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Saturday, December 26, 2009

CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: SAT. DEC. 26, 2009



CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: SAT. DEC. 26, 2009: HEADLINES-
VATICAN: POPE: MESSAGE FOR ST. STEPHENS DAY-
AFRICA: SOMALIA: 15 KILLED IN CLASHES-
ASIA: IRAQ: ATTACKS AT A CHURCH IN MOSUL KILL THREE-
AMERICAS: CANADA: SURGE IN RELIGIOUS ITEM PURCHASES-
EUROPE: NETHERLANDS: FR. SCHILLEBEECKX DIES/IRELAND: CHRISTMAS HOMILY-
AUSTRALIA: CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM CATHOLIC BISHOP'S CONFERENCE-


VATICAN

POPE: MESSAGE FOR ST. STEPHENS DAY


Pope Benedict said during his St. Stephens Day Angelus the testimony of Stephen, like all the Christian martyrs, shows to our contemporaries, who are often distracted and disoriented, on whom we should place our trust in order to give meaning to life. The Pope said the martyr in fact is the one who dies with the certainty that he is loved by God, and who, putting nothing before the love of Christ, knows that he chose the better side. St. Stephen, like his Master, died forgiving his persecutors, making us understand that the entry of the Son of God into the world gives rise to a new civilisation, a civilisation of love that does not surrender to evil and violence, but breaks down barriers between men making them brothers in the great family of the children of God.




AFRICA

SOMALIA: 15 KILLED IN CLASHES


All Africa reports that at least 15, mostly civilians have been killed and over 30 others injured in heavy clashes that erupted between Somali militants and government forces backed by African Union troops in the restive capital Mogadishu, witnesses.
The clashes started on late Wednesday in the capital's KM4 and Dabka intersections and Shaqalaha road, where fighters loyal to Somalia's Hizbul Islam carried out surprise attacks on government positions, leading to heavy gun battle.
Eyewitnesses said the fighting killed at least 15 people, mostly civilians and caused the injuries of several other civilians.
Mohammed Osman Arus, Hizbul Islam spokesman confirmed that his forces carried out attacks on government and AU troops, killing several soldiers.
"We carried out attacks on their positions. I saw dead bodies of three AU soldiers with my on eyes," he claimed.
AU troops' spokesman Barigye Bahoku, however, refuted those claims, when reached for comments.
The latest clashes are part of deadly clashes between rebel fighters and government troops backed by AU troops that wrecked the restive seaside capital in recent days.(SOURCE: http://allafrica.com/stories/200912250001.html



ASIA

IRAQ: ATTACKS AT A CHURCH IN MOSUL KILL THREE

The Chaldean Church of St. George and Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Thomas hit. One bomb was hidden in a cart carrying vegetables. The explosion kills a Chaldean Christian and two Muslim. Archbishop of Kirkuk: "disturbing message" to two days before Christmas.
Mosul (AsiaNews) - Two separate bombs struck this morning in Mosul, the Chaldean church of St. George and Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Thomas. The death toll so far is of three dead - a Chaldean Christian and two Muslims - and several wounded. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, speaks to AsiaNews of a "disturbing message" ahead of Christmas, keeping tensions high as well as fear of further violence in northern Iraq.
Sources for AsiaNews in Mosul confirm that "the situation for Christians continues to worsen, given that the Christians buildings are again being targeted by terrorists. The two churches hit are two old buildings, of great historical and cultural value”.
In the attack on the church of Saint George three people were killed: a Chaldean Christian and two Muslims, others were injured. Local witnesses report that the explosion was caused by "a cart of vegetables, filled with bombs." From the initial reconstruction, it seems that the target of the attack was a police barracks in the district of Khazraj. In the last six weeks in Mosul four churches and a convent of Dominican nuns have been attacked. The explosions were caused by car bombs producing serious damage to buildings and adjacent homes, Christian and Muslim. Five Christians have been murdered and others have become victims of kidnapping for ransom. These targeted attacks testify to the "ethnic cleansing" in act against the Christian community throughout Iraq.
Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, believes today attacks are yet another "disturbing message" to two days before Christmas. These threats, stresses the prelate, "continue to influence the Christian community" that hopes "for peace" but is the victim of violence. "The message of peace and hope - reaffirms the archbishop of Kirkuk - announced by angels, remains our best wishes for Christmas for the entire country: we want to work together to build peace and hope in the hearts of all men and women of Iraq. "(DS)
(SOURCE: http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=17204&size=A


AMERICAS

CANADA: SURGE IN RELIGIOUS ITEM PURCHASES


The Catholic Register reports that the Christmas season always brings an upswing in sales for stores specializing in religious items as the public scrambles to buy Christmas cards and wreaths, gifts and Nativity sets for their home. But for some religious suppliers, this year brought some interesting surprises. “This year, surprisingly, we’ve been doing really well with Nativity sets. The general public has been buying full Nativity sets, adding pieces to their existing ones and also little baby Jesus’ on their own,” said Sal DiCarlo, head of DiCarlo Religious Supply Centre in Toronto. Though the general public usually goes for the smaller creches, DiCarlo’s has sold a number of three-by-five-foot church-size creches, including the new creche in front of Toronto’s Old City Hall. “We’ve felt people are getting back into displaying their faith,” DiCarlo said. “For a while it was taboo to say ‘Merry Christmas’ — it was more like ‘Happy Holidays’ — but now the acceptance has come back and it’s OK to say Merry Christmas. And we can actually see there are more people buying Nativity sets.” Brent Brodhurst, general manager of Broughton’s Religious Books and Gifts in Toronto, said he hasn’t noticed a greater demand this year for any one particular item, but as usual, anything Advent- or Christmas-related has been moving out the door at rapid speed. “The cards, the candles, the wreaths and Nativity scenes are mainstays. And there’s such a variety of product and such a variety of desires out there,” Brodhurst said. In the past year or two Brodhurst has noticed a small shift in buyers’ tastes.“We’re seeing younger people demand more contemporary items,” he said. “There seems to be more acceptance of modern-style Christmas and holy messages in some of the Christmas tree ornaments and cards.”He said there is some demand for more contemporary Nativity scenes as well, but that doesn’t mean traditional items have waned in interest.“(It’s) a very small shift, but we’re certainly seeing an effect of the younger crowd coming in and picking up Christmas items and some of them are looking for a fresher look than the old traditional style.”Novalis Publishing, which publishes the Living with Christ prayer missal, hoped to reach more Catholics this year through its web site and mail-in Christmas insert which it distributed through Catholic newspapers across the country. “In a day and age when you have fewer and fewer religious book stores or Catholic book stores across the country, it’s really important for us to reach out as much as we can to people directly,” said Loretta Santarossa, director of sales and marketing at Novalis. Novalis’s increased effort seems to have paid off, as books are flying off the shelves this year, Santarossa said. But it may also have to do with the shift in types of books published.“Before, some of the books we published were more academic and those had a limited kind of appeal. So I think the books we’re publishing right now seem to be appealing to the broader audience,” Santarossa said. A shift was made towards publishing more contemporary or cultural themed-books such as New Faces of Canadian Catholics: The Asians by Fr. Terence Fay, A View from the Trenches by Msgr. Dennis Murphy and the best-seller Death or Canada by Mark McGowan.But spiritual self-help books are also in high demand, said Santarossa.“I think what’s important is they’re not just becoming more interested, they’re buying stuff to feed their soul,” she said.Catholics also seem to appreciate when all types of gifts have a religious connection, she said, which means there has been demand for items in the Christmas catalogue like fruitcake and chocolates made by Trappists at the Abbey of Val Notre-Dame and Christmas cards made by the Benedictines.



EUROPE

NETHERLANDS: FR. SCHILLEBEECKX DIES AT 95


Edward Schillebeeckx, controversial theologian, dead at 95 December 24, 2009
Father Edward Schillebeeckx, an influential Dominican theologian, died at his home in the Netherlands on December 23 after a long illness at the age of 95. Born in Belgium, he was an adviser to the Dutch bishops during Vatican II. Later his theological work emphasized the universal priesthood of the laity, to the extent that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a caution in 1986 that his theories were at odds with the teachings of the Church. (source: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=5015


EUROPE

IRELAND: CHRISTMAS HOMILY FROM CARDINAL


Homily of Cardinal Seán Brady for Christmas Eve Vigil Mass, in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh:

The shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.I welcome all of you and hope that tonight you will hear something in word and son or see someone that will send you home, praising God for the gift of His Son.I welcome especially those who have come home for Christmas to Armagh. We are glad you got home safely. Your coming home reminds us that Jesus came to make his HOME in us – so that he could lead ussafely to our eternal and everlasting home. I hope your stay at home will be happy and that your presence gives happiness also. I hope we all heed the call that Christmas makes to us to give up everything that leads us away from our real home.At HOME we like to catch up with the news. Every Christmas breaks again the greatest news the world has ever heard – the news of God’s healing love for each one of us. Bitterness from the past or rows athome may have dimmed the light of that Good News. But Jesus comes to heal all our hurts and bitterness.May we all go back healed in mind and heart – bathed in the news of great joy.Today a Saviour is born to us. He is Christ the Lord.We pray, in a special way in this Mass tonight, for the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, that he may recover fully from the attack made upon him tonight at the beginning of midnight Mass in St Peter's Basilica Rome.HOMILY BY CARDINAL SEÁN BRADYThe people that walked in darkness have seen a great light on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.You have made their gladness greater,You have made their joy increase.For there is a child born for us – a son given to usThis is the name they gave him.Wonder, Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of PeaceThese words never fail to lift my heart, especially at Christmas. The truth is that we all need a lift– at some time or other. At some time or other we all find ourselves living in a land of deep shadow in thedarkness of doom and gloom. The darkness of despondency and despair, knock at everybody’s door at some stage or other.These words of hope are especially welcome this Christmas. We are at the end of year that has brought a lot of darkness. I don’t have to list it all but in Ireland many are experiencing a fullness of difficulties this Christmas.Some face a Christmas where a loved one is seriously ill; at home or in hospital, perhaps having had news that a certain treatment has not been successful and maybe facing into a New Year feeling hopeless ordespairing.In Ireland this Christmas there are many people who face great challenges to hope this year. The economic recession; the repossession of homes; the return home of so many migrant workers; the loss of jobs. All of these have left many people anxious and despondent right now. Perhaps some of you are struggling to make ends meet or to keep your business afloat. Perhaps you are mourning over the death of a loved one and there will be an empty chair at the table this Christmas day in your house. Maybe you are lonely and really missing someone who is absent this Christmas.For some weeks now our country and our Church have been reeling. Reeling over the contents of the Murphy Report which describes the hurt and damage done to children abused by priests and themismanagement by Bishops and Religious Superiors in dealing with reports of allegations of abuse. Perhaps you are feeling angry with Church leaders who put the reputation of the Church before the safetyof little children.Once again I apologise to the survivors and their families. I declare my abhorrence at the breach of trust and the crimes that have been committed.Yes, there are many reasons to feel angry and let down. There are many reasons to feel sad and ashamed.Yet, there are also many reasons to rejoice and be happy. There are many reasons to give thanks and praise to God. There are many reasons to hear again the words of the Angels to the shepherds.Listen, I bring you news of great joy,A joy to be shared by the whole people.Today in the Town of David – a Saviour has been born to youHe is Christ the Lord.There are reasons to rejoice and be glad for it is precisely into this agonising world, into the here and now of our country and our Church that Jesus first came. He continues to come, with His blessing. Hetoo comes to bring us news – Good News of great joy – the Good News that our God is not a distant, lonely God but a God of love and compassion – a God who is slow to anger and rich in mercy - a God whois ready to pardon and forgive. For Jesus is, in fact, the Word made flesh – God’s word of ever-faithful and healing love who comes to bring us fresh joy and new hope.You may ask:- How can the light of Christ dispel the darkness?- How can this birthday of Christ be, in any sense, joyful and happy in the circumstances?To discover the answers to those questions. You may have to ask another couple of questions:- How did he come?- Why did He come? And- How was he received?I never cease to be amazed at the story of that first Christmas. I have travelled, by car part, and only part, of the journey, that Mary and Joseph had to make from Nazareth in the north to Bethlehem in thesouth. It took us hours by car, up some steep hills and down into some deep valleys – so you can just imagine the hardship of that long journey and the time it took.I have visited the actual grotto or cave or stable in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Today it is covered by a Church that has been built over it. You go down steps into it – there are several lamps lighting it – but you still see the bare rock and it is very small – very tiny. You get a great idea of the simplicity and the poverty of the place where Jesus was born.Jesus – the Saviour – was born into a world that couldn’t have cared less. Let us face; that is how it was. Except for a handful of shepherds – not exactly the most influential members of society in their day - and a few wise men from the East – the world was too distracted and busy to even notice. But you have to admit that the Lord of Heaven really confounded the pundits. For them a much grander arrival might have seemed more appropriate. Instead, he made his entrance as a tiny baby.So Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Son of God who chose anonymity and obscurity in preference to pomp and ceremony. The fact is that he wanted to be one of us in a most ordinary way. In Bethlehem he made the point powerfully. By being born homeless and cold in the filth of a stable – far more dispossessed and marginalised than anyone could have imagined.Jesus came poor and powerless – to be our Saviour – a Saviour who would free us from our foes and from the hands of all who hate us. He came to show us the kindness and love of God, Our Father. In responsewe have to give up everything that does not lead us to God.So who are these foes? Anything or anyone, who does not lead us to God, but leads us to one of the other gods.How can a poor, powerless baby save us from anything?Yes it is a great mystery. It is hard to believe that all of God’s infinite power or majesty is wrapped in a few strips of swaddling clothes and sleeps helplessly in his mother’s arms or sleeps soundly on the straw in the manger.No wonder the world despises a Saviour like that! What good is a savour like that? To the eyes of those who have no faith, such a Saviour is absolutely useless.But then it all depends on what sort of Saviour you expect, and what the Saviour expects of us. St John draws our attention to a slightly unexpected lesson which we perhaps too often ignore. He comes tothose who have been created in his image and they did not know Him. Jesus came to those who had received preparation and they did not accept him.When God himself decided to dwell among us and give us the answer to some important questions about the meaning of life, you would think we would welcome him gladly and eagerly. But the way he indicated would have led people out of their comfort zone. As a result, many turned their backs on the Saviour. The fact is, we are all tempted to hang onto the darkness and flee the light. Overcoming this temptation can be harder than we think.Another fact worth noting - God will not force faith upon us. Christ did not come to bring Heaven to Earth. He came to lead those who would accept him, from Earth to Heaven. We had all gone astray and he came to point that out and to set us on the right road again.I find the Christmas sermons one of the hardest to write and preach. There is just so much to say – in the Readings of the three Masses. I am always intrigued that it was the shepherds who were the first tosee and honour the new-born Jesus. Shepherds at that time would not have been noted for their piety. In fact, they had a bad name for thieving and stealing. They lived in the fields with their flocks.They took turns in watching over the sheep. I suspect, however, that they were close enough to God. They knew better than most how much they depended on God – for the size of the flock of new lambs each year, for the growth of the grass, and the availability of water and for security from the wild animals. They were well aware that they themselves were not saints. They were probably open and honest about that.The Gospel tells us that the shepherds were terrified at the approach of the Angel of the Lord and at the experience of the glory of God. That is worth noting because I would say that those men, who slept inthe fields and faced wolves and robbers, were not easily terrified. It is often recorded in the Scripture that terror is the normal, natural reaction of human beings at the approach of God.So maybe it would be no harm to check our own feelings tonight – at the approach of this Christmas. If we feel totally self-satisfied and self-sufficient it might not be such a good sign. It might be a sign that, like so many on that first Christmas night, this Christmas is not going to touch our lives in any significant way. But if tonight you find yourself just a little apprehensive about what God might be asking of you – rest assured that you are in good company – in the company of the shepherds for example – in a better place than if you felt complacent – not that the angels asked anything of the shepherds.The shepherds were simply told where they would find their new-born Saviour. But fair play to them – they did not dismiss or scorn the idea of a Saviour – who would be found in swaddling clothes and lyingin a manger. Instead they said to each other – ‘let us go and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us’. They found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. Sowhatever else you may find in your Christmas stocking or at the foot of the Christmas tree, I hope that in some real sense, like the shepherds, you too will find Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus – and if you do – I am quite sure you too will go back glorifying and praising God for all you have heard and seen. If you do so then I can assure you that you will have a happy Christmas. If you don’t somehow catch that spirit of praise and glory – then I am afraid you will not have caught the Spirit of Christmas.You sometimes hear it said that the true spirit of Christmas has disappeared. Now maybe I am fortunate but I came across a lot of what I would consider the true spirit of Christmas this Advent. It reminded me of why Jesus came into the world in the first place.One example comes from the Parish of Monasterboice near Drogheda. They have an Annual Parish of Monasterboice Award. This year that award went to a married couple – Mr & Mrs Briscoe and their adult son who has special needs. The parish was thrilled to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the parents to care for their son, Gerard, despite his cerebral palsy and total deafness. They were happy to honourGerard also who responds so magnificently to the love which his parents shower upon him. On the night, Gerard was the life and soul of the event – smiling radiantly at all who had come to share the joy ofthe occasion. In that family’s care for each other – there was, for me, living proof that the Spirit of Christmas is alive and well. I could quote many other examples but one will be sufficient.St Patrick’s Primary School, Armagh had a lovely Christmas play this year. It was the famous story of Scrooge and the part of Scrooge was played by a very accomplished young lady. The moral I took away was that it is more blessed to give than to receive.I believe the real joy of Christmas lies in discovering the Saviour who comes to give so much:- Life to the full in body and soul;- Pardon for all our faults and failings if only we are willing to ask; and- Hope in our darkest moments.May that be your experience of Christmas this year.
AMEN (source: http://www.catholicbishops.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1411:11-december-2009&catid=17:news


AUSTRALIA

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM CATHOLIC BISHOP'S CONFERENCE


Christmas Message from Archbishop Philip Wilson, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
Pope Benedict XVI has said that it’s amazing how the feast of Christmas captures the imagination of people everywhere and in world terms it figures more prominently than even Easter. Why is this so? It’s because of the great mystery of birth and the fact that every birth introduces new life into the history of the world. With every new life there are new possibilities for men and women everywhere. Whilst this is true of every birth we know that in our heart of hearts it is the great truth of the birth of our Lord: his birth, as we pray in one of our prayers, is the dawn of our redemption, the moment of recreation when peace overwhelms hatred and life swallows death. I think that all of this is reflected in a particularly beautiful way this year in the story of the two little girls who were brought to Australia in order to be given a new life. The smiles of Krishna and Trishna after their miraculous separation have brought great joy and hope to people all over the world. The twins’ journey from the orphanage in Bangladesh to the triumphant moment of separation at the hospital in Melbourne is a wonderful symbol of the regeneration of life that is given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ. It is an experience which touches our hearts and reveals to us the presence of God in our daily living. The pattern of regeneration that began with the birth of Christ is what gives meaning and direction to our lives, not as a burden but as a response to the graciousness of God. This Christmas, let the faces of Krishna and Trishna be a constant reminder to us of God’s love for us and inspire us to spread "peace and goodwill to all".
The newness that Jesus introduced into the world at his birth is something that gives us hope for our future as humans on earth. And so as we approach the New Year, I offer greetings of peace and hope to all Australians while fully endorsing the Pope’s message for World Peace Day on January 1 and his chosen theme "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation". Fresh from the climate change meeting in Copenhagen, we pray that world leaders will recognise that creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s work and that its preservation has now become essential for the co-existence of mankind. As Pope Benedict said, seeing creation as God’s gift to humanity helps us understand our vocation and worth as human beings. My hope is that ultimately this will also result in people treating each other better and respecting one another in a way that might finally bring about peace on earth.




TODAY'S SAINT


St. Stephen
PROMARTYR FOR THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Feast: December 26
Information:
Feast Day:
December 26
Born:
1st century
Died:
35, Jerusalem
Patron of:
casket makers; deacons; headaches; horses; masons

That St. Stephen was a Jew is unquestionable, himself owning that relation in his apology to the people. But whether he was of Hebrew extraction and descended of the stock of Abraham, or whether he was of foreign parents incorporated and brought into that nation by the gate of proselytism, is uncertain. The name Stephen, which signifies a crown, is evidently Greek; but the priest Lucian, in the history of the discovery of his relics, and Basil of Seleucia, inform us, that the name Cheliel, which in modern Hebrew signifies a crown, was engraved on his tomb at Caphragamala. It is generally allowed that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord; for immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, we find him perfectly instructed in the law of the gospel, endowed with extraordinary measures, both of the interior and exterior gifts of that divine Spirit which was but lately shed upon the church, and incomparably furnished with miraculous powers. The church of Christ then increased daily, and was illustrious for the spirit and practice of all virtues, but especially for charity. The faithful lived and loved one another as brethren, and were of one heart and one soul.
The rich sold their estates to relieve the necessities of the poor and deposited the money in one common treasury, the care whereof was committed to the apostles, to see the distribution made as everybody's necessity required. Heaven alone is free from all occasions of offence, and the number of converts being very great, the Greeks (that is, the Christians of foreign countries, who were born and brought up in countries which spoke chiefly Greek or at least were Gentiles by descent, though proselytes to the Jewish religion before they came over to the faith of Christ) murmured against the Hebrews, complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. The apostles, to provide a speedy remedy, assembled the faithful, and observed to them that they could not relinquish the duties of preaching and other spiritual functions of the ministry, to attend to the care of tables; and recommended to them the choice of seven men of an unblemished character, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, who might superintend that affair, that so themselves might be freed from distractions and incumbrances, the more freely to devote themselves without interruption to prayer and preaching the gospel. This proposal was perfectly agreeable to the whole assembly, who immediately pitched on Stephen, "a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost," and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte of Antioch. All these names are Greek; whence some think they were chosen among the Greeks in order to appease the murmurs that had been raised. But it frequently happened that Hebrews changed their names into Greek words of a like import when they conversed with Greeks and Romans, to whom several names in the Oriental languages sounded harsh, and were difficult to pronounce. Stephen is named first of the deacons, as Peter is of the apostles, says St. Austin. Hence he is styled by Lucian, archdeacon.
St. Stephen had the primacy and precedence among the deacons newly elected by the apostles, as St. Chrysostom observes, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, preached and pleaded the cause of Christianity with undaunted courage, confirming his doctrine by many public and unquestionable miracles. The number of believers were multiplied in Jerusalem, and a great multitude, even of the priests, obeyed the faith. The distinguished zeal and success of our holy deacon stirred up the malice and envy of the enemies of the gospel, who bent their whole force and all their malice against him. The conspiracy was formed by the Libertines (or such as had been carried captives to Rome by Pompey, and had since obtained their freedom), those of Cyrene in Lybia, of Alexandria, Cilicia, and Lesser Asia, who had each a distinct synagogue at Jerusalem. At first they undertook to dispute with St. Stephen; but finding themselves unequal to the task and unable to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke, they suborned false witnesses to charge him with blasphemy against Moses and against God. The indictment was laid against him in the Sanhedrim, and the saint was hauled thither. After the charge was read, Caiphas, the high priest, ordered him to make his defence. The main point urged. against him was that he affirmed that the temple would be destroyed, that the Mosaic sacrifices were but shadows and types, and were no longer acceptable to God, Jesus of Nazareth having put
an end to them. It pleased God to diffuse a heavenly beauty and a shining brightness on the saint's face, whilst he stood before the council, so that to all that were present it seemed as if it had been the countenance of an angel. According to the licence given him by the high priest to speak for himself, he made his apology, but in such a manner as boldly to preach Jesus Christ in the Sanhedrim itself. He showed that Abraham, the father and founder of their nation, was justified, and received the greatest favours of God without the temple; that Moses was commanded to erect a tabernacle, but foretold a new law and the Messiah; that Solomon built the temple, but it was not to be imagined that God was confined in houses made by hands, and that the temple and the Mosaic law were temporary ministrations, and were to give place when God introduced more excellent institutions. The martyr added, that this he had done by sending the Messiah himself; but that they were, like their ancestors, a stiff-necked generation, circumcised in body but not in heart, and always resisting the Holy Ghost; and that as their fathers had persecuted and slain many of the prophets who foretold the Christ, so they had betrayed and murdered Him in person, and though they had received the law by the ministry of angels, they had not observed it.
This stinging reproach touched them to the quick and kindled them into a rage, gnashing with their teeth at the holy martyr and expressing all the symptoms of unbridled passion. The saint, not heeding what was done below, had his eyes and heart fixed on higher objects, and being full of the Holy Ghost and looking up steadfastly to the heavens, saw them opened, and beheld his divine Saviour standing at the right hand of his Father appearing by that posture ready to protect, receive, and crown his servant. With this vision the saint was inexpressibly ravished, his soul was inspired with new courage, and a longing to arrive at that bliss a glimpse of which was shown him. His heart overflowed with joy and in an ecstasy, not being able to forbear expressing his happiness in the very midst of his enemies, he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." The Jews became more hardened and enraged by hearing the saint's declaration of this vision; and calling him a blasphemer, resolved upon his death without any further process. In the fury of their blind zeal they stayed not for a judicial sentence nor for the warrant of the Roman governor, without which no one could at that time be legally put to death amongst them. But stopping their ears against his supposed blasphemies, they with great clamour rushed upon him, furiously hauled him out of the city, and with a tempest of stones satiated their rage against him. The witnesses who, according to the Levitical law, were to begin the execution in all capital cases, threw their clothes at the feet of Saul, who thus partook of their crime. In the meantime the holy martyr prayed, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice and the greatest earnestness, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." When he said this he had fell asleep in the Lord. This word is used by the Holy Ghost elegantly to express the sweetness of the death of the just, which is to them a test after the toils of this painful life a secure harbour after the dangers of this mortal pilgrimage and the gate to eternal life. The edification and manifold advantages which the church received from the martyrdom of this great and holy man compensated the loss which it sustained in him. Certain devout men took order to inter him in a decent manner and made great mourning over him, though such a death was his own most glorious triumph and unparalleled gain. The priest Lucien, who recounts the manner of the miraculous discovery of his relics in the fifth century, informs us that they were deposited about twenty miles from Jerusalem, by the direction of Gamaliel and at his expense. St. Stephen seems to have suffered towards the end of the same year in which Christ was crucified.
(SOURCE: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/S/ststephen.asp



TODAY'S GOSPEL
FEAST ST. STEPHEN


Matthew 10: 17 - 22
17
Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18
and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19
When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20
for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21
Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
22
and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
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