weak to stand up for the authentic truth. The apostles take off, except for the youngest, who stands with the Blessed Mother and the other women. We must be willing to stand at the Cross in our lives, with St. John and Mary and the others – we can’t run away. From the Cross comes the Church and we are staying with this Church founded by Jesus Christ, not by some ordinary guy who wants to make his own theology.

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Jesus dies in order to bring salvation to the entire world, not only the Jews.  The cross is a door. Through it we will find redemption and God’s abiding love. Stay stuck in front of it and we may be moved by Christ’s great suffering, but not find the resurrection. Saint Edith Stein wrote that we must embrace the Cross, go into the Cross, and only then will we find the power of God on the other side. In His death, which He willingly went to, Jesus makes the weak strong, makes sinners into holy people. Jesus defeats death itself, conquering Satan and all his wicked plots, to emerge triumphant as the king of kings, the risen Lord.

The pouring out of Jesus’ blood and water from the wound in His side is very important, which is why the Gospel records it. At this stage, Christ is dead. He had been in a long, brutal passion, with neither food nor water since the Last Supper. He has been tortured, flogged, abused psychologically in the mocking, and forced to drag a heavy weight over cobblestone streets while His blood and sweat pour out of His body. Then He is nailed to the cross, and lifted up, like the bronze serpent of Moses, for the people to look upon. But when the soldier wants to insure that Jesus is truly dead, he runs the spear through His side into the cavity around His holy heart.  Nothing should really come out, because by that point the body is exhausted. So everyone is surprised by not only the fluid coming out, but the amount and force: it gushes out, pours out, floods out. From that wound, the Church is born. That wound from what traditional Catholic devotion calls the Sacred Heart gives out water, which baptizes us, and blood of the Holy Eucharist,  which feeds us.

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“Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me” is from the ancient Anima Christi prayer. His Precious Blood, which we will receive tonight, is that same blood that poured out onto the streets of Jerusalem and soaked the wood of the holy Cross. This Precious Blood should fill me, enliven me, indeed cause me great joy, as a testimony to the awesome love of Christ, willing to die so as to bring about my salvation; the incredible humility of the Holy Trinity, that one Person would take on our weak humanity in fullness so as to save us.

The Church is seen as being born from the wound in the side of our crucified Lord. Right now the Body of Christ is suffering, as decades of sexual abuse of children, teenagers, and adults at the hands of priests and even bishops continues to come to light. The Church is being wounded by the sins of some of its clergy – only some, but enough to do serious damage to the reputation of Catholicism and to thousands upon thousands of souls, and through the financial payments of compensation and for therapy of victims, to cripple the Church’s charitable and educational work in many dioceses. The exalted nature of how some clergy live and think of themselves, the failure to weed out abusive personalities, the STILL ongoing emphasis on protecting the institution rather than the souls and bodies of the faithful, the isolation some clergy lived in, and the failure to stop predators when they were first discovered all contribute to the mess we are in. It is a profound moment when the Body of Christ is being attacked by these sins, and the only one benefiting so far is Satan.

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Today is a day of abstinence for us anyway as it is Friday, and a day of expiation nationally for these sins. Personally I think every bishop involved in any cover up who is still around should be kneeling in his cathedral facing the people and prostrating himself on the floor in complete sorrow, and not in fancy vestments either but sackcloth and ashes. Whether or not that ever happens, we as the members of the Body, some of us having been personally affected by these sins, all of us being spiritually wounded, must remember that it is from that sacred wound that the Church was born on Mount Calvary. The sacred wound gave us life. This wound can again give life – if the leadership of the Church is willing to be washed in the blood and water and pray again with that ancient prayer, “Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me” and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and act accordingly. For ourselves, may we each listen to that same Holy Spirit, and move forward. Let us work at being healers for those who are wounded directly and indirectly. Let us listen to those who are suffering. And let us take our strength from a God Who was willing to suffer alongside us and die as we die, in order that we find peace in this life, and eternal happiness with Him, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints in the life to come.

Posted by: Fr Chris | September 7, 2018

Birth of Our Lady, the Holy Mother of God

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Like other feasts of Our Lady, the celebration of her nativity comes from ancient Syria and Palestine. St John Chrysostom mentions the feast being observed in the late 300s, so it is one of the older Marian feast days. As to why it is on September 8, it was on this day that the basilica of the Virgin Mary was dedicated in Jerusalem under the leadership of Saint Helen.

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St Dmitri of Rostov, with the Mother of God 

St Dmitri of Rostov writes that before a king settles in a city, he builds a palace worthy of his residing in it. God set aside not the glories of Herod’s Second Temple, but the womb of a virgin woman. The story of her birth is told in the legends of Saints Joachim and Ann found in the Protoevangelium of James,  a book written about 145 AD that claimed to fill in the gaps of the New Testament dealing with the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. The icon of her birth tells a powerful story. Always the icons show a birth at home, with Ann reposing on the bed, the midwives washing the baby girl, and then a side panel where Joachim receives Mary in his arms. They know that this daughter will be the mother of the Messiah, one of the highest graces a woman can have in Judaism.  She will be raised in a loving home, in a setting that you and I would recognize, with happy parents rejoicing in their child’s growth.

In a time when purity is often mocked, when women have been targeted both sexually and with violence, when people very much want to go their own way and do whatever feels good, when the very foundation of family life is under daily assault, Our Lady stands as a reminder of the power of purity, of chastity, of obedience, of radical love, of radical self-giving in the Name of God out of love for God. God chooses a family in which the Mother of the Son is to be raised,  just as that same Son will be raised in a family by two loving parents.

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St Dmitri goes on:       The palaces of earthly kings are guarded by armed guards, who do not allow everyone desirous to enter therein to do so, but rather stop and carefully question everyone as to why they have come. But as for the living palace of Christ, although she is surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim, by the innumerable choirs of Angels, and by all the Saints, at the doors of her compassionate mercy no one hinders anyone who desirous of entering, neither do the guards expel anyone, nor do soldiers drive anyone away after having questioned him as to why he has come, but having prayerfully entered, he receives a gift which profits him according to his petition.

This matches with our church’s title – Perpetual Help. Our Lady spends heaven helping those who ask her to intercede with God. In the revelation of our patronal icon, Mary said, “I am your Mother of Perpetual Help.” In celebrating the day of her birth, let us rejoice that God loves us, and ask her to strengthen our Christian faith, our commitment to Christ and His Church.

So to conclude with St Dmitri: Thus, let us hasten to the compassionate bosom of her who was born of a barren womb, hailing her thus, “Rejoice, O immaculate palace of the King of All! Rejoice, dwelling place of God and of the Word! To Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to you, O Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Bride of the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory from us mortals unto the ages of ages, Amen.

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SS Joachim and Anne with the Virgin as a child 

Posted by: Fr Chris | August 25, 2018

Divine Judgment which none can escape

Texts:  2 Corinthians, 1:21-2:4 Matthew 22:1-14, Byzantine Rite

The Parable of the King’s Wedding Feast (22:1-14) This is the third parable in the series of Jesus’ responses to the challenge  by the Jewish clergy to His unique authority (21:23-27), preached at the Temple in Jerusalem during the first Holy Week, and it is likewise a parable of judgment. There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it.

Matthew is the most quoted gospel among the ancient Fathers of the Church, because of its rich content. It was written for a Church composed of both Jewish and Gentile Christians: chapter 1 presented St. Joseph’s ancestry, presenting Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, and in chapter 2 the wise men come from Persia to worship the Christ Child. So in the opening we have both the Jews and the Gentiles as part of Jesus’ life. Matthew is answering the question of how Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leadership, and that He is truly the Son of God, far beyond any expectation of the first-century Jews looking for a royal king. Christ is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the leadership at the Temple is confronted by Jesus after His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and when He cleanses the temple with His holy anger at what that leadership has allowed to happen in the areas where worship and prayer should be going on. He drove out the money changers, all the signs of commerce, to restore the Temple as a place of worship. He is consumed with a holy righteous anger at what has been done to His Father’s House. In short, He claims divine authority, exousia, to do that, and the parables of judgment answer the questions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and the Sanhedrin: Who is this who dares to condemn us?

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The parable of the wedding feast helped to explain the mixed reception of the gospel within Israel (as in chapter 13). God through his ser­vants the prophets, then through Jesus, and finally through Jesus’ disciples issued the invitation to the banquet.

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The Lamb of God in heaven

Heaven is not described in the bible as a place of angels playing harps and everyone sitting on clouds – there are two descriptions, of it being one giant party, and of one giant worship of the Lamb of God. In that Liturgy, the Cherubim and Seraphim sing the thrice-holy hymn, the Sanctus: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.” In the Byzantine Church, we will soon sing the Cherubic Hymn: Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim and sing the thrice-holy  hymn” – we are to spiritually be like the Cherubim close to the altar of God in heaven: that is our goal, that is our destiny, that is what Christ promises us!

The invitation Jesus gives is not to an earthly wedding, but the marriage of Himself to His Church. The Jewish leadership, He was warning in all of these parables, each stronger than the previous, was rejecting Him and was going to pay a price: the Kingdom of God was going to go to those Jews who accepted it – especially the Jewish tax collectors, prostitutes, poor, and sick –  and then to the Gentile outsiders, the people despised because of their paganism, the poorest of the poor.  Those who rejected the King of Kings are punished: their daily life of business was more important than participating in the banquet of the messiah and they deliberately ignore that Jesus is the Son of God – just what a lot of people in Europe and North America do today, as church attendance has plunged, as survey after survey shows people doubting that Jesus is divine, that Jesus is the long-awaited savior, that Jesus’ teachings are in fact binding on our souls. Business flourishes – the economy is booming, the bull stock market is historic, unemployment is down, but our moral life in the Western World is incredibly bankrupt on so many levels, and has been decaying now for decades. Pope Paul VI warned in 1968 what would happen to the world if it broke with God’s commands on sexual morality, and here we are, in a royal mess. There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it.

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One of the invited comes in without a wedding garment and is thrown out into darkness: I always felt bad for the guy. The servants went out into the hedgerows, bringing in the homeless – of course he didn’t have a wedding robe! Why throw him out? But the custom of the time was that people were given a festive robe when they came to a wedding. He chose not to wear it. He represents those who think that they can get into the Savior’s banquet, the Savior’s liturgy, into heaven, just by showing up. God made me, God loves me, I’m in.

Not so fast. Those who rejected the invitation stayed away, and made light of it – who cares if we go or not? This guy says, who cares if I put on the robe or not? The Fathers of the Church write in their commentaries on this parable that the wedding garment represents our behavior, and that our behavior better be rooted in the virtue of authentic Christian love and a love that was acted upon: repentance, conversion of heart and mind, a life of good deeds. The Jewish rabbis of the day told a story of a king, representing God, who gave people beautiful robes, representing the soul. The wise treasured those robes, the fools wore them to do daily work in the fields and got them dirty. When the king wanted the robes back, the wise were given blessings, and the fools were thrown into a filthy prison. God wants our souls back clean, as a sign of a life well lived.

There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it. None of us will escape God’s judgment. Saint Peter Damian dealt with a major crisis in the Latin Church of the eleventh century in western Europe. The Church was threatened by kings who wanted to control the appointments of bishops, pastors and even the election of popes; by clergy who not only broke their vows of celibacy by taking mistresses but also abused adult men and women as well as children: sound familiar? There was also the issue of clergy who sold access to the sacraments and sold the appointments of bishops and pastors. He laid the groundwork for the Gregorian Reform that eventually delivered freedom to the Church from secular powers.  Peter Damian had called for many reforms, and wrote that one of the problems was that there were bishops who were more afraid to be despised by men than to be judged by God. So those bishops covered up scandal, hid the sins of wayward priests, and went along with the powerful instead of protecting ordinary believers. Part of the whole mess of the early medieval era was that the failure of the bishops to stop such behavior by priests and bishops dragged the reputation of the Church into the mud and people lost respect for priesthood and bishops. Sound familiar? There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it.

                                                                                            Related imageThe Last Judgment: Sistine Chapel 

            It is not enough to show up at the banquet; one must be prepared to enter into the banquet as a full participant, wearing the robe of a soul that has sought to respond to God’s holy will. Grace gives us liberty, God’s saving grace gives us freedom, but always with a free will. I accept all of it, or just part of it. If I accept part of what is taught by Christ’s Church, then I better remember: There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it.

St.  Gregory the Great wrote that “We shall be separated when we reach our goal. Only the good are in heaven, and only the bad are in hell. This life is situated between heaven and hell. It goes on in the middle, so to speak, and takes in the citizens of both parts. But at the end of time, God will separate them.”   In the Epistle today, Saint Paul writes in 2 Corinthians about the problems they had, and how he refrained from making another visit because he knew he was going to have to pass a judgment on them. They had abandoned by the seal of God imprinted on them at their baptism and Confirmation/ Chrismation – when the priest anoints the infant or convert with sacred chrism saying “The seal of the Holy Spirit.”  When the priest anoints the convert or infant, he repeats that phrase and everyone says “Amen”, which means Yes, I believe it is so. Just as we will after the Words of Institution to be uttered shortly at this altar, we believe Jesus Christ comes to us in the consecrated bread and wine, in His Body and Blood. Saint Paul  refrained from making that visit, but he wrote, as we heard in chapter 2, verse 4,” I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears …  to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” He had authentic Christian love. True Christian love.

People who are wicked can have a warped kind of love -they commit sins together: robbery, corruption, violent beatings of innocents, genocide, or the kind of abuse as described in the Pennsylvania report. But that is not Christian love. Christian love is the love that comes with tears, with anguish of heart, with passionate attachment to God above all else. Saint Paul warns in his famous passage in 1 Corinthians that a Christian can lay claim even to interpreting the gift of tongues, but if that Christian does not have the self-giving virtue of love, the love that impelled God to take on our weak human condition so as to save us, then he is a clanging gong, worthless. There is a divine judgment. No one can escape it.

We are angry at the mess in the American Church, and indeed throughout too much of the world. I have had to deal with this garbage since I entered seminary in 1977 and I am sick of it all. I am sick that it has gone on so long with nobody stopping it with serious reforms. But our anger  must be a holy anger, an anger like that of Christ, not of Man. May we pray fervently for our own conversions, for the conversion of our parish, for the conversion of the leaders who have failed the Church, and for the gift of humility – but for the grace of God, there go I – so that at our own personal judgment by God, Jesus Christ will step forward and wrap His arm around me and say, This one belongs to Me.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | August 15, 2018

The Assumption of Our Lady, Aug. 15

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In the icons, Jesus holds the soul of His most Blessed Mother, and comes to lift her body into heaven. There she stands as a sign of our own resurrection from the dead and life in glory! 

In the Eastern Churches, today is known as the Dormition, or the “falling asleep” of the Virgin. “Falling asleep” is the ancient phrase for dying, used by Saint Paul so often. It is the occasion of pilgrimages across Europe, as tens of thousands gather at shrines large and small, across most of Europe, as well as in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Mary has been honored as the Theotokos – the Mother of God. The oldest copy of the prayer We hasten to your protection, Sub Tuum Praesidium, gives her this title and asks her intercession, dates to about the year 250 and is found in Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Latin, and Syriac books and services.  Under your mercy we take refuge, Mother of God! Our prayers, do not despise in necessities, but from the danger deliver us, only pure, only blessed one.

The voice of the ancient Church acclaims her as the only pure one, using the word which refers to her virginity, the only blessed one, meaning a special and unique person, and the great title Mother of God. It further asks her intercession – the Coptic fragment we have probably dates to the great persecutions under either Valerian or Decius. So this is 200 years before the council of Ephesus, which uses the title Theotokos, not as an invention to defeat the Nestorian heresy but rather using ancient tradition. In antiquity, texts were written down after they had been used for a long time verbally.

What does it mean for her to be the Theotokos? God-bearer doesn’t convey the whole power of the word. As the Venerable Henry Cardinal Newman wrote:

She is not merely the Mother of our Lord’s manhood, or of our Lord’s body, but she is to be considered the Mother of the Word Himself, the Word incarnate. God, in the person of the Word, the Second Person of the All-glorious Trinity, humbled Himself to become her Son. Non horruisti Virginis uterum, as the Church sings, “Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb”. He took the substance of His human flesh from her, and clothed in it He lay within her; and He bore it about with Him after birth, as a sort of badge and witness that He, though God, was hers. He was nursed and tended by her; He was suckled by her; He lay in her arms. As time went on, He ministered to her, and obeyed her. He lived with her for thirty years, in one house, with an uninterrupted intercourse, and with only the saintly Joseph to share it with Him. She was the witness of His growth, of His joys, of His sorrows, of His prayers; she was blest with His smile, with the touch of His hand, with the whisper of His affection, with the expression of His thoughts and His feelings, for that length of time.

The tradition that Mary died at the end of her life on earth but was bodily assumed into heaven and reunited with her soul goes back to very first century of Christianity. In a Church which values relics of the saints, the only ones we have of her are cloths claimed to be her veil and her belt. That her body was not left to undergo corruption in the grave makes sense – this was a unique body of the New Eve, who did not give in to the temptations of Satan, who acclaimed God’s saving power in the Magnificat at her visitation to Elizabeth, who nudged Jesus into His public ministry at the wedding in Cana, who wept at the cross and the tomb, who prayed with the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Basically, why should she who loved God so greatly, who followed Him as we were made to do so, be left to decay like all other people, when she is the only human not subject to the penalty of original sin? The tradition of her bodily assumption was confirmed by Pius XII in 1950, that the immaculate Mother of God stands as a sign to us of our eternal destiny: glorified body united with the soul, in the company of God, His angels, and all His saints, all the holy ones who have sought to follow God’s will and been purified to enter into the presence of the life-giving Holy Trinity forever.

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Pilgrims in August, Byzantine Catholic Shrine of Mariapocs 

The icon to which our parish is dedicated is that of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. This is the title which Mary herself gives to this image, in which the Child Jesus rests in her arms, frightened by the vision of His passion, which the angels Gabriel and Michael have shown to Him with the  cross, spear, and the sponge on a reed. In that icon, the Virgin looks out at us – she points to her Son with one hand, showing us He is the way, the life of the world, and with her other hand cradling her little boy against her. This is our goal: to be saved by the life-giving Passion of Christ, His death and resurrection, and to imitate Mary in her closeness to Jesus Christ.

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Crowning of the Perpetual Help statue at the Assumption Pilgrimage, Enugu, Nigeria 

May our blessed Lady intercede for our parish, our city, our nation, for all Christians, and through her perpetual prayers may all souls come to know Christ through the revelation entrusted to His Church on earth. It is a Church that is being rocked by scandals in a fallen world – a tragic reminder that Jesus left His Church guided by fallen people, not by angels. But the Church has gone through worst times, and emerged purified and triumphant. (If there were more women running diocesan offices, I doubt that the sexual scandals of the last 50 years could have taken place!)

Through the perpetual prayers of our Lady, glorified in heaven body and soul as a sign to us, may we enter into the heavenly court, and may we ourselves be living signs of that destiny and faith to those around us.

PS – Today the Church blesses flowers. Why? According to an ancient legend, when the apostles went to open Mary’s tomb, they found it empty, her body was gone. In its place, were flowers and herbs. Ever since, Christians send flowers to funerals as a sign of our faith in the resurrection of the dead to eternal life. 

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Statue of the deceased Virgin covered in flowers, Poland 

Card from the Assumption pilgrimage, Birkenstein in Bavaria 

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Carrying the statue of Our Lady for her assumption, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Poland

Posted by: Fr Chris | August 13, 2018

Two saints who give us an example we need today!

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SS Pontian and Hippolytus together 

An anti-pope is a man elected in opposition to the reigning pope, and the first one, oddly enough, is a canonized saint. The short biography below of Pope Saint Pontian and his one-time opponent, Saint Hippolytus, gives the background and how they were reunited, in the fearsome Roman mines of Sardinia, where thousands died. Hippolytus, by the way, was the leading theologian in Italy in the third century.

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From Michael Heinlein:

Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus
— Aug. 13 —

The joint celebration of these saints since 1969 is a lesson in forgiveness and an example of how enemies can become friends. Not only did the Church face threats from the hostile Roman Empire in the third century, but also the internal unity of the Church was threatened by heresy. The theologian St. Hippolytus took things to an extreme when he believed that the bishops of Rome were not strong enough in their defense of the Faith against various heresies. Elected as an alternative bishop of Rome, he became the first antipope, attacking his rivals, popes Urban I and Pontian. When Pope St. Pontian was arrested and sent to a slave camp, St. Hippolytus soon followed the same fate. Before their martyrdom they reconciled, and Pope Fabian brought their relics together in Rome on Aug. 13, 236.

To resume my post: here we have an example of a divided Church. The diocese of Rome was split over which bishop to follow, and each man had their advocates. Hippolytus was convinced he was right, Pontian was convinced he was right, and each was convinced the other was wrong. Hippolytus felt that Pontian was too soft in how he restored sinners and lapsed Christians to the Church, and that a previous pope was not vigorous enough in defeating heresy. He was so convinced that he was right, that he was willing to rupture the Body of Christ rather than accept the popes’ acts, because after all, “I’m right.”

But in their common circumstance of suffering for Christ our Lord, they were able to set aside their differences, and truly reconcile. Survivors testified to their authentic forgiveness of each other, and that Hippolytus was restored to the communion of the Church. Thus, Pope Fabian enshrined their relics together in the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus circa 237 AD. Since 1969 their feast day has been celebrated jointly.

In these days of harsh words and condemnations of the “other” as being wrong, these two give a great example of how we should set aside our differences and be able to talk to each other! They not only talked to each other, they embraced and shared Holy Communion together. Would that Democrats, Republicans, and everybody else who is given over to divisive language would follow their example and be able to sit down and break bread with one another respectfully!

Holy martyrs Pontian and Hippolytus, pray for us!

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