Monday, December 28, 2009




VIS - At midday today, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Holy Father pronounced his traditional Christmas Message from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, and imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing. Extracts of the Message are given below: "The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us". "The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light 'that enlightens every man'". "Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the 'sign' of His saving and liberating presence and to extend the 'us' of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind. "Wherever there is an 'us' which welcomes God's love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, Whom she herself has received as a gift, the One Who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin". "Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: 'Let us go to Bethlehem', for there we shall find our hope. "The 'us' of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The 'us' of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the 'little flock' of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one's neighbour. "The 'us' of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. "On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. "In Europe and North America, the 'us' of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in the process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the 'us' of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity. "In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord". Following his Message, the Pope extended Christmas greetings in 65 languages and imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world).MESS/URBI ET ORBI/... VIS 091228 (740)

SUPPORT BELIEVERS WHO SUFFER FOR THEIR FAITH VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2009 (VIS) - At midday today the Pope appeared at the window of his private study overlooking St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered below. "The One lying in the manger", said the Holy Father, "is the Son of God made man, Who asks us to bear courageous witness to His Gospel, like St. Stephen who, filled with the Holy Spirit, did not hesitate to give his life for love of his Lord. He, like his Master, died forgiving his persecutors and helps us understand how the entry of the Son of God into the world gave rise to a new civilisation, the civilisation of love which does not cave in before evil and violence but breaks down barriers between men, making them brothers in the great family of the children of God". "Stephen's witness, like that of the Christian martyrs, shows our fellow men and women, so often distracted and disoriented, in whom they must place their trust in order to give meaning to life. The martyr is, in fact, the person who dies in the certainty of being loved by God and, placing nothing before love for Christ, knows he has chosen the right side". Benedict XVI explained that "today, presenting us St. Stephen the Deacon as a model, the Church is also showing us that acceptance and love for the poor is one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and to bear credible witness before the world of the Kingdom of God that is to come". After then highlighting how the Feast of St. Stephen "also reminds of us the many believers who, in various parts of the world, undergo trials and suffering for their faith", the Pope called upon people to "support these people with prayer and never to fail in our own Christian vocation, always placing at the centre of our lives Jesus Christ, Who in these days we contemplate in the simplicity and humility of the manger".ANG/ST. STEPHEN/... VIS 091228 (350)

SAFEGUARD THE FAMILY FOUNDED ON MARRIAGE VATICAN CITY, 27 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Before praying the Angelus on this Sunday of the Holy Family, the Pope reminded the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square that "God wished to reveal Himself by being born in a human family, and hence the human family has become an icon of God. "God is Trinity", he added. "He is communion of love, and the family - with all the difference that exists between the Mystery of God and His human creature - is an expression thereof which reflects the unfathomable mystery of God-Love. ... The human family is, in a certain sense, the icon of the Trinity because of the love between its members and the fruitfulness of that love". Commenting then on today's Gospel reading which narrates how the twelve-year-old Jesus stayed behind in the Temple without His parents' knowledge, the Pope explained that "Jesus' decision to remain in the Temple was above all the fruit of his intimate relationship with the Father, but also the fruit of the education received from Mary and Joseph". And he went on: "Here we may catch a glimpse of the authentic meaning of Christian education. It is the result of a collaboration that must always be sought between the educators and God. The Christian family is aware that children are God's gift and project. Hence it cannot consider them as it own possessions but, serving God's plan through them, is called to educate them in the greatest of freedoms which is that of saying 'yes' to God in order to accomplish His will". The Holy Father them addressed some remarks to participants in the Feast of the Holy Family which is being celebrated today in Madrid, Spain. "God, by having come into the world in the bosom of a family, shows that this institution is a sure way to meet and know Him, and a permanent call to work for the loving unity of all people. Thus, one of the greatest services which we as Christians can offer our fellow men and women is to show them the serene and solid witness of a family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, defending it and protecting it, because it is of supreme importance for the present and future of humankind. "In truth, the family is the best school in which to learn to live the values that dignify individuals and make peoples great. There too sufferings and joys are shared, as everyone feels cloaked in the affection that reigns in the home by the mere fact of being members of the same family". Benedict XVI prayed to God that family homes may always experience "this love of total commitment and fidelity which Jesus brought into the world by His birth, nourishing and strengthening it with daily prayer, the constant practice of virtue, reciprocal understanding and mutual respect. "I encourage you - trusting in the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Families, and the powerful protection of St. Joseph, her husband - tirelessly to dedicate yourselves to this beautiful mission the Lord has placed in your hands. Be sure of my closeness and affection", he concluded, "and I pray you carry a very special greeting from the Pope to those of your loved ones who suffer greatest need and difficulties".ANG/HOLY FAMILY/... VIS 091228 (560)

POPE HAS LUNCH WITH THE POOR AT SANT'EGIDIO COMMUNITY VATICAN CITY, 27 DEC 2009 (VIS) - After praying the Angelus today, the Holy Father travelled by car to a canteen for the poor run by the Sant'Egidio Community in Rome's Trastevere district where he had lunch with 150 volunteers and needy people. Benedict XVI sat at table with twelve people, including a gypsy family, an Afghan Shiite refugee, a ninety-year-old widower and a young disabled person abandoned by his family. At the end of the meal, the Pope distributed presents to the thirty-one children present. "It is a moving experience for me to be here with you", said the Pope in his remarks, "to be with the friends of Jesus, because Jesus loves people who suffer. ... Over lunch I heard painful stories charged with humanity. ... And I am here among you to say I am close to you and love you". "Jesus' family also encountered difficulties from the beginning. They experienced the discomfort of finding no hospitality, and were forced to emigrate to Egypt to flee the violence of King Herod. You have experienced suffering, but here you have someone who takes care of you. In fact, some have found a family here thanks to the attentive service of the Sant'Egidio Community which offers a sign of God's love for the poor. What is happening here today is what happens in homes: those who serve and help merge with those who are helped and served, and pride of place is given to those who have greatest need". "In this time of particular economic difficulties we must all become signs of hope and witnesses of a new world for people who, closed in their own selfishness, believe they can be happy alone, and so spend their lives in a state of sadness or ephemeral joy which leaves the heart empty". After the luncheon, Benedict XVI unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit then returned to the Vatican.BXVI-VISIT/LUNCH POOR/SANT'EGIDIO VIS 091228 (330)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler M.E.P., vicar general of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, and secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Cambodia, as coadjutor of the apostolic vicariate of Phnom-Penh (area 31,946, population 5,387,000, Catholics 13,085, priests 58, religious 111). The bishop-elect was born in Strasbourg, France in 1970 and ordained a priest in 1998.NEC/.../SCHMITTHAEUSLER VIS 091228 (70)


CBN.COM reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that 49 million Americans are struggling to put food on the table. Often they're eating poorly or simply eating less.
It's yet another sign of today's tough economy. But thousands of non-profits and faith-based organizations are fighting back.
"People come to us looking for a well-balanced, nourishing kind of meal and we just keep serving till the food runs out," said Mana Masters of First Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Va.
First Lutheran has teamed with other local churches to provide hot meals to the public. Lunch is served every day of the week.
"For a lot of people, this is it," Masters said. "This is their only source of food."
The 15-year ministry helps many homeless people and with today's economy, those numbers are growing.
"People are desperate." Masters explained. "Incomes are dropping and they're relying on the grace of churches and volunteers and people in their community to support them."
As high unemployment continues, many non-profits are working over-time.
Ghent Area Ministries
Martha Gorman's church-based ministry, Ghent Area Ministries, helped 700 more clients this year than last. Food bag requests tripled.
The problem, said Gorman, is not just job loss but fewer hours and benefits.
"I have so many people come in the door and say - 'I'm $2 over the limit for food stamps' and you think - what? And they have a family of four or five to feed," Gorman said.
Debby Fava is one of those people. She works two jobs, seven days a week to provide for her disabled husband and daughter. But Fava has a secret weapon - Angel Food Ministries.
Angel Food Ministries
Angel Food Ministries distributes half a million boxes of food to churches around the country each month. The restaurant quality food is often half price, and available to anyone who orders.
"At the end of each month, I have to look at--what do I pay, ok, I need to keep the power on, I need to have food and just the opportunity to have food at a lower price has been an absolute blessing," Fava explained.
Angel Food customer Kelsay Shepard lost his job at a furniture store months ago. He's now an experienced job seeker.
"I've applied for jobs that I'm qualified for, underqualified for, overqualified for - it's just not a good time to be job-hunting," he said.
So Angel Food, along with odd jobs and food stamps is keeping Shepard afloat - for now.
Kelsay, like so many Angel Food customers, wants no part of soup kitchens or food banks. In that respect, he's typical of many of today's hungry - people simply seeking a hand-up rather than a hand-out.
"It's not a giveaway - they have to buy it," Pugh insisted. "So it's giving dignity to folks when they come in. I eat it myself so it's just great. I haven't lost weight yet!"
Hunters for the Hungry
Helping the hungry can take so many forms. One group, Virginia-based Hunters for the Hungry, takes advantage of hunters' bounty.
It's an age-old idea: Hunters bring in what they can't eat. Butchers then process it and distribute the meat to local non-profits.
"It's quite a gourmet item. If you go to buy farm-raised deer, it's in the six to seven dollar a pound range," Hunters' Richard Edmondson said.
Across the country, hunters are catching the concept and bringing in high quality protein that so many cannot afford.
No one knows exactly how many non-profits are meeting food needs, let alone how many individual Americans are helping their neighbor. But with the number of hungry at the highest level in years, these ministries are keeping stomachs full and no doubt nourishing hearts and minds as well.


Press Release from Irish Conference of Bishops:
Bishop √Čamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field offer their resignation to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
We, Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field, have this evening informed Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that we are offering our resignation to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, as Auxiliary Bishops to the Archbishop of Dublin. As we celebrate the Feast of Christmas, the Birth of our Saviour, the Prince of Peace, it is our hope that our action may help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims/survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologise to them.Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have so bravely spoken out and those who continue to suffer in silence.We will not be saying anything further at this time.Signed: Bishop Eamonn Walsh Bishop Raymond Field


All Africa reports that long used to discrimination, Burundi albinos now want state protection and recognition.
This comes even as there are cases in court over albino killings.
"We want the government to protect us and be considered like other persons. We are excluded in many spheres of life including employment," said the Albino Association of Burundi communications manager Pascal Matabishi Bikaya.
"We need special skin doctors because of our sensitivity to the sun," he added.
They also want to have one of their own to represent them in parliament like the case in Tanzania.
The association wants the government to come up with a law compelling parents to keep their albino children in school.
It also wants government to carry out a census to determine the real numbers of the albinos as a basis of supporting them.
To demonstrate the challenging life of an albino in Burundi, Kassim Kazungu now has to be on the lookout for a marauding merchant of death.

Each new day could as well be Mr Kazungu's last considering the lucrative gruesome business where the body of one albino could fetch as much as $500,000.
Mr Kazungu, the president of the Albino Association of Burundi, has reason to worry: nine albinos were killed in 2008 and three in 2009 with one disappearing without trace.
"The killings of albinos has unfortunately turned into a business as a result of greed for money with bogus witchdoctors claiming that our body parts can bring about quick money and prosperity," Mr Kazungu said.
"We were not really affected by the civil wars in Burundi but its only the recent killings of albinos that are making our lives more miserable," he added.
Machete wielding robbers
The death merchants attack with machetes, snatch children from their parents' arms and even exhume bodies of dead albinos to smuggle them to neighbouring Tanzania where the limbs, hands, hair, organs and blood are sold to local sorcerers.
Dead albinos are now being buried in cement-sealed graves to protect them against grave robbers.
The growing trade in albino body parts comes as no surprise in the region as many central Africans believe that albino flesh has magical powers thanks to widespread sorcery.
Albinos in Burundi live with discrimination every day right from their homes, community, school and work.

According to Mr Kazungu, some parents have even disowned their albino children while others keep them hidden.
"I was lucky my parents loved and protected me to the extent they educated me to university level. Other albinos are unlucky their parents will not support them thinking that they are of no use in life or are unable," Mr Kazungu observed.
Albinism is a congenital lack of the melamin pigment in the skin, eyes and hair.
Melanin protects the skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Albinos are also vulnerable to medical complications.
Health experts estimate that albinism affects one in 20,000 people worldwide.
To address stigma, Mr Kazungu suggested that the government should sensitise the public on the plight of albinos.(SOURCE:


AsiaNews reports that five of the dead belong to the security forces; ten are opposition demonstrators, including a nephew of opposition leader Mousavi. Unrest is reported in many Iranian cities. People are increasingly willing to face live ammunition and truncheons to oppose the dictatorship and Khamenei’s regime. However, the green wave is leaderless; its chiefs appear too hesitant. New demonstrations and clashes are expected today. Tehran – More than 15 people have been killed in unrest in Tehran yesterday. Fresh clashes broke out across the country and new violence is expected today. A nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is among the dead.
The Information Ministry announced, “more than ten members of anti-revolutionary groups” (Ahmadinejad’s opponents) were killed, plus five victims of “terrorist groups” (the same opponents).
A nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was among yesterday’s casualties, one of the bloodiest days since last June’s rigged election saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.
Last week, the chief of police warned demonstrators that the reaction to protest would be harsh unless they stopped. Few heeded the warning; thus on the weekend, blood was shed in the streets of Tehran in some of the bloodiest clashes ever seen in Iran.
Demonstrations and street fighting took place during Ashura, one of the most important religious celebrations in Shia Islam, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad killed in Karbala in 680 AD and Shia symbol of the struggle against blind dictatorship.
For the second day in a row, opposition protesters took to the streets. Basiji agents, Pasdarans (revolutionary guards) and Special Forces in anti-riot gear moved in. Using tear gas and live ammunition, they tried to disperse the crowd, which chanted slogans against the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Alì Khamenei.
“Tehran is ablaze and blood is flowing,” one witness said yesterday. “The hot spots are Hafez Street, Vali-Asr and Enghelab Square. When a protester was shot, demonstrators attacked agents, taking away their uniforms and weapons. They then began setting police cars parked along the streets on fire.”
Tehran is not alone in experiencing an explosive situation; other cities are affected: Shiraz, Esfahan, Ahwaz, Shar-e-Kurd, Neishabour, Touiserkan, Mahshahr, Yasuj, Gachsaran, and Omidieh.
Security forces are on a maximum alert, but people are increasingly pushing for the fall of the clerical regime.
For some Iranian analysts, the reign of terror that has existed in the country for the past 30 years is broken and people are no longer afraid to take to the streets to shout ‘Death to the dictator, death to Khamenei’.
“It is like the last days of the Shah,” some Iranians living abroad said. “It was all over when people started to attack police stations and army barracks and soldiers came out, hands over their head, surrendering to the people. If we start to see this now, it would be the beginning of the end for Khamenei and the Islamic regime.”
The clerical regime is nervous and its top security officials are obviously worried. The use of live ammunition against demonstrators is a sign of this nervousness, according to sources inside Iran.
Following the killing of Neda this summer, the authorities decided to use truncheons, motorbikes and tear gas against the opposition, convinced that the use of live ammunition might lead people to arm themselves. Yesterday’s events might signal that they are ready for more extreme actions.
However, if the regime feels cornered, the ‘green wave’ of the opposition has its own problems to deal with. The pro-reform movement is leaderless. People might call on Mousavi for help, but both he and the other former defeated presidential candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, have been silenced, placed under the tight control of security forces, and incapable of leading a revolt that thrust them in the thick of the action almost against their will. In recent days, they did not take to the streets or issue any statements.
The other pro-reform leader, former President Khatami, made a public appearance on Saturday when he spoke in Tehran, but left in a hurry when the Basiji showed up.
This morning, an opposition website quoted Karoubi as saying, “What has happened to this religious system that it orders the killing of innocent people during the holy day of Ashura?”
“Why is such a holy day not respected by the rulers?”(SOURCE:


The Australian reports that a PUSH by doctors and pro-choice activists to have abortion decriminalised in Queensland has been formally refused.
State Attorney-General Cameron Dick has officially responded to 4368 petitioners who called for Queensland to remove abortion from its Criminal Code in the wake of a Cairns couple being committed to trial for procuring an abortion.
"The Premier has made clear that the government has no plans to undertake a wider review of the general abortion laws," Mr Dick wrote in his response, tabled in Queensland parliament on Christmas Eve.
"Any move to change the legislative provisions concerning abortion would have to be introduced as a private member's bill and be subject to a conscience vote. The Premier has indicated that she would not seek to bind any of her colleagues to a particular position."
More than 6000 Queenslanders signed an opposing petition arguing to keep the legislation as it is.
The abortion debate was reignited in Queensland with the laying of criminal charges against Cairns couple Tegan Leach, 19, and Sergie Brennan, 21, for allegedly procuring an abortion using drugs imported from Ukraine.
The pair were committed to trial in September. If convicted, Ms Leach faces up to seven years' jail and Mr Brennan a maximum of three years.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has pushed for abortion to be decriminalised in Queensland. There was also concern among doctors that the laying of charges against Ms Leach and Mr Brennan would mean medical abortions -- as opposed to the surgical termination of pregnancies -- would be illegal.
The Bligh government moved to clarify the law and amendments were passed in September to extend legal protection to those medical practitioners who carry out medical terminations.
Mr Dick's decision has attracted praise from anti-abortion groups and criticism from those who are pro-choice.
Australian Christian Lobby chief of staff Lyle Shelton said the decision showed "integrity" on the Bligh government's behalf.
Queensland is one of the few states to retain criminal sanctions against abortion on the statute books.
Caroline de Costa, the Cairns-based professor of obstetrics who suspended her abortion service using the drug RU486 after Ms Leach and Mr Brennan were charged by police, said the Attorney-General's decision meant Queensland was out of step with the rest of Australia.
"Keeping (abortion) in the Criminal Code means it's a grey area for the public and also for doctors," she said. (source;


Holy Innocents
Feast: December 28
Feast Day:
December 28

Our Divine Redeemer was persecuted by the world as soon as he made his appearance in it. For he was no sooner born than it declared war against him. Herod, in persecuting Christ, was an emblem of Satan and of the world. That ambitious and jealous prince had already sacrificed to his fears and suspicions the most illustrious part of his council, his virtuous wife Mariamne, with her mother Alexandra, the two sons he had by her, and the heirs to his crown, and all his best friends. Hearing from the magians who were come from distant countries to find and adore Christ that the Messias, or spiritual king of the Jews, foretold by the prophets, was born among them, he trembled lest he was come to take his temporal kingdom from him. So far are the thoughts of carnal and worldly men from the ways of God, and so strangely do violent passions blind and alarm them. The tyrant was disturbed beyond measure and resolved to take away the life of this child, as if he could have defeated the decrees of heaven. He had recourse to his usual arts of policy and dissimulation, and hoped to receive intelligence of the child by feigning a desire himself to adore him. But God laughed at the folly of his short-sighted prudence, and admonished the magians not to return to him. St. Joseph was likewise ordered by an angel to take the child and his mother, and to fly into Egypt. Is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord of the universe, to be banished as soon as born I What did not he suffer I What did not his pious parents suffer on his account in so tedious and long a journey, and during a long abode in Egypt, where they were entirely strangers and destitute of all succour under the hardships of extreme poverty I It is an ancient tradition of the Greeks, mentioned by Sozomen, St. Athanasius, and others, that at his entrance into Egypt all the idols of that kingdom fell to the ground, which literally verified the prediction of the prophet Isaiah. Mary and Joseph were not informed by the angel how long their exile would be continued; by which we are taught to leave all to divine providence, acquiescing with confidence and simplicity in the adorable and ever holy will of Him who disposes all things in infinite goodness, sanctity; and wisdom.
Herod, finding that he had been deluded by the magians, was transported with rage and anxious fears. To execute his scheme of killing the Messias, the desired of all nations and the expectation of Israel, he formed the bloody resolution of murdering all the male children in Bethlehem and the neighbouring territory which were not above two years of age. Soldiers were forthwith sent to execute these cruel orders, who, on a sudden, surrounded the town of Bethlehem and massacred all the male children in that and the adjacent towns and villages which had been born in the last two years. This more than brutish barbarity, which would almost have surpassed belief had not Herod been the contriver and ambition the incentive, was accompanied with such shrieks of mothers and children that St. Matthew applies to it a prophecy of Jeremiah, which may be understood in part to relate more immediately to the Babylonish captivity, but which certainly received the most eminent completion at this time: "A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." Rama is a village not far from this town, and the sepulchre of Rachel was in a field belonging to it. The slaughter also was probably extended into the neighbouring tribe of Benjamin, which descended from Rachel. The Ethiopians in their liturgy, and the Greeks in their calendar, count fourteen thousand children massacred on this occasion; but that number exceeds all bounds, nor is it confirmed by any authority of weight. Innocent victims became the spotless Lamb of God. And how great a happiness was such a death to these glorious martyrs! They deserved to die for Christ, though they were not yet able to know or invoke his name. They were the flowers and the first fruits of his martyrs, and triumphed over the world without having ever known it or experienced its dangers. They just received the benefit of life to make a sacrifice of it to God and to purchase by it eternal life. How few perhaps of these children, if they had lived, would have escaped the dangers of the world which, by its maxims and example, bear everything down before it like an impetuous torrent! What snares, what sins, what miseries were they preserved from by this grace! With what songs of praise and love do they not to all eternity thank their Saviour, and this his infinite mercy to them! Their ignorant, foolish mothers did not know this, and therefore they wept without comfort. So we often lament as misfortunes many accidents which in the designs of heaven are the greatest mercies.
In Herod we see how blind and how cruel ambition is, which is ready to sacrifice everything, even Jesus Christ, to its views. The tyrant lived not many days longer to enjoy the kingdom which he feared so much to lose. About the time of our Lord's nativity he fell sick, and as his distemper sensibly increased, despair and remorse followed him and made him insupportable both to himself and others. The innumerable crimes which he had committed were the tortures of his mind, whilst a slow imposthume, inch by inch, gnawed and consumed his bowels, feeding principally upon one of the great guts, though it extended itself over all the rest and, corroding the flesh, made a breach in the lower belly and became a sordid ulcer, out of which worms issued in swarms, and lice were also bred in his flesh. A fever violently burnt him within, though outwardly it was scarce perceptible; and he was tormented with a canine appetite which no victuals could satisfy. Such an offensive smell exhaled from his body as shocked his best friends; and uncommon "witchings and vellications upon the fibrous and membraneous parts of his body, like sharp razors, cut and wounded him within; and the pain thence arising overpowered him at length with cold sweats, tremblings, and convulsions. Antipater, in his dungeon, hearing in what a lamentable condition Herod lay, strongly solicited his jailer to set him at liberty, hoping to obtain the crown; but the officer acquainted Herod with the whole affair. The tyrant, groaning under the complication of his own distempers, upon this information vented his spleen by raving and beating his own head, and, calling one of his own guards, commanded him to go that instant and cut off Antipater's head. Not content with causing many to be put to barbarous deaths during the course of his malady, he commanded the Jews that were of the principal rank and quality to be shut up in a circus at Jericho, and gave orders to his sister Salome and her husband Alexas to have them all massacred as soon as he should have expired, saying that as the Jews heartily hated him, they would rejoice at his departure; but he would make a general mourning of the whole nation at his death. This circumstance is at least related by the Jewish historian Josephus. Herod died five days after he had put his son Antipater to death.
Parents, pastors, and tutors are bound to make it their principal care that children, in their innocent age, be by piety and charity consecrated as pure holocausts to God. This is chiefly to be done by imprinting upon their minds the strongest sentiments of devotion, and by instructing them thoroughly in their catechism. We cannot entertain too high an idea of the merit and obligation of teaching God's little ones to know him, and the great and necessary truths which he has revealed to us. Without knowing him no one can love him or acquit himself of the most indispensable duties which he owes to his Creator. Children must be instructed in prayer and the principal articles of faith as soon as they attain to the use of reason, that they may be able to give him his first fruits by faith, hope, and love, as by the law of reason and religion they are bound to do. The understanding of little children is very weak, and is able only to discover small glimpses of light. Great art, experience, and earnestness are often required to manage and gradually increase these small rays, and to place therein whatever one would have the children comprehend.
The solicitude and diligence of parents and pastors to instruct others in this sacred science ought not to lessen; neither must anyone regard the function as mean or contemptible. It is the very foundation of the Christian religion. Hence Pope Paul III, in a bull in which he recommends this employment, declares that "nothing is more fruitful or more profitable for the salvation of souls." No pastoral function is more indispensable, none more beneficial, and generally none more meritorious; we may add, or more sublime. For under a meaner exterior appearance, without pomp, ostentation, or show of learning or abilities, it joins the exercise of humility with the most zealous and most profitable function of the pastoral charge. Being painful and laborious, it is, moreover, an exercise of patience and penance. Neither can anyone think it beneath his parts or dignity. The great St. Austin, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril, and other most learned doctors, popes, and bishops applied themselves with singular zeal and assiduity to this duty of catechizing children and all ignorant persons; this they thought a high branch of their duty, and the most useful and glorious employment of their learning and talents. What did the apostles travel over the world to do else? St. Paul said, "I am a debtor to the wise and to the unwise. We became little ones in the midst of you, as if a nurse would cherish her children; so desirous of you, that we would gladly have imparted to you not only the gospel of God, but even our own souls." Our Divine Lord himself made this the principal employment of his ministry. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me: he hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor." He declared the pleasure he found in assisting that innocent age when he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for the kingdom of God is for such. And embracing them, and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.



Matthew 2: 13 - 18
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt,
and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

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