Wednesday, March 24, 2010








(VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received prelates of the Scandinavian Episcopal Conference who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Addressing them in English, the Holy Father recalled the fact that their flock "is small in number, and scattered over a wide area. Many have to travel great distances in order to find a Catholic community in which to worship. It is most important for them to realise that every time they gather around the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice, they are participating in an act of the universal Church, in communion with all their fellow Catholics throughout the world". Referring then to the Congress on the Family, due to be held at Jonkoping, Sweden, in May, he told the prelates that "one of the most important messages that the people of the Nordic lands need to hear from you is a reminder of the centrality of the family for the life of a healthy society. Sadly, recent years have seen a weakening of the commitment to the institution of marriage and the Christian understanding of human sexuality that for so long served as the foundation of personal and social relations in European society. "Children have the right to be conceived, ... brought into the world and brought up within marriage", the Pope added. "In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is 'the first and indispensable teacher of peace', the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life". "In the Nordic lands, religion has an important role in shaping public opinion and influencing decisions on matters concerning the common good. I urge you, therefore, to continue to convey to the people of your respective countries the Church's teaching on social and ethical questions", said Benedict XVI. He also urged the bishops to show particular pastoral concern for "the many who have experienced difficulties in the wake of the recent financial crisis" and for "married couples in which only one partner is Catholic". The Pope went on: "The immigrant component among the Catholic population ... has needs of its own, and it is important that your pastoral outreach to families should include them, with a view to assisting their integration into society". With specific reference to Middle Eastern refugees, many of whom are members of the Eastern Churches, he called on the prelates to encourage them "not to distance themselves from the most precious elements of their own culture, particularly their faith". The Holy Father paid tribute to "the new ecclesial movements, which bring fresh dynamism to the Church's mission" in Nordic countries and concluded by asking the bishops to commit their energies "to promoting a new evangelisation among the people. Part and parcel of this task is continued attention to ecumenical activity, and I am pleased to note the numerous tasks in which Christians from the Nordic lands come together to present a united witness before the world".AL/SCANDINAVIA/... VIS 100325 (570)

MEETING CONCERNING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique late this morning: "The commission established by Benedict XVI in 2007 to study questions of importance concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China met in the Vatican from 22 to 24 March". "The participants examined the question of the human, spiritual and pastoral formation of seminarians and consecrated people, as well as the permanent formation of priests, focusing particularly on their spirituality. The difficulties that emerge in the field of formation and new pastoral requirements - connected with the task of evangelising Chinese society which is so dynamic and complex - represent considerable challenges. The bishops of the Catholic Church in China, who are recognised as having full dignity and the responsibility to guide their ecclesial communities, are personally committed to formative work and, in union with them, fraternal collaboration will continue to be offered". "In the light of Holy Father's Letter to Chinese Catholics of 27 May 2007, the commission reflected on the way to promote unity within the Catholic Church in China, and to overcome the difficulties she faces in her relationship with civil society. Progress made in response to the Pope's call for authentic ecclesial communion was noted with satisfaction, a communion which is not expressed without a personal commitment to searching for truth and spiritual reconciliation. In the awareness that the journey of forgiveness and reconciliation cannot be undertaken in a day, there emerged the certainty that the entire Church accompanies this journey and will raise insistent prayers to this end, especially on 24 May, liturgical memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, and the Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The importance of taking tangible steps towards increasing and expressing spiritual ties between pastors and faithful was also emphasised. "At the same time, the participants expressed the unanimous hope that all bishops in China way become increasingly committed to favouring the growth of unity, faith and life among all Catholics, avoiding gestures (such as, for example, sacramental celebrations, episcopal ordinations and participation in meetings) that run counter to communion with the Pope who appointed them pastors, and create difficulties - sometimes severe difficulties - in the bosom of their respective ecclesial communities. "In keeping with the desire expressed by the Holy Father in the above-mentioned Letter, the commission reiterates its hope that, through respectful and open dialogue between the Holy See and the government authorities, the current difficulties may be overcome and a beneficial agreement be reached, of advantage to the Catholic community and to social coexistence. In this spirit, the participants join all Catholics in China in constant prayer that those bishops and priests who have long been deprived of their freedom may, as soon as possible, once again exercise their episcopal and priestly ministry in support of the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care. "In a meeting that took place at the end of the plenary assembly, His Holiness underlined the need of ensuring solid formation, based on friendship with Christ, for everyone preparing for the priesthood or consecrated life. This will be a guarantee of success in personal life and in pastoral work. The Holy Father reiterated the important role of played by those in charge of formation and recalled that this is a priority task of bishops. Finally, he thanked the participants for their commitment in favour of the Catholic Church in China".OP/MEETING/CHINA VIS 100325 (590)

PRESENTATION OF EXPOSITION OF SHROUD OF TURIN VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Severino Poletto, archbishop of Turin, Italy, presented the forthcoming exposition of the Shroud of Turin, due to take place in that city from 10 April to 23 May on the theme: "Passio Christi, passio hominis". Also participating in today's press conference were Fiorenzo Alfieri, Turin's local counsellor for culture and president of the committee for the exposition of the Shroud; Msgr. Giuseppe Ghiberti, president of the diocesan commission for the Shroud, and Maurizio Baradello, director general of the committee for the exposition. Cardinal Poletto explained that "this is the first exposition of the new millennium", and that the 1.3 million people from all over the world who have already booked a visit will be able to contemplate a Shroud which is "much improved thanks to the important restoration work of 2002". The 2010 exposition will also be marked by a visit from Benedict XVI, on Sunday 2 May. "The Pope will venerate the Shroud as his predecessor John Paul II did on 24 May 1998, then celebrate Mass in the city's Piazza San Carlo", said the cardinal. Referring to the theme of the exposition, the archbishop of Turin (who is also Pontifical Custodian of the Shroud), said it aims "to underline the strong bond that exists between the image on the cloth, a moving testimony of the Lord's Passion, and the great suffering of men and women today, that they may find in the Shroud an anchor for their faith, one that leads them to the mercy of God and the service of their neighbour". Turning to consider the practical aspects of the event, Cardinal Poletto explained that four thousand volunteers will be involved in helping the pilgrims during the course of their visit to the Shroud, and in welcoming them in the churches of the city's historic centre where liturgical celebrations and tours have been organised. Apart from cultural initiatives such as talks by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, there will also be a visit by representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and from the Patriarchate of Moscow. Finally, the cardinal archbishop of Turin explained that, although the Internet is a vital resource for booking visits, "it must be remembered that the exposition of the Shroud remains a personal and physical experience, a 'coming to see' that cannot be substituted by any kind of 'virtual visit'". The website provides texts and information concerning all aspects of the organisation of the exposition.OP/EXPOSITION SHROUD/TURIN VIS 100325 (450)

DECLARATION ON "MURPHY CASE", STATEMENT OF BISHOP MAGEE VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the complete text of the English-language declaration made yesterday, 24 March, by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. to the New York Times: "The tragic case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, a priest of the archdiocese of Milwaukee, involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from what he did. By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Fr. Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him. "During the mid-1970s, some of Fr. Murphy's victims reported his abuse to civil authorities, who investigated him at that time; however, according to news reports, that investigation was dropped. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was not informed of the matter until some twenty years later. "It has been suggested that a relationship exists between the application of 'Crimen sollicitationis' and the non-reporting of child abuse to civil authorities in this case. In fact, there is no such relationship. Indeed, contrary to some statements that have circulated in the press, neither 'Crimen' nor the Code of Canon Law ever prohibited the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement authorities. "In the late 1990s, after over two decades had passed since the abuse had been reported to diocesan officials and the police, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was presented for the first time with the question of how to treat the Murphy case canonically. The Congregation was informed of the matter because it involved solicitation in the confessional, which is a violation of the Sacrament of Penance. It is important to note that the canonical question presented to the Congregation was unrelated to any potential civil or criminal proceedings against Fr. Murphy. "In such cases, the Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties, but recommends that a judgment be made not excluding even the greatest ecclesiastical penalty of dismissal from the clerical state. In light of the facts that Fr. Murphy was elderly and in very poor health, and that he was living in seclusion and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested that the archbishop of Milwaukee give consideration to addressing the situation by, for example, restricting Fr. Murphy's public ministry and requiring that Fr. Murphy accept full responsibility for the gravity of his acts. Fr. Murphy died approximately four months later, without further incident". Also on 24 March, Bishop John Magee S.P.S. of Cloyne, Ireland, released the following English-language statement following the Holy Father's acceptance of his resignation from the pastoral care of his diocese: "On 9 March 2010 I tendered my resignation as bishop of Cloyne to the Holy Father. I have been informed today that it has been accepted, and as I depart, I want to offer once again my sincere apologies to any person who has been abused by any priest of the diocese of Cloyne during my time as bishop or at any time. To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon. As I said on Christmas Eve 2008 after the publication report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues contained in that report. "On 7 March 2009 the Holy See appointed Fr. Dermot Clifford as apostolic administrator of the diocese of Cloyne. This was in response to a request I had made to be relieved of the burden of administering the diocese so that I could concentrate on co-operating with the Government Commission of Investigation into child protection procedures in the diocese in my capacity as bishop of Cloyne. I will of course continue to be available to the Commission of Investigation at any time. "I also sincerely hope that the work and the findings of the Commission of Investigation will be of some help towards healing for those who have been abused. "I welcome the fact that my offer of resignation has been accepted, and I thank the priests, religious and faithful of the diocese for their support during my time as bishop of Cloyne, and assure them of a place in my prayers always".OP/MURPHY CASE MAGEE/LOMBARDI VIS 100325 (740)

NEW "FUNDAMENTAL TEXTS" AVAILABLE ON VATICAN WEBPAGE VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - In a communique released today the Holy See Press Office announced the online publication of the official acts of the Holy See and of the collection of documents from the period of World War II. "Important texts that until now have only been available in hard copy in libraries are now accessible at the Official Site of the Holy See, in the "Resource Library" section. "Entire collections of the 'Actae Sanctae Sedis (A.S.S.)' and of the 'Acta Apostolicae Sedis (A.A.S.)' - i.e., the official Acts of the Holy See from 1865 to 2007 - are available in pdf format, as is the twelve-volume collection of the 'Actes et documents du Saint-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale', published by order of Paul VI starting in 1965, and edited by a specialised group of four Jesuit historians. "These texts represent a documentary resource of inestimable value that is now at the disposal of scholars and all interested persons, free of charge. It is a great contribution to research and information on the history and activities of the Holy See".OP/PUBLICATION ACTS HOLY SEE/... VIS 100325 (200)

AUDIENCES VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in separate audiences: - Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, archbishop of Santiago de Chile, accompanied by Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua, president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile. - Four prelates of the Scandinavian Episcopal Conference, on their "ad limina" visit: - Bishop Markus Bernt Eidsvig C.R.S.A. of Oslo, Norway, apostolic administrator of the territorial prelature of Trondheim, Norway, accompanied by Bishop emeritus Gerhard Schwenzer SS.CC. - Bishop Berislav Grgic, prelate of the territorial prelature of Tromso. - Bishop Anders Arborelius O.C.D. of Stockholm, Sweden. Yesterday, 24 March, he received in audience Cardinal Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, Italy.AP:AL/.../... VIS 100325 (120)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS VATICAN CITY, 25 MAR 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father: - Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Kwangju, Korea, presented by Archbishop Andreas Choi Chang-mou, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law. he is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-jong. - Appointed Fr. Jean de Dieu Raoelison, processor of theology at the major regional seminary of Faliarivo and secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Madagascar, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Antananarivo (area 12,500, population 3,100,000, Catholics 863,521, priests 345, religious 2,295), Madagascar. The bishop-elect was born in Arivonimamo, Madagascar in 1963 and ordained a priest in 1996.RE:NER/.../CHOI:KIM:RAOELISON VIS 100325 (120)



CNA report: During the upcoming Holy Week, pilgrims from multiple areas in England will walk 120 miles around the country carrying a life-sized wooden cross. The experience offers participants an opportunity to rejuvenate spiritually and is “intense and rewarding.”
The annual pilgrimage, called Student's Cross, is the oldest in the nation and will bring together more that 250 people. The pilgrims will set out on March 27 from 10 different parts of the country and convene at the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk on April 2, Good Friday. The 10 groups will remain in the area to celebrate the Easter Vigil.
“Pilgrimage is an intense and rewarding experience,” said Dave Stanley, Student's Cross 2010 director on Tuesday. “It is more relevant today than it has ever been for those prepared to face its challenges.”
Reflecting on the pressures and worries associated with modern life, Stanley noted that the event has spiritual benefits to it. “Going on pilgrimage is a fantastic way to strip back to the basics, examine the fundamental questions in life and consider what is really important,” Stanley said.
The pilgrimage can also offer a time for vocation discernment. According to Stanley, it “enables people to think deeply about the direction they are taking, how they can see their role in the world and how God can play a part in their lives. It also offers a unique way to celebrate Easter – both a chance to recharge your spiritual batteries and a crash course in community living.”
Though the title of the pilgrimage bears the word 'student,' it is intended for those of all ages and has been since its inception in 1948.
“We are an immensely varied group of people,” the director noted.“ From the very young to the very experienced. From people who feel secure in their faith as Christians, to people who have simply found that walking with friends restores them in some way. We are students, parents, teenagers and children, people with jobs and people without. Fit and unfit, wildly enthusiastic and apparently reluctant. What we have in common is that we find this pilgrimage an invaluable way of connecting with what is most important in our lives.”


CISA report: The Ugandan rebels have split into at least five groups that rage among the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, and Southern Sudan; they have become a regional problem.They continue to sow death and destruction, but it is unclear what they want or what their political agenda is. This group should be classified as a terrorist organization," the bishop of Dorma-Dungu, Richard Domba Mady has said. During the night between March 20 and 21, Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacked the town Bamokandi, near the town of Dungu, 780 km north-east of Kisangani, the capital of the Eastern Province of the DRC."This time the army seems to have intervened in time and managed to foil the kidnapping of some people who had already been taken hostage by the rebels," said Bishop Mady. "In other cases, unfortunately, the population remained in the hands of guerrillas.On March 21, another group of the LRA had attacked the village of Agoumar in south-eastern Central African Republic, not far from the border with the DRC. In the Eastern Province, there are four dioceses affected by the LRA violence, both directly and indirectly, on account of the presence of many IDPs who have fled the terror sown by the guerrillas," says Bishop Mady. "It is the diocese of Dorma-Dungu, in Buta and Bondo, and Isiro-Niangara. In the latter diocese, between December 13 and 14 of 2009, the guerrillas had attacked a village near Tapili, killing a hundred people and abducting 40 people, young and old alike. Even Archbishop Etienne Ung'Eyowun of Bondo raised the alarm at the serious situation of insecurity in his diocese, after visiting five of the 10 parishes in the territory.According to the bishop of Bondo, the LRA is occupying three of four local administrative divisions (“chefferies”) and has forced thousands to flee. In addition to the Ugandan rebels, according to Bishop Ung'Eyowun, nomadic Mbororo herdsmen also contribute to the climate of insecurity, with their cows that devastate the fields of sedentary farmers. The worst situation is that of Ango, where the population is going hungry because the LRA fighters raided crops and food reserves.Ango, Dakwa, Banda, and Bondo are the places where the situation is more difficult, but according to Bishop Ung'Eyowun: “Despite this suffering, God's people live their faith in dignity and with hope for a more peaceful day.”



USCCB Communications Department Undergoing Reorganization
WASHINGTON—The Department of Communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will undergo reorganization, effective May 1. "These changes will allow us to tap the benefits of the rapidly changing media environment around us," said Helen Osman, secretary of the Communications Department. Under the new design, the department will include two new offices, the Office of Creative Services and Office of Customer and Client Relations, and a unit for Project Management in the Office of the Secretary for Communications. The Office for Media Relations and Catholic News Service (CNS), the largest English-language religion news-gathering service in the world, will continue as part of the Communications Department. Under the reorganization, services now within USCCB Publishing and Digital Media will be provided through the three new entities. The business and marketing efforts of Publishing and CNS will be merged into one Customer and Client Relations Office. In another change, the work of the Office of Film and Broadcasting (OFB) will be assumed into CNS, currently the major distributor of OFB reviews. With the work of the Publishing, Digital Media and OFB absorbed into other structures, Publishing and Digital Media, located in Washington, and OFB, in New York, will no longer exist as stand-alone offices. Under the reorganization the Office of Media Relation will increase in size and expand its outreach through social media, also known as Web 2.0. Another significant change in the Communications Department will be the addition of staff to oversee Spanish-language translations. Helen Osman announced the changes March 16. She noted that the reorganization followed a review of the media landscape of the Catholic Church in the United States, with its growing Hispanic population and exploding use of social media. “We are in a paradigm shift in how people receive information, as profound as when the printing press was invented,” she said. “It is important that the Church not only provide its wisdom regarding the primary dignity of the human person in this information evolution, but also take advantage of the opportunities this new media ecology provides.” “The new creative services office,” she said, “will produce material to be available in print and digital forms – video, audio, text, Web, mobile devices and other emerging technology.” Staff of the office will include members of the former Publishing office’s Development staff and USCCB Digital Media staff. Promoting, marketing, selling and distributing that material will be done by a Customer and Client Relations Office team, that includes staff from the former Publishing’s Marketing and Customer Service team and CNS’s Client Services. The Project Management team will oversee development of multi-media projects. This builds on a process already successfully used at the USCCB. With continued efforts to implement the activities of the bishops’ priorities and other collaborative projects, members of this team will be able to provide effective and cohesive communication support for all USCCB projects. The U.S. bishops have set five priority initiatives for the USCCB. They include: promotion of marriage; faith formation with an emphasis on sacramental practice; promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life; life and dignity of the human person; and cultural diversity, with a particular emphasis on Hispanics.--


UCAN) — The Catholic Church in Orissa has initiated a process to declare those who died for their faith during anti-Christian violence as martyrs.
“We are exploring the possibility of martyrdom for those who died for their faith. We need to collect adequate and unquestionable information,” Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, who heads the Church in the eastern Indian state, told UCA News March 26.
As a first step, the archdiocese set up a five-member committee on March 17 to collect information on those killed during the 2008 violence.
Father Joseph Kalathil, vicar general of the archdiocese, welcomed the move as a “good” gesture by the Church to remember those who preferred to die rather than give up their faith.
Paul Pradhan, a tribal Catholic leader who narrowly escaped being attacked by Hindu extremists, said people who died for their faith “will be a great source of inspiration for generations to come. They will be role models.”
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur told UCA News the Church should not have “second thoughts” on the matter. “It should be done.” The process would be “quite challenging, but worth the effort,” he added.
The prelate, a canon law expert, said he wants the committee to gather information in a scientific way and keep Church authorities updated on its progress.
Montfort Brother Varghese Theckannath, who is assisting the archdiocese with a group of religious lawyers to get justice for the victims, said the entire Indian Church is proud of the Orissa “martyrs.”
The legal activist pointed out that martyrs contribute to the Church’s collective faith experience. “We cannot ignore their experience,” he added.
John Dayal, secretary of the ecumenical All India Christian Council, said victims of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2008 who died “terrible deaths for their faith” have not asked for martyrdom status, “but we need them as our martyrs”.
The lay leader pointed out that the victims were “among the poorest of the poor. They faced killer gangs, swords and fire, but did not renege on their faith. Even their killers must have been shamed.”
The violence began Aug. 24, 2008, the day after Maoists gunned down a Hindu religious leader, and lasted more than seven weeks. According to Church sources, some 90 people were killed.
Dayal says each death in Orissa “nurtures the Church in India, and strengthens our own commitment to a salvific Christ”.


Cath News report: An Equal Opportunity Bill debated in the Victorian State Parliament could force religious institutions and schools to secularise or disband, some religious groups fear.
"This sets up the (Equal Opportunity Commission) to be judge, jury and executioner with unparalleled powers," Australian Christian Lobby state director Rob Ward was cited saying in a report in The Age.
Debate will continue today on the bill, which would allow the Equal Opportunity Commission to investigate at will and to require religious employers to show why they need to discriminate.
Islamic Schools Association of Australia president Abdul Karim Galea said he hated to think paranoia about Muslim schools might lead authorities to suppose there was a problem where there was none.
"If there are no complaints and an authority takes it on itself to conduct a witch-hunt to see if there are breaches, I think that's wrong," Mr Galea said.
Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke said the proposed legislation did not give her unfettered power, and that any investigation would be launched only with evidence and in consultation with the commission's board, the report said.
Shadow attorney-general Robert Clark said some aspects of the bill would cause enormous disruption and create disputes, but Attorney-General Rob Hulls said the Catholic Church and many faith groups agreed that the government had struck the right balance, the report added.

The Annunciation
Feast: March 25
Feast Day:
March 25

This great festival takes its name from the happy tidings brought by the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary, concerning the incarnation of the Son of God. It commemorates the most important embassy that was ever known: an embassy sent by the King of kings, performed by one of the chief princes of his heavenly court; directed, not to the kings or emperors of the earth, but to a poor, unknown, retired virgin, who, being endowed with the most angelic purity of soul and body, being withal perfectly humble and devoted to God, was greater in his eyes than all the sceptres in the world could make a universal monarch. Indeed God, by the choice which he is pleased to make of a poor virgin, for the accomplishment of the greatest of all mysteries and graces, clearly demonstrates that earthly diadems, dignities, and treasures are of no consideration with him; and that perfect humility and sanctity alone constitute true greatness. God, who is almighty, can do all things by himself, without making use of the concurrence of creatures. Nevertheless he vouchsafes. in his exterior works, most frequently to use their co-operation. If he reveals his will and speaks to men, it is by the intervention of his prophets, and these he often enlightens by the ministry of angels. Many of the ancient patriarchs were honored by him with the most sublime commissions. By Moses he delivered his people from the Egyptian slavery, by him he gave them his law, and he appointed him mediator in his alliance with them. When the Son of God became man, he could have taken upon him our nature without the co-operation of any creature; but was pleased to be born of a woman. In the choice of her whom he raised to this most sublime of all dignities to which any pure creature could be exalted, he pitched upon her who, by the riches of his grace and virtues, was of all others the most holy and the most perfect. The design of this embassy of the archangel is as extraordinary as the persons concerned in it. It is to give a Saviour to the world, a victim of propitiation to the sinner, a model to the just, a son to this Virgin, remaining still a virgin, and a new nature to the Son of God, the nature of man, capable of suffering pain and anguish in order to the satisfaction of God's justice for our transgressions. And the Son of God being to take a human body formed of her substance, the Holy Ghost, who, by a power all-divine, was to her in place of a spouse, was not content to render her body capable of giving life to a Man-God, but likewise enriched her soul with a fulness of grace, that there might be a sort of proportion between the cause and the effect, and she the better qualified to co-operate towards this mystery of sanctity.
The angel begins his address to her with This is not the first time that angels appeared to women: but we find not that they were ever treated with that respect which the angel Gabriel shows to Mary. Sarah and Agar were visited by these celestial spirits, but not with an honour like that wherewith the angel on this occasion addresses the Blessed Virgin, saying, He considers her as the greatest object among creatures of God's favour, affection, and complacency. He admires in her those wonderful effects of the divine liberality, those magnificent gifts and graces, those exalted virtues, which have placed the very foundation of her spiritual edifice on the holy mountains, in a degree of perfection surpassing that of all pure creatures He admires that perfect gratitude with which she always received God's grace, and her perfect fidelity in corresponding with it, and advancing in sanctity, by the help thereof, with a solicitude answerable to her love and gratitude, for the preservation and increase of so inestimable a treasure. The first encomium which St. John gives us of the glory of the is, that he was God forbid that we should say that Mary was full of grace in the same manner as her Son; for he is the very source and origin of it, the saints, Mary not excepted, whatever degree they possess of grace and sanctity. St. Luke assures us also that St. Stephen was full of grace and the Holy Ghost, but it was a fullness in regard to a less capacity, and in relation to a lower function. Moreover, to St. Stephen and other saints, who have received large portions of heavenly grace, we may say, in those other words of the angel, : but those very favours, though very great in themselves, were not to be compared with that which from all eternity was reserved for Mary. God made the saints the object of his gratuitous election, and he qualified them with his graces to be the messengers of his Son, the preachers and witnesses of his gospel; but Mary was his choice, and was furnished with his graces to bear the most illustrious, the most exalted title of honour that heaven could bestow on a pure creature, to conceive of her proper substance the divine Word made man. If then the grace of God so raises a person in worth and merit that there is not any prince on earth who deserves to be compared with a soul that is dignified with the lowest degree of sanctifying grace; what shall we say or think of Mary, in whom the fullness of grace was only a preparation to her maternity? What shall we think of ourselves, (but in an opposite light,) who wilfully expose this greatest of all treasures on so many occasions to be lost, whereas we ought wilfully to forego and renounce all the advantages and pleasures of this world, rather than hazard the loss of the least degree of it, and be most fervent in our supplications to God for the gaining, preserving, and increasing so great a treasure: forasmuch as it is a pledge of God's love, a participation of his Spirit, and a title to the possession of his heavenly kingdom. But who can be surprised at those inestimable treasures which God, on this occasion, with so liberal a hand, bestows on Mary, if he considers the purport of the following words of the angel: . He is with her in a manner more intimate, more perfect, and more divine than he ever was or will be with any other creature. He is with her, not only by his essence, by his presence, by his power; for he is thus with all his creatures: He is with her, not only by his grace touching her heart and enlightening her understanding; he is thus many times with the sinner: He is with her, not only with his sanctifying grace, making her agreeable in his sight, and placing her in the number of his children; he is present in this manner with all the just: He is with her, not only by a special protection guiding her in his ways, and leading her securely to the term of salvation; this he does for the elect: but he is also with her by a substantial and corporeal presence, residing personally and really in her. In her, and of her substance, is this day formed his adorable body; in her he reposes for nine months, with his whole divinity and humanity. It is in this ineffable manner that he is with Mary, and with none but Mary. O glorious Virgin, thrice happy Mother, from this source and ocean of all grace what heavenly blessings in so long a space of time must have flowed upon you! and what honors must be due to one so nearly allied to our great Creator! What intercession so prevalent as that of the
The angel concludes his address with these words: ., as being chosen preferably to all of her sex, to be the glorious instrument, in the hand of God, for removing the maledictions laid on mankind in punishment of their sins, and in communicating to them the source of all good. And on this account it was that succeeding , as she foretold of herself, regarding her as the centre in which all the blessings of the Old and New Testament are drawn together.
Though we are obliged to consider the eminent quality of Mother of God as the source of all other graces bestowed on the Blessed Virgin, it must yet be owned it is not the greatest, and that she was happier in loving Jesus Christ than in having conceived him and brought him forth. She is and above the rest of creatures, not precisely on account of her maternity, but because she received a fulness of grace proportioned to the dignity to which she was chosen. So the" according to the remark of the holy fathers, she was happier for her sanctity than for her dignity: for her virtues than for her privileges. Among her virtues, that of purity seems particularly deserving of notice on this solemnity, as the epistle for this festival records that memorable prophecy of Isaias, ;8 the most remarkable of the signs God had promised the world for making known the accomplishment of the mystery of man's redemption. And indeed right reason seemed to require that she, who was to be the mother of God, should be of an integrity above reproach, and incapable of yielding to any solicitation: it was highly fit her virginity should be perfectly pure, and removed as far as possible from the least suspicion of blemish. For this reason, the moment God had chosen her to be his mother, he exacted from her the most authentic proofs of an inviolable attachment to purity. Thus, it is not in a crowd, or in idle conversation, but in a retreat, that the angel finds her. It is not from the distraction of diversions and entertainments that he calls her aside to deliver his message: no; she is alone in her house, with the door shut; "and," as St. Ambrose says, "he must be an angel that gets entrance there." a Hence, according to the same holy father, it was not the angel's appearance that gave her trouble, for he will not have it to be doubted but heavenly visions and a commerce with the blessed spirits had been familiar to her. But what alarmed her, he says, was the angel's appearing in human form, in the shape of a young man. What might add to her fright on the occasion was his addressing her in the strain of praise, which kind of words flattery often puts in the mouths of ill-designing men. And how few, alas, are able to withstand such dangers! But Mary, guarded by her modesty, is in confusion at expressions of this sort, and dreads the least appearance of deluding flattery. Such high commendations make her cautious how she answers, till in silence she has more fully considered of the matter: , says St. Luke, Ah, what numbers of innocent souls have been corrupted for want of using the like precautions! Mary is retired, but how seldom now-a-days are young virgins content to stay at home! Mary is silent when commended, and answered not a word till she had well considered what she ought to say: but now it is to be feared that young women never think so little as when they ale entertained with flattery. Every soothing word is but too apt to slide from the ear to the heart; and who can tell what multitudes, by their unwary methods, suffer shipwreck of their modesty, and then of their purity. For how can this be long-lived after having lost all its guardians? No, it cannot be. Unless a virgin be assiduous in prayer and spiritual reading, modest in her dress, prudent and wary in her choice of company, and extremely careful in the government of her eyes and tongue when she happens to be in conversation with the other sex, there is but too much reason to apprehend that either her heart is already betrayed, or in danger of being vanquished by the next assault of her spiritual enemy. A dread of, and a speedy flight from all dangerous occasions is the only security of virtue and innocence. Presumption wants no other tempter. Even Mary, though confirmed in grace, was only secure by this fear and distrust in herself. A second cause why Mary was disturbed at the words of the angel was because they contained her praises. Humble souls always tremble and sink with confusion in their own minds when they hear themselves commended; because they are deeply penetrated with a sense of their own weakness and insufficiency, and they consider contempt as their due. They know that the glory of all gifts belongs solely to God, and they justly fear lest the poison of praise should insinuate itself into their minds; being sensible how infinitely dangerous honors and flattery are to humility. Are these our sentiments? Do we never speak of ourselves to our own advantage? Do we never artfully praise ourselves, or willingly lend an ear to what flatterers say to applaud us? Are we troubled when we hear ourselves praised? What gives trouble but to too many is, that men give them not what they take to be their right; and that their praises equal not the notion they have framed of their merits. The high eulogiums bestowed on Mary by the angel she answers no otherwise than by a profound silence, by a saintly trouble of mind, which, with a modest blush, appears in her countenance. The angel, to calm her disquiets, says to her, He then informs her that she is to conceive and bring forth a son whose name shall be Jesus, who shall be great, and the son of the Most High, and possessed of the throne of David, her illustrious ancestor. Mary, who according to St. Austin had consecrated her virginity to God by a vow, is not at all weakened by the prospect of such a dignity in her resolution of living a virgin; but, on the contrary, out of a just concern to know how she may comply with the will of God without prejudice to her vow, neither moved by curiosity, nor doubting of the miracle or its possibility, she inquires, Nor does she give her consent till the heavenly messenger acquaints her that it is to be a work of the Holy Ghost, who, in making her fruitful, will not entrench in the least upon her virginal purity, but cause her to be a mother, still remaining, as she desires, a pure virgin.
Moreover, had not Mary been deep-rooted in humility, what impression must not these great promises have made in her heart, at a time especially when the first transports are so apt to overflow the soul on the sudden news of an unexpected glory. The world knows, from too frequent experience, how strongly the promise and expectation of new dignities raise the spirits, and alter the words, the looks, and the whole carriage of proud men. But Mary is still the same, or rather much more lowly and meek in spirit upon the accession of this unparalleled dignity. She sees no cause to pride herself in her virtues, graces, and privileges, knowing that the glory of all these are due only to the divine Author and Bestower of them. In submission, therefore, to God's will, without any further inquiries, she expresses her assent in these humble but powerful words: What faith and confidence does her answer express! What profound humility and perfect obedience! She was saluted Mother of God, yet uses no word of dignity, but styles herself nothing more than his handmaid, to be commanded and employed by him as he shall think fittest. The world, as heaven had decreed, was not to have a Saviour till she had given her consent to the angel's proposal; she gives it, and behold the power and efficacy of her submissive fiat! That moment, the mystery of love and mercy promised to mankind four thousand years before, foretold by so many prophets, desired by so many saints, is wrought on earth. That moment, the Word of God is for ever united to humanity; the soul of Jesus Christ, produced from nothing, begins to enjoy God, and to know all things past, present, and to come: that moment, God begins to have an adorer who is infinite, and the world a mediator who is omnipotent; and, to the working of this great mystery, Mary alone is chosen to co-operate by her free assent. The prophets represent the earth as moved out of its place, and the mountains as melting away before the very countenance of God looking down upon the world. Now that he descends in person, who would not expect that the whole heavens should be moved? But another kind of appearance best suited his coming on this occasion, which was with the view of curing our pride by his wonderful humiliations, and thereby repair the injury the Godhead had suffered from our unjust usurpation; and not to show forth his grandeur, and display his all-glorious majesty. How far are the ways of God above those of men! how greatly does divine wisdom differ from human folly! how does every circumstance in this mystery confound the pride, the pomp, and the vain titles of worldly grandeur, and recommend to us the love of silence and sincere humility!
From the example of the Virgin Mary in this mystery, how ardent a love ought we to conceive of purity and humility! According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Jerome, she would rather be the spouse of God in spirit, by spotless virginity, than his mother in the flesh; and so acceptable was this her disposition to God, that she deserved immediately to hear, that she should bring forth the Son of the Most High, still remaining a most pure virgin: nor would God have otherwise raised her to this astonishing honor. The Holy Ghost is invited by purity to dwell in souls, but is chased away by the filth of the contrary vice. The dreadful havoc which it now-a-days makes among Christian souls, calls for torrents of tears, and is the source of the infidelity and universal desolation which spreads on every side. Humility is the foundation of a spiritual life. By it Mary was prepared for the extraordinary graces. and all virtues with which she was enriched, and for the eminent dignity of Mother of God. St. Austin says that, according to an ancient tradition, this mystery was completed on the 25th of March. Both eastern and western churches celebrate it on this day, and have done so at least ever since the fifth century. This festival is mentioned by Pope Gelasius I, in 492. The council of Constantinople, in 692, orders the , as on Good Friday, to be said on all days in Lent, except Saturdays, Sundays, and the feast of the Annunciation. The tenth council of Toledo, in 656, calls this solemnity "the festival of the Mother of God," by way of excellence. To praise the divine goodness for this incomprehensible mystery of the incarnation, Urban II, in the council of Clermont, in 1095, ordered the bell to be rung every day for the triple Angelical Salutation, called Angelus Domini, at morning, noon, and night; which practice of devotion several popes have recommended by indulgences, as John XXII, Calixtus III, Paul III, Alexander VII and Clement X. The late Benedict XIII has augmented them to those who, at the aforesaid hours, shall devoutly recite this prayer kneeling



Luke 1: 26 - 38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
For with God nothing will be impossible."
And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
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