Sunday, December 20, 2009


Pope Benedict on the Fourth Sunday of Advent said Christmas is "God's answer to the human drama in search of real peace", not "a fairy tale. He was speaking before the Angelus prayer in St. Peters Square.In this time full of expectation and hope, the Pope invited everyone to turn their gaze to Bethlehem, which he called "the city-symbol of peace in the Holy Land and throughout the world." The Pope acknowledged with deep regret that "Unfortunately, nowadays, the city has not achieved a stable peace, but a peace strongly sought after and desired. (source:


Cath News Australia reports that Blessed Mary MacKillop will soon enter the Canon of Catholic Saints with a second miracle now officially attributed to her, authorised by Pope Benedict, the Catholic News Agency said.
Mary Helen MacKillop will become Saint Mary of the Cross, Australia's first saint, reported the Sydney Morning Herald this week quoting a Vatican source from within the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as saying that her canonisation will probably take place next autumn at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The decree signed by Benedict XVI during the weekend attributes a miracle to the intercession of the nun who lived from 1842 to 1909. Both the first miracle that led to her beatification in 1995 and the second were cases in which individuals were cured of cancer.
"Today is a great day for the Catholic Church in Australia and for the Australian nation at large, with the issuing of the decree confirming the second miracle of Blessed Mary MacKillop, paving the way for her to be declared Australia's first saint," said the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Philip Wilson.
"Mary MacKillop has quite rightly gained a reputation in recent times as 'The Australian Peoples Saint'. Largely, this is because people can relate to her. She was one of us. Born in Melbourne, and fired by a deep desire to serve God and to help alleviate the plight of the poor, Mary was an ordinary person who lived a holy life.
"Perhaps it is because of her down to earth nature that we relate to her so well. Mary MacKillop could be feisty and stubborn. She suffered terrible setbacks, discouragement and injustice and yet through all of this her faith in God did not falter.
"Mary MacKillop is to become a saint not only of the Australian people, but for the Australian people and indeed, for the world. Her motto of "Never see a need without doing something about it" continues to call us forth to action,"Archbishop Wilson said in a statement.


Asia News reports that Phnom Penh considers them illegal immigrants and orders their return to China. The group, which escaped in July from Xinjiang, sought political asylum in the UN's Office in the capital. Human rights activists warn that if they return to China they will be tortured and killed.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Cambodian government has ordered the deportation of 20 ethnic Uyghur Chinese, who fled Xinjiang in July during the crackdown against the Muslim minority. They are charged with "illegally" crossing the border and will be sent back. The decision bows to pressure from China, which had branded the refugees "criminals."
In recent weeks the group had illegally entered Cambodia, asking for political asylum at the office of the United Nations in Phnom Penh. The government, under the immigration laws, has ordered their expulsion. "They have no passports or permits - said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry - which is why we consider them illegal." He adds that he does not know “where they will be sent”, but their "final destination will be China, the place where they come from".
Human rights activists fear for the lives of 20 refugees, if returned to China. Amy Reger, a researcher at the Uyghur American Association in Washington, explains that they will face"a terrible fate, possible execution and likely torture". The activist recalls the case of Shaheer Ali, who fled to Nepal in 2000 and was considered a political refugee by the UN. Repatriated to China in 2002, he was executed a year later.
Ethnic tensions exploded on 5 July when a peaceful Uyghur demonstration caused by the forced closure of a Muslim bazaar degenerated into ethnic clashes between indigenous Muslim Uyghurs and ethnic Han Chinese. During the unrest, about 200 people were killed and 1,600 were injured before police and the army were able to clamp down and arrest thousands of people.
Beijing has already imposed 12 death sentences against the alleged perpetrators of the rebellion. Uyghurs accuse Han Chinese of colonising their country, monopolising commerce and the public administration. They prevent locals from exercising their civil liberties and enjoying religious freedom, often done in the name of the fight against Islamic terrorism..


CNA reports that Project Rachel is working to expand its ministry into Romania and Ukraine, where women report having had between 13 and 30 abortions. Speaking with CNA in Rome, Vicki Thorn (PICTURED), Executive Director of Project Rachel, described how the priestly vocation is fundamental to discovering and offering new opportunities for post-abortion healing.
Vicki Thorn is a veteran in the field of post-abortion healing, having been involved in the ministry for 25 years. Recently she has been traveling to Europe to address the issue of abortion in eastern European nations, especially Romania and the Ukraine.
"Eastern Europe has had huge numbers of abortions, in part because of communism, (but it's due to) all kinds of things. Doctors and priests see that this is a big issue because people are coming forward and they're talking. The doctors are saying that there are women with 13 to 30 abortions," she told CNA.
"I don't even know what you do with that. I've done this for 25 years, and I'm like, whew, I don't even know how we come at this question."
"In Russia the average woman according to their statistics has had nine abortions, but my own experience of talking to the physicians in Romania and Ukraine is that we're talking 13 to 30."
Thorn said that there was a doctor in Romania who told her of a woman that had solicited 70 abortions. "Do you think that's possible?" the doctor had asked Thorn.
"Maybe what she's saying is the '70 times 7' in the Bible," she replied to him, "perhaps she was saying, 'I've had so many abortions, you wouldn't believe it.'"
"So, this is a psychological issue. We're looking at countries with huge depression factors in women, alcoholism, fertility questions follow this, and it's the priests who see this in the beginning.
"When the bishops called for a post abortion healing ministry in the States, right after abortion was legalized, in their first pastoral plan, it was because they were confessors and they knew the problem. Nobody else knew it, it took me seven years to find experts, but the bishops knew because they were priests who had heard confessions."
Thorn also recounted that she first discovered the gravity of the situation in Romania when she was giving a conference on post-abortion healing through Project Rachel last year in Rome. There was a Greek Orthodox bishop in the assembly who stood up and exclaimed, "We need this!"
According to Thorn, the Greek Orthodox bishop said that at the time his Church's method of bringing about healing was to give a penance of seven years without the Eucharist.
"We have to tell people in other countries that there is a means of doing this," said Thorn.
Project Rachel is described on its website as "a network of professional counselors and priests, all trained to provide one-on-one spiritual and psychological care for those who are suffering because of an abortion."
Thorn explained to CNA that the outreach goes beyond what you'd imagine. "Just last night one of the priests here, when he heard what I did, said, 'Oh, that's some of the most moving ministry I've ever done.'”
"So, this awareness of the woman who believes she's committed the unforgivable sin; that when you reject the creation, you've rejected the creator, then to be forgiven and to be set free... that's what priests are called to do.
"This is a ministry not only for women and for men ... but also for priests. It affirms who they are, it is the essence of their call to be priests.”
When asked if the ministry has a place only within the Catholic Church, Thorn responded, "When I was in Romania, I was with the Orthodox, with the Greek Catholics and the Roman Catholics.
"Any place there's a sacramental model, Project Rachel fits,"she said.
The next step in the process of branching out to other Eastern European nations, Thorn told CNA, would be a Project Rachel seminar including leaders from these nations, "probably in Poland, and probably in the next year."
The idea is to bring leaders to the seminar from a number of Eastern bloc countries and send them home well informed. "Then we'll take it from there," said Thorn.
Part of the education would be taken care of through the manual on post-abortion healing (of which Thorn was the primary author), recently revised by the U.S. Bishops' Conference, to share knowledge with bishops' conferences abroad and lead them to offer the ministry in their areas. "If that happens, they can translate it top-down to the priests, and then if we get religious women involved we have the means to provide care wherever."
"If we could get communities of religious to take this as a charism... that will then allow Eastern Europe and Latin America to move very quickly."
Thorn told CNA that she's also seeing, "a lot of interest in mental health professionals,” but that “really the Church is the ideal place to do this. We have the means.”
"When I started doing Project Rachel, it was clear to me. We have clergy, we have mental health professionals, we have all these people within the Church that can provide care in this network and it's a holistic response.
"We have the opportunity and the means to do this any place in the world," she added.
Vicki Thorn has just released a book on the introduction of a ministry for post-abortion syndrome within the Church, called, “Project Rachel: The Face of Compassion.” The book is currently available in Italian from the Vatican Press, and she hopes to have an English version out soon.(SOURCE:

CISA reports that the Juba police and the local reserve have denied any involvement in the raid of a Catholic radio station where a female journalist was attacked on December 7. The female journalist was seriously injured after a group of about 20 officers from the Central Equatoria State South Sudan Police Service stormed the premises of Bakhita Radio in an unprecedented attack. According to the Director of Bakhita FM Radio, Sr. Cecilia Sierra Salcido, the officers came in full riot gear and handcuffs, entered the radio premises through a gap in the fence before attacking a female journalist. The incident occurred on December 7, 2009.The shouts from the attack alerted the rest of the staff who were inside the building who rushed out in an attempt to rescue their colleague. The unidentified officers accused the woman journalist of having insulted them by calling them names. They violently dragged her on the ground and threatened to arrest her. They also threatened to beat the director and the rest of the staff members who had come out in her defense. Against protests from the station management, they roughly dragged the journalist on the ground and pushed her into a ditch, where they threatened to cover her with soil.Sr. Cecilia said that the woman was taken to hospital by members of the South Sudan Human Rights Commission and that she has resumed work, although she is still traumatized by her experience.(SOURCE:

CNA reports that Tim O’Meara, 50, heartily shook Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Most Rev. John Nienstedt’s hand and grinned broadly, his excitement transparent. He had been anticipating the archbishop’s visit for a while, he said. O’Meara is one of about 990 men who are currently in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Rush City. Arch­bishop Nienstedt celebrated Mass and visited with inmates Dec. 15. The visit coincided with Gaudete Sunday — the Sunday of Advent that calls people to rejoice in the Lord.
In his homily, Archbishop Nienstedt spoke about God’s gift of joy and the faithful’s need to rejoice. He also spoke of conversion, which is at the heart of St. John the Baptist’s message in the Gospel.
“These Scriptures speak to everyone in the church, no matter what condition he or she finds themselves,” he said. “Even in this situation of being incarcerated, there can be real joy in the realization that God is here in your midst, calling you to a change of heart. . . .”
“The past is what it is,” he continued. “The future lies open to what you want to make of it.”
Twenty-one men attended the Mass, a number that slightly disappointed inmate Eric Dahlin, 28. “There should be more people than this, but there’s not, and that’s OK,” he said.
“[The archbishop’s visit] means a lot to us,”added Dahlin. “It brings up our day — spiritually and mentally.”
The visit was arranged by Deacon Michael Martin, a parishioner at St. Gregory in North Branch who has been assigned to minister to the offenders in Rush City since his September 2008 ordination.
A time for transformation
After Mass, Archbishop Nienstedt fielded questions from the inmates, who asked about the difference between Catholics and Lutherans, and when a new pastor would be assigned to Sacred Heart in Rush City.
Until his new appointment to St. Albert in Albertville and St. John the Baptist in Dayton Oct. 31, Father Xavier Thelakkatt served as pastor at Sacred Heart and visited the prison twice monthly.
In the absence of an assigned priest, Deacon Martin and other volunteers have offered Communion services in the facility’s modest chapel.
“The Eucharist is important to them because without it they would be left abandoned from their faith,” Deacon Martin said.
Deacon Martin also preaches the Gospel, and the men have a chance to think about it and ask questions.
However, they miss a priest, he said. “The men are yearning for confessions,” he noted.
Prison can be a spiritually transforming time for offenders, said Rush City Cor­rectional Facility chaplain Gail Nord. In the seven months she’s been working there, she’s seen the role faith plays in the lives of some of the men.
“It can give them hope, it can give them meaning, it can give them a foundation to deal with all the challenges of day-to-day life in a place like this,” she said.
The archbishop’s visit was significant to the men because it was a sign that they are remembered, “particularly at this season, which is very difficult,” she said, as men are away from family and friends during the holidays.
Being at the correctional facility has deepened the faith of 51-year-old inmate Jeff Bauer, he said.
“I’m very strong in my Catholic beliefs,” he added. Bauer encourages men to join him for Mass and talks about the Scriptures with them. He also prays the rosary every night, he said.
‘Joy and happiness’ possible
Although this is the first time Archbishop Nienstedt has visited a prison in the archdiocese, he visited prisons while he was bishop of New Ulm and auxiliary bishop of Detroit.
While living at the North American College in Rome, he also visited English-speaking offenders every Saturday at Regina Coeli, a prison named after the convent whose building it repurposed.
“They literally turned the [monastic] cells into cells,” he said. “There was no central heating, no central bathrooms. . . . It was overcrowded,” he recalled.
“So early on, I knew this was a very valuable ministry,” he said.
During Mass, Archbishop Nienstedt prayed for the men and their families. “There were looks of concern on their faces, and skepticism, I suppose; unhappiness,” he said. “What a wonderful Sunday to come to preach joy and happiness.”
Archbishop Nienstedt said he would be “very willing” to visit other correctional facilities within the archdiocese. “I think that’s an important thing for a bishop to do on a regular basis,” he said.
A rewarding ministry
On this particular Sunday, Deacon Martin was accompanied by three volunteers, including Jim Noon, a parishioner at Sacred Heart in Rush City who has been visiting prisons for 10 years, he said.
Dan Chippendale, a parishioner at St. Gregory in North Branch, has also been helping with Mass or Communion services once per month.
“I felt drawn to it,” he said. Yet, initially he was “very intimidated” by the thought of prison ministry, he said. However, as he started to volunteer, his fears were tempered.
“You see the faces of the people, and they’re pleased to see you,” he said.
Deacon Martin describes his experience as “very rewarding.”
“What I appreciate . . . is that for the majority of the men who show up, this is bringing Christ,” he said. “I’m called, as a deacon, to be an icon of Christ, so I bring Christ to them, and they’ve been very receptive.”
Printed with permission from The Catholic Spirit, newspaper from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.(SOURCE:


St. Dominic of Silos
Feast: December 20
Feast Day:
December 20
1000, CaƱas (modern Rioja), Spain
December 10, 1073, Silos
Patron of:
against rabies; against rabid dogs; against insects; captives; pregnant women; prisoners; shepherds

St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, was named after this Benedictine abbot, who lived a century before him. According to Dominican tradition, St. Dominic of Silos appeared to Blessed Joan of Aza (the mother of the later St. Dominic), who made a pilgrimage to his shrine before the birth of her son, and named him after the abbot of Silos.
Dominic of Silos was born in Navarre, Spain, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, and was a shepherd boy, looking after his father's flocks. He acquired a love of solitude and as a young man became a monk at the monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla. He eventually became prior of the monastery and came into conflict with the king of Navarre over possessions of the monastery claimed by the king. The king drove Dominic out of the monastery, and Dominic went with other monks to Castille, where the king of Castille appointed Dominic abbot of the monastery of St. Sebastian at Silos.
The monastery was in terrible shape, spiritually and materially, and Dominic set about to restore the monastery and to reform the lives of the monks. He preserved the Mozarbic Rite (one of the variants of the Latin Rite) at his monastery, and his monastery became one of the centers of the Mozarbic liturgy. His monastery also preserved the Visigothic script of ancient Spain and was a center of learning and liturgy in that part of Spain.
Dominic of Silos died on December 20,1073, about a century before the birth of his namesake, St. Dominic of Calaruega. Before the Spanish Revolution of 1931, it was customary for the abbot of Silos to bring the staff of Dominic of Silos to the Spanish royal palace whenever the queen was in labor and to leave it at her bedside until the birth of her child had taken place.
In recent times, great interest in Dominic of Silos has arisen since the literary treasures of the library of Silos have become known. The abbey had a profound influence on spirituality and learning in Spain. Today the monastery is an abbey of the Benedictine Congregation of Solesmes housing a library of ancient and rare manuscripts.


Micah 5: 1 - 4
Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel.
But you, O Bethlehem Eph'rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.

Psalms 80: 2 - 3, 15 - 16, 18 - 19
before E'phraim and Benjamin and Manas'seh! Stir up thy might, and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
the stock which thy right hand planted.
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance!
Then we will never turn back from thee; give us life, and we will call on thy name!
Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let thy face shine, that we may be saved!

Hebrews 10: 5 - 10
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.
Then I said, `Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God, 'as it is written of me in the roll of the book."
When he said above, "Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law),
then he added, "Lo, I have come to do thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1: 39 - 45
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

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