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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: WED. FEB. 23, 2011










CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: WED. FEB. 23, 2011: HEADLINES-

TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 23: MARK 9: 38- 40





ROBERT BELLARMINE, A VALID AUTHORITY FOR ECCLESIOLOGY

VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2011 (VIS REPORTS) - Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis during this morning's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,500 people, to St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), an outstanding figure of a troubled age in which "a serious political and religious crisis provoked a split between entire nations and the Holy See". (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

St. Robert Bellarmine, following an excellent cultural and humanistic education, entered the Society of Jesus in 1560. He studied in Rome, Padua and Leuven and was later made cardinal and archbishop of Capua, Italy. He held high office in the service of the Pope as a member of several congregations and head of Holy See diplomatic missions to Venice and England. During his final years he wrote a number of books on spirituality in which he condensed the fruits of his annual spiritual exercises. He was beatified and canonised by Pope Pius XI, who also declared him a Doctor of the Church.

"His 'Controversial Works' or 'Disputationes' are still a valid point of reference for Catholic ecclesiology", said the Holy Father. "They emphasise the institutional aspect of the Church, in response to the errors then circulating on that topic. Yet Bellarmine also threw light on invisible aspects of the Church as Mystical Body, which he explained using the analogy of the body and soul, in order to describe the relationship between the interior richness of the Church and her visible exterior features.

"In this monumental work, which seeks to categorise the various theological controversies of the age, he avoids polemical and aggressive tones towards the ideas of the Reformation but, using the arguments of reason and of Church Tradition, clearly and effectively illustrates Catholic doctrine.

"Nonetheless", the Pope added, "his true heritage lies in the way in which he conceived his work. His burden of office did not, in fact, prevent him from striving daily after sanctity through faithfulness to the requirements of his condition as religious, priest and bishop. ... His preaching and catechesis reveal that same stamp of essentiality which he learned from his Jesuit education, being entirely focused on concentrating the power of the soul on the Lord Jesus, intensely known, loved and imitated".

In another of his books, "De gemitu columbae" in which the Church is represented as a dove, Robert Bellarmine "forcefully calls clergy and faithful to a personal and concrete reform of their lives, in accordance with the teachings of Scripture and the saints. ... With great clarity and the example of his own life, he clearly teaches that there can be no true reform of the Church unless this is first preceded by personal reform and conversion of heart on our part".

"If you are wise, then understand that you were created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation", said the Pope quoting from one of the saint's works. "Favourable or adverse circumstances, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, honour and offence, life and death, the wise must neither seek these things, nor seek to avoid them per se. They are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are bad and to be avoided if they hinder this".

The Pope concluded: "These words have not gone out of fashion, but should be meditated upon at length in order to guide our journey on this earth. They remind us that the goal of our life is the Lord. ... They remind us of the importance of trusting in God, of living a life faithful to the Gospel, and of accepting all the circumstances and all actions of our lives, illuminating them with faith and prayer".

Before today's audience, the Holy Father blessed a statue of St. Maron, founder of the Maronite Church which is particularly widespread in Lebanon and Syria. The 4.5-metre high Carrara-marble statue, which has been placed in the last empty niche on the outside wall of the Vatican Basilica, is the work of Spanish sculptor Marco Augusto Duenas.

Among those present at the ceremony were His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites; Michel Sleiman, president of the Republic of Lebanon, and various religious and civil authorities.

AG/ VIS 20110223 (710)

POPE RECALLS VICTIMS OF NEW ZEALAND EARTHQUAKE

VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2011 (VIS) - During today's general audience, the Pope recalled how "a new and powerful earthquake, even more devastating than the one last September, has struck the city of Christchurch, in New Zealand, causing considerable loss of life and the disappearance of many people, to say nothing of the damage to buildings.

"At this time", the Holy Father added, "my thoughts turn especially to the people there who are being severely tested by this tragedy. Let us ask God to relieve their suffering and to support all who are involved in the rescue operations. I also ask you to join me in praying for all who have lost their lives".

AG/ VIS 20110223 (130)

HOLY FATHER TO VISIT ROME'S "FOSSE ARDEATINE"

VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2011 (VIS) - The Prefecture of the Pontifical Household today released a communique announcing that, at the invitation of National Association of Italian Families of Martyrs who Fell for the Freedom of the Homeland (ANFIM), the Holy Father will make a private visit to the monument at Rome's "Fosse Ardeatine" on Sunday 27 March, the sixty-seventh anniversary of the massacre there.

The Ardeatine massacre was carried out by German occupying forces in Rome on 24 March 1944. Three hundred and thirty-five Italian civilians and military personnel were summarily executed in reprisal for a bomb attack the previous day against a group of German troops in Rome's Via Rasella.

OCL/ VIS 20110223 (120)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 23 FEB 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father accepted the resignation from the office of auxiliary of the archdiocese of Brasilia, Brazil, presented by Bishop Francisco de Paula Victor, upon having reached the age limit.

NEW ZEALAND: PRAYER APPEAL FOR VICTIMS OF EARTHQUAKES

CATH NEWS REPORT-

Screenshot from an aerial video footage uploaded to YouTube by Russia Today

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Catholic Mission Australia has asked "every Catholic in Australia join us in showing our overwhelming prayer and support" for the people of Christchurch, where at least 65 people are confirmed deead after yesterday's earthquake, reports Independent Catholic News.


Within a couple of hours of the quake, an appeal went out from New Zealand Catholic Mission National Director, Fr Paul Shannahan sm.CMA's National Director, Martin Teulan, said: "We're shocked and upset at the terrible death and destruction."

"A violent earthquake suddenly shook the South Island city of Christchurch just before 1 pm today. It measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. The Central business area saw many buildings partly or wholly collapsing especially the older ones," he wrote.

"Sixty five deaths have been reported so far, as people are freed from under rubble and collapsed shop verandas.

"The two well known Anglican and Catholic cathedrals have seen large sections fall to the ground and they may be beyond repair.

"The biggest 'damage' is on people. Many were traumatised in the 7.1 quake last September but this one is worse in that it was in the middle of a working and school day. It hit with such vigour. It shook whole building violently. Hundreds have sustained injuries but shock and fear is scaring them even more. Thousands are trying to get home and many more are leaving the city to stay elsewhere."

Fr Shannahan said a full-scale emergency has been declared, with army personnel and civil defence personnel enlisted to assist police and fire brigades. The full extent of the damage "is hard to gauge at this early stage".

Prayers can be emailed to prayers@catholicmission.org.au, Catholic Mission Australia's Mr Teulan said in a media release.

http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=25148

AMERICA: USA: COUPLE KILLED BY PIRATES WHILE DISTRIBUTING BIBLES

- A sailing Catholic couple killed by Somali pirates during their global cruise to distribute Bibles was a

Scott and Jean Adam hand out Bibles as part of their ministry

“wonderful part” of a California Catholic parish, the couple’s pastor said.

Retirees Scott and Jean Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif. had decided to make a difference in the world by bringing Bibles to the “far-flung corners of the earth,” St. Monica Catholic Community pastor Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson said in a Feb. 22 interview.

“Our community believes in helping to form loving disciples who will transform this world,” he explained. Sharing Bibles was the Adams’ way of doing that during the sailing trip they began in 2004.

Their 58-foot sloop, the Quest, had separated from the Blue Water Rally cruise fleet traveling from Australia to the Mediterranean when they were hijacked by 19 Somali pirates in the northwest part of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Oman. The pirates captured the Adams and their friends Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle.

Four U.S. naval warships were tailing the captured vessel and Navy officials were engaged in negotiations with two of the pirates on board one of the American naval ships on the morning of Feb. 22.

But those talks were cut short by the sound of gunfire coming from the Quest, which Navy forces quickly boarded and captured. However, they found all four Americans had been wounded fatally.

Msgr. Torgerson said the Adams’ deaths made him feel “great great, loss” and “great pain.”

“They were faith-filled people, people of the Scripture, people of the Eucharist. They were great people of our community,” he told CNA.

Jean, who was a retired dentist and a mother of two, sang in the church choir.

The priest cited St. Paul’s words in the daily readings about receiving the “unfaded crown of glory.”

“They won the crown. I believe with all my heart they are with God today,” he continued, calling eternal life “the gift and blessing of faithful people.”

“I hope that the four of them find that great peace,” he added, urging an end to violence.

In their 2011 travels, the Adams visited Phuket, Thailand; Galle, Sri Lanka; and Cochin, India. They passed out Catholic Bibles from the American Bible Society and New International Version Bibles from the International Bible Society.

On their website they spoke of finding “homes” for their Bibles as a part of “friendship evangelism.”

The yacht was en route to Salalah, Oman when they were captured. Two pirates were killed in the naval engagement and 13 were captured and detained.

Msgr. Torgerson said Catholics can take inspiration from the Adams.

“We want to make sure that each one of us does as they have done: to go about with courage and strength to make a difference in this world,” he said. “They were doing that as retired people. So all ages can go out and make some difference.”

The Adams’ parish has celebrated at least three liturgies for the dead and their families. It will remember the dead “in a very special way” at its Masses this week.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pastor-of-catholic-couple-killed-by-somali-pirates-praises-their-bible-outreach/

ASIA: BANGLADESH: PRAYERS NEEDED FOR 14 YEAR OLD SUICIDE VICTIM OF GANG RAPE

UCAN REPORT: A Catholic priest in northwestern Rajshahi diocese parish says he is not in any way responsible for a payoff that helped prompt the suicide of a tribal girl who was raped by some men of her community ten months ago.

Serafina Mardi, 14, a tribal Santal Catholic girl from Sursunipara parish of Godagari sub-district at Rajshahi died on Monday after she had set herself on fire on Sunday, unable to stand social ostracism any longer, local media reported yesterday.

She was allegedly raped by nine men from her tribal community on her way home from an Easter Sunday program on 4 April, 2010.

Later her father filed a complaint at the local police station against the accused she was able to identify.

She was denied justice as the accused men, influential in the community, paid off her family with 140,000 taka (US$2000) in an out-of-court settlement.

The media accused the parish priest Father Bernard Tudu of conducting the village arbitration to settle the issue mutually with money and withdraw the case from the court.

The priest reportedly also asked them to repent inside the Church publicly holding lit candles.

In a phone interview the parish priest told ucanews.com the media allegations are false.

“I feel sorry for the girl and her family. I was not involved in the settlement and I had no representative in the arbitration. Village leaders asked me to use our auditorium to talk about the mishap and I allowed them,” Father Tudu said.

The priest added that village leaders requested him to keep the money. “I asked them why they settled it out of the court with money and also told them it is not acceptable,” he added.

The priest also asserted that as part of settlement one of the culprits Carlos Mardi, 22 promised to marry the girl. But when he had ascertained there would be no law suit he refused to marry her.

Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, chairman of Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace was also condemned the rape and social ostracism of the girl.

“I strongly condemn such an evil act. The death of the girl is so painful. I can’t accept the settlement made by people anyway, it was best to go through lawsuits. The culprits should have been punished,” he said.

Serafina Mardi was deeply depressed mentally and stopped going to school since she was raped, said her elder sister Sabina Mardi.

“She was so distressed that she didn’t go out of her home, seldom spoke to others and didn’t eat properly. Moreover, she was socially ostracized as villagers called her nosta (spoilt). She immolated herself failing to fight insults any more,” she said.

The girl attempted to kill herself several times and she was alone at home when she set herself on fire. She died in the local hospital from more than 70 percent burns.

Jatiya Adivasi Parishad (JAP), a national rights group for tribal people, organized a human chain and handed over a protest memorandum to the home minster through sub-district officer demanding proper investigation of the case and exemplary punishment of the culprits.

“We want justice for this inhumane incident and never want to let it happen again,” said JAP president Anil Marandi.

Dinesh Hasdak, 32, one of the participants in the protest demo,said: “We don’t want to let more Serafinas die like this, and we demand punitive measures for the rapists.”

http://www.ucanews.com/2011/02/23/priest-had-no-part-in-rape-payoff

AFRICA: ZIMBABWE: BISHOPS CONCERNED OVER POVERTY

Agenzia Fides REPORT – “We address a very particular plea to the political leaders of the SADC region (South African Development Community) at a critical time in the life of the Zimbabwean Nation,” write the Bishops of IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, meeting with the Bishops of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambico, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa and Zimbabwe) at the conclusion of their 9th Plenary Session.
In a statement sent to Fides, the members of IMBISA “acknowledge the important role played by SADC in facilitating the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which led directly to the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU).” They also recalled the courage of the three Principals in the GNU: President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara. “This was the fruit of a true African solidarity - something to be celebrated and a cause for great hope in the region. It promised a new dawn for Zimbabwe,” wrote the Bishops.
They continued, “However, two years later, we are concerned at the lack of meaningful progress: not all aspects of the GPA have been fulfilled within the agreed timeframe. Despite some improvements in the country we note that the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe continue to suffer from, amongst other things: extreme poverty; high levels of unemployment; inadequate health and education services; lack of investment and confidence in the economy of the country. This is all the more tragic – and indeed a matter of grave injustice – when we consider the wealth of the country with respect both to its human and its material resources.”
Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2011. IMBISA is concerned about the serious shortcomings in the leadup to elections: the GPA has not been fully implemented; the new Constitution is incomplete a long way behind schedule (“it is not known when the referendum on the Constitution will be held”); the Electoral Roll has not been updated; Freedom of Association and of the Media is severely restricted; the Nation is extremely fearful. There are increasing signs of intimidation and/or violence as the election campaign builds up. 46 people have been arrested while watching the transmission of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, accused of preparing to “subvert a legitimate Government”.

EUROPE: GERMANY: LUTHERAN CONVERT ORDAINED CATHOLIC PRIEST

CATH NEWS REPORT:

Image from the homepage of Harm Klueting

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A Lutheran convert was ordained as a Catholic priest in Germany this week and is being allowed to remain married to his wife who is already a Carmelite nun, said a Fox News report.


Pope Benedict gave him a special permission to remain married to his wife Edeltraut Klueting, who became a Catholic Carmelite nun in 2004. The couple has two grown children.Harm Klueting, 61, was ordained by Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner in a private ceremony at the city's seminary on Tuesday, the Cologne archdiocese said.

"It doesn't happen every day," noted Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

The report adds that Klueting and his family could not be reached for comment, and it was not clear whether they still lived together as a couple.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII first allowed clergymen who had converted to Catholicism to remain married, the Cologne diocese said in its statement. However, each case has to be approved by the pope himself, the statement said, adding that in the past married priests also had been ordained in the German cities of Hamburg and Regensburg.

http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=25153

TODAY'S SAINT: FEB. 23: ST. POLYCARP

St. Polycarp

MARTYR AND BISHOP OF SMYRNA

Feast: February 23



Information:

Feast Day:February 23
Born:

69

Died:155 at Smyrna
Patron of:against dysentery, against earache

From his acts, written by the church of Smyrna in an excellent circular letter to the churches of Pontus, immediately after his martyrdom, a niece abridged by Eusebius, b. 4, c. 14 highly esteemed by the ancients. Joseph Scaliger, a supercilious critic, says that nothing in the whole course of church history so strongly affected him as the perusal of these acts, and those relating to the martyrs of Lyons; that he never read them but they gave him extraordinary emotions. Animad. in Chron. Eusebii, n. 2183 &c. They are certainly most valuable pieces of Christian antiquity. See Eusebius, St. Jerome, and St. Irenaeus also Tillemont, t. 2, p. 327; Dom Ceillier, t. 1; Dom Marechal, Concordance des Peres; Grecs et Latins, t. 1.

St Polycarp was one of the most illustrious of the apostolic fathers, who, being the immediate disciples of the apostles, received instructions from their mouths, and inherited of them the spirit of Christ in a degree so much the more eminent as they lived nearer the fountain head. He embraced Christianity very young, about the year 80, was a disciple of the apostles, in particular of St. John the Evangelist, and was constituted by him Bishop of Symrna, probably before his banishment to Patmos in 96, so that he governed that important see seventy years. He seems to have been the angel or bishop of Smyrna who was commended above all the bishops of Asia by Christ himself in the Apocalypse, and the only one without a reproach. Our Saviour encouraged him under his poverty, tribulation, and persecutions, especially the calumnies of the Jews, called him rich in grace, and promised him the crown of life by martyrdom. This saint was respected by the faithful to a degree of veneration. He formed many holy disciples, among whom were St. Irenaeus and Papias. When Florinus, who had often visited St. Polycarp, had broached certain heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote to him as follows: "These things were not taught you by the bishops who preceded us. I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance and of his whole exterior, and what were his holy exhortations to the people. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ; the words he had heard from their mouths. I can protest before God that if this holy bishop had heard of any error like yours, he would have immediately stopped his ears, and cried out, according to his custom, Good God! that I should be reserved to these times to hear such things! That very instant he would have fled out of the place in which he had heard such doctrine." St. Jerome mentions that St. Polycarp met at Rome the heretic Marcion in the streets, who resenting that the holy bishop did not take that notice of him which he expected, said to him, "Do you not know me, Polycarp?" "Yes," answered the saint, "I know you to be the firstborn of Satan." He had learned this abhorrence of the authors of heresy, who knowingly and willingly adulterate the divine truths, from his master, St. John, who fled out of the bath in which he saw Cerinthus. St. Polycarp kissed with respect the chains of St. Ignatius, who passed by Smyrna on the road to his martyrdom, and who recommended to our saint the care and comfort of his distant church of Antioch, which he repeated to him in a letter from Troas, desiring him to write in his name to those churches of Asia to which he had not leisure to write himself. St. Polycarp wrote a letter to the Philippians shortly after, which is highly commended by St. Irenaeus, St. Jerome, Eusebius, Photius, and others, and is still extant. It is justly admired both for the excellent instructions it contains and for the simplicity and perspicuity of the style, and was publicly read in the church in Asia in St. Jerome's time. In it he calls a heretic, as above, the eldest son of Satan. About the year 158 he undertook a journey of charity to Rome, to confer with Pope Anicetus about certain points of discipline, especially about the time of keeping Easter, for the Asiatic churches kept it on the fourteenth day of the vernal equinoctial moon, as the Jews did, on whatever day of the week it fell; whereas Rome, Egypt, and all the West observed it on the Sunday following. It was agreed that both might follow their custom without breaking the bands of charity. St. Anicetus, to testify his respect, yielded to him the honour of celebrating the Eucharist in his own church. We find no further particulars concerning our saint recorded before the acts of his martyrdom.

In the sixth year of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Statius Quadratus being proconsul of Asia, a violent persecution broke out in that country, in which the faithful gave heroic proofs of their courage and love of God, to the astonishment of the infidels. When they were torn to pieces with scourges till their very bowels were laid bare, amidst the moans and tears of the spectators, who were moved with pity at the sight of their torments, not one of them gave so much as a single groan, so little regard had they for their own flesh in the cause of God. No kinds of torture, no inventions of cruelty, were forborne to force them to a conformity to the pagan worship of the times. Germanicus, who had been brought to Smyrna with eleven or twelve other Christians, signalised himself above the rest, and animated the most timorous to suffer. The proconsul in the amphitheatre called upon him with tenderness, entreated him to have some regard for his youth, and to value at least his life, but he, with a holy impatience, provoked the beasts to devour him, to leave this wicked world. One Quintus, a Phrygian, who had presented himself to the judge, yielded at the sight of the beast let out upon him, and sacrificed. The authors of these acts justly condemn the presumption of those who offered themselves to suffer, and say that the martyrdom of St. Polycarp was conformable to the gospel, because he exposed not himself to the temptation, but waited till the persecutors laid hands on him, as Christ our Lord taught us by his own example. The spectators, seeing the courage of Germanicus and his companions, and being fond of their impious bloody diversions, cried out, "Away with the impious! let Polycarp be sought for!" The holy man, though fearless, had been prevailed upon by his friends to withdraw and conceal himself in a neighbouring village during the storm, spending most of his time in prayer. Three days before his martyrdom, he in a vision saw his pillow on fire, from which he understood by revelation, and foretold his companions, that he should be burnt alive.

When the persecutors were in quest of him he changed his retreat, but was betrayed by a boy, who was threatened with the rack unless he discovered him. Herod, the Irenarch, or keeper of the peace, whose office it was to prevent misdemeanours and apprehend malefactors, sent horsemen by night to beset his lodgings. The saint was above stairs in bed, but refused to make his escape, saying, "God's will be done." He went down, met them at the door, ordered them a handsome supper, and sired only some time for prayer before he went with them. This granted, he began his prayer standing, which he continued in that posture for two hours, recommending to God his own flock and the whole church with so much earnestness and devotion that several of those that were come to seize him repented they had undertaken the commission. They set him on an ass, and were conducting him towards the city when he was met on the road by Herod and his father Nicetes, who took him into their chariot, and endeavoured to persuade him to a little compliance, saying, "What harm is there in saying Lord Caesar, or even in sacrificing, to escape death?" By the word Lord was meant nothing less than a kind of deity or godhead. The bishop at first was silent, in imitation of our Saviour, but being pressed, he gave them this resolute answer, "I shall never do what you desire of me." At these words, taking off the mask of friendship and compassion, they treated him with scorn and reproaches, and thrust him out of the chariot with such violence that his leg was bruised by the fall. The holy man went forward cheerfully to the place where the people were assembled. Upon his entering it a voice from heaven was heard by many, "Polycarp, be courageous, and act manfully." He was led directly to the tribunal of the proconsul, who exhorted him to respect his own age, to swear by the genius of Caesar, and to say, "Take away the impious," meaning the Christians. The saint, turning towards the people in the pit, said, with a stern countenance, "Exterminate the wicked," meaning by this expression either a wish that they might cease to be wicked by their conversion to the faith of Christ, or this was a prediction of the calamity which befel their city in 177, when Smyrna was overturned by an earthquake, as we read in Dionand Aristides. The proconsul repeated, "Swear by the genius of Caesar, and I discharge you; blaspheme Christ." Polycarp replied, "I have served him these fourscore and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good, and how can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour? If you require of me to swear by the genius of Caesar, as you call it, hear my free confession- I am a Christian; but if you desire to learn the Christian religion, appoint a time, and hear me." The proconsul said, "Persuade the people." The martyr replied, "I addressed my discourse to you, for we are taught to give due honour to princes as far as is consistent with religion. But the populace is an incompetent judge to justify myself before." Indeed rage rendered them incapable of hearing him.

The proconsul then assuming a tone of severity, said: "I have wild beasts." "Call for them," replied the saint: "for we are unalterably resolved not to change from good to evil. It is only good to pass from evil to good." The proconsul said: "If you contemn the beasts, I will cause you to be burnt to ashes." Polycarp answered: "You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time and then goes out, but are yourself ignorant of the judgment to come, and of the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked. Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please." Whilst he said this and many other things, he appeared in a transport of joy and confidence, and his countenance shone with a certain heavenly grace and pleasant cheerfulness, insomuch that the proconsul himself was struck with admiration. However, he ordered a crier to make public proclamation three times in the middle of the Stadium (as was the Roman custom in capital cases): "Polycarp hath confessed himself a Christian." At this proclamation the whole multitude of Jews and Gentiles gave a great shout, the latter crying out, "This is the great teacher of Asia; the father of the Christians; the destroyer of our gods, who preaches to men not to sacrifice to or adore them." They applied to Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon Polycarp. He told them that it was not in his power, because those shows had been closed. Then they unanimously demanded that he should be burnt alive. Their request was no sooner granted but every one ran with all speed to fetch wood from the baths and shops. The pile being prepared, Polycarp put off his garments, untied his girdle, and began to take off his shoes, an office he had not been accustomed to, the Christians having always striven who should do these things for him, regarding it as a happiness to be admitted to touch him. The wood and other combustibles were heaped all round him. The executioners would have nailed him to the stake; but he said to them: "Suffer me to be as I am. He who gives me grace to undergo this fire will enable me to stand still without that precaution." They therefore contented themselves with tying his hands behind his back, and in this posture looking up towards heaven, he prayed as follows: "O Almighty Lord God, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, God of angels, powers, and every creature, and of all the race of the just that live in thy presence! I bless thee for having been pleased in thy goodness to bring me to this hour, that I may receive a portion in the number of thy martyrs, and partake of the chalice of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, in the incorruptibleness of the holy Spirit. Amongst whom grant me to be received this day as a pleasing sacrifice, such an one as thou thyself hast prepared, that so thou mayest accomplish what thou, O true and faithful God! hast foreshown. Wherefore, for all things I praise, bless, and glorify thee, through the eternal high priest Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee and the Holy Ghost be glory now and for ever. Amen." He had scarce said Amen when fire was set to the pile, which increased to a mighty flame. But behold a wonder, say the authors of these acts, seen by us reserved to attest it to others; the flames forming themselves into an arch, like the sails of a ship swelled with the wind, gently encircled the body of the martyr, which stood in the middle, resembling not roasted flesh, but purified gold or silver, appearing bright through the flames; and his body sending forth such a fragrancy that we seemed to smell precious spices. The blind infidels were only exasperated to see his body could not be consumed, and ordered a spearman to pierce him through, which he did, and such a quantity of blood issued out of his left side as to quench the fire. The malice of the devil ended not here: he endeavoured to obstruct the relics of the martyr being carried off by the Christians; for many desired to do it, to show their respect to his body. Therefore, by the suggestion of Satan, Nicetes advised the proconsul not to bestow it on the Christians, lest, said he, abandoning the crucified man, they should adore Polycarp: the Jews suggested this, "Not knowing," say the authors of the acts, "that we can never forsake Christ, nor adore any other, though we love the martyrs, as his disciples and imitators, for the great love they bore their king and master." The centurion, seeing a contest raised by the Jews, placed the body in the middle, and burnt it to ashes. "We afterwards took up the bones," say they, "more precious than the richest jewels or gold, and deposited them decently in a place at which may God grant us to assemble with joy, to celebrate the birthday of the martyr." Thus these disciples and eye-witnesses. It was at two o'clock in the afternoon, which the authors of the acts call the eighth hour, in the year 166, that St. Polycarp received his crown, according to Tillemont; but in 169, according to Basnage.1 His tomb is still shown with great veneration at Smyrna, in a small chapel. St. Irenaeus speaks of St. Polycarp as being of an uncommon age.

The epistle of St. Polycarp to the Philippians, which is the only one among those which he wrote that has been preserved, is, even in the dead letter, a standing proof of the apostolic spirit with which he was animated, and of that profound humility, perfect meekness, burning charity, and holy zeal, of which his life was so admirable an example. The beginning is an effusion of spiritual joy and charity with which he was transported at the happiness of their conversion to God, and their fervor in divine love. His extreme abhorrence of heresy makes him immediately fall upon that of the Docaetae against which he arms the faithful, by clearly demonstrating that Christ was truly made man, died, and rose again: in which his terms admirably express his most humble and affectionate devotion to our divine Redeemer, under these great mysteries of love. Besides walking in truth, he takes notice, that to be raised with Christ in glory, we must also do his will, keep all his commandments, and love whatever he loved; refraining from all fraud, avarice, detraction, and rash judgment; repaying evil with good forgiving and showing mercy to others that we ourselves may find mercy. "These things," says he, "I write to you on justice, because you incited me; for neither I, nor any other like me, can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, into whose epistles if you look, you may raise your spiritual fabric by strengthening faith, which is our mother, hope following, and charity towards God, Christ, and our neighbor preceding us. He who has charity is far from all sin." The saint gives short instructions to every particular state, then adds, "Every one who hath not confessed that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist; and who hath not confessed the suffering of the cross, is of the devil; and who hath drawn the oracles of the Lord to his passions, and hath said that there is no resurrection nor judgment, he is the oldest son of Satan." He exhorts to watching always in prayer, lest we be led into temptation; to be constant in fasting, persevering, joyful in hope, and in the pledge of our justice, which is Christ Jesus, imitating his patience; for, by suffering for his name, we glorify him. To encourage them to suffer, he reminds them of those who had suffered before their eyes: Ignatius, Zozimus, and Rufus, and some of their own congregation, "who are now," says our saint, "in the place which is due to them with the Lord, with whom they also suffered."



source: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/P/stpolycarp.asp#ixzz1EnmuPMrp

TODAY'S GOSPEL: FEB. 23: MARK 9: 38- 40

Mark 9: 38 - 40
38John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us."
39But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.
40For he that is not against us is for us.
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