Tuesday, December 28, 2010








TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 28: Matthew 2: 13- 18


VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2010 (VIS REPORT) - The Holy Father today offered a luncheon to people assisted by the various Roman communities of the Missionaries of Charity, in order to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The lunch, which took place in the atrium of the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, was attended by 350 people from various welcome centres, and by 150 religious, including Missionaries of Charity, Contemplative Brothers, priests and seminarians.

Following some words of greeting by Sr. Mary Prema Pierick, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Pope arose to address the assembly. "May the light of the Baby Jesus, of the Son of God made man, illuminate our lives to transform them into light, as we see happen particularly in the lives of saints", he said. In this context, he also recalled the witness of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, which he defined as "a reflection of the light of God's love. Celebrating a hundred years since her birth is a cause for gratitude and reflection, for a renewed and joyful commitment to serve the Lord and our brothers and sisters, especially the most needy".

"Blessed Teresa of Calcutta", the Holy Father said, "showed charity to everyone without distinction, but with a preference for the poor and abandoned: a luminous sign of God's paternity and goodness. In all people she was able to recognise the face of Christ, Whom she loved with her entire being. She continued to encounter the Christ she adored and received in the Eucharist in the streets and lanes of the city, becoming a living 'image' of Jesus Who pours the grace of merciful love onto man's wounds.

"To those who ask why Mother Teresa became as famous as she did, the answer is simple: because she lived humbly and discretely for and in the love of God. She herself said that her greatest prize was to love Jesus and serve Him in the poor. Her diminutive figure, her hands joined in prayer or caressing the sick, a leper, the dying, a child, was the visible sign of an existence transformed by God. In the night of human pain she made the light of divine Love shine and helped many hearts to find the peace which only God can give.

"We thank the Lord", Benedict XVI added, "because in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta we all see how our lives can change when we meet Jesus; how they can become a reflection of the light of God for other people. To so many men and women who experienced poverty and suffering, she gave the consolation and certainty that God never abandons anyone, ever. Her mission continues through those who, here as elsewhere in the world, live the charism of being missionaries of charity.

"We are very grateful, dear sisters and brothers, for your humble and discreet presence, hidden to the eyes of mankind but extraordinary and precious to the heart of God. Your life witness shows man - who often searches for illusory happiness - where true joy is to be found: in sharing, in giving, in loving with the same gratuitousness as God, which breaks all the logic of human selfishness".

The Holy Father concluded his remarks with assurances of his prayers. "Know that the Pope loves you", he said, "and carries you in his heart, gathering you all together in a paternal embrace".

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VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

In the course of the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his homily.

"'You are my son, this day I have begotten you'. With this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel. The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the 'Son of God' through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which He grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into His own being".

"Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God's personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true. ... Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In Him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. ... In the weakness of infancy, He is the mighty God and He shows us God's own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.

"Truly, the words of Israel's coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. ... Thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem, is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. ... The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. ... He has truly 'come down', He has come into the world, He has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to Himself. ... He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God's own peace. This Child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds His kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart.

"But at the same time it is true that the 'rod of his oppressor' is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the 'garment rolled in blood' still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God's closeness. We are grateful that God gives Himself into our hands as a Child, begging as it were for our love, implanting His peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that 'of peace there will be no end'. We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world, the 'kingdom of righteousness, love and peace'.

"'Mary gave birth to her first-born son'. ... In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, 'first-born' does not mean the first of a series of children. The word 'first-born' is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow. ... The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In His person He brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. ... Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man". Furthermore, "He is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection He has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. ... Now He really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood - not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus - but the new brotherhood in which we are God's own family".

"At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'. The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God's glory. ... The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. ... But the angels' message on that holy night also spoke of men: 'Peace among men with whom he is pleased'. The Latin translation of the angels' song that we use in the liturgy, taken from St. Jerome, is slightly different: 'peace to men of good will'. ... It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if He had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralising interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God's prior love for us, without which we could not love Him, and the response that He awaits from us. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together".

"St. Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest'. But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God's heavenly glory. ... At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men".

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VATICAN CITY, 25 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, the Holy Father pronounced his traditional Christmas Message from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, and imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing.

Extracts of the Message are given below:

"Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; He came to dwell among us. God is not distant: He is 'Emmanuel', God-with-us. He is no stranger: He has a face, the face of Jesus.

"This message is ever new, ever surprising, for it surpasses even our most daring hope. First of all, because it is not merely a proclamation: it is an event, a happening, which credible witnesses saw, heard and touched in the person of Jesus of Nazareth!

"'The Word became flesh'. Before this revelation we once more wonder: how can this be? The Word and the flesh are mutually opposed realities; how can the eternal and almighty Word become a frail and mortal man? There is only one answer: Love".

"God does not change; He is Love. ... Only those who are open to love are enveloped in the light of Christmas. So it was on that night in Bethlehem, and so it is today. The Incarnation of the Son of God is an event which occurred within history, while at the same time transcending history".

"And what do our hearts, in effect, seek, if not a Truth which is also Love? Children seek it with their questions, so disarming and stimulating; young people seek it in their eagerness to discover the deepest meaning of their life; adults seek it in order to guide and sustain their commitments in the family and the workplace; the elderly seek it in order to grant completion to their earthly existence".

"The proclamation of Christmas is also a light for all peoples, for the collective journey of humanity. 'Emmanuel', God-with-us, has come as King of justice and peace. We know that His Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it is more important than all the kingdoms of this world. It is like the leaven of humanity: were it lacking, the energy to work for true development would flag: the impulse to work together for the common good, in the disinterested service of our neighbour, in the peaceful struggle for justice. Belief in the God who desired to share in our history constantly encourages us in our own commitment to that history, for all its contradictions. It is a source of hope for everyone whose dignity is offended and violated, since the One born in Bethlehem came to set every man and woman free from the source of all enslavement.

"May the light of Christmas shine forth anew in the Land where Jesus was born, and inspire Israelis and Palestinians to strive for a just and peaceful coexistence. May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East; may it bring them comfort and hope for the future and bring the leaders of nations to show them effective solidarity. May it also be so for those in Haiti who still suffer in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and the recent cholera epidemic. May the same hold true not only for those in Colombia and Venezuela, but also in Guatemala and Costa Rica, who recently suffered natural disasters.

"May the birth of the Saviour open horizons of lasting peace and authentic progress for the peoples of Somalia, Darfur and Cote d'Ivoire; may it promote political and social stability in Madagascar; may it bring security and respect for human rights in Afghanistan and in Pakistan; may it encourage dialogue between Nicaragua and Costa Rica; and may it advance reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

"May the birth of the Saviour strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience but, persevering in fidelity to Christ and his Church, may keep alive the flame of hope. May the love of 'God-with-us' grant perseverance to all those Christian communities enduring discrimination and persecution, and inspire political and religious leaders to be committed to full respect for the religious freedom of all".

Following his Message, the Pope extended Christmas greetings in sixty-five languages and imparted his blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world).

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VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2010 (VIS) - At midday today, the first Sunday after Christmas and Feast of the Holy Family, Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

"In the poor grotto of Bethlehem", the Pope said, "a bright light shone forth, a reflection of the profound mystery which surrounded that Child, and which Mary and Joseph guarded in their hearts. ... Indeed, in their most intimate depths they conserved the words of the angel's announcement to Mary: 'the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God'".

"The birth of any child brings with it something of this mystery. Parents know this well as they receive their offspring as a gift, and often talk of it as such. ... Human beings experience procreation not merely as reproductive act; they perceive its richness, they are intuitively aware that every human creature who enters into the world is a 'sign' par excellence of the Creator and Father in heaven.

"How important it is, then", the Holy Father added, "for each child coming into the world to be welcomed into the warmth of a family! Exterior comforts are not important. Jesus was born in a stable and His first cradle was a manger, but the love of Mary and Joseph made Him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. This is what children need: the love of a father and mother. This is what gives them a sense of security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth had to suffer many trials, such as... the 'massacre of the innocents', which forced Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt. But, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and ensured Jesus had a serene infancy and a solid education".

"The Holy Family was certainly unique and unrepeatable", the Pope concluded, "but at the same time it is a 'life model' for all families because Jesus, true man, chose to be born in a human family and, by doing so, blessed and consecrated that institution. And so we entrust all families to Mary and Joseph, that they may not be discouraged in the face of trials and difficulties but always cultivate conjugal love and dedicate themselves faithfully to the service of life and education".

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father launched a fresh appeal for peace, hope and reconciliation.

"Over this Christmas period, the desire and calls for the gift of peace have become more intense. Yet our world continues to be marked by violence, especially against the disciples of Christ. I learned with great sadness of the attack on a Catholic church in the Philippines during the celebration of the Christmas liturgy, as well as attacks against Christian churches in Nigeria. The earth has also been stained with blood in other parts of the world, such as Pakistan. I wish to express my heartfelt condolences for the victims of this absurd violence, and I once again reiterate my appeal to abandon the path of hatred in order to find peaceful solutions to conflicts and bring security and tranquillity to those dear people. On this day in which we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, who underwent the dramatic experience of having to flee into Egypt because of the murderous fury of Herod, let us remember all those, especially families, who are forced to abandon their homes because of war, violence and intolerance. I invite you, therefore, to join me in praying fervently that the Lord may touch people's hearts and bring hope, reconciliation and peace".

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VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Fr. Gabriel Sayaogo of the clergy of the diocese of Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso, vicar general, as bishop of Manga (area 9,870, population 574,622, Catholics 107,104, priests 16, religious 21), Burkina Faso. The bishop-elect was born in Niessega, Burkina Faso in 1962 and ordained a priest in 1991. He succeeds Bishop Wenceslas Compaore, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

On Monday 27 December it was made public that the Holy Father appointed Fr. Ferenc Palanki of the clergy of the diocese of Vac, Hungary, spiritual director of the minor seminary, as auxiliary of the archdiocese of Eger (area 11,500, population 1,264,000, Catholics 692,000, priests 209, permanent deacons 14, religious 57), Hungary. The bishop-elect was born in Balassagyarmat, Hungary in 1964 and ordained a priest in 1994.


ONE of Australia's youngest Roman Catholic bishops, a tireless worker with young people and refugees, has died in a Melbourne hospital.

Bishop Joseph, bishop of the Sandhurst diocese in northern Victoria, died on Monday aged 62 following the recurrence of a blood disorder.

He had served the diocese, based in Bendigo, since 2001 and was the bishops' delegate for youth and young adults and for migrants and refugees.

Bishop Grech was ordained in 1975 and appointed a bishop in 1998.

President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Philip Wilson, said Bishop Grech was an "exceptional pastor".

"He has made a tremendous contribution to the church in Australia because of his deep faith and spirituality, which has been shown especially in the zeal with which he dealt with issues of migrants and refugees and his outreach to young people," he said in a statement.

Speaking from Rome, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Tim Fischer, said Bishop Grech was one of Australia's youngest bishops.

He said the Sandhurst diocese and Australia had lost "a very dedicated bishop and citizen" who greatly inspired people, especially the young.

"Only in October he was larger than life here in Rome, leading a group of Sandhurst pilgrims to the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop," Mr Fischer said.

"He returned to Australia via Malta, where he was born in 1948 and where in November 2010 he attended and helped with the ordination of Sandhurst priest, Father Robert Gallea.

"In the decade he was bishop of Sandhurst, he gave generous, warm and open leadership, which will be hugely missed."

Bishop Grech found himself enmeshed in controversy earlier this year and apologised over a breach of confidentiality in connection with a woman's statement that she had an affair with her parish priest.

The Age reported in June that Bishop Grech, in naming the Eaglehawk woman, Michelle Goldsmith, had broken the rule designed to protect a clerical abuse victim.

The parish president had told The Age that Bishop Grech indicated Mrs Goldsmith was "crazy" when the bishop twirled his finger around the side of his head and said "that girl needs professional help".

Bishop Grech conceded he was sanctioned for talking with the parish president, but told The Age he was concerned only for Mrs Goldsimith's welfare and had "no wish ... to undermine anybody".

His letter to Mrs Goldsmith said he regretted the distress caused by his general "interaction with you'.

A mass was held for Bishop Grech at Bendigo's Sacred Heart Cathedral this evening.

EUROPE: ROME: COURT OF GENTILES ORGANIZATION FOR NON-BELIEVERS report: This office is working around the clock, in order to get a new foundation off the ground and running – one which would promote dialogue between believers and nonbelievers.

This Vatican-born foundation, the Courtyard of the Gentiles, is spearheaded by Father Laurent Mazas. Mazas says the organization was inspired by a speech Benedict XVI made in December 2009.

Benedict XVI

The Church should open a sort of 'Court of the Gentiles,' in which people might in some way latch on to God.”

The Courtyard of the Gentiles was a historical free space in the Temple of Jerusalem that was reserved for Gentiles, who wished to pray there to one God, yet not take part in the mystery.

Nearly 2,000 years later and through this foundation, the Catholic Church will organize a landmark open forum with non-believers, in order to discuss the reasons for believing, and also topics like medicine and culture.

Fr. Laurent Mazas
Director, Court of Gentiles
“The main idea is organizing meetings of an advanced intellectual and cultural level about different topics, relating to for example, transcendence, the existence of God. Also to say to non-believers: look at today's world, the current situation that we are living in together, globalization. We have to walk together and reflect together on the sort of human race that we want.”

Gaia Zanini
Court of Gentiles

“Themes are mostly centered around fundamental anthropological questions, like faith-based questions and also the relationship a person has with their own religion and how this has an effect on their social life.”

The inauguration of the Courtyard of Gentiles will kick off in Paris under the title, “Enlightenment, religion and common reason”. The ceremony will welcome politicians, intellectuals and philosophers and will be celebrated in March of 2011 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The ceremony will continue to unfold, in the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

Fr. Laurent Mazas
Director, Court of Gentiles

“It will be an event geared towards young believers and non believers, a joyous event with diverse aspects, and at the same time a vigil of prayer organized inside a very holy place, in order to also invite non-believers and believers.”

The organization is also planning similar meetings in Bologna, Stockholm, Prague and Santo Domingo, and they are working on having events in Russia, Spain, the United States and Canada.
Father Laurent hopes that the event will spark thought-provoking debate between believers and non-believers.

It's a meeting that he hopes will enrich the lives of both. For now, we'll just have to wait and see how this ground-breaking event unfolds in Paris.


ASIA NEWS REPORT: In Kirkuk and Soulaymanyia Christians crowd parishes while outside soldiers and police provide security. The wife of President Talabani distributes gifts to children.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Concentrated in the north of the country after fleeing from threats and persecution in Baghdad and Mosul, many Christian families in Iraq gathered to celebrate Christmas in Soulaymanyia in Kurdistan.

The Mass was also attended by the mayor, the local Muslim leaders and the wife of Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. In a crowded church, the first lady helped Santa Claus to distribute gifts to children.

In Kirkuk, however, where the Mass of the Vigil was not celebrated for the first time in seven years for security reasons, the solemn celebrations were held only on the morning of Dec. 25. In the front row, local authorities, police and the army chiefs, the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, tribal chiefs and party leaders.

Military and police were deployed outside the church to ensure the safety of the faithful after the escalation of attacks and threats against Christians following the attack by Al Qaeda on the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad Oct. 31.

Unfortunately, the faithful tell AsiaNews, "the churches are like fortresses now and its difficult to pray as we should in them".

Both in Kirkuk and Soulaymaniyia, faithful wore a long red ribbon on their shoulders to commemorate the martyrs of the cathedral of Baghdad and also to say that at Christmas hope and peace are tied to sacrifice. "There is hope– says one Iraqi priest - but it is fragile like the fragility of men. " (NA)


Maiduguri — IT was a black Christmas in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, as 30 suspected Boko Haram armed members attacked Victory Baptist Church, Alamderi, and Sinimari Church of Chirst in Nigeria, COCIN, killing six people, including Rev. Bulus T. Marwa, 37, and a retired soldier, Mr. Philip Sopso.

Confirming the attacks and killings, Borno Police Commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar, said in an interview: "Yes, we confirmed the serial and coordinated attacks and killings on the two churches. It is very unfortunate at this time of the Christmas season for the outlawed sect members to launch fresh attacks and killings on innocent citizens of this state without any cause."The attacks and the killings occurred simultaneously on Friday at about 6:30pm and 7:30pm, when the suspected armed Boko Haram members attacked the COCIN Church and set ablaze the Dala Baptist Church, before killing its pastor at his official residence, with 25 members of the church injured.

He said the armed sect members could have been arrested, if the Divisional Police Officers, DPOs had heeded his warnings on the planned attacks of the rampaging feared outlawed sect members that resurfaced two weeks after the Zinnari community attacks where one was shot in the leg. He added that already the police divisions had enough patrol vehicles to have prevented the Christmas day killings.

"Prior to these attacks and killings, I alerted the police and other security agencies in the state to take no chances of any reprisals from the outlawed sect members," stating that yesterday's attacks and killings could have been prevented if the police had heeded to my security advice."Similarly, reacting to the attacks and killings, Governor Ali Modu Sheriff in an interview at Government House, Maiduguri, said: "It is very unfortunate and sad for the Christian community to be attacked and killed without any genuine cause whatever.

At Sinimari COCIN Church, the gate and walls of the church were riddled with bullets, after armed suspects in two vehicles killed the security guard, Mr. Sopso, 60. The church was not set ablaze.



‘The first thing I do each day is pray’

Mark Wahlberg is pictured at his Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony in July with his wife, Rhea, his two daughters and two sons and the family nanny, Cassie

In the modern world, we are told, religion is being pushed to the side. Church-going is down, cynicism is up, and old-fashioned Christianity is not so slowly going the way of the penny-farthing bicycle. And nowhere, we are told, is this more apparent than in Hollywood, land of the superficial, the catch-a-passing-trend, the every-man-for-himself.

And then there is Mark Wahlberg.

“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life,” the A-list actor tells me firmly when we meet for tea in a posh hotel near his home in Beverly Hills. “The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. Whenever I go outside of my house, the first thing I do is stop at the church. The kids will be mad with me. ‘Daddy! It takes too long!’ I’m saying: ‘It’s only 10 minutes and this is something I really need to do.’ Because I do. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”

If anyone has learned the benefit of a spiritual life, it is Mark. A troubled young man from a rough area of Boston, the youngest of nine children of a delivery driver father and a bank clerk mother, he grew up delinquent and drug-addicted, a high school drop-out and gang member, always in trouble with the police, living constantly under the threat of jail. When he was only 16, that threat became a reality. High on the drug PCP, he robbed a pharmacy, knocked one man unconscious, left another blind in one eye, and attacked a security guard. He was charged with attempted murder and sentenced to jail at Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction.

It was, he says now, gratefully, the beginning of the rest of his life.
“There’s nothing scarier than being 16 years old, hearing the jail house door close behind you, and knowing that you’re not going to leave. I’d brought it on myself. A lot of bad things happened to me when I was young, and I did a lot of bad things too. I was too cool for school, I’d made my mistakes and I was paying for them. I’d lost sight of my religion. My parents were Catholic but not devoutly so, and once I’d started venturing out on to the street that wasn’t important to me at all. But, of course, once you get into trouble, you start praying! ‘Oh, my God, just get me out of here, and I swear I’ll never do it again!’ Well, I did get out of jail, and I did make sure I never went back there. The recidivism rate for people going back for jail sentences is through the roof, but not me. I did not want to be another statistic. I wanted to live my life instead.” His first port of call when he left the House of Correction was to visit his parish priest, Fr Flavin of Boston, who is still a good friend. With Fr Flavin’s help he left his street gang, cleaned up his act and devoted his attention to putting his spiritual house in order. And for the first time, he says, his life started to make sense.

“Once I focused on my faith wonderful things started happening for me,” he says now. “And I don’t mean professionally – that’s not what it’s about. These days, I’ll be in church and people will come up to me and say: ‘Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?’ And they’ll start praying and it’ll turn out they’re praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever, and I’m like, this is not what I come here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It’s a much bigger picture than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes I made and the pain I put people through. That’s what I’m praying for, and I recommend it to anybody.”

Which is not to say that material success has exactly been hiding from him. One of the original members of the popular boy band of the 1980s New Kids on the Block, he branched out on his own to become pop music-singing sensation Marky Mark, and briefly became very famous indeed on the side as an underwear model before turning his attention to conquering the world of acting. (“When I do something,” he has commented with some understatement, “I am very focused.”) He started out in Hollywood by rather cleverly sending up his beefcake reputation playing a porn star in Boogie Nights before moving on to the action films which are of more interest to him, and made a name for himself in movies like Three Kings, The Perfect Storm and The Italian Job before winning worldwide acclaim and an Academy Award nomination playing a heavy-swearing detective in Martin Scorsese’s blockbusting thriller (set, incidentally, in Mark’s own Boston) The Departed.

These days he is in the fortunate – and in Hollywood, extremely rare – position of being able to do more or less what he wants. Last year he played a grieving father in the family drama The Lovely Bones; earlier this year, he hammed it up as an over-the-top action hero in the comedy Date Night. Right now he is to be seen playing “Irish” Mickey Ward in The Fighter, the bio-pic of the renowned Bostonian boxer, a project that has been close to his heart for some time. Meanwhile, he has also made his name as a highly successful producer of popular television shows like Entourage, In Treatment and Boardwalk Empire. Not bad, you will agree, for a kid who didn’t even make it out of high school.

“But that’s not what it’s about,” he insists. “Being a good actor or a good producer: that’s not going to help me sleep at night or get me into heaven. The most important thing from where I sit is to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human being – a man who helps his fellow man and raises his kids to be good human beings too.”

Mark and his wife, model Rhea Durham, have four children, Ella, seven, Michael, four, Brendan, two, and Margaret, nearly one, and are expecting another next year. “Every single aspect of my family life is joy,” he smiles now. “And the most important thing to remember about being a father is that you can’t leave anybody out. I get up really early in the morning but the baby is usually up before me because my wife feeds her at five o’clock and then puts her into the swing so that she and I can have our own little time together when I take my wife a coffee before the day begins. Then the day is taking my older kids to school or to karate or whatever they have. The youngest boy is already trying to get in with the bigger kids so we make time for him too. At five in the evening we all sit down and have dinner together and after that it’s pandemonium for a couple of hours until we can get them into bed! It’s great!”

Although Thea and he have been in a committed relationship since 2001, it was only in August 2009 that they made their wedding vows at the church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. The reason for this, he says, was not lack of the will but simple logistics.

“Rhea grew up Baptist but she wanted to be baptised and confirmed as Catholic before we got married, which took some time. Also, we wanted to get married here in California but we wanted Fr Flavin from Boston to do it, so we had to work out that timing. Then there were my movie commitments. Then Rhea got pregnant and she didn’t want to do it when she was bigger so we had to wait till the dress fitted again… it was a number of factors really.”

Now that they are good and hitched, he says, they could not be happier.

“My wife is gorgeous but if you’re going to have a real relationship with someone it’s going to have to be based on what’s inside as well as out, what kind of person they are and what kind of values they have.

“I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world because I met one of the most beautiful women in the world who also is very nice and approachable, very comfortable to be with and has a great sense of humour. And… well, I don’t know which one of the lines I used on her was the one that actually got her but she fell for one of them! And all these years later we have four beautiful children and each other.

“I’m just a very lucky guy. In so many ways.”


Holy Innocents

Feast: December 28


Feast Day:December 28

Our Divine Redeemer was persecuted by the world as soon as he made his appearance in it. For he was no sooner born than it declared war against him. Herod, in persecuting Christ, was an emblem of Satan and of the world. That ambitious and jealous prince had already sacrificed to his fears and suspicions the most illustrious part of his council, his virtuous wife Mariamne, with her mother Alexandra, the two sons he had by her, and the heirs to his crown, and all his best friends. Hearing from the magians who were come from distant countries to find and adore Christ that the Messias, or spiritual king of the Jews, foretold by the prophets, was born among them, he trembled lest he was come to take his temporal kingdom from him. So far are the thoughts of carnal and worldly men from the ways of God, and so strangely do violent passions blind and alarm them. The tyrant was disturbed beyond measure and resolved to take away the life of this child, as if he could have defeated the decrees of heaven. He had recourse to his usual arts of policy and dissimulation, and hoped to receive intelligence of the child by feigning a desire himself to adore him. But God laughed at the folly of his short-sighted prudence, and admonished the magians not to return to him. St. Joseph was likewise ordered by an angel to take the child and his mother, and to fly into Egypt. Is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord of the universe, to be banished as soon as born I What did not he suffer I What did not his pious parents suffer on his account in so tedious and long a journey, and during a long abode in Egypt, where they were entirely strangers and destitute of all succour under the hardships of extreme poverty I It is an ancient tradition of the Greeks, mentioned by Sozomen, St. Athanasius, and others, that at his entrance into Egypt all the idols of that kingdom fell to the ground, which literally verified the prediction of the prophet Isaiah. Mary and Joseph were not informed by the angel how long their exile would be continued; by which we are taught to leave all to divine providence, acquiescing with confidence and simplicity in the adorable and ever holy will of Him who disposes all things in infinite goodness, sanctity; and wisdom.

Herod, finding that he had been deluded by the magians, was transported with rage and anxious fears. To execute his scheme of killing the Messias, the desired of all nations and the expectation of Israel, he formed the bloody resolution of murdering all the male children in Bethlehem and the neighbouring territory which were not above two years of age. Soldiers were forthwith sent to execute these cruel orders, who, on a sudden, surrounded the town of Bethlehem and massacred all the male children in that and the adjacent towns and villages which had been born in the last two years. This more than brutish barbarity, which would almost have surpassed belief had not Herod been the contriver and ambition the incentive, was accompanied with such shrieks of mothers and children that St. Matthew applies to it a prophecy of Jeremiah, which may be understood in part to relate more immediately to the Babylonish captivity, but which certainly received the most eminent completion at this time: "A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not." Rama is a village not far from this town, and the sepulchre of Rachel was in a field belonging to it. The slaughter also was probably extended into the neighbouring tribe of Benjamin, which descended from Rachel. The Ethiopians in their liturgy, and the Greeks in their calendar, count fourteen thousand children massacred on this occasion; but that number exceeds all bounds, nor is it confirmed by any authority of weight. Innocent victims became the spotless Lamb of God. And how great a happiness was such a death to these glorious martyrs! They deserved to die for Christ, though they were not yet able to know or invoke his name. They were the flowers and the first fruits of his martyrs, and triumphed over the world without having ever known it or experienced its dangers. They just received the benefit of life to make a sacrifice of it to God and to purchase by it eternal life. How few perhaps of these children, if they had lived, would have escaped the dangers of the world which, by its maxims and example, bear everything down before it like an impetuous torrent! What snares, what sins, what miseries were they preserved from by this grace! With what songs of praise and love do they not to all eternity thank their Saviour, and this his infinite mercy to them! Their ignorant, foolish mothers did not know this, and therefore they wept without comfort. So we often lament as misfortunes many accidents which in the designs of heaven are the greatest mercies.

In Herod we see how blind and how cruel ambition is, which is ready to sacrifice everything, even Jesus Christ, to its views. The tyrant lived not many days longer to enjoy the kingdom which he feared so much to lose. About the time of our Lord's nativity he fell sick, and as his distemper sensibly increased, despair and remorse followed him and made him insupportable both to himself and others. The innumerable crimes which he had committed were the tortures of his mind, whilst a slow imposthume, inch by inch, gnawed and consumed his bowels, feeding principally upon one of the great guts, though it extended itself over all the rest and, corroding the flesh, made a breach in the lower belly and became a sordid ulcer, out of which worms issued in swarms, and lice were also bred in his flesh. A fever violently burnt him within, though outwardly it was scarce perceptible; and he was tormented with a canine appetite which no victuals could satisfy. Such an offensive smell exhaled from his body as shocked his best friends; and uncommon "witchings and vellications upon the fibrous and membraneous parts of his body, like sharp razors, cut and wounded him within; and the pain thence arising overpowered him at length with cold sweats, tremblings, and convulsions. Antipater, in his dungeon, hearing in what a lamentable condition Herod lay, strongly solicited his jailer to set him at liberty, hoping to obtain the crown; but the officer acquainted Herod with the whole affair. The tyrant, groaning under the complication of his own distempers, upon this information vented his spleen by raving and beating his own head, and, calling one of his own guards, commanded him to go that instant and cut off Antipater's head. Not content with causing many to be put to barbarous deaths during the course of his malady, he commanded the Jews that were of the principal rank and quality to be shut up in a circus at Jericho, and gave orders to his sister Salome and her husband Alexas to have them all massacred as soon as he should have expired, saying that as the Jews heartily hated him, they would rejoice at his departure; but he would make a general mourning of the whole nation at his death. This circumstance is at least related by the Jewish historian Josephus. Herod died five days after he had put his son Antipater to death.

Parents, pastors, and tutors are bound to make it their principal care that children, in their innocent age, be by piety and charity consecrated as pure holocausts to God. This is chiefly to be done by imprinting upon their minds the strongest sentiments of devotion, and by instructing them thoroughly in their catechism. We cannot entertain too high an idea of the merit and obligation of teaching God's little ones to know him, and the great and necessary truths which he has revealed to us. Without knowing him no one can love him or acquit himself of the most indispensable duties which he owes to his Creator. Children must be instructed in prayer and the principal articles of faith as soon as they attain to the use of reason, that they may be able to give him his first fruits by faith, hope, and love, as by the law of reason and religion they are bound to do. The understanding of little children is very weak, and is able only to discover small glimpses of light. Great art, experience, and earnestness are often required to manage and gradually increase these small rays, and to place therein whatever one would have the children comprehend.

The solicitude and diligence of parents and pastors to instruct others in this sacred science ought not to lessen; neither must anyone regard the function as mean or contemptible. It is the very foundation of the Christian religion. Hence Pope Paul III, in a bull in which he recommends this employment, declares that "nothing is more fruitful or more profitable for the salvation of souls." No pastoral function is more indispensable, none more beneficial, and generally none more meritorious; we may add, or more sublime. For under a meaner exterior appearance, without pomp, ostentation, or show of learning or abilities, it joins the exercise of humility with the most zealous and most profitable function of the pastoral charge. Being painful and laborious, it is, moreover, an exercise of patience and penance. Neither can anyone think it beneath his parts or dignity. The great St. Austin, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril, and other most learned doctors, popes, and bishops applied themselves with singular zeal and assiduity to this duty of catechizing children and all ignorant persons; this they thought a high branch of their duty, and the most useful and glorious employment of their learning and talents. What did the apostles travel over the world to do else? St. Paul said, "I am a debtor to the wise and to the unwise. We became little ones in the midst of you, as if a nurse would cherish her children; so desirous of you, that we would gladly have imparted to you not only the gospel of God, but even our own souls." Our Divine Lord himself made this the principal employment of his ministry. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me: he hath sent me to preach the gospel to the poor." He declared the pleasure he found in assisting that innocent age when he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for the kingdom of God is for such. And embracing them, and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.


TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 28: Matthew 2: 13- 18

Matthew 2: 13 - 18
13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt,
15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."
16Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men.
17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

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