Sunday, June 6, 2010
CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: SUN. JUNE 6, 2010
CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS: SUN. JUNE 6,2010: HEADLINES-
AMERICA: PAMPERS CREATES PRO-LIFE IPAD APPLICATION "HELLO BABY"-
EUROPE: POLAND: OVER 150, 000 GATHER FOR BEATIFICATION OF FR. POPIELUSZKO-
AFRICA: MADAGASCAR: BISHOP CALLS FOR SOLUTION TO POLITICAL CRISIS-
ASIA: CHINA: HONG-KONG: 150, 000 GATHER IN REMEMBRANCE OF TIANANMEN-
AUSTRALIAJESUIT ORDER PRODUCES ALTAR WINES-
POPE GREETS A CYPRIOT MUSLIM LEADER
VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2010 (VIS REPORT) - This afternoon in Nicosia, the Pope met with Sheikh Mehmet Nazim Adil Al-Haquani, an 89-year-old Cypriot Muslim leader active in the field of inter-religious dialogue.
The brief meeting took place outside the apostolic nunciature, before the Holy Father's Mass in the church of the Holy Cross. Sheikh Al-Haquani explained how he lived in northern Cyprus and had come especially to greet the Pontiff. According to Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., the sheikh had excused himself for awaiting the Pope seated. "I am very old", he said, to which the Pope replied, "I am old too".
Sheikh Al-Haquani gave the Pope a cane, a plaque with the word "peace" written in Arabic and a Muslim rosary. For his part, the Pope gave him a medal of his pontificate. The two men then exchanged an embrace. Before separating, the sheikh asked the Pope to pray for him, to which the Pope replied: "Of course I will, we will pray for one another".
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SOURCE PAPAL IMAGES http://www.radiovaticana.org/en1/index.asp
THE CROSS SPEAKS OF HOPE, LOVE AND VICTORY
VATICAN CITY, 5 JUN 2010 (VIS) - At 4.30 p.m. today the Pope celebrated the Eucharist in the church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia, Cyprus, in the presence of priests, religious and representatives of local ecclesial movements.
"That", he added, "is why the world needs the Cross. The Cross is not just a private symbol of devotion, it is not just a badge of membership of a certain group within society, and in its deepest meaning it has nothing to do with the imposition of a creed or a philosophy by force. It speaks of hope, it speaks of love, it speaks of the victory of non-violence over oppression, it speaks of God raising up the lowly, empowering the weak, conquering division, and overcoming hatred with love. A world without the Cross would be a world without hope, a world in which torture and brutality would go unchecked, the weak would be exploited and greed would have the final word. Man's inhumanity to man would be manifested in ever more horrific ways, and there would be no end to the vicious cycle of violence. Only the Cross puts an end to it".
The Holy Father went on: "While no earthly power can save us from the consequences of our sins, and no earthly power can defeat injustice at its source, nevertheless the saving intervention of our loving God has transformed the reality of sin and death into its opposite. That is what we celebrate when we glory in the Cross of our Redeemer".
Turning then to address priests, religious and catechists, the Pope highlighted how, "when we proclaim Christ crucified we are proclaiming not ourselves, but Him. ... Let us never cease to marvel at the extraordinary grace that has been given to us, let us never cease to acknowledge our unworthiness, but at the same time let us always strive to become less unworthy of our noble calling, lest through our faults and failings we weaken the credibility of our witness".
Benedict XVI made particular mention of "the many priests and religious in the Middle East who are currently experiencing a particular call to conform their lives to the mystery of the Lord's Cross. Through the difficulties facing their communities as a result of the conflicts and tensions of the region, many families are taking the decision to move away, and it can be tempting for their pastors to do likewise.
"In situations of this kind, though, a priest, a religious community, a parish that remains steadfast and continues to bear witness to Christ is an extraordinary sign of hope, not only for the Christians but for all who live in the region", he concluded. "Their presence alone is an eloquent expression of the Gospel of peace, the determination of the Good Shepherd to care for all the sheep, the Church's unyielding commitment to dialogue, reconciliation and loving acceptance of the other. By embracing the Cross that is held out to them, the priests and religious of the Middle East can truly radiate the hope that lies at the heart of the mystery we are celebrating in our liturgy today".
Following the Mass, the Pope went to the apostolic nunciature, where he dined and spent the night.
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SPIRITUAL SUPPORT AND SOLIDARITY TO MIDDLE EAST CHRISTIANS
The ceremony was attended by patriarchs and bishops of the various ecclesial communities of the Middle East and by a large number of Cypriot faithful. At the beginning of the ceremony Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cyprus of the Maronites addressed some brief words of greeting to the Holy Father.
In his homily, Benedict recalled the fact that today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, explaining how "the name given to this feast in the West, is used in the Church's tradition to designate three distinct realities: the physical body of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, His Eucharistic body, the bread of heaven which nourishes us in this great Sacrament, and His ecclesial body, the Church. By reflecting on these different aspects of the Corpus Christi, we come to a deeper understanding of the mystery of communion which binds together those who belong to the Church".
"Each of us who belongs to the Church needs to abandon the closed world of our own individuality and accept the company of those who share the bread with us. ... This is why we daily pray to 'our' Father for 'our' daily bread. Breaking down the barriers between us and our neighbours is the first condition for us to enter into the divine life to which we are called. We need to be freed from everything that blocks and isolates us: fear and mistrust of one another, greed and selfishness, unwillingness to accept the risk of vulnerability to which we are exposed when we open ourselves to love".
The Pope highlighted how "in the first Christian community, nourished at the Lord's table, we see the effects of the Holy Spirit's unifying action. They shared their goods in common, all material attachment being overcome by love for the brethren. ... Yet their love was by no means limited to their fellow believers. They never saw themselves as exclusive, privileged beneficiaries of divine favour, but rather as messengers, sent to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the ends of the earth. And so it was that the message entrusted to the Apostles by the Risen Lord was spread throughout the Middle East, and outwards from there across the whole of the world".
"We are called to overcome our differences, to bring peace and reconciliation where there is conflict, to offer the world a message of hope. We are called to reach out to those in need, generously sharing our earthly goods with those less fortunate than ourselves. And we are called to proclaim unceasingly the death and resurrection of the Lord, until He comes".
At the end of the Mass Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops thanked the Pope for having called the Special Assembly for the Middle East, which is due to be celebrated in the Vatican in October, and invited him to consign a copy of the "Instrumentum laboris", or working document, to the members of the Special Council for the Synod.
Before praying the Angelus, Benedict XVI highlighted how "the Middle East has a special place in the hearts of all Christians, since it was there that God first made Himself known to our fathers in faith".
"It is well known", he said, "that some of you suffer great trails due to the current situation in the region. The Special Assembly will be an opportunity for Christians of the rest of the world to offer spiritual support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters in the Middle East".
"You", the Pope told local Christians, "wish to live in peace and harmony with your Jewish and Muslim neighbours. Often you work alongside builders of peace in the difficult process of reconciliation, and you deserve recognition for the priceless role you play. It is my hope that your rights will always be respected, including the right to freedom of worship, and that your never suffer discrimination of any kind".
"I pray that the work of the Special Assembly will help to focus the attention of the international community on the plight of those Christians in the Middle East who suffer for their beliefs, so that just and lasting solutions may be found to the conflicts that cause so much hardship. On this grave matter, I reiterate my personal appeal for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed.
"With these thoughts", he added in conclusion, "I now present to you the text of the 'Instrumentum laboris' of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops".
After having prayed the Angelus the Pope mentioned a beatification ceremony being held today in Warsaw, Poland. "I send cordial greetings to the Church in Poland which today rejoices at the elevation to the altars of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko", he said. "His zealous service and his martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil. May his example and his intercession nourish the zeal of priests and enkindle the faithful with love".
After the Eucharistic celebration, the Holy Father travelled back to the apostolic nunciature in Nicosia where he had lunch with members of his entourage, patriarchs and bishops of the Special Council of the Synod for the Middle East, and His Beatitude Chrysostomos II.
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SUMMARY OF THE INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS
In the preface Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, underlines how many people consider that "the present-day situation in the Middle East is much like that of the primitive Christian community in the Holy Land", which had to face difficulties and persecution.
The introduction underlines the principal aims of the Synod: firstly "to confirm and strengthen the members of the Catholic Church in their Christian identity, through the Word of God and the Sacraments"; and secondly "to foster ecclesial communion among the 'sui iuris' Churches, so that they can bear witness to Christian life in an authentic, joyous and attractive way".
The first chapter focuses on the Catholic Church in the Middle East, recalling that all the Churches in the world "trace their roots to the Church of Jerusalem". ... It also recalls that the Churches of the Middle East are apostolic in origin and that it "would indeed be a great loss for the universal Church if Christianity were to disappear or be diminished in the very place where it was born". Here lies the "grave responsibility ... to maintain the Christian faith in these holy lands". ... Christians, then, despite their "low numbers", "are entitled to be a part of the fabric of society and identify themselves with their respective homelands. Their disappearance would mean a loss in the pluralism of the Middle East". Catholics are called to promote the concept of "positive secularism" of the State to "eliminate the theocratic character of government" and allow "greater equality among citizens of different religions, thereby fostering the promotion of a sound democracy, positively secular in nature, which fully acknowledges the role of religion, also in public life, while completely respecting the distinction between the religious and civil orders". ... The document then underlines the fact that regional conflicts make the situation of Christians even more fragile. "The Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories is creating difficulties in everyday life, inhibiting freedom of movement, the economy and religious life (access to the Holy Places is dependent on military permission which is granted to some and denied to others on security grounds). ... Christians are the main victims of the war in Iraq. ... In Lebanon, Christians are deeply divided at the political and confessional level". "In Egypt, the rise of political Islam, on the one hand, and the disengagement of Christians (forcefully at times) from civil society on the other, lead to severe difficulties". "In other countries, authoritarianism or dictatorships force the population, Christians included, to bear everything in silence so as to safeguard the essential aspects of living. In Turkey, the idea of 'secularism' is currently posing more problems for full religious freedom in the country". Christians are exhorted to remain strong in their commitment in society, despite being tempted to discouragement. "In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, that is, the freedom to believe or not believe, to practice openly one's religion, privately or publicly, or to change one's religion for another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, not an individual one. To change one's religion is perceived as a betrayal of the society, culture and nation, which are founded, for the most part, on a religious tradition". For this reason "conversion to Christianity is perceived to be from self-interest and not authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Muslims is forbidden by State law". ... In the meantime, Islamic extremism continues to grow in the entire area creating "a threat to everyone, Christians and Muslims alike". In this context of conflict, economic difficulties and political and religious limitations, Christians continue to emigrate. "International policies often pay no attention to the existence of Christians, and the fact that they are victims, at times the first to suffer, goes unnoticed. This is also a major cause of emigration".
Chapter two is dedicated to ecclesial communion. ... "Communion within the universal Church - the document says - is principally manifested in two ways: in the first place, through Baptism and the Eucharist, and, secondly, through communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter, chief among the Apostles, 'permanent and visible source and foundation of the unity of faith and communion'". ... "Communion among the various members of the same Church or Patriarchate is based on the model of communion with the universal Church and the Successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome. At the level of the Patriarchal Church, communion is expressed by a Synod which gathers the bishops of an entire community around the Patriarch, the Father and Head of his Church. ... Christians are called to see themselves "as members of the Catholic Church in the Middle East and not simply as members of a particular Church".
Chapter three deals with the theme of Christian witness, reiterating "the importance of catechesis in knowing and transmitting the faith", ... the urgent need for ecumenism, overcoming prejudices and mistrust through dialogue and collaboration. ... It rejects "a proselytism which employs means not in keeping with the Gospel". Mention is also made of relations with Judaism, "whose theological basis is to be found in Vatican Council II". Dialogue with the Jews is defined as essential, though "at times not without its obstacles" being affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Church hopes that "both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognised borders". The document firmly rejects anti-Semitism, underlining that "current animosity between Arabs and Jews seems to be political in character" and therefore foreign to any ecclesial discussion. Christians are asked "to bring a spirit of reconciliation, based on justice and equality of the two parties. The Churches in the Middle East also call upon all involved to take into account the distinction between religion and politics". The Catholic Church's relations with Muslims also have their foundation in Vatican Council II. ... "Often relations between Christians and Muslims are difficult, because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics - the document states - thereby relegating Christians to the precarious position of being considered non-citizens, despite the fact that they were citizens of their countries long before the rise of Islam. The key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognise religious freedom and human rights". Christians are called upon not to isolate "themselves in ghettos and a defensive and reclusive attitude which is sometimes seen in minority groups". ... In the conflict facing Middle Eastern countries, Christians are called upon to promote "the word of truth": This is "realistic. Although efforts on behalf of peace can be rebuffed, they also have the possibility of being accepted, considering that the path to violence, taken by both the strong and the weak, has led the Middle East to nothing but failure and a general stalemate". This situation is exploited by "the most radical elements in global terrorism". The contribution by Christians, "though requiring great courage, is nonetheless indispensable" even if "too often" Middle Eastern countries "identify Christianity with the West", bringing great harm to the Christian Churches. The document also analyses the strong impact of "modernity", which "to most Muslim believers is perceived to be atheistic and immoral and a cultural invasion, threatening them and upsetting their value-system". "At the same time, 'modernity' is the struggle for justice and equality, the defence of rights". ... "Christians have a special contribution to make in the area of justice and peace"; they have the duty to "courageously denounce violence no matter what its origin, and suggest solutions which can only be attained through dialogue", reconciliation and forgiveness. However Christians must "utilise peaceful means to insist that the rights of Christians be acknowledged by civil authorities". The document then examines the topic of evangelisation in a Muslim society which can only happen through witness: however, this must be "ensured through timely, external intervention". The charitable activities of Christian communities "towards all without distinction, to the poorest and those pushed to the periphery of society, represents the clearest way of spreading the Christian message".
In its conclusion, the document points out the "great concern for the present difficulties Christians are facing, yet, at the same time express a hope, founded on the Christian faith". ... For decades, the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, disregard for international law, the selfishness of great powers and the lack of respect for human rights have disrupted the stability of the region and subjected entire populations to a level of violence which tempts them to despair. Many - Christians for the most part - are emigrating elsewhere. In the face of this challenge and sustained by the universal Christian community, Christians in the Middle East are called to respond to their vocation of service to society". Believers are called upon to be "witnesses ... aware that faithfully witnessing to Christ can lead to persecution". The Instrumentum Laboris concludes: "'Do not be afraid, little flock'. You have a mission; the growth of your country and the vitality of your Church depend on you. This will only be achieved with peace, justice and equality for all citizens!"
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POLAND: OVER 150, 000 GATHER FOR BEATIFICATION OF FR. POPIELUSZKO
Independant Catholic News report: More than 150,000 people gathered in Warsaw this morning, for the beatification of Fr Jerzy Popieluszko, a Catholic priest and campaigner for human rights who was murdered in October 1984, by the communist secret police.
Fr Popieluszko was a quiet priest who suffered poor health and was not particularly well known as a preacher, until he was appointed to the church of St Stanislaw Kostka in the Warsaw suburb of Zoliborz, as chaplain to the Solidarity trade union. In his sermons he encouraged the workers to pray and fight for their rights by peaceful means. His Masses for the Homeland, with references to freedom and Catholic social teachings, drew huge crowds during the communist crackdown on the opposition in the early 1980s. Besides ministering the sacraments Fr Jerzy worked around the clock helping to organise food, clothing and medical aid for his parishioners.
He survived the first assassination attempt - a car accident - but two weeks later, on 19 October, after he had celebrated Mass in Bydgoszcz, central Poland, three secret policemen kidnapped him. He was beaten, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sack weighed down with stones and thrown into the Vistula River. He was just 37.
His driver managed to escape, and alerted the world to what had happened. Fr Jerzy's murder sparked national outrage and drew hundreds of thousands of people to his funeral, in what was widely seen as a massive show of opposition to the communist regime. The authorities conducted a quick trial and convicted four Security Service officers. All of them have since been released from prison. No high-ranking official has ever been found guilty of involvement.
A pamphlet: Jerzy Popieluszko is available from CTS at: www.cts-online.org.uk/acatalog/info_B654.html
MADAGASCAR: BISHOP CALLS FOR SOLUTION TO POLITICAL CRISIS
All Africa report: Malagasy must find a solution to the political crisis that has for over a year and a half afflicted that country, the bishops of Madagascar have said.
In a pastoral letter published at the end of their Plenary Meeting, the bishops urged the Malagasy towards conversion, commitment, and a return to "Fihavanana," a value of Malagasy culture that focuses on the relationship between individuals for the common good.
They also stated, "Insecurity reigns everywhere, families are divided, unemployment rises, political differences cause disorder, drugs of all kinds are spread everywhere."
The bishops also complained that "some media deviate from their calling to inform, stoking passions that could trigger a civil war. The army, the last bastion of the nation, has been strained in recent times."
The Conference of Bishops criticized the political divisions that prevent a solution to the crisis: "dialogue is blocked because nobody wants to listen to the other out of mutual suspicion and hatred. As a result, no one seeks the common good and patriotism loses its vigor."
The churches, which hold an important place in Madagascar, "have lost their prophetic dimension; their role of communion and mission of leading are no longer visible." The bishops said.
They are "concerned about possible manipulation of the Christian faith, which is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church."
The bishops also remind the Malagasy people to become personally involved in resolving the crisis adding, "International mediation is needed, but we can all see that it has strong limitations, because we Malagasy are causing the problem and only we can find the real solution."
Reiterating that "the Catholic Church has no political plans to propose," The bishops concluded by calling for "transparent elections.
Since March 2009, following the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana, Madagascar has been experiencing a severe political and institutional crisis, as local parties cannot agree on holding free and transparent elections.
CHINA: HONG-KONG: 150, 000 GATHER IN REMEMBRANCE OF TIANANMEN
Asia News report: More than 700 young Catholics took part in the prayer that preceded the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. For them, remembrance and faith are important values. Faith helps understand the importance of life and human dignity.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Catholic youths were among the 150,000 people who gathered at the Victoria Park candlelight vigil on 4 June to commemorate the 21st anniversary of 1989 massacre and demand justice for the pro-democracy movement and the release of Liu Xiaobo and other human rights activists in China.
Carrying statues of the Goddess of Democracy, the rally backed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organised the event. The statues were returned by police after people protested against their seizure a few days ago.
Before the rally, 700 Catholics gathered at the park to pray, whose theme was, “Blessed are those who are persecuted.” (Matthew, 5:10)
Three Catholic youths, in their 20s, told AsiaNews that faith gives them hope so that they can demand the truth of what happened on 4 June. They remember Beijing students’ sufferings, not out of hatred and revenge, but in order to bear witness to the sacrifices they made—as Jesus did on the Cross—for freedom, democracy and human dignity.
Michelle Siu, a young teacher and a member of the Justice and Peace Commission, said she had paid tribute in 2004 to graves of three youths, who were killed on 3 and 4 June, 1989. All three are buried in Babao Shan cemetery, in suburban Beijing. They were 36-year-old civil servant Yin Jing, 20 –year-old student Wu Xiangdong, and Sun Tie, 26, a bank employee.
“When I was a child, my parents took me to the marches on June 4. I still recall slogans shouting ‘Blood for blood’. I got inspired by my secondary teachers who explained to us the June 4 incident, and now I am sharing it with my students.”
“Today, we are not demanding a reprisal, but a vindication of the movement and its truth,” she noted.
Jacky Liu, 21, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, said that starting in mid-May, Catholic students in various colleges and universities have organised prayer meetings and sharing for students to reflect on 4 June incident.
Born in July 1989, a month after the massacre, Liu said he got involved in 4 June commemorative events after he entered university.
“Life is given by God. The lives of all students and supporters in the 1989 event were precious and should not have been denied,” he said.
The Beijing students have inspired him. They wanted to change society and rid it of injustice and corruption. “Youths have a responsibility to carry on telling the truth and build a better society,” he noted.
Bosco Wong, 25, began to be concerned about the democracy movement in China after joining Catholic activities in university in 2005. He remembered one activity challenged him to think hard on “what if there is no freedom” and that motivated him to find out more about the pro-democratic movement in China.
“The 1989 students in Tiananmen Square wanted the universal values of freedom and democracy, just like our Christian values. But more, in faith, we understand how precious life and human dignity are, and why there is no reason for killings and suppressions.”
“The June 4 incident is not over. As long as it is not vindicated, we will continue and spread the message to younger generations,” he noted.
JESUIT ORDER PRODUCES ALTAR WINES
Cath News report: The Jesuit order's Sevenhill Cellars' approach of selling wine directly to Church-goers is a novel approach in the wine industry, reports ABC.
Brother John May, who is now 80, was the winemaker at Sevenhill for more than half his life.
"When I first came here, if we saw a visitor a week we'd knock off and have a yarn," he said.
"Now we see around 30,000-40,000 people per annum."
When Brother John stood down as chief winemaker in 2003, he was the last of the Jesuit winemakers at Sevenhill and was replaced by a young, non-Catholic woman, Liz Heidenreich, who brought her European experience to Australian winemaking.
While originally established as a supplier of religious wines, a big part of Sevenhill's output is now marketed to the wider population.
But general manager Neville Rowe, who is also a non-Jesuit, says altar wine remains a priority.
"Altar wine is the most important part of what we do at Sevenhill. It's about a third of our production," he said.
Demand has dictated that Sevenhill make three types of altar wine, with the traditional sweet red by far the most popular.
The wine is sold to many denominations of the Christian church in Australia, as well as overseas.
Feast: June 6
Information: Feast Day: June 6
Died: 6 June 1134 at Magdeburg, Germany
Canonized: 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII
Patron of: invoked during childbirth for safe delivery; Magdeburg, peace
St. Norbert was born at Santen, in the duchy of Cleves, in 1080. His father, Heribert, count of Gennep, was related to the emperor, and his mother derived her pedigree from the house of Lorraine. The rank which his birth gave him was rendered more illustrious by the excellent qualifications of his mind and body. His application to his studies was equal to the quickness of his parts, and he went through his academical exercises with extraordinary applause. But being at first blinded by the flattery of the world, he suffered himself to be carried away by its pleasures and pastimes, and had no higher thoughts than how he might live in honor and at his ease. He even received the ecclesiastical tonsure with a worldly spirit; and though he was instituted to a canonry at Santen and ordained sub-deacon, he neither changed his spirit nor his conduct. Being naturally inclined to mirth and gayety, he was the soul of all parties of pleasure, and by living in a circle of diversions, he drowned his soul in a round of vanities and trifling amusements, and was a stranger to serious reflection on himself, which would have opened his eyes. He would not be prevailed on to receive any higher orders for fear of a greater restraint on his conduct; and he led the same manner of life in the court of his cousin, the emperor Henry IV., who appointed him his almoner. God beheld with compassion the heart of this young nobleman enslaved to the world, in which he in vain sought that contentment and quiet of mind which no earthly advantages can afford, and which it is in the power of virtue alone to give. But to break his secret chains an extraordinary grace was necessary; and God awakened him from his spiritual lethargy by an alarming accident. Norbert was riding to a village in Westphalia, called Freten, in pursuit of his pleasures, mounted on a horse richly caparisoned, and attended by only one servant, when, in the midst of a pleasant meadow, he was overtaken by a violent storm, accompanied with dreadful thunder and lightning. Finding himself at a great distance from any shelter, he was overwhelmed with perplexity and fear, and while he was going on briskly, having set spurs to his horse, a ball of fire, or lightning, with a loud clap of thunder, fell just before his horse's feet, burned the grass, and cleft the earth. The poor beast, thus affrighted, threw his rider who lay like one dead for near an hour. At last coming to himself, like another Saul, he cried out to God, in the bitter compunction of his heart, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" To which the divine grace interiorly suggested this reply, "Turn away from evil, and do good: seek after peace, and pursue it." Being thus humbled in the full career of his passions, he became upon the spot a sincere penitent. Returning no more to the court, he withdrew to his canonry at Santen, there led a life of silence and retirement, wore a hair shirt next his skin, and spent his time in tears, holy prayer, and meditation. Now taking a serious review of himself and the world, he detested his past ingratitude to God, and his folly in serving a deceitful world which mingles in all its delights much gall and bitterness, far outweighing the false and momentary pleasure. The remembrance of the divine mercy which had spared him, while many others had been cut off in their sins, and in a moment been buried in hell, pierced his heart to the quick, and drew daily from his eyes streams of tears, by which he endeavored to wash away the stains of his soul. The fire of divine love thus kindled in his heart, gained strength every day by his fidelity, and by fresh supplies of grace. But his conversion was completed by a retreat which he made in St. Sigebert's monastery near Cologne, and by the pious exhortations of Conon, the holy abbot of that house, who was made soon after bishop of Ratisbon. Norbert was at this time in the thirtieth year of his age.
After his conversion, he employed two years in preparing himself for the priesthood, which he received from the hands of the archbishop of Cologne, together with the order of deacon, his fervor seeming a sufficient cause for such a dispensation. At the time of his ordination, he appeared in a lambskin cassock tied with a cord, and thus published to the world, that from that moment he renounced all its vanities. After his ordination, he returned to Conon, and made, under his direction, a severe retreat of forty days to dispose himself by tears, prayer, and fasting to say his first mass, which he came back to Santen to celebrate with his chapter. After the gospel was sung at high mass, he mounted the pulpit, and made a most pathetic sermon on the vanity of the world, the shortness of human life, and the insufficiency of all created beings to satisfy the heart of man; and he indirectly inveighed against the disorders of his colleagues. In a chapter which was held the next day, he pointed them out more distinctly, and pressed a reformation so vigorously, that several of them became perfect converts, and loudly condemned their past irregularities. But others, who could not bear that their sores should be touched to the quick, burst out into intemperate rage against him, and not content with ill-usage, they accused him to the pope's legate as an innovator, a hypocrite, and one who covered pernicious designs under the specious presence of zeal for a reformation of manners. The saint, having before his eyes the sins of his past life, confessed that he deserved all manner of contempt and ill treatment, and rejoiced under injuries and afflictions Nevertheless, reflecting on what he owed to God's honor, he purged himself before the legate, in a council held at Fritzlar, in 1118. Soon after, inflamed with an ardent zeal to live to God alone, he resigned all his ecclesiastical preferments into the hands of the archbishop of Cologne, and sold his own estate, giving the money to the poor, reserving only to himself ten marks of silver, a mule, and sacred vestments and ornaments for the altar. Thus divested of all that could engage his stay in his own country, he travelled barefoot to St. Giles's in Languedoc, where pope Gelasius II. was at that time. He threw himself at his holiness's feet, and with extraordinary compunction, made to him a general confession of his whole life, begging absolution of all his past disorders, especially of the irregularity committed in his receiving the holy orders of deacon and priest at the same time, with out observing the interstices prescribed by the canons, though it had been done by the dispensation of his diocesan; and cheerfully offered himself to make any satisfaction. He obtained of the pope faculties to preach the gospel where he judged proper. It was then the depth of winter. Yet he walked barefoot through the snow, and, inflamed with an ardent love of God, and desire of promoting his glory, seemed insensible to the rigors of the season. His whole life was a perpetual lent, and he never took his meal till evening, except on Sundays. He preached penance with incredible fruit over the provinces of Languedoc, Guienne, Poitou, and Orleanois. Till he came to Orleans, he had been accompanied only by two laymen; but, passing through that city, was joined by a subdeacon, who desired to assist him in his mission. His three disciples all fell sick, and died at Valenciennes, in Hainault, in 1119. In that city Burchard, bishop of Cambray, who had been acquainted with the saint in the emperor's court, meeting him, was extremely edified with his humility, penance, and zeal; and Hugh, his chaplain, quitting his hopes and prospects in the world, resolved to accompany Norbert in his apostolical labors: this great man afterwards succeeded him in the government of his order. With this companion, the saint preached penance through all Hainault, Brabant, and the territory of Liege. The people crowded to hear him wherever he came, and his sermons, enforced and illustrated by an evangelical life, procured the conversion of great numbers, reconciled those that were at variance, and engaged usurers and others to make restitution of their ill-gotten goods.
Pope Calixtus II. having succeeded Gelasius II. in 1119, Norbert went to Rheims, where his Holiness held a council soon after his exaltation. The prelates of that assembly were no less charmed with the eloquence, wisdom, and piety of this great servant of God, than amazed at the austerity of his penance, which some advised him in vain to moderate. He was introduced to the pope, who was one of the greatest men that had filled the apostolic chair, by Bartholomew bishop of Laon, and obtained a fresh grant of the privileges and faculties he had received from his predecessor. That prelate earnestly requested that his Holiness would allow him to fix the holy man in his diocese, that he might employ him in reforming the regular canons of St. Martin's church at Laon. The pope readily consented, but these canons could not be induced to submit to his severe regulations. Wherefore the zealous bishop gave the holy man the choice of several places to build a house. The saint pitched upon a lonesome valley called Premontre, in the forest of Coucy, where he found the remains of a small chapel, which bore the name of St. John, but stood in so barren a soil that the monks of St. Vincent at Laon, the proprietors of it, had abandoned it. The bishop bought of them this desert piece of land, and there built a monastery for the saint, who assembled out of Brabant thirteen brethren, desirous to serve God under his direction. Their number soon increased to forty, who made their profession on Christmas-day, 1121. The saint gave them the rule of St. Austin, with a white habit, destining them, in imitation of the angels in heaven, to sing the divine praises on earth. Their manner of living was very austere; but their order is no other than a reformation of regular canons. It was soon spread over several parts of Europe. Among the foundations made by our saint, that of St. Michael's at Antwerp was attended with circumstances which were illustrious proofs of his zeal. That town was then in the diocese of Cambray, and consisted at that time but of one parish, which fell into the hands of an unworthy pastor, by whose sloth and irregular conduct the flock was sunk into great disorders. Tankelin, a bold and eloquent heretic, took his advantage of this unhappy state of the church at Antwerp, and openly asserted that the institution of the priesthood is a fiction, and that the eucharist and other sacraments are of no service to salvation. He drew after him three thousand persons, who believed him a great prophet, and were ready to commit any outrages to support his impious extravagances. After he had spread his errors in the dioceses of Utrecht, Cambray, and the adjacent churches, luring the people with magnificent banquets, and practising the most filthy abominations of the Gnostics, he was slain in 1115, in those tumults which himself had raised, meeting with the usual fate of the authors of seditions and disturbers of the public peace.
The combustion, however, continued still to rage with no less fury than ever, and to fill the whole country with desolation. The reputation of the sanctity and erudition of Norbert attracted the eyes of all Europe; and the canons of Antwerp, in this distress of their church, being joined by Burchard their bishop, who resided at Cambray, implored his charitable assistance. The saint lost no time, and arrived at Antwerp with a select number of his canons who labored under his direction. Such was the success of this mission, that in a short time the people were undeceived, the heretics converted, abuses reformed, and the city restored to its former tranquillity and lustre. The clergy of Antwerp settled St. Michael's church on the saint and his order; and removed the ancient college of secular canons to our Lady's, which in 1559 was erected by pope Paul IV. into a cathedral, when Antwerp was made a bishop's see. The bishop of Cambray confirmed the donation of St. Michael's to the saint in 1124. St. Norbert revived the devotion of the people to the holy sacrament of the altar, and its frequent use, which heresy had interrupted, and had the comfort to see this church flourish in piety before he returned to his first settlement. His order was then much increased, and contained ten abbeys and eight hundred religious men. Among others who embraced his rule, count Godfrey, a nobleman of high renown in the empire, put on the habit at Floreff near Namur, and led an exemplary life in that convent, serving God in the humble quality of a lay-brother. Several other persons of distinction fled from the corruption of the world to the sanctuaries established by this great director in the paths of salvation. His institute had been approved by the legates of Calixtus II., but a more solemn confirmation being judged necessary, St. Norbert undertook a journey to Rome in 1125. Pope Honorius II., who had succeeded Calixtus II. in the close of the foregoing year, and was a great encourager of learning and of good men, received him with all possible marks of respect and affection, and granted all he desired, as appears by his bull, dated in the February following. The saint at his return to Premontre, put the abbey of St. Martin's at Laon under his rule, which the canons then demanded, though they had rejected it six or seven years before. The abbey of Viviers in the diocese of Soissons made the same step. Theobald, a prime nobleman of France, desired to embrace his order; but the saint diverted him from that design, showing him that God, by the situation in which he had placed him in the world, pointed out what he required at his hands; he made him sensible that his obligations to his family and bleeding country were ties in conscience, and that by faithfully acquitting himself of them, he would most effectually labor to advance the honor, and accomplish the will of God.
Norbert having completed the great work of the establishment of his order, was obliged to quit his monastery, to be placed in a more exalted station for the benefit of many. The count of Champagne, who did nothing of importance without the advice and direction of our saint, took him into Germany, whither he was going to conclude a treaty of marriage between himself and Maud, a niece to the bishop of Ratisbon. After the death of the unhappy emperor Henry V., Lothaire II., duke of Saxony, was chosen king of the Romans in 1125, though he was only crowned emperor at Rome in 1132, by pope Innocent II. This excellent prince, whose reign was equally glorious and religious, was holding a diet at Spire when the count and St. Norbert arrived at that city. Deputies from the city of Magdeburg were come to the same place to solicit Lothaire for an archbishop in the room of Roger, who died the year before. Two persons were proposed for that dignity; but Lothaire preferred Norbert to them both. At his name the deputies rejoiced exceedingly; and, indeed, the saint was the only person not pleased with the nomination. The pope's legate, cardinal Gerard, who afterwards sat in St. Peter's chair under the name of Lucius II., made use of his authority to oblige him to comply. The deputies of Magdeburg took him with them to that city, where he was met at a distance by the principal persons, and by his clergy. He followed the procession barefoot, and was conducted to the church, and thence to his palace. But his dress was so mean and poor, that the porter shut the door against him, saying: "Why will you go in to disturb my lords?" Those that followed cried out: "He is our bishop." The saint said to the porter: "Brother, you know me better than they do who have raised such a one to this dignity." In this high station the austerity of his life was the same he had practiced in a cloister, only his humility was snore conspicuous. By the joint weight of his authority, eloquence, and example, he made a great reformation both; in the clergy and laity of his diocese; and by his strenuous and undaunted resolution, he recovered a considerable part of the lands of his church which had fallen into the hands of certain powerful secular princes. But his zeal made those his enemies whom his charity could not gain to their duty They loaded him with injuries, decried him among themselves, and encouraged one another in their disobedience and contempt of his person, calling him a stranger, whose manners were opposite to theirs. To such an excess did their rage carry them, that some even made attempts upon his life. One who saw himself obliged by the saint to renounce his licentious manner of life, hired a villain to assassinate him under presence of going to confession on Maundy-Thursday. The saint was apprized of his design, as some authors affirm, by revelation, and he caused him to be searched as he came in, and a dagger was found upon him. Another shot an arrow at the saint, which only missed him to wound another that was near him. Of these villanies Norbert only said, without the least emotion: "Can you be surprised that the devil, after having offered violence to our divine Head, should assault his members?" He always pardoned the assassins, and showed himself ever ready to lay down his life in the defence of truth and justice. By this patience and unshaken courage, ha in three years broke through the chief difficulties which obstructed the reformation of manners he labored to introduce, and from that time he carried on the work, and performed the visitation of his diocese with ease and incredible success. He continued still to superintend the observance of discipline in his order, though upon his episcopal consecration he had left the government thereof to his first disciple Hugh. The fourth general chapter consisted of eighteen abbots.
After the death of pope Honorius II. an unhappy schism divided the church. Innocent II. was duly chosen on the 14th of February, 1130: notwithstanding which, Peter, the son of Leo, under the name of Anacletus II., was acknowledged at Rome, and by Roger duke of Sicily. The true pope was obliged to fly into France, where he held councils at Clermont, Rheims, and Puy in Velay. St. Bernard and St. Norbert labored vigorously to prevent or remedy the disorders which the schism brought into many places. St. Norbert assisted for this purpose at the council which the pope assembled at Rheims in 1131. Upon his return home, the emperor Lothaire, who resolved to march with an army to Rome to put Innocent II. in possession of the Lateran church in 1132, carried our holy bishop with him in that expedition, trusting that his piety, prayers, and zealous exhortations, would contribute very much to the success of his undertaking; and the event answered his expectations. The saint returned to Magdeburg, where he fell, ill, and after four months' tedious sickness, died the death of the just on the 6th of June, in the eighth year of his episcopal dignity, the fifty-third of his age, of our redemption 1134. He was canonized by Gregory XIII. in 1582. Pope Urban VIII. appointed his festival to be kept on the 10th of June. His body remained at Magdeburg till that city embraced the Lutheran doctrine and revolted. The emperor Charles V. laid siege to it; but was prevailed upon to withdraw his army for a great sum of money. In the reign of Ferdinand II. the Lutheran magistrates, at the request of the Norbertine order, and of many princes, consented that the body of St. Norbert should be removed out of their city. The emperor ordered that it should be translated to Prague; which was done with great pomp in 1627. The sacred treasure was carried into that city by fourteen abbots with their mitres on, and laid in the church called of Mount Sion, all the orders of the city attending the ceremony in the most solemn and magnificent procession.
St. Norbert is usually painted holding a ciborium in his hand. He is distinguished by this symbol on account of his extraordinary devotion to the blessed sacrament. He inculcated in all his sermons the frequent use of this divine food, being sensible from daily experience, and from the words of truth itself, that a neglect, and much more a distaste or loathing of the holy communion, is a deplorable symptom of a most dangerous state in a spiritual life. A short interval in order to a better preparation is often a wholesome counsel, and sometimes a necessary duty. But "he who seldom approaches, because he is tepid and cold, is like one who should say I never approach the fire, because I am cold: I have not recourse to the physician, because I am sick," as the devout Gerson writes. This divine sacrament is the most powerful strengthener of our weakness, the sovereign remedy of our spiritual miseries, and the source of heavenly comfort to alleviate the labors and sorrows of our mortal pilgrimage. The deeper sense we have of our spiritual indigence, with so much the greater eagerness ought we continually to cry out: If I shall but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be saved. Can we slight the most tender invitations of our divine Redeemer? Can we disobey his repeated commands, and contemn his threats? Above all, can we be insensible to that excess of infinite love by which he has wrought so many wonders, that he might here abide in us by the strongest alliance? That person cannot love Jesus who is not solicitous to unite himself often with him in this sacrament of love. The devil employs all his artifices to deprive us of this seed of immortality, as the fathers style it. Holofernes, when he besieged Bethulia, seeing the place impregnable, attempted to take it by stopping the pipes which conveyed water to the city, being sure by this stratagem to reduce it. In like manner the devil seeks to draw a soul from this banquet, that when she has lost her strength he may make her an easy prey. St. Ambrose applies to this spiritual food that passage of the psalmist: They that go far from thee, shall perish.
TODAY´S MASS READINGS
SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST'
18 And Mel-chiz'edek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.
19 And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
Psalms 110: 1 - 4
1 The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool."
2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes!
3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host upon the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning like dew your youth will come to you.
4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchiz'edek."
1 Corinthians 11: 23 - 26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Luke 9: 11 - 17
11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him; and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.
12 Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, "Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place."
13 But he said to them, "You give them something to eat." They said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish -- unless we are to go and buy food for all these people."
14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, "Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each."
15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.
16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.
17 And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces.