Sunday, December 12, 2010


CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: SUN. DEC. 12, 2010: Headlines-









Pope: Advent a time of patience and perseverance
Pope Benedict on Sunday arrived back at the Vatican for the recitation of the Angelus having earlier made a pre-Christmas pastoral visit to the Roman parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe. For many children the third Sunday of Advent is a very special day to be in St Peter’s Square as it is the time when the Holy Father blesses the "Baby Jesus" they will put in the nativity scenes in their homes.
On this rather chilly Sunday an estimated 25 thousand people packed into the square which included around 2 thousand children. Greeting them in particular after the Marian prayer the Pope said, "When you place your baby Jesus in a cave or stable, say a prayer for the Pope and his intentions."
Before reciting the Angelus prayer Pope Benedict spoke to those present describing Advent as a time that encourages greater use of "that inner toughness, that strength of soul that allow us not to despair, in our waiting for a good that is slow to come, but await it, he said, indeed, prepare for it with confidence".
“May these days of preparation for Christmas be for all of us a time of attentiveness to God’s word, genuine conversion and interior renewal.”
The Pope also drew inspiration from a passage in the Letter of St. James, which says “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord."
Referring to this text he underlined the importance of perseverance and patience, virtues he said, that belonged to the regular abilities of our ancestors, but are now less popular in a world that instead exalts change and the ability to adapt to new and different situations.”
The Pope then called on people to open their hearts, which, he said, can become fragile by events in daily life, to the Word of God which does not pass and anchors us so as not to go adrift.


CATHOLIC ONLINE REPORT: Many American cities join in the festivities

Pilgrims arrive by the thousands, many of them by bicycle and make their way to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City on the eve of the feast. Among them, dancers, musicians, singers and other performers come to offer their performances in honor of La Virgen Morena (the dark Virgin).

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - One of Mexico's most beloved celebrations, the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, is finding its way to churches and communities across United States.

As the patron of Mexico, the faithful from all over the nation begin to arrive on the day before the celebration at the Basilica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, home of the miraculous image of La Virgin Morena (the dark Virgin).

Pilgrims arrive by the thousands, many of them by bicycle and make their way into the atrium of the Basilica. Among them, dancers, musicians, singers and other performers come to offer their performances in honor of La Morenita.

At night a Mass is offered in the Basilica and the festivities continue through the night until the next day including lots of fireworks. Fiestas like this are actually held in places all over the country in honor of their Patroness - Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Parades and fiestas are also taking place in U.S. cities. Rocco Palma, on his blogsite Whispers in the Loggia, has placed video reports from such diverse locations as New York; Bridgeport, CT; Atlanta, San Francisco; Sacramento and Philadelphia.

The appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego changed the history of Mexico and has made a long-term impact throughout the Americas.

On December 9, 1531, Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, was walking to Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when a woman appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill.

She identified herself as the "ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God," speaking in the Aztec dialect.

"I am your compassionate Mother," she went on to say, "yours and that of all the people that live together in this land and also of all the other various lineages of men."

He was told to pass on a request to his local bishop that a house dedicated to her Son be constructed on the site of a former pagan temple. This house would be used to exalt him to the people of Mexico and allow him to be exalted throughout the world.

"I want very much that they build my sacred little house here" - a house dedicated to her son Jesus Christ, on the site of a former pagan temple, that would "show Him" to all Mexicans and "exalt Him" throughout the world.

The new convert met with Bishop Juan de Zumárraga who received the message with skepticism and said he needed a sign, proof that this message was real.

Diego's uncle was dying and needed attention. On December 12 he was on his way to the church, this time to ask the priest to come and give his uncle last rites.

The woman again appeared to him. She assured him that his uncle would be healed and told him that she would give him a sign for the bishop. He would find roses and other flowers on Tepeyac hill even though it was winter. He brought the flowers to the Virgin Mary who told him to put them in his tilma - a winter outer garment . She told him not to unfold the tilma with the flowers until he was with the bishop.

Bishop Zumárraga was astounded as the tilma was unwrapped and the image of the Virgin Mary, just as Diego has met her on the hill, was imprinted on the tilma.
The tilma, now located at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, is one of the most visited Catholic Shrines in the world. St. Juan Diego was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.


UCAN REPORT: The Chin people of north-western Myanmar are in a “dire and desperate” situation, according to Baroness Cox, a member of the British House of Lords who recently returned from a fact-finding trip.

A delegation she led to the India-Myanmar border region was told that discrimination against Chin Christians is systematic and widespread and that the Chin people are denied health care and education and remain in acute poverty.

They are also subjected to widespread forced labor, community health workers and pastors told her team.

“This regime has made us poor,” one pastor told the delegation. “In development, culture and psychologically we are poor. But if I stand against the military they will catch my wife or son or me and so no one dares to speak out.”

There has been severe famine in Chin state since 2006 caused by an infestation of rats following the blossoming of bamboo, which happens every 20 years.

The pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Party provided rice and salt in the run-up to last month’s election in an attempt to win votes, but there are no signs that this has continued after the poll.

Instead there were complaints of intimidation, harassment and vote-rigging from the interviewees.

“The humanitarian situation in Chin State is dire and desperate and requires urgent relief,” said Baroness Cox, founder and chief executive of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which campaigns for the Chin among other causes.

“We urge the international community … to make it a priority to support health and education in Chin state and provide much-needed relief for [its] people.”

Also in the delegation was Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader of the rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

“We received overwhelming evidence that the severe human rights violations and chronic humanitarian needs continue to cause intense suffering in Chin State,” he said.


Agenzia Fides REPORT - “The tragedy in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues, while the international community assists helplessly, indifferently, passively, or even knowingly,” said the newsletter sent to Fides by the “Peace Network for the Congo”, promoted by missionaries.
“Murders, rapes, armed attacks and looting are part of a long list of crimes perpetrated against a defenceless and exhausted civilian population. They are the evil consequences of shady arms trafficking and the illegal exploitation of mineral resources,” accuse missionaries. Recently Bishop Mélchisédech Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni, together with all the local clergy complained that in North Kivu, “there is a genocide in the making” (see Fides 27/11/2010).
“We know that in the West politics is conditioned by the interests of finance and economics. For this reason, the international community, who are the beneficiaries of the mineral resources from the DRC, fear a clash with the multinationals, the real holders of power and silent in the face of the Congolese tragedy. It is true that, internationally, some initial proposals are being drafted to defeat the illegal trade of natural resources. In this sense, the U.S. Congress has passed a law to prevent imports of minerals supplied by armed groups, requiring U.S. multinationals to establish the source of the minerals in the DRC. This is a small step forward, but it is just the beginning,” says the Peace Network for the Congo.
The illegal exploitation of mineral resources also has, unfortunately, local accomplices: armed groups and Congolese military officers and politicians who easily allow themselves to be corrupted by foreign multinationals, in view of personal enrichment at the expense of the common good of the entire population.
On 26 November a round table discussion entitled “Remove the veil of silence about the Congo. The massacres in the DRC and the plundering of resources in the recent UN report” was held in Parma. This is a report of about six hundred pages, by the UN High Commission for Human Rights, officially published on 1 October 2010, entitled “Report of the Mapping Project on the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, committed between March 1993 and June 2003 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo”. The roundtable was sponsored by the Peace Network in the Congo, by the Department of Political and Social Studies and by the School of Journalism and Publishing Culture at the University of Parma. Among the speakers was Mathilde Muhindo Mwamini, former National Deputy of the Congo, committed to supporting women in Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, which led to the testimony of the extreme plight of women in eastern DRC, targets of war violence, subject to rapes and abuses of every kind, inflicted to humiliate an entire people and destroy the future.


Fr Kit Cunningham has died | Fr Kit Cunningham,St Etheldreda's, Ely Place,Rosminian

Fr Kit (2nd left) with his niece and friends at a farewell lunch in London on 28 October 2010

Fr Kit Cunningham, the much-loved former Rector of St Etheldreda's in Ely Place, London, died this afternoon at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. He was 79 and was suffering from a lung infection.

A Rosminian, Fr Kit served at St Etheldreda's for more than 32 years. He supported dozens of charities, was the founding editor of the Westminster Record which he worked on for 25 years, and for many years chaired the Catholic Writers Guild.

St Etheldreda's is London's oldest Catholic church. The building was bought in the 19th century by the Rosminians who came to London from Italy set up mission for poor Irish and Italian immigrants. It suffered damaged during the Blitz. Fr Kit completed a major restoration programme there.

During his time at St Ethledreda's he presided over 796 weddings and 815 baptisms. One of of the last couples he married was Gill Hicks and Joe Kerr. Gill was the last person to be brought out alive from Russell Square tube station in the 7 July bombing just a few weeks before the wedding. Although she lost her legs below the knee, she succeeded in walking up the aisle unaided for the ceremony.

Fr Kit retired in 2008. After living with the Rosminian community in Stresa for a year he returned to London where he was at St Wilfrid's in Chelsea.

A full obituary and details of the funeral will be published soon.


CATH NEWS REPORT: Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be sending a charity card from Oxfam to those on her Christmas card list - instead of one with a picture of herself and partner Tim Mathieson or one with religious images, Santas or drawings by children from her electorate, says the Herald Sun.

Inside the card is the coat of arms and a simple message: "Wishing you a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson."

Ms Gillard's first Christmas card as PM is a departure from the happy family snaps sent by former PMs and still used by other senior MPs.

Kevin Rudd favoured a photo at The Lodge with wife Therese and pet dog Abby.

John Howard often used a full family photo with his three children, although in later years it was just him and wife Janette.

The same card with the photo by Celeste Brignac - minus the PM's greeting - is on sale at Oxfam shops.

"Money raised through the sale of Oxfam's Christmas cards supports the broad work of Oxfam Australia in combating poverty and injustice worldwide, including responding to emergencies and international program work," Oxfam director of trading Nadine Silverberg said, welcoming the PM's support.



Our Lady of Guadalupe

Feast: December 12


Feast Day:December 12

More on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the sixteenth century, the Blessed Virgin, moved with pity for the Aztec people who, living in the darkness of idolatry, offered to their idols multitudes of human victims, deigned to take into her own hands the evangelization of these Indians of Central America who were also her children. One of the Aztec gods, originally considered the god of fertility, had transformed himself over time into a ferocious god. A symbol of the sun, this god was in continuous battle with the moon and the stars and was believed to need human blood to restore his strength; if he died, life would be extinguished. Ever new victims, to be offered to him in perpetual sacrifice, therefore seemed essential.

An eagle on a cactus

Aztec priests had prophesied that their nomadic people would settle in the place where an eagle would be seen perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This eagle appears on the Mexican flag today. Having arrived on a swampy island, in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs saw the foretold sign: an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent. This was in 1369. There they founded their town Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City. The town expanded to become a city on pilings, with many gardens abounding in flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The organization of the Aztec kingdom was very structured and hierarchical. The knowledge of their mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers, architects, doctors, artists, and artisans was excellent for that time. But the laws of the physical world remained scarcely known. Tenochtitlan drew its power and wealth primarily from war. The conquered cities had to pay a tribute of various foodstuffs and men for war and sacrifices. The Aztecs' human sacrifices and cannibalism are almost unequaled throughout the course of history.

In 1474, a child was born who was given the name Cuauhtlatoazin ("speaking eagle"). After his father's death, the child was taken in by his uncle. From the age of three, he was taught, as were all young Aztecs, to join in domestic tasks and to behave in a dignified manner. At school, he learned singing, dancing, and especially the worship of many gods. The priests had a very strong influence over the population, whom they kept in a submission bordering on terror. Cuauhtlatoazin was thirteen years old when the great temple at Tenochtitlan was consecrated. Over the course of four days, the priests sacrificed 80,000 human victims to their god. After his military service, Cuauhtlatoazin married a young woman of his social status. Together they led a modest life as farmers.

In 1519, the Spaniard Cortez disembarked in Mexico, leading 500 soldiers. He conquered the country for Spain, yet was not lacking in zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs. In 1524 he obtained the arrival of twelve Franciscans to Mexico. These missionaries quickly integrated into the population. Their goodness contrasted with the harshness of the Aztec priests, as well as that of some conquistadors. They began to build churches. However, the Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.

Cuauhtlatoazin and his wife were among the first to receive Baptism, under the respective names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia. After his wife's death in 1529, Juan Diego withdrew to Tolpetlac, 14 km from Mexico City, to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well. On December 9, 1531, as was his custom every Saturday, he left very early in the morning to attend the Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, at the Franciscan fathers' church, close to Mexico City. He walked past Tepeyac Hill. Suddenly, he heard a gentle and resounding song that seemed to come from a great multitude of birds. Raising his eyes to the top of the hill, he saw a white and radiant cloud. He looked around him and wondered if he was dreaming. All of a sudden, the song stopped and a woman's voice, gentle and graceful, called him: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" He quickly climbed the hill and found himself in the presence of a very beautiful young woman whose garments shone like the sun.

"A church where I will show my love"

Speaking to him in Nahuatl, his native language, she said to him, "Juanito, my son, where are you going?"—"Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear the divine things that the priest teaches us there."—"I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin MARY, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love Me, trust in Me, and have recourse to Me. I will hear their complaints and I will comfort their affliction and their sufferings. So that I might show all My love, go now to the bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him the great desire I have to see a church dedicated to me built here."

Juan Diego went straight to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal, who had a heart overflowing with kindness towards the Indians. He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story. Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home. At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Apparition again. He told her about his mission, then added, "I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it. I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person. Therefore, he didn't believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you."—"My dearest son, "replied the Lady, "you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin MARY, Mother of God, who am sending you."

On Sunday morning after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the bishop's house. The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the apparition. When Juan Diego went home, the bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants. At Tepeyac Bridge, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him again. Furious, they declared to the bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not be believed. During this time, Juan Diego told the beautiful Lady, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the bishop. "Come back tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for," replied the Apparition.

Roses, in the middle of winter!

Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him. As the illness got worse, the uncle asked his nephew to go look for a priest. At dawn on Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego started on the road to the city. Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it best to make a detour so as not to meet the Lady. But suddenly, he perceived her coming to meet him. Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to administer last rites to his uncle. "My dear little one," replied the Apparition, "do not be distressed about your uncle's illness, because he will not die from it. I assure you that he will get well... Go to the top of the hill, pick the flowers that you will see there, and bring them to me." When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian roses that gave off a very sweet fragrance. Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there. Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his cloak, or tilma, then went back down the hill. "My dear son," said the Lady, "these flowers are the sign that you are to give the bishop... This will get him to build the church that I have asked of him."

Juan Diego ran to the bishop. When he arrived, the servants made him wait for hours. Amazed at his patience, and intrigued by what he was carrying in his tilma, they finally informed the bishop, who, although with several people, had him shown in immediately. The Indian related his adventure, unfolded his tilma, and let the flowers, which were still shining with dew, scatter to the floor. With tears in his eyes, Bishop Zumárraga fell to his knees, admiring the roses from his country. All of a sudden, he perceived, on the tilma, the portrait of Our Lady. MARY's image was there, as though printed on the cloak, very beautiful and full of gentleness. The bishop's doubts gave way to a sure faith and a hope filled with wonder. He took the tilma and the roses, and placed them respectfully in his private oratory. The next day he went with Juan Diego to the hill where the apparitions had taken place. After having examined the sites, he let the seer return to his uncle's house. Juan Bernardino had been completely cured. His cure had taken place at the very hour when Our Lady appeared to his nephew. He told him, "I have also seen her. She even came here and talked to me. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac Hill and wants her portrait to be called 'Saint MARY of Guadalupe.' But she didn't explain to me why." The name "Guadalupe" is well known by the Spanish, because in their country there is a very old sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The news of the miracle spread quickly. In a short time, Juan Diego became well-known. "I will spread your fame," MARY had told him, but the Indian remained as humble as ever. To make it easier to meditate on the Image, Bishop Zumárraga had the tilma transported to his cathedral. Then work was begun on the construction of a small church and a hermitage for Juan Diego on the hill of apparitions. The next December 25, the bishop consecrated his cathedral to the Most Blessed Virgin, to thank her for the remarkable favors with which she had blessed his diocese. Then, in a magnificent procession, the miraculous Image was carried to the sanctuary that had just been completed on Tepeyac Hill. To express their joy, the Indians shot arrows. One of them, shot carelessly, went through the throat of a participant in the procession, who fell to the ground, fatally wounded. A great silence fell and intense supplication rose to the Mother of God. Suddenly the wounded man, who had been placed at the foot of the miraculous Image, collected himself and got up, full of vigor. The crowd's enthusiasm was at its peak.

Millions of Indians become Christian

Juan Diego moved into his little hermitage, seeing to the maintenance and cleaning of the site. His life remained simple—he carefully farmed a field close to the sanctuary that had been placed at his disposal. He received pilgrims in ever larger numbers, and enjoyed talking about the Blessed Virgin and untiringly relating the details of the apparitions. He was entrusted with all kinds of prayer intentions. He listened, sympathized, and comforted. A good amount of his free time was spent in contemplation before the image of his Lady. He made rapid progress in the ways of holiness. Day after day, he fulfilled his duty as a witness up until his death on December 9, 1548, seventeen years after the first apparition.

When the Indians had learned the news of Our Lady's apparitions, an enthusiasm and joy such as had never been seen before spread among them. Renouncing their idols, superstitions, human sacrifices, and polygamy, many asked to be baptized. Nine years after the apparitions, nine million Indians had converted to the Christian faith—nearly 3,000 a day! The details of the Image of MARY moved the Indians deeply—this woman is greater than the sun-god since she appears standing before the sun. She surpasses the moon god since she keeps the moon under her feet. She is no longer of this world since she is surrounded by clouds and is held above the world by an angel. Her folded hands show her in prayer, which means that there is Someone greater than she...

Even in our time, the mystery of this miraculous Image remains. The tilma, a large apron woven by hand from cactus fibers, bears the holy Image, which is 1.43 meters tall. The Virgin's face is perfectly oval and is a gray color verging on pink. Her eyes have a profound expression of purity and gentleness. The mouth seems to smile. The very beautiful face, similar to that of a mestizo Indian, is framed by a black head of hair that, up close, is comprised of silky locks. She is clad in a full tunic, of a pinkish red hue that no one has ever been able to reproduce, and that goes to her feet. Her bluish-green mantle is edged with gold braid and studded with stars. A sun of various shades forms a magnificent background, with golden rays shining out.

The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to this day is inexplicable. After more than four centuries, this fabric of mediocre quality retains the same freshness and the same lively color as when it was new. By comparison, a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted in the 18th century with great care, and preserved under the same climatic conditions as Juan Diego's, had completely deteriorated in a few years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a painful period of revolutions in Mexico, a load of dynamite was put by unbelievers at the foot of the Image, in a vase of flowers. The explosion destroyed the marble steps on the main altar, the candelabras, all the flower-holders. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the tabernacle was split in two. The windows in most of the houses near the basilica were broken, but the pane of glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked. The Image remained intact.

The most moving experience of my life

In 1936, an examination conducted on two fibers from the tilma, one red and the other yellow, led to an astounding finding—the fibers contained no known coloring agent. Ophthalmology and optics confirm the inexplicable nature of the Image—it seems to be a slide projected onto the fabric. Closer analysis shows that there is no trace of drawing or sketching under the color, even though perfectly recognizable retouches were done on the original, retouches which moreover have deteriorated with time. In addition, the background never received any primer, which seems inexplicable if it is truly a painting, for even on the finest fabric, a coat is always applied, if only to prevent the fabric from absorbing the painting and the threads from breaking the surface. No brush strokes can be detected. After an infrared analysis conducted on May 7, 1979, a professor from NASA wrote, "There is no way to explain the quality of the pigments used for the pink dress, the blue veil, the face and the hands, or the permanence of the colors, or the vividness of the colors after several centuries, during which they ordinarily should have deteriorated... Studying this Image has been the most moving experience of my life."

Astronomers have observed that all the constellations present in the heavens at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531, are in their proper place on MARY's mantle. It has also been found that by imposing a topographical map of central Mexico on the Virgin's dress, the mountains, rivers and principal lakes coincide with the decoration on this dress.

Ophthalmological tests have found that MARY's eye is a human eye that appears to be living, and includes the retina, in which is reflected the image of a man with outstretched hands—Juan Diego. The image in the eye conforms to the known laws of optics, particularly to that which states that a well-lighted object can be reflected three times in an eye (Purkinje-Samson's law). A later study allowed researchers to discover in the eye, in addition to the seer, Bishop Zumárraga and several other people present when the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. And the normal microscopic network of veins in the eyelids and the cornea of the Virgin's eyes is completely recognizable. No human painter would have been able to reproduce such details.

Three months pregnant

Gynecological measurements have determined that the Virgin in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is three months pregnant. Under the belt that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals stands out—the Solar Flower, the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space. On the Virgin's neck hangs a brooch, the center of which is decorated with a little cross, recalling the death of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. Many other details of the Image of MARY form an extraordinary document for our age, which is able to observe them thanks to modern technology. Thus science, which has often been a pretext for unbelief, helps us today to give prominence to signs that had remained unknown for centuries and that science is unable to explain.

The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears a message of evangelization: the Basilica of Mexico is a center "from which flows a river of the light of the Gospel of Christ, spreading throughout the earth through the merciful Image of MARY" (John Paul II, December 12, 1981 ). In addition, through her intervention on behalf of the Aztec people, the Virgin played a role in saving innumerable human lives, and her pregnancy can be interpreted as a special appeal on behalf of unborn children and the defense of human life. This appeal has a burning relevance in our time, when threats against the lives of individuals and peoples, especially lives that are weak and defenseless, are widespread and becoming more serious. The Second Vatican Council forcefully deplored crimes against human life: "All offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia... all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization ; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator" ( Gaudium et Spes, 27). Faced with these plagues, which are expanding as a result of scientific progress and technology, and which benefit from wide social consensus as well as legal recognition, let us call upon MARY with confidence. She is an "incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for... Showing us her Son, she assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, nos. 102, 105). "Death and life are locked in an incredible battle; the Author of life, having died, lives and reigns" (Easter Sequence).



Isaiah 35: 1 - 6, 10
1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you."5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;6then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Psalms 146: 6 - 10
6who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith for ever;
7who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10The LORD will reign for ever, thy God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
Reading 2 JAMES 5

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 11: 2 - 11
2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples
3and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"
4And Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see:
5the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.
6And blessed is he who takes no offense at me."
7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?
8Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings' houses.
9Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
10This is he of whom it is written, `Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.'
11Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
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