Wednesday, December 26, 2012






Vatican Radio REPORT -  “On St. Stephen’s Day, we are called to fix our gaze on the Son of God”, and like St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr of the Church “open up our lives to the light that directs us” on life’s path, said Benedict XVI in his Angelus reflections this Wednesday. 

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus reflection this St. Stephens Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year, on the day after Christmas, the liturgy celebrates the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr. The book of Acts presents him as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6.8 to 10, 7.55); in him the full promise of Jesus recounted in today's Gospel passage is fulfilled, which is that believers who are called to bear witness in difficult and dangerous circumstances will not be abandoned or left defenceless: the Spirit of God will speak to them (cf. Mt 10:20). The deacon Stephen, in fact, worked, spoke and died animated by the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to the love of Christ to the point of extreme sacrifice. The first martyr is described, in his suffering, as a perfect imitation of Christ, whose passion is repeated even in the details. The life of Saint Stephen is entirely shaped by God, conformed to Christ, whose passion is repeated in him; in the final moment of death, on his knees, he takes up the prayer of Jesus on the cross, trusting in the Lord (cf. Acts 7.59 ) and forgiving his enemies: " Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (v. 60). Filled with the Holy Spirit, as his eyes are about to close, he fixed his gaze on "Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (v. 55), the Lord of all, who draws all to Him.

On St. Stephen’s Day, we are called to fix our gaze on the Son of God, who in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of His Incarnation. In Baptism and Confirmation, with the precious gift of faith nourished by the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to Him and wants to continue in us, through the action of the Holy Spirit, his work of salvation that redeems, enhances, elevates and leads all to fulfilment. Allowing ourselves be drawn by Christ, like St. Stephen, means opening our lives to the light that calls, directs and makes us walk the path of good, the path of humanity according to God’s loving plan.

Finally, St. Stephen is a model for all those who want to serve the new evangelization. He shows that the novelty of proclamation does not primarily consist in the use of original methods or techniques, which certainly have their uses, but in being filled with the Holy Spirit and allowing ourselves to be guided by Him. The novelty of proclamation lies in immerging ourselves deeply in the mystery of Christ, the assimilation of His Word and of His presence in the Eucharist, so that He Himself, the living Jesus, can act and speak through His envoy. In essence, the evangelizer becomes able to bring Christ to others effectively when he lives of Christ, when the newness of the Gospel manifests itself in his own life. We pray to the Virgin Mary, so that the Church, in this Year of Faith, sees more men and women who, like St. Stephen, know how to give a convinced and courageous witness of the Lord Jesus

I am pleased to welcome all those present for this Angelus prayer. Today, immediately after Christmas Day, by tradition we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, Saint Stephen the Deacon. Like him, may we be blessed by God’s grace to have the courage to speak up and to defend the truth of our faith in public, with charity and constancy. God bless all of you and your loved ones!



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Christmas is one of the most important days of the Church year, second only to Easter itself. It is the feast of the incarnation, the feast of God becoming flesh (the Latin "in carne" means "enfleshment"). It is a uniquely Christian teaching, the Divine choosing to become one of us. Because of this belief,God is not only Transcendent, but also wholly Immanent, Emmanuel (God-with-us). While remaining Transcendent (meaning we must rise above our present condition to reach Him), He is at the same time Immanent (meaning He is with us as we rise toward Him). Every Eucharist is like Christmas where the bread and wine are transformed into His flesh, His Body and Blood, and, in a sense, He is born anew on the altar. 
The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us.
The Christmas tree and the Nativity scene are popular symbols of the season and a tradition in many Christian homes. It is also traditional to exchange Christmas gifts with family and friends as a way to honor God the Father's gift of his only son to the world. Having received the gift of Christ, we naturally want to pass that gift along to our loved ones.
Below, you will find links to blessings and other content to help you celebrate this season of joy and hope for salvation.



(IMAGE SOURCE GOOGLE) On CHRISTMAS EVE 6 were killed at Church in Peri, Yobe State in Nigeria, Africa. The group of gunmen killed the pastor, burnt the church and burned 20 houses. They came in at midnight and opened fire on the parishioners at the Church of Christ. 
Then in First Baptist Church in Maiduguri, Borno another 6 were killed including the deacon. The group Boko Haram, is suspect, as it has targeted Christians in Nigeria, killing 44 last Christmas and bombed many churches.
The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Johnathan said, "Sometimes, challenges make people doubt the sincerity of government, but I am confident that God knows everything." The Pope, Benedict XVI mentioned the attacks in his Christmas message:
"May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians."


Egypt in Africa has just approved its referendum. This approves the draft constitution. The statistics showed that 17,058,317 people or 32.9% voted properly. The total in favor were 10,693,911 or 63.8% with a "yes". The "no" votes numberred 6,016,101 or 36.2 %. Some have complained that the voting was unjust.


by NAT da Polis
The ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople issues a vibrant appeal against religious and political excesses and economic abuses by the powerful against the weak. He calls on people to embrace the message from Bethlehem for true peace on Earth.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - "Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax homínibus bonæ voluntatis" sang the angels to announce the birth of Our Lord. Sadly, our Earth is still a battleground because humans continue to reject the message of the Lord, which urges us to obey his will and message of peace.
In his Christmas homely, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that humans continue to stand out for the fanaticism of their religious and political beliefs and greedy quest for material goods. This explains why political action and behaviour are aggressive and the root of so many conflicts.
Although the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great issued an Edict of Toleration in 313 in matters of religious faith, granting Christians freedom of worship, Christian minorities continue to be persecuted nowadays.
Economic conflict and the ephemeral pursuit of wealth as the goal of human existence continue to grow, Bartholomew said. Sadly, the consequence is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small minority and the ensuing impoverishment of most of the world's population.
What some see as an unfair distribution of resources is actually a moral crisis, which is not justly taken into account. In fact, some have tried to justify it in the name of free markets.
However, for Bartholomew, free markets should not allow crimes even if they do not fall under criminal law. Anyone who takes what belongs to others, whatever their means or pretext, commits a crime, undermining peace and social cohesion.
Speaking from the Fanar, historic headquarters of Orthodox Christianity, Bartholomew said that Christians are concerned witness of the times and of their growing conflicts. For this reason, our wish is for the New Year to be characterised by human solidarity, as the Great Fathers of the Church always taught us.
Every person of goodwill must look in that direction, the ecumenical patriarch said, first and foremost spiritual leaders, so that the peace of our Lord, who was born today, may reign, because the charity and peace that have always characterised the action of the disciples of our Lord may contribute to human solidarity and coexistence.



In the Christmas story, when the angels appear to the shepherds to tell them of the birth of Christ the angel’s first words are “do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10). They are the same words with which the angel Gabriel greets Mary when he tells her of God’s plan that she should be the mother of the messiah (Luke 1:30). 
As Mary’s child grows up and begins his life’s work, he too will say these words many times. When his disciples are caught in a dangerous storm out on the lake he comes to them through the raging wind and waves, walking across the waters, and encouraging them not to be afraid (Matthew 14:27). When he realizes how insecure and unimportant people feel, he reminds them that because God knows and loves them they have no need to be afraid (Matthew 10:31). And when he encounters the women at the empty tomb after his rising from the dead he says also to them, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10).
This invitation not to give in to fear is a constant refrain in the Bible. It is based on the conviction that God is with us, that we matter to him and that he holds us in the palm of his hand. In its essence, the Christmas celebration is all about this fundamental belief that God is indeed with us; in fact, God loved us so much that he became one of us in the helpless child of Bethlehem so that we might see and know God as he really is and welcome him into our lives.
Fear is a constant factor in many people’s lives. We worry about our families, we are concerned about our futures, we are fearful of the damage being caused to our natural environment. At a deeper level perhaps we are fearful of loneliness, of emptiness, of meaninglessness. The coming of God among us in the person of Jesus is no guarantee that we will not have these struggles, difficulties and sufferings. After all, they were at the heart of Jesus’ own life. But the promise of Christmas is that, whatever we must face in the journey of our lives, we do not face it alone. And because God is with us we do not need to be afraid. God will help us to bear the burden of these difficulties and sufferings. God will help us to transform them into experiences of hope and of growth. All we have to do is let him work within us.
In this Year of grace, in which we are all invited to “contemplate the face of Christ”, may this Christmas season be a time when we all are given the grace of a deeper understanding of God’s love and God’s presence in our lives. As we celebrate the coming of Christ among us once again, may his coming be a transforming experience for us. And may we all, in the joy of our Christmas celebrations, be renewed in our determination to allow the face of Christ to shine though us as we reach out to others, especially those most in need, with generosity, with compassion and with love.
I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas.
+Archbishop Timothy Costelloe
Archbishop of Perth



St. Stephen
Feast: December 26

Feast Day:December 26
Born:1st century
Died:35, Jerusalem
Patron of:casket makers; deacons; headaches; horses; masons
That St. Stephen was a Jew is unquestionable, himself owning that relation in his apology to the people. But whether he was of Hebrew extraction and descended of the stock of Abraham, or whether he was of foreign parents incorporated and brought into that nation by the gate of proselytism, is uncertain. The name Stephen, which signifies a crown, is evidently Greek; but the priest Lucian, in the history of the discovery of his relics, and Basil of Seleucia, inform us, that the name Cheliel, which in modern Hebrew signifies a crown, was engraved on his tomb at Caphragamala. It is generally allowed that he was one of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord; for immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, we find him perfectly instructed in the law of the gospel, endowed with extraordinary measures, both of the interior and exterior gifts of that divine Spirit which was but lately shed upon the church, and incomparably furnished with miraculous powers. The church of Christ then increased daily, and was illustrious for the spirit and practice of all virtues, but especially for charity. The faithful lived and loved one another as brethren, and were of one heart and one soul.
The rich sold their estates to relieve the necessities of the poor and deposited the money in one common treasury, the care whereof was committed to the apostles, to see the distribution made as everybody's necessity required. Heaven alone is free from all occasions of offence, and the number of converts being very great, the Greeks (that is, the Christians of foreign countries, who were born and brought up in countries which spoke chiefly Greek or at least were Gentiles by descent, though proselytes to the Jewish religion before they came over to the faith of Christ) murmured against the Hebrews, complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. The apostles, to provide a speedy remedy, assembled the faithful, and observed to them that they could not relinquish the duties of preaching and other spiritual functions of the ministry, to attend to the care of tables; and recommended to them the choice of seven men of an unblemished character, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, who might superintend that affair, that so themselves might be freed from distractions and incumbrances, the more freely to devote themselves without interruption to prayer and preaching the gospel. This proposal was perfectly agreeable to the whole assembly, who immediately pitched on Stephen, "a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost," and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte of Antioch. All these names are Greek; whence some think they were chosen among the Greeks in order to appease the murmurs that had been raised. But it frequently happened that Hebrews changed their names into Greek words of a like import when they conversed with Greeks and Romans, to whom several names in the Oriental languages sounded harsh, and were difficult to pronounce. Stephen is named first of the deacons, as Peter is of the apostles, says St. Austin. Hence he is styled by Lucian, archdeacon.
St. Stephen had the primacy and precedence among the deacons newly elected by the apostles, as St. Chrysostom observes, and being filled with the Holy Ghost, preached and pleaded the cause of Christianity with undaunted courage, confirming his doctrine by many public and unquestionable miracles. The number of believers were multiplied in Jerusalem, and a great multitude, even of the priests, obeyed the faith. The distinguished zeal and success of our holy deacon stirred up the malice and envy of the enemies of the gospel, who bent their whole force and all their malice against him. The conspiracy was formed by the Libertines (or such as had been carried captives to Rome by Pompey, and had since obtained their freedom), those of Cyrene in Lybia, of Alexandria, Cilicia, and Lesser Asia, who had each a distinct synagogue at Jerusalem. At first they undertook to dispute with St. Stephen; but finding themselves unequal to the task and unable to resist the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke, they suborned false witnesses to charge him with blasphemy against Moses and against God. The indictment was laid against him in the Sanhedrim, and the saint was hauled thither. After the charge was read, Caiphas, the high priest, ordered him to make his defence. The main point urged. against him was that he affirmed that the temple would be destroyed, that the Mosaic sacrifices were but shadows and types, and were no longer acceptable to God, Jesus of Nazareth having put
an end to them. It pleased God to diffuse a heavenly beauty and a shining brightness on the saint's face, whilst he stood before the council, so that to all that were present it seemed as if it had been the countenance of an angel. According to the licence given him by the high priest to speak for himself, he made his apology, but in such a manner as boldly to preach Jesus Christ in the Sanhedrim itself. He showed that Abraham, the father and founder of their nation, was justified, and received the greatest favours of God without the temple; that Moses was commanded to erect a tabernacle, but foretold a new law and the Messiah; that Solomon built the temple, but it was not to be imagined that God was confined in houses made by hands, and that the temple and the Mosaic law were temporary ministrations, and were to give place when God introduced more excellent institutions. The martyr added, that this he had done by sending the Messiah himself; but that they were, like their ancestors, a stiff-necked generation, circumcised in body but not in heart, and always resisting the Holy Ghost; and that as their fathers had persecuted and slain many of the prophets who foretold the Christ, so they had betrayed and murdered Him in person, and though they had received the law by the ministry of angels, they had not observed it.
This stinging reproach touched them to the quick and kindled them into a rage, gnashing with their teeth at the holy martyr and expressing all the symptoms of unbridled passion. The saint, not heeding what was done below, had his eyes and heart fixed on higher objects, and being full of the Holy Ghost and looking up steadfastly to the heavens, saw them opened, and beheld his divine Saviour standing at the right hand of his Father appearing by that posture ready to protect, receive, and crown his servant. With this vision the saint was inexpressibly ravished, his soul was inspired with new courage, and a longing to arrive at that bliss a glimpse of which was shown him. His heart overflowed with joy and in an ecstasy, not being able to forbear expressing his happiness in the very midst of his enemies, he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." The Jews became more hardened and enraged by hearing the saint's declaration of this vision; and calling him a blasphemer, resolved upon his death without any further process. In the fury of their blind zeal they stayed not for a judicial sentence nor for the warrant of the Roman governor, without which no one could at that time be legally put to  death amongst them. But stopping their ears against his supposed blasphemies, they with great clamour rushed upon him, furiously hauled him out of the city, and with a tempest of stones satiated their rage against him. The witnesses who, according to the Levitical law, were to begin the execution in all capital cases, threw their clothes at the feet of Saul, who thus partook of their crime. In the meantime the holy martyr prayed, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice and the greatest earnestness, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." When he said this he had fell asleep in the Lord. This word is used by the Holy Ghost elegantly to express the sweetness of the death of the just, which is to them a test after the toils of this painful life a secure harbour after the dangers of this mortal pilgrimage and the gate to eternal life. The edification and manifold advantages which the church received from the martyrdom of this great and holy man compensated the loss which it sustained in him. Certain devout men took order to inter him in a decent manner and made great mourning over him, though such a death was his own most glorious triumph and unparalleled gain. The priest Lucien, who recounts the manner of the miraculous discovery of his relics in the  fifth century, informs us that they were deposited about twenty miles from Jerusalem, by the direction of Gamaliel and at his expense. St. Stephen seems to have suffered towards the end of the same year in which Christ was crucified.
In the whole life of our divine Redeemer we have the most perfect pattern of meekness. During his ministry he meekly bore with the weakness, ignorance, and prejudices of some; with the perverseness, envy, and malice of others; with the ingratitude of friends, and the pride and insolence of enemies. How affecting is the most patient silence which he held in the courts of unjust judges, and through the whole course of his passion! How did he confirm this example which he had given us by spending his last breath in fervent prayer for his murderers! With what ardour and assiduity did he press upon us the practice of this virtue of meekness, and inculcate its indispensable obligation and unspeakable advantage! St. Stephen inherited more perfectly this spirit in proportion as he was more abundantly replenished with the Holy Ghost. No one who is passionate, unforgiving, and revengeful, can be a follower of the meek and humble Jesus. In vain do such assume to themselves the honour of bearing his name. In charity, meekness, and humility, consists the very spirit of Christianity; and scarce anything dishonours religion more than the prevalence of the opposite spirit in those who make a profession of piety.


Matthew 10: 17 - 22

17Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
22and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

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