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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD : WED. DEC. 28, 2011

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
VATICAN : POPE : CHRISTMAS MESSAGE : CHRIST IS THE HAND GOD EXTENDS
AMERICA : TOP 5 CHRISTMAS CAROLS - VIDEO AND HISTORY
AFRICA : MALAWI : MISSIONARY SAYS COUNTRY IN POVERTY
EUROPE : RUSSIA : BISHOP ON CHRISTMAS - CHRISTIAN FAITH LIVED
AUSTRALIA : BISHOP FISHER CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
ASIA : IRAQ : CATHOLICS CANCEL MIDNIGHT MASS FOR SECURITY
TODAY'S SAINT : DEC. 28 : HOLY INNOCENTS
TODAY'S GOSPEL AND MASS ONLINE : WED. DEC. 28, 2011
 
VATICAN : POPE : CHRISTMAS MESSAGE : CHRIST IS THE HAND GOD EXTENDS
VIS REPORTS: CHRIST IS THE HAND GOD EXTENDS TO HUMANITY

VATICAN CITY, 25 DEC 2011 (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: (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

"The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; He is the Saviour of all. This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: 'O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God'. Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. ... This hand is Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of His Truth and His Love".

"Jesus ... means 'Saviour'. He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take His place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death. This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God's help".

"The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves. ... God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. ... To realise this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone Who hears us and can come to our assistance.

"Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. ... The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God Who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about Him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.

"Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: 'Come to save us!'".

"Together let us ask God's help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.

"May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods.

"May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood. May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where He chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. May He bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May He foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May He grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.

"May the birth of the Saviour support the prospects of dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar, in the pursuit of shared solutions. May the Nativity of the Redeemer ensure political stability to the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and assist the people of South Sudan in their commitment to safeguarding the rights of all citizens".

"Let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to Him; let us receive Him into our lives".

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).
MESS/ VIS 20111228 (820)

THE TRUE IMITATION OF CHRIST IS LOVE

VATICAN CITY, 26 DEC 2011 (VIS) - At midday today, Feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square.

The Pope explained how, "following the generation of the Apostles, martyrs came to acquire high standing in the Christian community. At times of greatest persecution, remembering and praising them brought relief to the faithful on their arduous journey and encouraged those seeking truth to convert to the Lord. Thus the Church, by divine disposition, venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them under such names as 'life masters' and 'living witnesses'".

"The true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian authors have defined as 'the secret martyrdom'. ... Today, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel may call for the sacrifice of life, and many Christians in various parts of the world are subject to persecution and sometimes to martyrdom. But, as the Lord reminds us, 'the one who endures to the end will be saved'".

"Let us pray to Most Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs, to maintain our desire for goodness intact, especially towards those who oppose us. In particular, let us today entrust the deacons of the Church to divine mercy so that, illumined by the example of St. Stephen, they may collaborate, in accordance with their specific mission, in the task of evangelisation".

Appeal for an end to violence in Nigeria

After praying the Angelus the Pope said: "Christmas arouses, even more strongly, our prayer to God that violent hands may cease to spread death, and that justice and peace may reign in the world. Yet our earth continues to be stained with innocent blood. It was with great sadness that I heard the news of attacks which, this year too, on the Day of Christ's Birth, have brought mourning and pain to certain churches of Nigeria. I wish to express my sincere and affectionate closeness to the Christian communities and to everyone who has been affected by this senseless gesture, and I invite people to pray to the Lord for the many victims. I make this appeal that, with the collaboration of all components of society, security and serenity may be restored. At this time I wish to reiterate once again: violence is a way which leads only to suffering, destruction and death; respect, reconciliation and love are the only way to achieve peace".
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HOLY FAMILY, AN ICON OF THE DOMESTIC CHURCH

VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Prayer in the Holy Family of Nazareth was the theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis during today's general audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 pilgrims.

"The house of Nazareth", the Pope explained, "is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus".

"Mary is the peerless model for the contemplation of Christ", he said. She "lived with her eyes on Christ and treasured His every word. ... Luke the Evangelist makes Mary's heart known to us, her faith, her hope, her obedience, her interior life and prayer, her free adherence to Christ. All of these came from the gift of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon her just as it descended upon the Apostles according to Christ's promise. This image of Mary makes her a model for all believers".

Mary's capacity to live by the gaze of God is "contagious", the Holy Father went on. "The first to experience this was St. Joseph. ... With Mary, and later with Jesus, he began a new rapport with God, he began to accept Him into his life, to enter into His plan of salvation, to do His will".

Although the Gospel has not preserved any of Joseph's words, "his is a silent but faithful presence, constant and active. ... Joseph fulfilled his paternal role in all aspects". In this context, the Pope explained how Joseph had educated Jesus to pray, taking Him to the synagogue on Saturdays and guiding domestic prayer in the morning and evening. "Thus, in the rhythm of the days spent in Nazareth, between Joseph's humble dwelling and his workshop, Jesus learned to alternate pray and work, also offering up to God the fatigue by which they earned the bread the family needed".

Benedict XVI then turned his attention to the pilgrimage of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, as narrated in the Gospel of St. Luke. "The Jewish family, like the Christian family, prays in the intimacy of the home, but it also prays together in the community recognising itself as part of the pilgrim People of God", he said.

Jesus' first words - "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house" - pronounced when Mary and Joseph found Him sitting among the teachers in the Temple, are a key to understanding Christian prayer. "From that moment, the life of the Holy Family became even richer in prayer, because the profound significance of the relationship with God the Father began to spread from the Heart of the boy (then adolescent, then young man) Jesus to the hearts of Mary and Joseph. The Family of Nazareth was the first model of the Church in which, in the presence of Jesus and thanks to His mediation, a filial rapport with God came to transform even interpersonal relations".

"The Holy Family", Benedict XVI concluded, "is an icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the first school of prayer where, from their infancy, children learn to perceive God thanks to the teaching and example of their parents. An authentically Christian education cannot neglect the experience of prayer. If we do not learn to pray in the family, it will be difficult to fill this gap later. I would, then, like to invite people to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family, following the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth".
AG/ VIS 20111228 (620)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 28 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Remidio Jose Bohn, auxiliary of Porto Alegre, Brazil, as bishop of Cachoeira do Sul (area 10,736, population 220,000, Catholics 161,287, priests 24, permanent deacons 7, religious 46), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Irineu Silvio Wilges O.F.M., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

On Monday 26 December it was made public that the Holy Father accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the archdiocese of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago presented by Archbishop Edward Joseph Gilbert C.SS.R., upon having reached the age limit. He is succeeded by Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph Harris C.S.Sp.

On Saturday 24 December it was made public that the Holy Father appointed:

- Bishop Joseph Hii Teck Kwong, auxiliary of Sibu, Malaysia, as bishop of the same diocese (area 41,484, population 790,000, Catholics 109,944, priests 19, religious 30). He succeeds Bishop Dominic Su Haw Chiu, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law.

- Msgr. Joseph Mbatia of the clergy of the diocese of Nyahururu, Kenya, vicar general, as bishop of Nyahururu (area 8,066, population 1,043,000, Catholics 332,700, priests 54, permanent deacons 4, religious 82). The bishop-elect was born in Itabua, Kenya in 1961 and ordained a priest in 1989. He has worked as assistant to the bishop of Nyeri and as pastor in a number of parishes in his country. He succeeds Bishop Luigi Paiaro, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.

- Bishop Vital Chitolina S.C.I., prelate of Paranatinga, Brazil, as bishop of Diamantino (area 105,406, population 310,897, Catholics 224,779, priests 25, religious 60), Brazil.

AMERICA : TOP 5 CHRISTMAS CAROLS - VIDEO AND HISTORY

A Christmas Carol is a song or hymn dedicated to Christmas. They originated in Rome around the 4th Century AD. Here is a little history of the top 5 Christmas Carols in history.
Silent Night, originally "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" in German, was written by the Catholic Priest Joseph Mohr and the melody composed by Franz Xaver Gruber. The tune was written in Austria in 1818.
O Come, All Ye Faithful
According to most sources the Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful in Latin) was composed there by John Reading about the year 1680. It is believed that the lyrics were written by Cistercian monks much earlier.
What Child is This was written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix. It was set to the traditional English Tune of Greensleeves which originated around 1580.
Away in a Manger was published in Philadelphia in 1885. It is uncertain who wrote the lyrics. However, the tune was called St. Kilda and attributed to J. E. Clark.
Joy To The World was written by Isaac Watts and based on Psalm 98. It was published in 1719 and was arranged to music in 1839 by Lowell Mason.


AFRICA : MALAWI : MISSIONARY SAYS COUNTRY IN POVERTY

Agenzia Fides REPORT - "The corn just sprouted up waited the dew of the night in vain to survive a few more days. Then everything dried up. Some more robust seedlings of cotton survive here and there, the rest has been virtually erased. We must start all over again. Many families do not even have the seeds for when the rains come. Three months after the beginning of the rainy season there is nothing in the fields. How can one spend Christmas in this poverty? " says to Fides Fr. Piergiorgio Gamba, a Monfort missionary who has been living in Malawi for over 30 years.
What has to be added to this problem is the political mismanagement of the national economy. "Never has the Country fallen so low. 'Malawi is sinking', says the Committee for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church ".
With the exchange rate of the local currency kept artificially high for political reasons, there is no electricity and there is fuel shortages, "these deficiencies themselves put at risk a small Country with 80% devoted to ' agriculture and whose people live in villages", says the missionary. In the city there are long queues of cars literally abandoned in the vicinity of petrol pumps.
"The prices now are uncontrollable and no one offers an estimate that is valid for a few days. The materials that were purchased abroad and then transformed on the spot cannot be purchased except for the black market. Cement cannot be found, iron is increasingly scarce ... "
The regime also uses an iron fist to keep the situation under control and prevent the explosion of social protest. The police claim to have detained or arrested more than 4000 people under the pretext of wanting to ensure a peaceful Christmas to the people.
"A further sign of disarray in the country is the opening of the Lot, which promises a weekly ten million Kwacha to a winner who can 'dream of a new life'. Starting this week there is also 'Scratchcard' sponsored by a Chinese businessman, "says Fr Gamba.
"The next elections are in 2014. Too far away even if one cannot count on elections seeing how the results are cheated. How can one start the political change? Must the Church take responsibility for this task?" Asks the missionary in conclusion. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 28/12/2011)
http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=30665&lan=eng

EUROPE : RUSSIA : BISHOP ON CHRISTMAS - CHRISTIAN FAITH LIVED

ASIA NEWS REPORT: by Marta Allevato
Msgr. Pezzi speaks of the meaning of Christmas in the Russian community in a time of great social change, of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church and sends his best wishes to Orthodox brethren.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - At a time of great social change, "the Christian faith lived must return to represent the main element of Russian society, if it wants to be a point of reference for the whole world”, says the Archbishop of Mother of God in Moscow, Mgr. Paolo Pezzi, who in an interview with AsiaNews, commented on the meaning of Christmas for the Catholic community in Russia today and finds in the "common gift of martyrdom," the sign and the call intensify the journey of communion with the Orthodox Church.

Your Excellency, what is the value of Christmas this year?
First of all, Christmas is an occasion to remember that God became man and he did so in a moment of time that has given meaning to time and the whole history. Christmas is always a new opportunity to stop and contemplate this mystery and thank God who not only created man, but became and remained over time a stable companion for man through the Church.

And what meaning can this have today for the Russian community?
Picking up on something that the Pope has recently said and which is highly applicable to our situation, the Russian one: the need that the question of God returns to being present, this concerns mainly the Church, and that this question once again be a criterion to inform the social, political and economic integration of countries in which we live.

But is this still possible in Russia, a country that is emerging from 70 years of state atheism?
I think that the Christian faith must return to being the main element of this society if this society wants to return to being a point of reference for the whole world. In this sense, the pilgrimage of the Sacred Belt of the Virgin in Moscow was a sign of great devotion and also a sign that certain events are able to move people. What is needed, in my opinion, is that along with this there is an awareness of the value of faith that even a pilgrimage has.

What were the most significant moments in the life of the Russian Catholic community in 2011?
Certainly those related to certain occasions, in particular the centenary of the consecration of the cathedral in Moscow, and then some other similar anniversaries in other cities. This was first of all an occasion to raise a greater awareness of the history of the Catholic Church in this country and fostered a greater awareness among the faithful to bring our contribution to this society today. The World Youth Day with the Pope in Spain has had great significance: the meeting with Benedict XVI provoked a really big reaction among young people in Russia to the point that several thousand were physically present in Madrid. The event was accompanied by a series of meetings we had with the young people about witness, very significant in the direction of an awareness of the value of humanity before the mystery of the present God and their lives as a vocation, as well as the possibility of spending it for the good of the world, for the construction of a new world.

At the end of 2011 can you take stock of the ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Church and trace the development prospects for next year?
With the Orthodox, at least locally in Russia, we have not formulated an agenda of special events for next year. In my opinion a series of conferences the last held in Moscow organized by the Patriarchate on the persecution of Christians worldwide was very significant from the point of view of relations between the Churches. This last conference was also important operationally speaking, given some elements that have since emerged, such as the need and opportunity for a coordinated monitoring of the situation between the Churches, which means seeing the persecution of Christians as an opportunity to make sensitive joint actions with those governments and those states that can at least do something to reduce if not eliminate the persecution. This also makes us aware of how witness to Christ can lead to the gift of life by the shedding of blood. And it is an awareness that concerns all Christians and not just a community or Church. And this is also the sign and the call to intensify our journey of communion.

In a few days time, Jan. 7, the Russian Orthodox Church also celebrates Christmas. What wishes would you like to send?
I would send the same wishes to our Orthodox Christian brothers that I make and hope for myself and our local church: to live this event with increasing intensity, which is the best thing that ever happened in history, that is God became man.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Bishop-of-Moscow:-without-faith-Russia-is-meaningless-in-the-world-23544.html

AUSTRALIA : BISHOP FISHER CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Bishop Anthony
The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP.




DIOCESE OF PARRAMATTA RELEASE: Messages from the Bishop
A Christmas Message from Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop of Parramatta , December 2011
There were presents at the first Christmas. Angels brought songs. Shepherds brought lambs. Wise men brought gold for a baby who would be King, frankincense for a child who would be Priest, and myrrh for One who would die to save the world.
There were presents at the first Christmas and there will be this Christmas. Amidst the economic gloom our businesses hope for some bounce from all the present buying and giving. But we must ask ourselves: how much more stuff do we really need? How many things do we have from last Christmas that we have not touched since? How many other gadgets, clothes, DVDs, or whatever have we accumulated in the meantime, or over the years, that we never even advert to?
Sometimes we keep them for sentimental reasons even if they are not useful. Or because we think we might use them yet. But I wonder how much we are trapped in a culture of accumulating stuff for its own sake, stuff that costs money we could be putting to better uses, stuff we could be sharing with other people instead of hoarding at home...
Recently I heard a woman saying she spent a lot on money on clothes she did not need or even like so she could wear them to impress people she didn’t know and who didn’t notice.
Reflecting on that made her ask all sorts of questions about the sustainability of the consumer economy, the impacts on the natural environment and on the social environment, on people. Behind those were even deeper questions about what we value – in the world, in others, in ourselves.
Our global financial uncertainty invites such questions. Christmas invites such questions.
There were presents at the first Christmas, but there was also the grinding poverty of a young couple living rough and giving birth in a stable. There was the insecurity of a young family having to flee as refugees from the violence around them. There was a cosmic hymn of glory to God in the highest and a cosmic plea for peace and goodwill on earth.
As we attend church services this Christmas, or listen to carols, or say grace to give thanks for all we have received; as we notice the different feel in the streets, the decorations, the frenzied shopping, the Christmas drinks, the holiday heat and roads; as we look at our families across the Christmas dinner table and open our presents with them, we might ask ourselves: don’t people matter so much more than things? What do I want for my loved ones? What do I do for them? What really makes me happy?
Christ the Lord is born to us at Christmas. God comes to fill our world with hope. A baby worthy of all gifts wants nothing more than our friendship. May God bless you and all your loved ones this Christmas and in the New Year of grace 2012.

ASIA : IRAQ : CATHOLICS CANCEL MIDNIGHT MASS FOR SECURITY

CNS REPORT -- Chaldean Catholic officials have canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses because of security risks.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk in northern Iraq told the agency Aid to the Church in Need that Christians will spend Christmas in "great fear" because of the risk of new attacks.

All services and Masses have been scheduled for daylight hours, he said in an interview with Rome-based AsiaNews.

"Midnight Christmas Mass has been canceled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians," he said, citing the Oct. 31, 2010, attack on the Syrian Catholic cathedral that left 57 people dead in the Iraqi capital.

Archbishop Sako also expressed concern over the growing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims vying for political power. He said the conflict has led to growing instability, especially in the days since the pullout of U.S. military troops in mid-December.

The archbishop's concerns follow a series of incidents in the northern province of Kurdistan, which had been considered safe haven for Christians.

In Erbil, Kurdistan's capital, Christian Sermat Patros, 29 was kidnapped Dec. 12. Between Dec. 2 and Dec. 5, at least 30 Christian-owned businesses were torched in Zakho near the Turkish border. A Christian couple also was found shot dead in their car Dec. 13 in Mosul.

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1105024.htm

TODAY'S GOSPEL AND MASS ONLINE : WED. DEC. 28, 2011


Matthew 2: 13 - 18
13 Now 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."
14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt,
15 and 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."
16 Then 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.
17 Then 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."

TODAY'S SAINT : DEC. 28 : HOLY INNOCENTS

Holy Innocents
Feast: December 28


Information:
Feast Day: December 28
EWTN : 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.


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