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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: WED. DEC. 9, 2009



CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: WED. DEC. 9, 2009: HEADLINES-
VATICAN: TURN TO THE VIRGIN MARY IN TIMES OF DIFFICULTY-
AFRICA: KENYA: FR. CECIL MCGARRY DIES AT AGE 80-
AMERICAS: US: NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK JAN. 10-
EUROPE: EU COURT CASE ON RIGHTS OF UNBORN CHILDREN-
ASIA: PHILIPPINES: HUNGER STRIKE BEGINNING TO TAKE EFFECT-
AUSTRALIA: SCHOOL FOR TROUBLED CHILDREN WILL REOPEN-



VATICAN

POPE: TURN TO THE VIRGIN MARY IN TIMES OF DIFFICULTY


(VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square below. The Holy Father commented on the title of "Immaculate" by referring to the book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation in the Gospel of St. Luke. "It is through woman that God Himself will triumph", he said. "That woman is the Virgin Mary from whom was born Jesus Christ Who, with His sacrifice, defeated the ancient tempter once and for all. For this reason, in so many paintings and statues of the Immaculate, she is shown in the act of crushing a serpent under her foot. "For his part", he added "the Evangelist Luke shows us the Virgin Mary receiving the announcement from the heavenly messenger. She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, the true Zion in which God wishes to establish His dwelling. She is the branch from which the Messiah, the just and merciful King, will grow. ... Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord's will. With all of herself she pronounces her 'yes' and fully places herself at the disposal of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true 'mother of all creatures'; that is, of everyone who, through faith in Christ, receives eternal life". "What an immense joy it is", Pope Benedict exclaimed, "to have Mary Immaculate as our mother! Whenever we experience our own fragility and the lure of evil, we can turn to her and our hearts receive light and comfort. Even in the trials of life, in the storms that unsettle our faith and hope, we know that we are her children and that the roots of our life lie deep in the infinite grace of God. In her the Church, though exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds a star by which to guide herself and to follow the route Christ shows her. Mary is, in fact, the Mother of the Church, as solemnly proclaimed by Pope Paul VI and Vatican Council II". The Pope concluded by rendering thanks unto God "for this marvellous sign of His goodness", and by entrusting to the Virgin Immaculate "each one of us, our families and communities, the whole Church and the world entire".ANG/IMMACULATE/... VIS 091209 (420)


EACH HUMAN STORY IS SACRED AND DEMANDS RESPECT VATICAN CITY, 8 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Today at 4.15 p.m. Benedict XVI travelled by car to Rome's Piazza di Spagna to place the traditional floral wreath at the foot of the statue of Mary in celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Before arriving in the square, the Holy Father stopped briefly at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity to greet the Dominican Friars and the members of the Via Condotti Storeowners Association. Once in the square, in the presence of thousands of faithful, he blessed a basket of roses which was placed at the foot of the column bearing Mary's statue. "What does Mary say to the city" What does her presence call to mind?" the Pope asked. "She reminds that 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'. ... She is the Immaculate Mother who tells the men and women of our time: do not be afraid". "What need we have of this beautiful piece of news!" the Holy Father exclaimed. "Every day, through newspapers, television and radio, evil is recounted, repeated, amplified, making us accustomed to the most terrible things, making us insensitive and, in some way, intoxicating us, because the negative is never fully purged and accumulates day after day. The heart becomes harder and thoughts become darker. For this reason, the city needs Mary who ... brings us hope even in the most difficult situations". The Pope went on to recall how our cities are inhabited by "invisible men and women", people who "now and again appear on the front pages or on television screens, and are exploited to the last drop for as long as their news and image attract attention. This is a perverse mechanism which unfortunately we find difficult to resist. The city first hides people them exposes to the public, without pity or with false pity", when the truth is that "each human story is a sacred story and calls for the greatest respect. "The city is made up of us all", Benedict XVI added. "Each of us contributes to its life and its moral climate, for good or for evil. The confine between good and evil passes through each of our hearts". Yet, "the mass media tend to make us feel as if we are spectators, as if evil only concerned others, and that certain things could never happen to us. Whereas we are all 'actors' and, in evil as in good, our behaviour has an effect on others". After then asking Mary Immaculate to help us "rediscover and defend the profundity of human beings", the Pope paid homage to all those people who, "in silence, ... strive to practice the evangelical law of love, which moves the world". They are "men and women of all ages who have understood that condemnation, complaint and recrimination serve no purpose, and that it is more worthwhile to respond to evil with good. This changes things; or rather, it changes people and, as a consequence, improves society".BXVI-HOMAGE/IMMACULATE/... VIS 091209 (510)



RUPERT OF DEUTZ: STUDY OF THE FAITH AND CONTEMPLATION VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Pope turned his attention to another twelfth century monk: Rupert of Deutz, a German city near Cologne and site of a famous monastery. From an early age Rupert showed an inclination for the monastic life and a complete adherence to the See of Peter. He was appointed abbot of Deutz in 1120 and died in 1129. He "teaches us that when controversy arises in the Church, reliance on the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of faithfulness to healthy doctrine and brings inner serenity and freedom". Recalling Rupert's many works, which are "still of great interest today", Benedict XVI highlighted how "he intervened forcefully" in the theological discussions of his day, such as "the defence of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist". In this context the Pope warned against "the danger of reducing Eucharistic realism, considering it only as a rite of communion or socialisation, which easily leads us to forget that the risen Christ is really present - with His risen Body - and puts Himself in our hands to incorporate us into His own immortal Body and lead us to a new life. ... This is a mystery to adore and to love ever anew", he said. The Holy Father also referred to another controversy in which the abbot of Deutz was involved: "the problem of conciliating the goodness and omnipotence of God with the existence of evil". In this, Rupert based himself "on the goodness of God, on the truth that God is supremely good and cannot but want what is good. Thus he identified the origin of evil in man, and in the erroneous use he makes of his own freedom". Rupert, the Pope went on, "maintained that the Incarnation, the central event of all history, had been foreseen since eternity, independent of man's sin, so that all Creation could praise God the Father and love Him as a single family gathered around Christ". Rupert "was the first writer to identify the bride in the Song of Songs with Mary Most Holy. Thus his commentary on that book of Scripture may be seen as a kind of Mariological 'summa' presenting the privileges and excellent virtues of Mary". Likewise, "he was careful to insert his own Mariological doctrine into ecclesiological doctrine; in other words, in the Blessed Virgin he saw the most sacred part of the entire Church". Much later this was echoed at Vatican Council II with its solemn proclamation of Mary as Mother of the Church. Rupert of Deutz, the Pope concluded, "like all representatives of monastic theology, was able to unite the rational study of the mysteries of the faith with prayer and contemplation, considered as the apex of any knowledge of God".AG/RUPERT OF DEUTZ/... VIS 091209 (490)



MESSAGE TO CARTAGENA SUMMIT ON ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was a Message from the Holy Father, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., to Susan Eckey, president of the second conference called to examine the Convention prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines. The conference was held in Cartagena, Colombia, from 30 November to 4 December. "Since its adoption, the convention has gained the approval of a majority of States in the world, though unfortunately adherence is not universal", reads the Message. "For this occasion, the Holy See makes an appeal to all States to recognise the deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines. ... The thousands of victims they continue to reap remind us (were it necessary to repeat it) of the illusion of seeking to build peace and stability on an exclusively military vision. In this circumstance it is appropriate to reiterate that peace, security and stability cannot exist only by virtue of military security; rather, they depend above all on creating conditions that enable the full development of the human person, conditions often hindered by the use and presence of anti-personnel mines".MESS/ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES/CARTAGENA:ECKEY VIS 091209 (200)



BENEDICT XVI TO PRESIDE AT VESPERS WITH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff today announced that at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday 17 December in the basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, the Holy Father will presided at Vespers with students of Roman universities.OCL/VESPERS/UNIVERSITY STUDENTS VIS 091209 (60)


OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS VATICAN CITY, 9 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Daniel E. Flores, auxiliary of Detroit, U.S.A., as bishop of Brownsville (area 10,945, population 1,170,776, Catholics 995,160, priests 120, permanent deacons 65, religious 178), U.S.A. He succeeds Bishop Raymundo J. Pena, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.NER:RE/FLORES:PENA VIS 091209 (70)


AFRICA

KENYA: FR. CECIL MCGARRY DIES AT AGE 80


CISA reports that renowned Catholic theologian and missionary Fr. Cecil McGarry S.J. from the Eastern Province of the Society of Jesus who died on November 24 following a long illness will be buried on Saturday November 28, at the Jesuit Cemetery of Pedro Arrupe Jesuit Community, Langata in Nairobi, Kenya.Fr Cecil McGarry died while at Pedro Arrupe Community where he lived and worked for over 10 years. According to Fr Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, Cecil’s condition had deteriorated rapidly due to a relapse of his prostate cancer, which compromised his kidneys. A few weeks ago, Cecil spent some time in hospital and then was taken back home, according to Fr Orobator.Fr McGarry's funeral service will begin with the viewing of the body at St. John the Evangelist Parish, South Langata Road, at 1pm and then the Holy Eucharist will follow at 2pm.Cecil was born on January 1, 1929, in Galway, Ireland. He joined the Jesuits on September 7, 1946; he was ordained to the priesthood on July 28, 1960; and took his final vows on February 2, 1964. He was professed of four vows in the Society of Jesus congregation.After finishing his doctorate in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Cecil was assigned to teach theology at Milltown Park Institute, Dublin. He became rector of the faculty and community in 1965, a position that he held for only three years, because he was appointed provincial of the Irish Province in 1968.Later, at GC 32, he was appointed a General Assistant of the Society with responsibility for formation. In 1975 he moved to Rome and worked under Fr. Pedro Arrupe until 1983.Cecil came to Eastern Africa Province in 1984, as part of the team chosen by Fr Arrupe himself to found Hekima College, the first theologate of the African Assistancy. He was Hekima’s first dean of studies and professor of Systematic Theology from 1984-1994. Then, he became its rector from 1995 to 1998. Cecil’s availability to serve the Church and the Society of Jesus in Africa took him beyond his full-time job at Hekima College. For many years he was frequently called upon by both AMECEA and the Kenyan Episcopal Conference (KEC) to assist the bishops and to advise them as a resource person in many important seminars and conferences.He played a very important role in the first African Synod in Rome in 1994, where he was a member of the synod’s secretariat. Cecil was also involved in the development of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), as consultant as well as a professor of theology.Moreover, at our province level, Cecil assisted our provincials with the governance of the newly established Eastern Africa Province, as well as with his availability to listen and give sound advice to many companions.After a well-deserved sabbatical, Cecil was assigned to continue his apostolic mission in retreat ministry at Mwangaza. He devoted his entire life to this ministry from 1999 until a few weeks ago.All this time, Cecil guided the retreats of many people, gave spiritual direction to numerous bishops, priests, religious and lay people, and assisted many religious congregations in their efforts towards renewal and growth.Fr Orobator said Cecil lived an exemplary life, “fully devoted to the Society’s mission, the formation of ours and the apostolates. Not infrequently, he was likened to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, for the depth of his courage and the breadth of his vision as a Jesuit.”“The fruits of his presence among us will last a long time”, Orobator said.Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary lost its Dean of studies, following the death of Fr. Francis Ngoci, A.J.The fully professed member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus passed away on November 15, 2009 at the institution, from what was described as kidney problems which he developed back in 1999 while ministering in the Archdiocese of Nyeri.He took his first vows in 1979, while his final profession was on August 22, 1985, and a year later, he was ordained priest by Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi, Mccj, co-founder of the Apostles of Jesus Congregation.His latest ministry was at St. Thomas Aquinas National Major Seminary, as a teacher and Dean of studies.The late was laid to rest at St. Austin’s Msongari Cemetery, after a requiem Mass on Thursday, November 19, 2009, at the Sacred Heart Shrine, Langata, Nairobi, at 10.00am.(source: http://www.cisanewsafrica.org/story.asp?ID=4281



AMERICAS

US: NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK JAN. 10


The USCCB reports that the Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, January 10-16.“This week provides the opportunity for parishes across the country to promote vocations through prayer and education,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “It is our responsibility to encourage young people to be generous in their response as they discern the possibility of a call to service in the Church. We must also ask parents, families and our parish communities to assist with this work, vocations are everyone’s business. As we pray for an increased number of seminarians and candidates for religious life, we recognize the importance of safeguarding the gift of vocations.” Several initiatives to highlight priesthood and religious life are on-going in 2010. The Vatican-sponsored Year for Priests continues through June 2010 http://www.usccb.org/yearforpriests/. Dioceses are highlighting the role of priests in diocesan newspapers, on their Web sites and with other events.An exhibit on the contributions of women religious in the United States, Women & Spirit, opens at the Smithsonian institution in Washington, January 14. More information on this traveling exhibit can be found at http://www.womenandspirit.org/. The Smithsonian is co-sponsoring this exhibit with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.The U.S. bishops have also named promotion of vocations to priesthood and religious life as one of their current five priorities and are deciding on efforts to promote vocations, for example, through their Website, http://www.usccb.org/.Father David Toups, interim executive director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, added, “The church needs to help young people hear the Lord in prayer, so they can recognize him in their lives. “This week reminds us that it is our responsibility to pray for vocations and to invite young people to consider a call to ordained ministry and consecrated life.”The observance of National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) began in 1976 when the National Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year as the beginning of NVAW. In 1997, this celebration was moved to coincide with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on January 10 in 2010, marks the initiation of Jesus into public ministry. At his baptism Jesus is named the beloved Son of God. With this celebration the faithful recommit themselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. They are also initiated through their own baptism to be the Beloved of God, commissioned to proclaim Good News with their lives.
(SOURCE: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-255.shtml


EUROPE

EU COURT CASE ON RIGHTS OF UNBORN CHILDREN




CNA reports that Ireland’s constitutional amendment protecting the unborn could be overturned in a “pivotal” case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Some are calling the case “the Roe v. Wade of Europe.”
Three women who sought abortions in Ireland sued under the European Convention on Human Rights to overturn the country’s legal protections for pre-born children. The three women, who obtained abortions in Britain, are trying to establish a “right” to abortion in Ireland in a case titled A, B, and C v. Ireland.
The women also want to establish a precedent that would define abortion as a right across all of Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The lawsuit will be decided in the Grand Chamber of the EHCR in Strasbourg, France. The American groups Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Family Research Council (FRC) filed a joint brief in November 2008 with two other pro-life organizations at the court’s request after it allowed the groups to intervene as defendants in this case.
“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless,” commented Roger Kiska, ADF legal counsel. “Ireland’s constitutional amendment defending innocent life is under attack, and the stakes are high for all of Europe.”
ADF Senior Counsel Glen Lavy said the case is “pivotal” not only to Europe but to America as well, because American courts increasingly consider what other countries are doing when deciding their own cases.
“Because this case could be the Roe v. Wade of Europe, its impact upon the U.S. should not be underestimated,” he added.
The UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and its supporters will hold a vigil outside the ECHR in Strasbourg on Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 12 noon.(SOURCE: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=17988


ASIA
PHILIPPINES: HUNGER STRIKE BEGINNING TO TAKE EFFECT

UCAN reports that the government has suspended permission for a mining company to operate in Mindoro Oriental province after a priest and indigenous people there staged a hunger strike.
For Father Edwin Gariguez, however, the fight is far from over.

The priest, who works in Calapan vicariate's mission to indigenous Mangyan people, is a member of Alliance against Mining (ALAMIN). He says the group is "contemplating legal action to enforce moratoriums on Mindoro Island."
Mindoro Oriental province passed an ordinance in 2002 banning large-scale mining for 25 years. Five municipal governments in Mindoro Occidental, the other province on the island, also have passed mining moratoriums.
Through the recent hunger strike, the priest and other ALAMIN members, including Mangyan people, opposed nickel mining operations by the Norwegian Intex corporation. Intex plans to extract 100-120 million tons of nickel ore over 15-20 years in the two Mindoro provinces, beginning in 2011.
ALAMIN claims the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) that Joselito Atienza Jr., secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Environment, gave to the company is illegal. It says the certificate was issued despite the opposition of provincial and local governments, and residents in affected communities.
The group also cites anticipated damage to watersheds, farms and forests.
"Mining moratoriums should be imposed not only on Mindoro Island, but in other places of the Philippines to stop destruction and pollution of nature," Father Gariguez said.
He and Father Ruben Villanueva Jr., vicar general of San Jose vicariate in Mindoro Occidental, were among the 24 people who began their hunger strike outside the environment department's national office, near Manila, on Nov. 17.

Catholic priests bless people who started a hungerstrike Nov. 17 outside the Department of Environmentand Natural Resources national headquarters
They took only water. On Nov. 26, Atienza suspended the ECC pending an independent investigation.
Father Gariguez, appearing thinner just after returning to Mindoro from the strike, said a letter that Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila published in a national newspaper was "crucial" to the strikers' "victory."
Bishop Pabillo, head of the Philippine bishops' National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, had urged Atienza to "have the courage to revoke" the ECC.
The bishop and a number of Divine Word and other priests had visited the strikers in their tents to celebrate Mass with them.
The Church, together with ALAMIN, is also seeking to repeal the Mining Act of 1995, which allows foreign investors to conduct large-scale mining operations in the country.

(SOURCE: http://www.ucanews.com/2009/12/09/priests-hunger-strike-claims-initial-victory/

AUSTRALIA
SCHOOL FOR TROUBLED CHILDREN WILL REOPEN

Berengarra, a school that caters for troubled children, is being forced to leave its Glen Waverley site by year's end, but will reopen next year at a former kindergarten premises in Box Hill, after negotiations with the Catholic Education Office.
A plea to the Education Department to move the private school to an old school site in Notting Hill had gone unheeded, the Herald Sun reported.
Principal Peter Heffernan said yesterday Berengarra was popular with government principals because it helped many students facing problems such as depression, anxiety, and family dysfunction.
It was disappointing state authorities had not been able to help the school find a new home, but "an enormous wave of relief has swept through the school," he said. (SOURCE: http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=18229



TODAY'S SAINT


St. Juan Diego
WITNESS OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
Feast: December 9
Information:
Feast Day:
December 9
Born:
1474, Tlayacac, Cuauhtitlan, Mexico
Died:
May 30, 1548, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City, Mexico
Canonized:
July 31, 2002, Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico by Pope John Paul II
Major Shrine:
Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico

In the sixteenth century, the Blessed Virgin, moved with pity for the Aztec people who, living in the darkness of idolatry, offered to their idols multitudes of human victims, deigned to take into her own hands the evangelization of these Indians of Central America who were also her children. One of the Aztec gods, originally considered the god of fertility, had transformed himself over time into a ferocious god. A symbol of the sun, this god was in continuous battle with the moon and the stars and was believed to need human blood to restore his strength; if he died, life would be extinguished. Ever new victims, to be offered to him in perpetual sacrifice, therefore seemed essential.
An eagle on a cactus
Aztec priests had prophesied that their nomadic people would settle in the place where an eagle would be seen perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This eagle appears on the Mexican flag today. Having arrived on a swampy island, in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs saw the foretold sign: an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent. This was in 1369. There they founded their town Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City. The town expanded to become a city on pilings, with many gardens abounding in flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The organization of the Aztec kingdom was very structured and hierarchical. The knowledge of their mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers, architects, doctors, artists, and artisans was excellent for that time. But the laws of the physical world remained scarcely known. Tenochtitlan drew its power and wealth primarily from war. The conquered cities had to pay a tribute of various foodstuffs and men for war and sacrifices. The Aztecs' human sacrifices and cannibalism are almost unequaled throughout the course of history.
In 1474, a child was born who was given the name Cuauhtlatoazin ("speaking eagle"). After his father's death, the child was taken in by his uncle. From the age of three, he was taught, as were all young Aztecs, to join in domestic tasks and to behave in a dignified manner. At school, he learned singing, dancing, and especially the worship of many gods. The priests had a very strong influence over the population, whom they kept in a submission bordering on terror. Cuauhtlatoazin was thirteen years old when the great temple at Tenochtitlan was consecrated. Over the course of four days, the priests sacrificed 80,000 human victims to their god. After his military service, Cuauhtlatoazin married a young woman of his social status. Together they led a modest life as farmers.
In 1519, the Spaniard Cortez disembarked in Mexico, leading 500 soldiers. He conquered the country for Spain, yet was not lacking in zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs. In 1524 he obtained the arrival of twelve Franciscans to Mexico. These missionaries quickly integrated into the population. Their goodness contrasted with the harshness of the Aztec priests, as well as that of some conquistadors. They began to build churches. However, the Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.
Cuauhtlatoazin and his wife were among the first to receive Baptism, under the respective names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia. After his wife's death in 1529, Juan Diego withdrew to Tolpetlac, 14 km from Mexico City, to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well. On December 9, 1531, as was his custom every Saturday, he left very early in the morning to attend the Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, at the Franciscan fathers' church, close to Mexico City. He walked past Tepeyac Hill. Suddenly, he heard a gentle and resounding song that seemed to come from a great multitude of birds. Raising his eyes to the top of the hill, he saw a white and radiant cloud. He looked around him and wondered if he was dreaming. All of a sudden, the song stopped and a woman's voice, gentle and graceful, called him: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" He quickly climbed the hill and found himself in the presence of a very beautiful young woman whose garments shone like the sun.
"A church where I will show my love"
Speaking to him in Nahuatl, his native language, she said to him, "Juanito, my son, where are you going?"—"Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear the divine things that the priest teaches us there."—"I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin MARY, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love Me, trust in Me, and have recourse to Me. I will hear their complaints and I will comfort their affliction and their sufferings. So that I might show all My love, go now to the bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him the great desire I have to see a church dedicated to me built here."
Juan Diego went straight to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal, who had a heart overflowing with kindness towards the Indians. He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story. Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home. At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Apparition again. He told her about his mission, then added, "I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it. I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person. Therefore, he didn't believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you."—"My dearest son, "replied the Lady, "you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin MARY, Mother of God, who am sending you."
On Sunday morning after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the bishop's house. The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the apparition. When Juan Diego went home, the bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants. At Tepeyac Bridge, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him again. Furious, they declared to the bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not be believed. During this time, Juan Diego told the beautiful Lady, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the bishop. "Come back tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for," replied the Apparition.
Roses, in the middle of winter!
Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him. As the illness got worse, the uncle asked his nephew to go look for a priest. At dawn on Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego started on the road to the city. Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it best to make a detour so as not to meet the Lady. But suddenly, he perceived her coming to meet him. Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to administer last rites to his uncle. "My dear little one," replied the Apparition, "do not be distressed about your uncle's illness, because he will not die from it. I assure you that he will get well... Go to the top of the hill, pick the flowers that you will see there, and bring them to me." When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian roses that gave off a very sweet fragrance. Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there. Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his cloak, or tilma, then went back down the hill. "My dear son," said the Lady, "these flowers are the sign that you are to give the bishop... This will get him to build the church that I have asked of him."
Juan Diego ran to the bishop. When he arrived, the servants made him wait for hours. Amazed at his patience, and intrigued by what he was carrying in his tilma, they finally informed the bishop, who, although with several people, had him shown in immediately. The Indian related his adventure, unfolded his tilma, and let the flowers, which were still shining with dew, scatter to the floor. With tears in his eyes, Bishop Zumárraga fell to his knees, admiring the roses from his country. All of a sudden, he perceived, on the tilma, the portrait of Our Lady. MARY's image was there, as though printed on the cloak, very beautiful and full of gentleness. The bishop's doubts gave way to a sure faith and a hope filled with wonder. He took the tilma and the roses, and placed them respectfully in his private oratory. The next day he went with Juan Diego to the hill where the apparitions had taken place. After having examined the sites, he let the seer return to his uncle's house. Juan Bernardino had been completely cured. His cure had taken place at the very hour when Our Lady appeared to his nephew. He told him, "I have also seen her. She even came here and talked to me. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac Hill and wants her portrait to be called 'Saint MARY of Guadalupe.' But she didn't explain to me why." The name "Guadalupe" is well known by the Spanish, because in their country there is a very old sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The news of the miracle spread quickly. In a short time, Juan Diego became well-known. "I will spread your fame," MARY had told him, but the Indian remained as humble as ever. To make it easier to meditate on the Image, Bishop Zumárraga had the tilma transported to his cathedral. Then work was begun on the construction of a small church and a hermitage for Juan Diego on the hill of apparitions. The next December 25, the bishop consecrated his cathedral to the Most Blessed Virgin, to thank her for the remarkable favors with which she had blessed his diocese. Then, in a magnificent procession, the miraculous Image was carried to the sanctuary that had just been completed on Tepeyac Hill. To express their joy, the Indians shot arrows. One of them, shot carelessly, went through the throat of a participant in the procession, who fell to the ground, fatally wounded. A great silence fell and intense supplication rose to the Mother of God. Suddenly the wounded man, who had been placed at the foot of the miraculous Image, collected himself and got up, full of vigor. The crowd's enthusiasm was at its peak.
Millions of Indians become Christian
Juan Diego moved into his little hermitage, seeing to the maintenance and cleaning of the site. His life remained simple—he carefully farmed a field close to the sanctuary that had been placed at his disposal. He received pilgrims in ever larger numbers, and enjoyed talking about the Blessed Virgin and untiringly relating the details of the apparitions. He was entrusted with all kinds of prayer intentions. He listened, sympathized, and comforted. A good amount of his free time was spent in contemplation before the image of his Lady. He made rapid progress in the ways of holiness. Day after day, he fulfilled his duty as a witness up until his death on December 9, 1548, seventeen years after the first apparition.
When the Indians had learned the news of Our Lady's apparitions, an enthusiasm and joy such as had never been seen before spread among them. Renouncing their idols, superstitions, human sacrifices, and polygamy, many asked to be baptized. Nine years after the apparitions, nine million Indians had converted to the Christian faith—nearly 3,000 a day! The details of the Image of MARY moved the Indians deeply—this woman is greater than the sun-god since she appears standing before the sun. She surpasses the moon god since she keeps the moon under her feet. She is no longer of this world since she is surrounded by clouds and is held above the world by an angel. Her folded hands show her in prayer, which means that there is Someone greater than she...
Even in our time, the mystery of this miraculous Image remains. The tilma, a large apron woven by hand from cactus fibers, bears the holy Image, which is 1.43 meters tall. The Virgin's face is perfectly oval and is a gray color verging on pink. Her eyes have a profound expression of purity and gentleness. The mouth seems to smile. The very beautiful face, similar to that of a mestizo Indian, is framed by a black head of hair that, up close, is comprised of silky locks. She is clad in a full tunic, of a pinkish red hue that no one has ever been able to reproduce, and that goes to her feet. Her bluish-green mantle is edged with gold braid and studded with stars. A sun of various shades forms a magnificent background, with golden rays shining out.
The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to this day is inexplicable. After more than four centuries, this fabric of mediocre quality retains the same freshness and the same lively color as when it was new. By comparison, a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted in the 18th century with great care, and preserved under the same climatic conditions as Juan Diego's, had completely deteriorated in a few years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a painful period of revolutions in Mexico, a load of dynamite was put by unbelievers at the foot of the Image, in a vase of flowers. The explosion destroyed the marble steps on the main altar, the candelabras, all the flower-holders. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the tabernacle was split in two. The windows in most of the houses near the basilica were broken, but the pane of glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked. The Image remained intact.
The most moving experience of my life
In 1936, an examination conducted on two fibers from the tilma, one red and the other yellow, led to an astounding finding—the fibers contained no known coloring agent. Ophthalmology and optics confirm the inexplicable nature of the Image—it seems to be a slide projected onto the fabric. Closer analysis shows that there is no trace of drawing or sketching under the color, even though perfectly recognizable retouches were done on the original, retouches which moreover have deteriorated with time. In addition, the background never received any primer, which seems inexplicable if it is truly a painting, for even on the finest fabric, a coat is always applied, if only to prevent the fabric from absorbing the painting and the threads from breaking the surface. No brush strokes can be detected. After an infrared analysis conducted on May 7, 1979, a professor from NASA wrote, "There is no way to explain the quality of the pigments used for the pink dress, the blue veil, the face and the hands, or the permanence of the colors, or the vividness of the colors after several centuries, during which they ordinarily should have deteriorated... Studying this Image has been the most moving experience of my life."
Astronomers have observed that all the constellations present in the heavens at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531, are in their proper place on MARY's mantle. It has also been found that by imposing a topographical map of central Mexico on the Virgin's dress, the mountains, rivers and principal lakes coincide with the decoration on this dress.
Ophthalmological tests have found that MARY's eye is a human eye that appears to be living, and includes the retina, in which is reflected the image of a man with outstretched hands—Juan Diego. The image in the eye conforms to the known laws of optics, particularly to that which states that a well-lighted object can be reflected three times in an eye (Purkinje-Samson's law). A later study allowed researchers to discover in the eye, in addition to the seer, Bishop Zumárraga and several other people present when the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. And the normal microscopic network of veins in the eyelids and the cornea of the Virgin's eyes is completely recognizable. No human painter would have been able to reproduce such details.
Three months pregnant
Gynecological measurements have determined that the Virgin in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is three months pregnant. Under the belt that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals stands out—the Solar Flower, the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space. On the Virgin's neck hangs a brooch, the center of which is decorated with a little cross, recalling the death of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. Many other details of the Image of MARY form an extraordinary document for our age, which is able to observe them thanks to modern technology. Thus science, which has often been a pretext for unbelief, helps us today to give prominence to signs that had remained unknown for centuries and that science is unable to explain.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears a message of evangelization: the Basilica of Mexico is a center "from which flows a river of the light of the Gospel of Christ, spreading throughout the earth through the merciful Image of MARY" (John Paul II, December 12, 1981 ). In addition, through her intervention on behalf of the Aztec people, the Virgin played a role in saving innumerable human lives, and her pregnancy can be interpreted as a special appeal on behalf of unborn children and the defense of human life. This appeal has a burning relevance in our time, when threats against the lives of individuals and peoples, especially lives that are weak and defenseless, are widespread and becoming more serious. The Second Vatican Council forcefully deplored crimes against human life: "All offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia... all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization ; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator" ( Gaudium et Spes, 27). Faced with these plagues, which are expanding as a result of scientific progress and technology, and which benefit from wide social consensus as well as legal recognition, let us call upon MARY with confidence. She is an "incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for... Showing us her Son, she assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, nos. 102, 105). "Death and life are locked in an incredible battle; the Author of life, having died, lives and reigns" (Easter Sequence).
Let us ask Saint Juan Diego, canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 31, 2002, to inspire us with a true devotion to our Mother of Heaven, for "MARY's compassion extends to all those who appeal to her, even when this appeal is nothing more than a simple 'Hail, MARY'" (Saint Alphonsus de Liguori ). Especially if we have fallen into serious sin, she who is Mother of Mercy will obtain for us the Mercy of God.
(SOURCE: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/J/stjuandiego.asp



TODAY'S GOSPEL


Matthew 11: 28 - 30
28
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

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