Friday, November 29, 2013




(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has met with members of the Union Superiors General, who have been holding their 82nd General Assembly in the Salesianum in Rome from 27 to 29 November. 

 During the three-hour meeting, which consisted of questions and answers, the Pope touched on a variety of themes, including: the identity and mission of consecrated life; the situation of vocations; the importance of formation; and the frontiers of the mission of consecrated persons.

Pope Francis announced that 2015 would be a year dedicated to consecrated life, adding: “Thank you for what you do and for your spirit of faith and your service. Thank you for your witness and also for the humiliations through which you have had to pass”.


(Vatican Radio)The Christian conforms his way of thinking to God’s, and for this reason rejects ways of thinking that are weak and restricted.
This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily during Mass on Friday morning in the Casa Sanctae Martha.
The Lord taught his disciples to be attentive to the signs of the times, signs which the Pharisees failed to comprehend.
The Pope said that, in order to understand the signs of the times, a Christian must think not only with his head, but also with his heart and spirit. Otherwise, he cannot understand the “way of God in history”:
“In the Gospel, Jesus does not become angry, but pretends to when the disciples do not understand him. At Emmaus he says: ‘How foolish and slow of heart’. ‘How foolish and slow of heart’… He who does not understand the things of God is such a person. The Lord wants us to understand what happens, what happens in my heart, what happens in my life, what happens in the world, in history… What is the meaning of what is happening now? These are the signs of the times! On the other hand, the spirit of the world gives us other propositions, because the spirit of the world does not want a community: it wants a mob, thoughtless, without freedom.”
While the spirit of the world wants us to take a “restricted path,” Saint Paul warns that the “spirit of the world treats us as thought we lack the ability to think for ourselves; it treats us like people who are not free”:
“Restricted thought, equal thought, weak thought, a thought so widespread. The spirit of the world does not want us to ask ourselves before God: ‘But why, why this other, why did this happen?’. Or it also offers a prêt-à-porter [‘ready to wear’] way of thinking, according to personal taste: ‘I think as I like!’. This is okay, they say…. But what the spirit of the world does not want is what Jesus asks of us: free thought, the thought of a man and a women who are part of the people of God, and salvation is exactly this! Think of the prophets… ‘You were not my people, now I say my people’: so says the Lord. And this is salvation: to make us people, God’s people, to have freedom.”
Pope Francis added that Jesus asks us “to think freely… in order to understand what happens.” The truth is that “we are not alone! We need the Lord’s help”. We need to “understand the signs of the times”: the Holy Spirit, he said, “gives us this present, a gift: the intelligence to understand”:
"What path does the Lord want? Always with the spirit of intelligence with which to understand the signs of the times. It is beautiful to ask the Lord for this grace, who sends us this spirit of intelligence, in order that we avoid weak thought, we do not have a restricted thought and we do not have a thought according to personal preference: we only have a thought according to God. With this thought, which is a thought of the mind, of heart, and of soul. With this thought, which is the gift of the Spirit, [we] look for the meaning of things, and to understand the signs of the time well."
The Pope concluded: This is therefore the grace for which we must ask the Lord: “the ability which gives us the spirit” to “understand the signs of the time.” 



By  on Thursday, 28 November 2013
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German bishops' conference (AP)
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German bishops' conference (AP)
CATHOLIC HERALD REPORT: Church officials in Germany have defended plans by the country’s bishops’ conference to allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, insisting they have the Pope’s endorsement.
Robert Eberle, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Freiburg: “We already have our own guidelines, and the Pope has now clearly signaled that certain things can be decided locally.
“We’re not the only archdiocese seeking helpful solutions to this problem, and we’ve had positive reactions from other dioceses in Germany and abroad, assuring us they already practice what’s written in our guidelines.”
Mr Eberle’s comments followed the disclosure by Bishop Gebhard Furst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart on November 23 that the bishops’ would adopt proposals on reinstating divorced and remarried parishioners as full members of the Church during their plenary in March.
In an interview with Catholic News Service, Mr Eberle said “many points” in the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) suggested the German Church was “moving in the right way” in its attitude toward remarried Catholics.
Uwe Renz, spokesman in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, also defended the bishops’ stance. He said he believed the bishops were acting “in the spirit of the Pope’s teaching.”
“Our own dialogue process has shown this is a major issue for both lay Catholics and priests,” Mr Renz said.
“Pope Francis has called on bishops to exercise a wise and realistic pastoral discernment on such problems, and our bishops want divorced and remarried Catholics to be a full part of the church community, with full rights.”
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reaffirmed in October Church teaching that prohibits divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving Communion without an annulment. His announcement came after Freiburg archdiocese issued guidelines making Communion available to divorced and remarried parishioners.
In a 4,600-word article in the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano on October 22, Archbishop Müller said the “entire sacramental economy” could not be swept aside by an “appeal to mercy”, adding that if remarried divorcees were “convinced in their conscience a previous marriage was invalid,” this should be “proved objectively” by a Church tribunal as required by canon law.
In an October 8 letter to Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German bishops’ conference, the prefect said the archdiocese’s guidelines contained “unclear terminology” and violated Church teaching by suggesting remarried Catholics could take a “responsible decision in conscience” to receive sacraments after consulting their priest.
But Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, one of eight members of the international Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on reform of the Roman Curia, criticised the stance. He said Archbishop Müller could not “end the discussion”.
Meanwhile, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier told the Trierischen Volksfreund daily that the sacraments offered a “chance for reconciliation and a new beginning.” He said the Church needed a “more intense and honest account of the concrete reality facing many couples and families”.
Several German Church leaders earlier welcomed the Freiburg guidelines, including Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Berlin. He told KNA, the German Catholic news agency, Oct. 9 that divorced and remarried Catholics were “welcome in our parishes” and “belong to us.”
In a speech to the lay Central Committee of German Catholics, Bishop Furst said a commission of six bishops had been drafting guidelines since 2010 for faithful couples to “gain readmission to the sacraments in justified individual cases”, and would present them for approval at the bishops’ March meeting.
He explained that the commission had drawn on the Freiburg archdiocese’s document as well as a 1993 pastoral letter on the subject by three other bishops.
The bishop told the central committee to applause that he would “make arrangements” in his own diocese if the bishops’ plenary failed to “agree a common line”.
Speculation about a change in church practice has grown since Pope Francis told reporters in his plane back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July that a synod of bishops in October 2014 would explore a “deeper pastoral care of marriage”, including the eligibility of Catholic divorcees to receive Communion.
In his apostolic exhortation, the Pope said the magisterium should not be expected “to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the church and the world” and cautioned against “a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance”.
He added that the “doors of the sacraments” should be not “closed for simply any reason”, and said the Eucharist was “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.


by Idris Tawfiq
First Muslim guest at the World Council of Churches, a professor from Al Azhar is struck by the mutual respect and willingness to listen shown by Christian delegates. He would like to see Muslims behave this way. As am ambassador of Islam, he calls on Muslims to "open up to the issues of poverty and care for creation."

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Muslim world "has yet to learn mutual respect and to listen to others because violence and aggressiveness are not even useful roads even if one wants to proselytise. I learnt from Christians that we canbe together, faithful of different religions or traditions, without condemning or damning each other to hell," this according to Idris Tawfiq, a professor at the prestigious Islamic university of Al Azhar, who attended the assembly of the World Council of Churches, which took place recently in South Korea. Here is his full testimonial.
The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) was founded after the Second World War as a forum for Christians to try and bring the different branches of Christianity closer together after centuries of division.
Since that time Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians, all with their different histories, traditions and beliefs, have all worked for the day when there will just be one Christian Church. Since then, every seven years the WCC has held a global Congress where participants of the member Churches come together to discuss the faith they have in common.
So it was that in November 2013 around four thousand Christians from all across the globe gathered in Busan, South Korea, for the 10th. such Assembly of the World Council of Churches.
The choice of venue was itself significant since Korea has been physically divided in two for the last sixty years. Under the Assembly theme of "God of Life Lead Us to Justice and Peace", the participants prayed together, talked together and even argued vigorously together for ten days of meetings and workshops.
Many of the World's religious leaders attended. The Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, the spiritual leader of the world's eighty million Anglicans, brought a message of greeting and urged the delegates to work passionately for greater unity for the sake of the world.
In all this, then, I was present at the gathering as the Muslim guest of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse-Tveit, a Lutheran Pastor from Norway. We had first met in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had spoken from the same platform about our respective faiths. Since then I had also visited the headquarters of the WCC to discuss with him the issue of Muslims and Christians in the Middle East.
So what was I doing there?
It took a little persuasion on facebook to convince some of my friends that I hadn't "gone over to the other side." In fact, far from it. I was there as a Muslim. I was there to listen and to learn, but more importantly to witness quietly to Islam. Speaking on the same platform as the Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, I was able to tell one workshop group that although they believed Jesus to have died on the Cross, the Quran tells me that he didn't and although they believe Jesus is the Son of God the Quran tells me that he isn't.
Having different beliefs, though, is no reason for us to fight one another. People believe different things and in a world torn apart by religious violence it is desperately important that people of faith can get on well together and work together for the poor in their midst. Respecting your neighbor's right to believe something different to you in no way compromises your own belief.
Indeed, as people of faith, we should never be afraid of goodness, wherever it comes from, and in Busan I met many good people. They remained good people, even though as a Muslim I believed that their own beliefs were mistaken and their understanding of God was wrong.
Not all Christians, just like not all Muslims, believe in dialogue between faiths and the Assembly was not without controversy as there were some local Christians protesting outside the Assembly venue with placards and posters, claiming that the WCC has strayed from what they believe to be the teaching of Christ by talking to people of other religions and promoting modern interpretations of scripture. This group, though, was a tiny distraction.
Throughout the week, I did hear talk of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. These words were painful to me since I live in Egypt and know that this is not true. At every opportunity I tried to make clear that whilst some people are suffering terrible things in the Middle East, Islam is not the reason for this since Allah Almighty allows people to believe whatever they want and Muslims are commanded to protect the Christians in their midst.
I found that whilst some were intent on spreading this message of persecution, many people were open to listen and to hear all sides of the story.
So what did I learn in South Korea?
Was it worthwhile traveling halfway across the globe to listen for ten days to Christians debating with one another? I would say that it was worthwhile, although ten days is a long time and it was heavy going. Halfway through I was missing home!
First of all, I was very humbled to have been invited in the first place and I was impressed by the way the Assembly was organized. For months beforehand, the organizers were sending me emails with information about what was to come. The logistics of holding such a large gathering over such a long period were enormous, but it was all done very efficiently and well and I was made to feel very welcome and that my contribution was valued.
Secondly, I was deeply impressed by the way the participants were concerned about justice. As a Muslim, there were areas of injustice in the world which I thought were not addressed by the Assembly, but there was nonetheless a real thirst for improving people's lives across the globe, either because of poverty, exploitation or disease. I reflected that at Muslim gatherings we are not always seen to be concerned about the poor. There was also a very impressive concern for the earth itself and the way we treat the earth. Again, I wondered if as Muslims this is not always one of the themes closest to our hearts, even though we clearly believe that Allah created the earth and everything in it. I was certainly impressed by the respect the delegates showed to one another. This is clearly an area where we, as Muslims, can learn.
Many of the traditions represented at the Assembly were so different from one another that they almost seemed like different religions, yet people were prepared to listen to other opinions and ideas with respect. I do wish that as Muslims we could listen to other Muslims with the same respect, without condemning them or damning them to hell. So even though as Christians and a Muslim at this Assembly we started from very different backgrounds, there was much to learn.
An Ambassador for Islam
Inshallah, the Christian delegates learned a little from me as I talked to them about Prayer in Islam and Freedom in Islam. The delegates prayed together each morning and then spent time in Bible Study. Of course, I didn't attend either of these daily events. Instead, when it came time for Salah I would find a quiet corner and pray. Whilst not making a big song and dance about this, I could nonetheless be seen praying as a Muslim.
There are some who would witness to Islam differently, and I respect their opinions. For me, being in South Korea was about being an Ambassador for Islam - and Ambassadors don't shout, but do their job in a very quiet way.
As I was getting on the plane to fly back to Egypt, one woman minister who had been at the Assembly came up and spoke to me. "Thank you," she said, "for being yourself. I enjoyed your contributions this week more than anything else." None of us will ever know the effect our efforts have in telling others about Islam.
Some, certainly, will accept Islam and become Muslim. Countless more, though, will come to see Islam in a different light to the one portrayed on TV and in the newspapers by our good manners and the respect with which we listen to others. It is possible to tell others that what they believe is wrong, but we don't have to do that by shouting or by aggressive language.

In the process we, too, might learn something. Our world would be a lot better if only we could listen to one another.


(Vatican Radio) There are worldly powers that want religion to be simply a private matter and today’s persecuted Christians are a sign of the trials that precede Jesus’ final coming – that’s the message Pope Francis imparted to the faithful gathered for early morning mass Thursday at the Santa Marta Guest house inside the Vatican.
In the final battle between God and evil that we read in the liturgy in these days, there’s a trap which Pope Francis calls “universal temptation.” It’s the temptation to give in to the deceitful ways of those against God. But those with true faith can look to Jesus for the strength to withstand the insidiousness of evil. Jesus, who endured insults and lies in his public life and the trials of evil in the desert, bore them to his death on the Cross. But, as Prince of Peace, Jesus triumphed over the prince of the world through the Resurrection.

In his homily, Pope Francis pointed to these events in Christ’s life because, he said, as we hear the Gospel recount the tumultuous time of the end of the world, we become aware that the victory of the prince of the world over God would be more disasterous than a devastating natural disaster.

“When Jesus speaks of this calamity in another passage, he tells us that it will be a profanation of the temple, a profanation of the faith, of the people: it will be an abomination; it will be desolation and abomination. What does this mean? It will be like the victory of the prince of this world: the defeat of God.”

Today, the Pope observed, people are discouraged from speaking of religion in public. “It’s (considered) something private, no?” It’s something you don’t talk about in public, he said, pointing to the fact that religious objects have become tabu’. “One has to obey the orders that come from worldly powers. One can do many things, nice things, but not adore God. It’s forbidden to worship. This is at the heart of the “end of times.” It is when this pagan attitude reaches its height, that’s when the end times will come, the Pope stressed. This is when the Son of man will return in glory.

“Christians who suffer times of persecution, times forbidding worship,” are a prophetic sign, the Pope said, of “what will happen to everyone.”

“This week it will do us good to think about this general apostasy which is called a ban on worship and ask ourselves: ‘Do I worship the Lord? Do I adore Jesus Christ the Lord? Do I in some measure play the game of the prince of this world?’ Worship to the end with trust and fidelity,” the Pope said, “this is the grace that we must ask for this week.”



St. Saturninus
Feast: November 29

Feast Day:November 29
Born:third century, Patras, Greece
Died:257, Toulouse, France
Canonized:Basilique St-Sernin, Toulouse
Patron of:Toulouse, France

St. Saturninus was, says Tillemont, one of the most illustrious martyrs France has given to the Church. We possess only his Acts, which are very old, since they were utilized by St. Gregory of Tours. He was the first bishop of Toulouse, whither he went during the consulate of Decius and Gratus (250). Whether there were already Christians in the town or his preaching made numerous conversions, he soon had a little church. To reach it he had to pass before the capitol where there was a a temple, and according to the Acts, the pagan priests ascribed to his frequent passings the silence of their oracles. One day they seized him and on his unshakeable refusal to sacrifice to the idols they condemned him be tied by the feet to a bull which dragged him about the town until the rope broke. Two Christian women piously gathered up the remains and buried them in a deep ditch, that they might not be profaned by the pagans. His successors, Sts. Hilary and Exuperius, gave him more honourable burial. A church was erected where the bull stopped. It still exists, and is called the church of the Taur (the bull). The body of the saint was transferred at an early date and is still preserved in the Church of St. Sernin (or Saturninus), one of the most ancient and beautiful of Southern France. His feast was entered on the Hieronymian Martyrology for 29 November; his cult spread abroad. The account of his Acts was embellished with several details, and legends linked his name with the beginning of the churches of Eauze, Auch, Pamplona, and Amiens, but these are without historic foundations.



St. Catherine Laboure Feastday: November 28 - Also known as: Zoe Laboure; Catherine Labore
Zoe Laboure was born at Fain-lès-Moutiers, Burgundy, France to the farmer Pierre Labouré and Louise Laboure as the ninth of eleven children on May 2, 1806. From an early age felt a call to the religious life. When Catherine was nine years old, her saintly mother died on October 9, 1815. After the burial service, little Catherine retired to her room, stood on a chair, took our Lady's statue from the wall, kissed it, and said: "Now, dear Lady, you are to be my mother." On January 25, 1818, Catherine made her First Communion. One day she had a dream in which a priest said to her: "My daughter, you may flee me now, but one day you will to come to me. Do not forget that God has plans for you." Sometime later, while visiting a hospital of the Daughters of Charity at Chatillon-sur-Seine, she noticed a priest's picture on the wall. She asked a sister who he might be, and was told: "Our Holy Founder Saint Vincent de Paul." This was the same priest Catherine had seen in the dream. Catherine knew she was in the right place.
Later, on January 1830, Catherine began her postulancy at Chatillon. On Wednesday, April 21, 1830, Catherine Labouré entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, located at their motherhouse, Rue du Bac 140, Paris.  taking the name Catherine. On the eve of the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, July 19, the Sister Superior spoke to the novices about the virtues of their Holy Founder and gave each of the novices a piece of cloth from the holy founder's surplice. Because of her extreme love, Catherine split her piece down the middle, swallowing half and placing the rest in her prayer book. She earnestly prayed to Saint Vincent that she might, with her own eyes, see the Mother of God. 
1st apparition of the Blessed Virgin: 19th July, 1830 Chapel Rue du Bac 140, Paris

It is 11.30 pm; Sister Catherine Laboure (24 years old) wakes up as she hears her name called three times. She opens the curtains of her cell and sees her Guardian Angel in de form of a 5 year old child. He says: "follow me to the chapel, where the Virgin Mary awaits you". Catherine Laboure hastily dresses herself and follows him to the chapel. The chapel is lit as for midnight-Mass, but she can't see the Blessed Virgin. She then kneels and prays. After half an hour her guardian angel says: "there is the Blessed Virgin Mary". Catherine Laboure hears a rustle like that of silk and to the left of St. Joseph she sees the Blessed Virgin Mary descend and sit herself on the chair of the Priest. Within a moment she is on her knees in front of the Blessed Virgin, with her hands confidently folded on Mary's knees. This is the beginning of a two hour long conversation. The Blessed Virgin Mary tells her that God will charge her with a mission. In the process she will experience many difficulties. The Blessed Virgin already speaks of bad times ahead. The whole world will be plunged into confusion through all sorts of incidents. The Cross will be treated with contempt; it will be cast to earth. The side of our Lord will be pierced again. The Blessed Virgin says this with a very sorrowful look on her face. Encouragingly though, she adds:
"but come to the foot of this altar and here graces will be bestowed upon all, 
who ask with confidence and fervour. they will be given to the rich and to the poor"

2nd apparition of the Blessed Virgin: 27th November, 1830 Chapel Rue du Bac 140, Paris
Catherine LabouréIt is 5.30pm, and the Sisters are in the chapel for the hour of Meditation. Suddenly Catherine Laboure hears, to her right, the same rustle as before; it is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She stops to the left near the painting of St. Joseph. This whole apparition is conducted in scenes and sign-language. The Blessed Virgin "standing in space". She was dressed in white, standing on a globe and holding a golden ball, with rings on her fingers flashing with light. An inner voice told her that the ball represented the whole world and that the rays coming from Mary's fingers represented graces for individuals. Then, a second phase: The golden ball then vanished as this apparition changed to represent Mary with her arms outstretched, inside an oval frame with golden lettering:"O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you." This was the front side of the medal that was to be made."

The reverse side of the Medal

Mary gave her this instruction: "have a medal struck on this model. All those who carry this will receive Grace in abundance, especially if they wear the medal around their neck and say this prayer confidently, they will receive special protection from the Mother of God and abundant graces". Then it is although the whole scene turns around and Catherine Laboure can see the back of the medal: in the centre is the letter M, from where a Cross ascends with at its base a cross-beam which passes through the letter M and below this the two hearts of Jesus and Mary, one crowned with thorns the other pierced by the sword of sorrow. The whole is surrounded with a crown of 12 stars recalling the vision of St. John in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse or Book of Revelation. Catherine Laboure hears: "the M with the Cross and the two hearts say enough".
During the next year this apparition occurred five times and each time with the same instructions: "have a medal struck on this model, and all those who wear it will receive great graces, especially when worn around the neck".Sister Catherine endured many humiliations, but she persevered. It took two years before her confessor, Father Aladel, a Vicentian priest, had the medal struck. The original name of the medal is that of  holy Mary’s Immaculate Conception; only after 7 years was the name changed to the “Miraculous Medal”. Because of the many answered prayers, the conversions and the cures, some 10 million medals were sold during the first 5 years. The short prayer: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee", has since been prayed innumerable times by believers, so that the entire Christianity became familiar with Mary's "Immaculate Conception". It was Pope Pius IX who made it a rule of faith. This was received with great joy by the entire Church. Four years later, Mary came as though to confirm this, when She said to Bernadette at Lourdes:I am the Immaculate 

Catherine Laboure died on 31st December 1876.  When her body was exhumed, after fifty-seven years of burial, it was found to be completely incorrupt and supple. Her eyes were as blue as the day she died. On 28th May, 1933 she was beatified by Pope Pius XI. This occasion was witnessed by 50,000 people, of which there were 8,000 children of Mary, veiled in white, all wearing the Miraculous Medal. On 27th July, 1947 Catherine Laboure was canonized by Pope Pius XII. Here again many believers were present, including more than 10,000 children of Mary, veiled in white.
 INCORRUPT Body Catherine Laboure
Many healings, including those of people for whom there was totally no hope, were attributed to the "Miraculous Medal". Just in the American city of Philadelphia alone, between 1930 and 1950, more than 750.000 favours were granted and registered. Catherine Laboure is still lying in state at the right of the altar in the chapel Rue du Bac 140, in Paris and she still looks as though she only died yesterday!
Patroness of architects, miners, and prisoners.
"These apparitions of Mary and the Miraculous Medal by Catherine Laboure are fully approved by the Holy See: 1836"

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