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Thursday, November 22, 2012

CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD : WED. NOV. 21, 2012











VATICAN : POPE : IT IS RATIONAL TO BELIEVE AND OTHER NEWS

ASIA : ISRAEL - PALESTINE - BOMB - 1400 ROCKETS - 1500 AIRSTRIKES - OVER 150 KILLED

AUSTRALIA : VOCATION OF A DOCTOR - TOUCH FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE

TODAY'S FEAST: NOV. 21: PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

(RADIO VATICANA IMAGE) BENEDICT XVI: IT IS RATIONAL TO BELIEVE
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - "As the Year of Faith progresses we carry in our hearts the hope of rediscovering our joy at believing and our enthusiasm for communicating the truth of faith to all. … This leads us to discover that our encounter with God brings value to, perfects and elevates that which is true, good and beautiful in mankind", said the Pope in his catechesis during today's general audience, held in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
Faith, he explained, "means knowing God as Love, thanks to His own love. The love of God … opens our eyes and allows us to know all reality beyond the limited horizons of individualism and subjectivism which distort our awareness".
Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to the rationality of faith in God, emphasising that the Catholic tradition "has always rejected the so-called principle of 'fideism', that is, the will to believe against reason. … Indeed, although a mystery, God is not absurd. … If, in contemplating the mystery, reason sees only darkness, this is not because the mystery contains no light, rather because it contains too much. Just as when we turn our eyes directly to the sun, we see only shadow - who would say that the sun is not bright? Faith allows us to look at the 'sun' that is God, because it welcomes His revelation in history. … God has sought mankind and made Himself known, bringing Himself to the limits of human reason".
"At the same time, God, with His grace, illuminates reason and opens up new horizons, immeasurable and infinite. Therefore, faith is a continuous stimulus to seek, never to cease or acquiesce in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality. … Intellect and faith are not foreign or antagonistic to divine Revelation, they are both prerequisites for understanding its meaning, for receiving its authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery. … The Catholic faith is therefore rational and also nurtures trust in human reason. … Knowledge of faith, furthermore, is not contrary to reason. … In the irresistible desire for truth, only a harmonious relationship between faith and reason can show the correct path to God and to self-fulfilment".
"A correct relationship between science and faith is also based on this fruitful interaction between comprehension and belief. Scientific research leads to the knowledge of new truths regarding mankind and the cosmos. The true good of mankind, accessible through faith, indicates the direction his path of discovery must follow. Therefore, it is important to encourage, for example, research which serves life and seeks to combat disease. Investigations into the secrets of our planet and the universe are also important for this reason, in the knowledge that man is placed at the peak of creation, not not in order exploit it senselessly, but rather to protect it and render it inhabitable.
"In this way, faith does not enter into conflict with science but co-operates with it, offering fundamental criteria to ensure it promotes universal good, and asking only that science desist from those initiatives that, in opposition to God's original plan, may produce effects which turn against man himself. Another reason for which it is rational to believe is this: if science is a valuable ally of faith in our understanding of God's plan for the universe, faith also directs scientific progress towards the good and truth of mankind, remaining faithful to that original plan.
"This is why it is vital for man to open himself to faith, and to know God and His plan for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Gospel establishes a new humanism, an authentic 'grammar' of humankind and reality", the Holy Father concluded. "It is rational to believe, as it is our very existence that is at stake".
 
APPEAL FOR PEACE IN GAZA
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - "I am following with grave concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip", said the Pope during his greetings following today's general audience. "Along with my prayers for the victims and for those who suffer, it is my duty to emphasise once again that hatred and violence are not the solutions to these problems. Furthermore, I endorse the initiatives and efforts of those who are working to promote a ceasefire and negotiations. I also encourage the authorities of both parties to make courageous decisions in favour of peace and to bring an end to a dispute which has negative repercussions throughout the whole of the Middle East, a region riven by excessive conflict and in need of peace and reconciliation".
 
THE POPE GIVES THANKS TO CLOISTERED RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - Following his catechesis at this morning's general audience, the Pope mentioned that today, the liturgical memory of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, is also "pro orantibus Day", in which the Church shows her support for cloistered religious communities.
"I would like to express my closeness, and that of the entire ecclesial community, to the religious called by the Lord to the contemplative life, and renew my invitation to all Christians to ensure that monasteries receive the necessary spiritual and material support. We owe this to those who consecrate themselves fully to praying for the Church and for the world!"
 
CATHOLIC AND MUSLIM COOPERATION IN PROMOTING JUSTICE
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - "Catholic and Muslim Cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world" was the theme of the eighth Colloquium of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organisation (ICRO). The meeting was held in Rome from 19 to 21 November under the joint presidency of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and of Mohammad Bagher Korramshad, president of the ICRO.
A communique released today explains how the theme was divided into four subheadings "from the point of view of Catholics and of Shi'i Muslims: (1) The concept of justice; (2) Justice for the human person; (3) Justice for the different constituents of society, and (4) Justice for the entire human family. The English-language communique goes on: "Both sides expressed their awareness of and concern for current challenges, including the economic crisis, the environmental issue, the weakening of the family as a basic institution of society and threats to world peace. The participants, recognising both areas of commonality and difference, focused on common ground and shared values:
"1. The belief we share in the One God Who created all things gives each of us a holistic understanding of justice. The various spheres of its application are inter-related: personal, communitarian, social, political, economic, cultural and judicial.
"2. Justice as a virtue based on human dignity requires the right exercise of reason and the illumination of God. Recognition of, and respect for, freedom of conscience, inter alia, are conditions of justice in our societies.
"3. The dynamic nature of the concept of justice allows it to be adapted to meet the new challenges of the contemporary world.
"4. The responsibility of religious leaders, institutions and, indeed, every believer to denounce injustice and oppression in all their forms and to promote justice all around the world. We believe that our religions possess resources which can inspire people to work to make justice and peace a reality.
"5. The demand that, for the sake of the promotion of justice in today’s world, Muslims and Christians continue to deepen their understanding of one another through ongoing dialogue and cooperation.
"6. The need to take the fruits of our meeting and communicate them to the people of our respective communities and societies so that they can have a real effect in the world.
"The participants were pleased and honoured to be received at the end of the meeting by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who greeted and encouraged them to continue on the path of an authentic and fruitful dialogue. The next Colloquium, preceded by a preparatory meeting,will take place in Tehran, Iran, in two years".
 
AUDIENCES
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - Yesterday the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
 
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
Vatican City, 21 November 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:
- Archbishop George Antonysamy, apostolic nuncio in Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone, as archbishop of Madras and Mylapore (area 3,160, population 8,222,000, Catholics 327,329, priests 326, religious 1,782), India. He succeeds Archbishop Malayappan Chinappa S.D.B, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
- Msgr. Lorenzo Piva and Msgr. Camillus Nimalan Johnpillai, officials of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, as bureau chiefs of the same congregation.

ASIA : ISRAEL - PALESTINE - BOMB - 1400 ROCKETS - 1500 AIRSTRIKES - OVER 150 KILLED

ASIA NEWS REPORT
Of the wounded, only one is in serious condition. Among the Palestinians killed today, three are children. The Tel Aviv police fears a new wave of terrorism. By the eighth day of the offensive, Israel has made over 1,500 airstrikes, killing 158 Palestinians. The Hamas militants have launched 1,400 rockets into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier.


Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The fate of a possible truce between Israel and the Gaza Strip is hanging by a thread, after an increase in violence on both sides. Today, shortly after noon, local time, an explosion shattered a bus in Tel Aviv, close to a national defense office. About 21 people were injured, only one is in serious condition. Soon after, the Israeli air force carried out several airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians, including several children.
The bomb on the bus exploded at the corner of Shaul Hamelech Street and Henrietta Szold Street. An hour after the explosion, one suspect was arrested but was released after questioning. The police and government are convinced it was a terrorist act. The alarm level has been increased in the area and for a few hours school children were forbidden to go home by bus. The last sizeable bomb exploded in Tel Aviv in 2006, when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a sandwich shop, near the bus station. The suicide bombing killed 11.
Yohanan Danino, the Police Commissioner in charge of the investigations at the site of the bomb, thinks that Israel must prepare for "other challenges" because "the talks about a cease-fire just caused further [terror] attempts."
According to media reports on both sides, the news of the bomb, announced on Israeli radio, was welcomed in Gaza with gestures of exultation: praise and gunshots in the air, almost like a celebration.
In response, in the early afternoon, the Israeli air force launched several airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, killing at least seven people.
Abdul Rahman Naem, a two year old child, was killed at the Nima tower block, in Gaza. A man, Talal al-Asalai, and his son Ayman and daughter Hadeel, were killed in Beit Hanoun. Mubarak al-Ghoula met his death in the refugee camp of Nuseirat. Mohammad al-Shqar, 22, and her 13 year old son, Mahmoud Abu Khusa, were killed at a gas station near al-Khanzandar (Gaza City). Immediately after the explosion, an airstrike hit the Yarmouk sports stadium, injuring two people.
Over the past 10 years, in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, at least 1,000 Israelis and more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed.
In the current operation "Pillar of Defense," now in its eighth day, Israel has made over 1,500 airstrikes, killing 158 Palestinians. The Hamas militants have launched 1,400 rockets into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier.
SHARED FROM ASIA NEWS IT

AMERICA : INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE- LEADERS OF FAITH GATHER

USCCB REPORT

Generations Of Faith Event Promotes Dialogue Across Religions, Age Groups

 
November 21, 2012
WASHINGTON—Leaders and young people from Catholic, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu traditions gathered for a day-long conference at St. Paul's College, November 10, to exchange experiences and ideas on the need for dialogue among religions in U.S. society. Generations of Faith 2012 was the second such event sponsored by the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Over 20 young people and seven religious leaders representing USCCB, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the World Sikh Council-America Region (WSC-AR), and The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) participated. The first "Generations of Faith" took place in 2010.
Father John Crossin, executive director of the USCCB's Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, presented a session on the importance of listening. "This art of dialogue begins on the open canvas of mutual listening," Father Crossin said. "Listening is the first and ever-present step in a process that, through God's grace, will take us to recognize the obstacles that separate us, heal old wounds, grow in our understanding of the other, grow in our understanding of self, and create a sacred space in which the genuine bonds of friendship, solidarity, respect, and peace can flourish."
Subsequent sessions dealt with the 25th Assisi World Day of Prayer for Peace (2010),sharing one's faith with people of other traditions, and the need for young people to advocate for interreligious dialogue. Young adults and religious leaders also shared personal testimony regarding the important role dialogue has played for them.
Bishop Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington and co-chair of the Mid-Atlantic Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, gave the keynote address on the theme "Dialogue of Life: Celebrating our Commonalities, Understanding our Differences." Bishop Knestout said dialogue makes possible an understanding of differences that does not lead to strife and discord.
"We have high hopes for you – for you are the future hands and feet of God in the world," Bishop Knestout said. "This task of interreligious dialogue, a task that requires your hands and feet, that is, your commitment to interreligious service and cooperation, as well as understanding and solidarity, is of immense importance at this point in history."
More information on Generations of Faith 2012 is available online:www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/dialogue-with-others/interreligious/generations-of-faith.cfm
Other participants in the event included: Rameez Abid, president of ICNA, Virginia Chapter; Rizwaan Akhtar, co-leader of Columbia Heights Halaqa; Dana Christensen, Ph.D. student of religion and culture, The Catholic University of America (CUA); Anthony Cirelli, Ph.D., associate director, SEIA; Anuttamma Dasa, director,ISKCON; Jordan Denari, Georgetown School of Foreign Service; Kirsten Evans, program and research specialist, SEIA; Kathryn Elliott, staff assistant, SEIA; Abdul Kadir, Abaynah Yemer, and Amr Hamadi, representatives of ICNA, Virginia Chapter; Maria Rodriguez, master's student of theology, CUA; Father Tom Ryan, director of the Paulist Center for Interreligious Dialogue; Keshava Sharma, director of Communications, ISKCON;Savraj Singh, representative of WSC-AR; Sayyid Syeed, Ph.D., director for the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, ISNA; Hanaa Unus, Muslim scholar of interreligious dialogue; Pim Valkenberg, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue, CUA; andStu Wilson-Smith, seminarian of the Society of St. Paul.
SHARED FROM USCCB

AFRICA : UGANDA : TRAGEDIES AFFECT OVER 34000

Agenzia Fides REPORT - In the course of this year in Uganda there has been a succession of disasters and emergency situations such as tribal, border conflicts, fighting for territory, population movements from other countries, forest fires, hailstorms, landslides, epidemics of cholera, ebola and Marburg, as well as outbreaks of other diseases. To all these tragedies are added a total of 34,372 people, 8,903 households, that have been affected by floods and landslides in different parts and in urgent need of aid. Since January 2012, many emergencies have affected 192,094 people across the country, 74,227 of these have received aid from Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS). The districts that have been destroyed are Soroti, Amuria, Katakwi, Nakapiripirit, Kween, Tororo, Kapchorwa, Lira, Ntoroko, Moroto, Nebbi, Kibale and Kotido. 
Otuke, in the district of Lira is the most damaged, with 6225 people involved. Since March floods have ravaged Uganda in areas like Amuria, Katakwi, Nakapiripirit, Kween. In all the districts where the URCS intervened, aid was given to 17,390 victims, distributing kits of materials for the home. However, the 20 000 annual emergency kit supplied by the URCS to families are not sufficient to meet the growing need of aid in the country. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 22/11/2012)

AUSTRALIA : VOCATION OF A DOCTOR - TOUCH FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
20 Nov 2012

Notre Dame's Graduating Class of 2011
On 19 December, the day after the University of Notre Dame (UND) annual Graduation Mass to be celebrated at St Mary's Cathedral by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, 107 students from the university's Medical School will graduate as Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery.
The graduation of the Class of 2012 from Australia's youngest medical school follows last year's  historic ceremony which saw 106 young men and women from the university's first-ever intake of medical students, graduate as doctors after successfully completing four years of intensive post graduate medical studies and training.
Now a further group is about to graduate from UND's Sydney-based medical school and preparing to take up internships at hospitals across Australia.
"All our graduating students have internship places for next year," reports Dr Christine Bennett, Dean of the Medical School. "We have one going to the Northern Territory, a couple to Western Australia, several more to hospitals in Queensland and Melbourne with the biggest number of students placed at hospitals in Sydney as well as in Wollongong, Gosford and other rural and regional areas throughout NSW." 

Dean of Notre Dame's Sydney Medical School, Professor Christine Bennett
For Dr Bennett what is particularly pleasing is not only the broad spread of hospitals where UND's graduating students who will do their internships but the number who have specifically chosen to complete their training in regional and rural Australia.
"Last year 11 of our students opted to do their internships in the bush. This year, it is even higher with at least 16 graduates wanting to do their internships in rural areas," she says.
Rural Australia has long battled a shortage of doctors with many areas having no doctors at all.
"As a nation we desperately need doctors who want to practice in the bush," Dr Bennett says and points out that a third of Australia's 21 million-plus population live in regional or rural areas. But as more and more people leave the bush for cities in search of work, towns that once had three or four doctors are often battling to find one. And for the one they do find, the challenges can be immense with the doctor tending a practice covering a vast rural area and on constant call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Health services in these districts are adversely impacted by the difficulty in accessing doctors. But in a bid to turn this around, Dr Bennett says with the  establishment five years ago, UND's Sydney Medical School has not only encouraged enrolments from students who grew up in rural or regional Australia, but ensures all students studying medicine are given vital hands-on experience at one of the university's rural clinical schools in Wagga Wagga, Ballarat or Lithgow.
In addition to its rural clinical schools, UND students also receive invaluable training at metropolitan hospitals such as those operated by the Hawkesbury District Health Service, Sydney's St Vincents and Mater Health or Victoria's Mercy Hospital at Werribee.

Notre Dame's Sydney Med School students
With a second class about to graduate, there is already definite evidence UND's strategy both in encouraging students from rural backgrounds to enrol as well as offering all students experience in rural health is paying off.
"The increased number of graduates who have chosen to complete their internships at hospitals in the bush is a real tribute to our rural clinical schools," Dr Bennett says and believes the university's clinical schools have also given many city-bred graduates a taste for rural life and a chance to become part of a rural community.
The 12-month internship for the students will further immerse them in rural life and give them a chance to experience rural Australia's warmth as well as its challenges, she adds.
Amongst Australia's medical schools, UND's faculty is unique.
"The wonderful thing about our school is that every student is trained by doctors. Everyone from our tutors to lecturers and mentors are all medically trained physicians," she says. "We also take a very personal interest in each of our students. To us they are not a number but individuals. We help them navigate personal challenges and we get to know their different strengths and weaknesses and tailor the program so there is real involvement at an individual level."

Notre Dame medical students gets invaluable hands-on experience at rural clinic schools as well as city hospitals
Dr Bennett is also proud of UND's unique core curriculum program which requires all students no matter what discipline they are studying, to pass units in ethics, philosophy and theology which she says helps foster a deep respect for human life and human dignity.
As a result, although just five years old, UND's Medical School has a fast-growing reputation not only for academic excellence but for its focus on medicine not only as a career but as a vocation.
"We are looking to produce excellence in doctors in terms of knowledge and skill. But beyond this, we also want to produce good medicine in relation to ethical practice and a real sense of vocation," Dr Bennett says.
Earlier this month, Dr Bennett was named one of the four finalists for 2013 NSW Australian of the Year. The winner will be announced next Monday, 26 November but Dr Bennett insists while being one of four chosen from more than 2000 nominations is a "lovely boost," no matter who is chosen next week, she already feels like a winner.
 "I love what I do and I particularly love the students," she says and strongly believes that as a life-long health campaigner and health advocate, there is nothing more important to her than being able to "touch the future of health care by training our future doctors."
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY

EUROPE : PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF EUROPEAN BISHOPS

COMECE REPORT

On the occasion of its Autumn Plenary Assembly 2012 the Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community-COMECE and the State Minister for Federal and European Affairs of the Free State of Bavaria Emilia Müller cordially invite you to an Evening Debate:

The Nobel Peace Prize : A wake-up call for all citizens ?
The Current Challenges for the EU and the Contribution of Christians

Wednesday 21 November 19:00
venue:
Representation of the Free Sate of Bavaria to the European Union
77 rue Wiertz-1000 Brussels


In these times of crisis the EU was recently honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. This raises questions as to what is the concrete task and role of Christians regarding these challenges for the project of European integration? Which questions, hopes and expectations should be addressed to the Church? Is the Church  able to address these challenges and does it have an appropriate answer to meet the expectations?  What can or has to be the specific and essential contribution of the Christians in the European integration process? What in this regard has the Church in common with - and what distinguishes the Church from - other players in this field?

Download the Speech of Cardinal Marx in the Original GermanEnglish andFrench translations


Welcome address by Emilia Müller, State Minister for Federal and European Affairs of the Free State of Bavaria

Keynote Speaker:  Cardinal Reinhard Marx, COMECE President, Archbishop of Munich & Freising

Followed by a Panel discussion with

Clotilde Nyssens-Traversa
Lawyer, former Member of the Belgian Senate (PSC/Cdh)

Luca Jahier
President of Group III (Various’ Interests) in the European Economic and Social Committee, Former President of the ACLI Council (Italy)

Paul Dembinski
Director of the Observatoire de la Finance (www.obsfin.ch), Geneva

21:00 reception

Download the Invitation

TODAY'S MASS ONLINE : WED. NOV. 21, 2012



Luke 19: 11 - 28
11As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.12He said therefore, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return.13Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Trade with these till I come.'14But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, `We do not want this man to reign over us.'15When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.16The first came before him, saying, `Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.'17And he said to him, `Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.'18And the second came, saying, `Lord, your pound has made five pounds.'19And he said to him, `And you are to be over five cities.'20Then another came, saying, `Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin;21for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.'22He said to him, `I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?23Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?'24And he said to those who stood by, `Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.'25(And they said to him, `Lord, he has ten pounds!')26`I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.27But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'"28And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

TODAY'S FEAST: NOV. 21: PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY



The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Feast: November 21
Information:
Feast Day:
November 21

Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to the divine service and love, both before and after their birth. Some amongst the Jews, not content with this general consecration of their children, offered them to God in their infancy, by the hands of the priests in the temple, to be lodged in apartments belonging to the temple, and brought up in attending the priests and Levites in the sacred ministry. It is an ancient tradition, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was thus solemnly offered to God in the temple in her infancy. This festival of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, or, as it is often called by the Greeks, the entrance of the Blessed Virgin into the Temple, is mentioned in the most ancient Greek Menologies extant.
By the consecration which the Blessed Virgin made of herself to God in the first use which she made of her reason, we are admonished of the most important and strict obligation which all persons lie under, of an early dedication of themselves to the divine love and service. It is agreed amongst all masters of Christian morality, that everyone is bound in the first moral instant of the use of reason to convert his heart to God by love; and if divine faith be then duly proposed to him (which is the case of Christian children) by a supernatural assent to it, he is bound then to make an act of faith; also an act of hope in God as a supernatural rewarder and helper, and an act of divine charity. Who can be secure that in the very moment in which he entered into his moral life and was capable of living to God, did not stain his innocence by a capital omission of this duty? How diligent and solicitous are parents bound to be in instructing their children in the first fundamental mysteries of faith, and in the duty of prayer, and in impressing upon their tender minds a sense of spiritual things in a manner in which their age may be capable of receiving it. These first fruits of the heart are a sacrifice of which God is infinitely jealous, an emblem of which were all the sacrifices of first fruits prescribed in the old law, in token that he is our beginning and last end. Such a heart, adorned with the baptismal grace of innocence, has particular charms. Grace recovered by penance is not like that of innocence which has never been defiled; nor is it the same happiness for a soul to return to God from the slavery of sin, as for one to give him her first affections, and to open her understanding and will to his love before the world has found any entrance there. The tender soul of Mary was then adorned with the most precious graces, an object of astonishment and praise to the angels, and of the highest complacence to the adorable Trinity, the Father looking upon her as his beloved daughter, the Son, as one chosen and prepared to become his mother, and the Holy Ghost as his darling spouse.
Her first presentation to God, made by the hands of her parents and by her own devotion, was then an offering most acceptable in his sight. Let our consecration of ourselves to God be made under her patronage, and assisted by her powerful intercession and the union of her merits. If we have reason to fear that we criminally neglected this duty at the first dawning of our reason, or, if we have since been unfaithful to our sacred baptismal engagements, such is the mercy and goodness of our gracious God, that he disdains not our late offerings. But that these may be accepted by him, we must first prepare the present he requires of us, that is, our hearts. They must be washed and cleansed in the sacred laver of Christ's adorable blood, by means of sincere compunction and penance; and all inordinate affections must be pared away by our perfectly renouncing in spirit, honours, riches, and pleasures, and being perfectly disengaged from creatures, and ready to do and suffer all for God, that we may be entirely his, and that neither the world nor pride, nor any irregular passion may have any place in us. What secret affections to this or that creature lurk in our souls, which hinder us from being altogether his, unless they are perfectly cut off or reformed! This Mary did by spending her youth in holy retirement, at a distance from the commerce and corruption of the world, and by the most assiduous application to all the duties and exercises of a religious and interior life. Mary was the first who set up the standard of virginity; and, by consecrating it by a perpetual vow to our Lord, she opened the way to all virgins who have since followed her example. They, in particular, ought to take her for their special patroness, and, as her life was the most perfect model of their state, they ought always to have her example before their eyes, and imitate her in prayer, humility, modesty, silence, and retirement.
Mary lived retired until she was introduced into the world and espoused to St. Joseph. Some think her espousals were at first only a promise or betrothing: but the ends assigned by the fathers, seem rather to show them to have been a marriage. These are summed up by St. Jerome as follows: that by the pedigree of Joseph, the descent of Mary from the tribe of Juda, might be demonstrated; that she might not be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress; that, fleeing into Egypt, she might have the comfort and protection of a spouse. A fourth reason, says St. Jerome, is added by the martyr Ignatius: that the birth of the Son of God might be concealed from the devil. The words of that apostolic father are: "Three mysteries wrought by God in silence were concealed from the prince of this world. the virginity of Mary, the bringing forth of her Son, and the death of the Lord." Not that God could fear any impediment to his designs from the devil; but he was pleased to effect these mysteries in silence and without worldly show and noise, that pride and hell might, by his all-wise and sweet providence, be more meetly triumphed over, whilst the devil himself hastened his own overthrow by concurring to the mystery of the cross. From the marriage of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, St. Austin shows that marriage requires no more than the mutual consent of the will between parties who lie under no impediment or inability to an indissoluble individual society of life. In this holy marriage we admire the incomparable chastity of Mary and Joseph; and the sanctity and honour, as well as the patronage and example, which that holy state receives from this mystery. In certain particular churches the espousals of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph are honoured with an office on the 23rd of January.
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