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Thursday, December 12, 2013

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POPE FRANCIS WORLD DAY OF PEACE MESSAGE - FULL TEXT

POPE FRANCIS "IT WOULD DO US GOOD TO HAVE A LITTLE SILENCE..."

TODAY'S MASS ONLINE : THURS. DEC. 12, 2013 - OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE FEAST

(Vatican Radio) At a press conference in the Vatican on Thursday, Pope Francis’ Message for the 2014 World Day of Peace was unveiled, focused on the theme ‘Fraternity: the Foundation and Pathway to Peace’. The Church’s annual Day of Peace is celebrated on January 1st and this year’s message contains many of the themes that the Holy Father has been developing over the past nine months of his pontificate.

The annual World Peace Day message is traditionally presented by the head of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, but significantly, its president, Cardinal Peter Turkson was unable to be present this year as he was in Johannesburg attending memorial events for the late South African leader Nelson Mandela. In remarks prepared for the press conference however, the cardinal holds up Mandela as an example of that fraternity which lies at the very heart of this message: a spirit of courage and reconciliation which recognizes the God-given human dignity within each and every individual.
Reiterating many of the themes contained in previous Peace Day Messages, this new document explores the biblical understanding of fraternity, beginning with the Genesis story of Cain, who murders his brother Abel and is held accountable by God for his action. In a similar way, we Christians, as children of the same God, will be held accountable for our actions towards our brothers and sisters who suffer from poverty, conflicts, trafficking or corruption which, the message says, strikes at the very heart of our human dignity.
Echoing the words of his predecessors, Pope Francis appeals to all those involved in the use of weapons to work instead for disarmament and dialogue, starting with the urgent need for an end to the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. The message also condemns the many forms of corruption and organized crime, as well as financial speculation, the tragedy of migrants, inhuman prison conditions and what the Pope calls ‘the abomination of human trafficking’.
Finally the message speaks of fraternity in terms of our responsible stewardship of nature and the earth’s resources. Insisting once again that it is possible to provide enough food to eliminate hunger in our world, the Pope says we must overcome attitudes of possession, manipulation and exploitation to ensure justice, equality and an end to the scandal of people dying of hunger.



MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

1 JANUARY 2014


FRATERNITY, THE FOUNDATION AND PATHWAY TO PEACE

1. In this, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, I wish to offer to everyone, individuals and peoples, my best wishes for a life filled with joy and hope. In the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.

Fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace. We should remember that fraternity is generally first learned in the family, thanks above all to the responsible and complementary roles of each of its members, particularly the father and the mother. The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it.

The ever-increasing number of interconnections and communications in today’s world makes us powerfully aware of the unity and common destiny of the nations. In the dynamics of history, and in the diversity of ethnic groups, societies and cultures, we see the seeds of a vocation to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another. But this vocation is still frequently denied and ignored in a world marked by a “globalization of indifference” which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.

In many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example of this. Alongside overt armed conflicts are the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.

Globalization, as Benedict XVI pointed out, makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers. The many situations of inequality, poverty and injustice, are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity. New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless”. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish.

At the same time, it appears clear that contemporary ethical systems remain incapable of producing authentic bonds of fraternity, since a fraternity devoid of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation is unable to endure. True brotherhood among people presupposes and demands a transcendent Fatherhood. Based on the recognition of this fatherhood, human fraternity is consolidated: each person becomes a “neighbour” who cares for others.

“Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9)

2. To understand more fully this human vocation to fraternity, to recognize more clearly the obstacles standing in the way of its realization and to identify ways of overcoming them, it is of primary importance to let oneself be led by knowledge of God’s plan, which is presented in an eminent way in sacred Scripture.

According to the biblical account of creation, all people are descended from common parents, Adam and Eve, the couple created by God in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26), to whom Cain and Abel were born. In the story of this first family, we see the origins of society and the evolution of relations between individuals and peoples.

Abel is a shepherd, Cain is a farmer. Their profound identity and their vocation is to be brothers, albeit in the diversity of their activity and culture, their way of relating to God and to creation. Cain’s murder of Abel bears tragic witness to his radical rejection of their vocation to be brothers. Their story (cf. Gen 4:1-16) brings out the difficult task to which all men and women are called, to live as one, each taking care of the other. Cain, incapable of accepting God’s preference for Abel who had offered him the best of his flock – “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering; but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Gen 4:4-5) – killed Abel out of jealousy. In this way, he refused to regard Abel as a brother, to relate to him rightly, to live in the presence of God by assuming his responsibility to care for and to protect others. By asking him “Where is your brother?”, God holds Cain accountable for what he has done. He answers: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Then, the Book of Genesis tells us, “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord” (4:16).

We need to ask ourselves what were the real reasons which led Cain to disregard the bond of fraternity and, at the same time, the bond of reciprocity and fellowship which joined him to his brother Abel. God himself condemns and reproves Cain’s collusion with evil: “sin is crouching at your door” (Gen 4:7). But Cain refuses to turn against evil and decides instead to raise his “hand against his brother Abel” (Gen 4:8), thus scorning God’s plan. In this way, he thwarts his primordial calling to be a child of God and to live in fraternity.

The story of Cain and Abel teaches that we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling. This is witnessed by our daily acts of selfishness, which are at the root of so many wars and so much injustice: many men and women die at the hands of their brothers and sisters who are incapable of seeing themselves as such, that is, as beings made for reciprocity, for communion and self-giving.

“And you will all be brothers” (Mt 23:8)

3. The question naturally arises: Can the men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for fraternity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters?

By paraphrasing his words, we can summarize the answer given by the Lord Jesus: “For you have only one Father, who is God, and you are all brothers and sisters” (cf. Mt 23:8-9). The basis of fraternity is found in God’s fatherhood. We are not speaking of a generic fatherhood, indistinct and historically ineffectual, but rather of the specific and extraordinarily concrete personal love of God for each man and woman (cf. Mt 6:25-30). It is a fatherhood, then, which effectively generates fraternity, because the love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to genuine sharing.

In a particular way, human fraternity is regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. The Cross is the definitive foundational locus of that fraternity which human beings are not capable of generating themselves. Jesus Christ, who assumed human nature in order to redeem it, loving the Father unto death on the Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), has through his resurrection made of us a new humanity, in full communion with the will of God, with his plan, which includes the full realization of our vocation to fraternity.
From the beginning, Jesus takes up the plan of the Father, acknowledging its primacy over all else. But Christ, with his abandonment to death for love of the Father, becomes the definitive and new principle of us all; we are called to regard ourselves in him as brothers as sisters, inasmuch as we are children of the same Father. He himself is the Covenant; in his person we are reconciled with God and with one another as brothers and sisters. Jesus’ death on the Cross also brings an end to the separation between peoples, between the people of the Covenant and the people of the Gentiles, who were bereft of hope until that moment, since they were not party to the pacts of the Promise. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians, Jesus Christ is the one who reconciles all people in himself. He is peace, for he made one people out of the two, breaking down the wall of separation which divided them, that is, the hostility between them. He created in himself one people, one new man, one new humanity (cf. 2:14-16).
All who accept the life of Christ and live in him acknowledge God as Father and give themselves completely to him, loving him above all things. The reconciled person sees in God the Father of all, and, as a consequence, is spurred on to live a life of fraternity open to all. In Christ, the other is welcomed and loved as a son or daughter of God, as a brother or sister, not as a stranger, much less as a rival or even an enemy. In God’s family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father, and, because they are grafted to Christ, sons and daughters in the Son, there are no “disposable lives”. All men and women enjoy an equal and inviolable dignity. All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.
Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace
4. This being said, it is easy to realize that fraternity is the foundation and pathway of peace. The social encyclicals written by my predecessors can be very helpful in this regard. It would be sufficient to draw on the definitions of peace found in the encyclicals Populorum Progressio by Pope Paul VI and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis by John Paul II. From the first we learn that the integral development of peoples is the new name of peace. From the second, we conclude that peace is an opus solidaritatis.
Paul VI stated that not only individuals but nations too must encounter one another in a spirit of fraternity. As he says: “In this mutual understanding and friendship, in this sacred communion, we must also… work together to build the common future of the human race”. In the first place, this duty falls to those who are most privileged. Their obligations are rooted in human and supernatural fraternity and are manifested in three ways: the duty of solidarity, which requires the richer nations to assist the less developed; the duty of social justice, which requires the realignment of relationships between stronger and weaker peoples in terms of greater fairness; and the duty of universal charity, which entails the promotion of a more humane world for all, a world in which each has something to give and to receive, without the progress of the one constituting an obstacle to the development of the other.
If, then, we consider peace as opus solidaritatis, we cannot fail to acknowledge that fraternity is its principal foundation. Peace, John Paul II affirmed, is an indivisible good. Either it is the good of all or it is the good of none. It can be truly attained and enjoyed, as the highest quality of life and a more human and sustainable development, only if all are guided by solidarity as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. This means not being guided by a “desire for profit” or a “thirst for power”. What is needed is the willingness to “lose ourselves” for the sake of others rather than exploiting them, and to “serve them” instead of oppressing them for our own advantage. “The ‘other’ – whether a person, people or nation – [is to be seen] not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbour’, a ‘helper’”.
Christian solidarity presumes that our neighbour is loved not only as “a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but as the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit”, as another brother or sister. As John Paul II noted: “At that point, awareness of the common fatherhood of God, of the brotherhood of all in Christ – ‘children in the Son’ – and of the presence and life-giving action of the Holy Spirit, will bring to our vision of the world a new criterion for interpreting it”, for changing it.
Fraternity, a prerequisite for fighting poverty
5. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, my predecessor reminded the world how the lack of fraternity between peoples and men and women is a significant cause of poverty. In many societies, we are experiencing a profound poverty of relationships as a result of the lack of solid family and community relationships. We are concerned by the various types of hardship, marginalization, isolation and various forms of pathological dependencies which we see increasing. This kind of poverty can be overcome only through the rediscovery and valuing of fraternal relationships in the heart of families and communities, through the sharing of joys and sorrows, of the hardships and triumphs that are a part of human life.
Moreover, if on the one hand we are seeing a reduction in absolute poverty, on the other hand we cannot fail to recognize that there is a serious rise in relative poverty, that is, instances of inequality between people and groups who live together in particular regions or in a determined historical-cultural context. In this sense, effective policies are needed to promote the principle of fraternity, securing for people – who are equal in dignity and in fundamental rights – access to capital, services, educational resources, healthcare and technology so that every person has the opportunity to express and realize his or her life project and can develop fully as a person.
One also sees the need for policies which can lighten an excessive imbalance between incomes. We must not forget the Church’s teaching on the so-called social mortgage, which holds that although it is lawful, as Saint Thomas Aquinas says, and indeed necessary “that people have ownership of goods”, insofar as their use is concerned, “they possess them as not just their own, but common to others as well, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as themselves”.
Finally, there is yet another form of promoting fraternity – and thus defeating poverty – which must be at the basis of all the others. It is the detachment of those who choose to live a sober and essential lifestyle, of those who, by sharing their own wealth, thus manage to experience fraternal communion with others. This is fundamental for following Jesus Christ and being truly Christian. It is not only the case of consecrated persons who profess the vow of poverty, but also of the many families and responsible citizens who firmly believe that it is their fraternal relationship with their neighbours which constitutes their most precious good.
The rediscovery of fraternity in the economy
6. The grave financial and economic crises of the present time – which find their origin in the progressive distancing of man from God and from his neighbour, in the greedy pursuit of material goods on the one hand, and in the impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations on the other – have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy. In 1979 John Paul II had called attention to “a real perceptible danger that, while man’s dominion over the world of things is making enormous advances, he should lose the essential threads of his dominion and in various ways let his humanity be subjected to the world and become himself something subject to manipulation in many ways – even if the manipulation is often not perceptible directly – through the whole of the organization of community life, through the production system and through pressure from the means of social communication.”
The succession of economic crises should lead to a timely rethinking of our models of economic development and to a change in lifestyles. Today’s crisis, even with its serious implications for people’s lives, can also provide us with a fruitful opportunity to rediscover the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and strength. These virtues can help us to overcome difficult moments and to recover the fraternal bonds which join us one to another, with deep confidence that human beings need and are capable of something greater than maximizing their individual interest. Above all, these virtues are necessary for building and preserving a society in accord with human dignity.
Fraternity extinguishes war
7. In the past year, many of our brothers and sisters have continued to endure the destructive experience of war, which constitutes a grave and deep wound inflicted on fraternity.
Many conflicts are taking place amid general indifference. To all those who live in lands where weapons impose terror and destruction, I assure you of my personal closeness and that of the whole Church, whose mission is to bring Christ’s love to the defenceless victims of forgotten wars through her prayers for peace, her service to the wounded, the starving, refugees, the displaced and all those who live in fear. The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.
For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you! “From this standpoint, it is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself”.
Nevertheless, as long as so great a quantity of arms are in circulation as at present, new pretexts can always be found for initiating hostilities. For this reason, I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties, beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons disarmament.
We cannot however fail to observe that international agreements and national laws – while necessary and greatly to be desired – are not of themselves sufficient to protect humanity from the risk of armed conflict. A conversion of hearts is needed which would permit everyone to recognize in the other a brother or sister to care for, and to work together with, in building a fulfilling life for all. This is the spirit which inspires many initiatives of civil society, including religious organizations, to promote peace. I express my hope that the daily commitment of all will continue to bear fruit and that there will be an effective application in international law of the right to peace, as a fundamental human right and a necessary prerequisite for every other right.
Corruption and organized crime threaten fraternity
8. The horizon of fraternity also has to do with the need for fulfilment of every man and woman. People’s legitimate ambitions, especially in the case of the young, should not be thwarted or offended, nor should people be robbed of their hope of realizing them. Nevertheless, ambition must not be confused with the abuse of power. On the contrary, people should compete with one another in mutual esteem (cf. Rm 12:10). In disagreements, which are also an unavoidable part of life, we should always remember that we are brothers and sisters, and therefore teach others and teach ourselves not to consider our neighbour as an enemy or as an adversary to be eliminated.
Fraternity generates social peace because it creates a balance between freedom and justice, between personal responsibility and solidarity, between the good of individuals and the common good. And so a political community must act in a transparent and responsible way to favour all this. Citizens must feel themselves represented by the public authorities in respect for their freedom. Yet frequently a wedge is driven between citizens and institutions by partisan interests which disfigure that relationship, fostering the creation of an enduring climate of conflict.
An authentic spirit of fraternity overcomes the individual selfishness which conflicts with people’s ability to live in freedom and in harmony among themselves. Such selfishness develops socially – whether it is in the many forms of corruption, so widespread today, or in the formation of criminal organizations, from small groups to those organized on a global scale. These groups tear down legality and justice, striking at the very heart of the dignity of the person. These organizations gravely offend God, they hurt others and they harm creation, all the more so when they have religious overtones.
I also think of the heartbreaking drama of drug abuse, which reaps profits in contempt of the moral and civil laws. I think of the devastation of natural resources and ongoing pollution, and the tragedy of the exploitation of labour. I think too of illicit money trafficking and financial speculation, which often prove both predatory and harmful for entire economic and social systems, exposing millions of men and women to poverty. I think of prostitution, which every day reaps innocent victims, especially the young, robbing them of their future. I think of the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world; the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants, who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation. As John XXIII wrote: “There is nothing human about a society based on relationships of power. Far from encouraging, as it should, the attainment of people’s growth and perfection, it proves oppressive and restrictive of their freedom”. Yet human beings can experience conversion; they must never despair of being able to change their lives. I wish this to be a message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of the sinner, but that he converts and lives (cf. Ez 18:23).
In the broad context of human social relations, when we look to crime and punishment, we cannot help but think of the inhumane conditions in so many prisons, where those in custody are often reduced to a subhuman status in violation of their human dignity and stunted in their hope and desire for rehabilitation. The Church does much in these environments, mostly in silence. I exhort and I encourage everyone to do more, in the hope that the efforts being made in this area by so many courageous men and women will be increasingly supported, fairly and honestly, by the civil authorities as well.
Fraternity helps to preserve and cultivate nature
9. The human family has received from the Creator a common gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgement about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem. Nature, in a word, is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it. Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.
In a particular way, the agricultural sector is the primary productive sector with the crucial vocation of cultivating and protecting natural resources in order to feed humanity. In this regard the continuing disgrace of hunger in the world moves me to share with you the question: How are we using the earth’s resources? Contemporary societies should reflect on the hierarchy of priorities to which production is directed. It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. Initiatives and possible solutions are many, and are not limited to an increase in production. It is well known that present production is sufficient, and yet millions of persons continue to suffer and die from hunger, and this is a real scandal. We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being. In this regard I would like to remind everyone of that necessary universal destination of all goods which is one of the fundamental principles of the Church’s social teaching. Respect for this principle is the essential condition for facilitating an effective and fair access to those essential and primary goods which every person needs and to which he or she has a right.
Conclusion
10. Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed to. But only love, bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity.
The necessary realism proper to politics and economy cannot be reduced to mere technical know-how bereft of ideals and unconcerned with the transcendent dimension of man. When this openness to God is lacking, every human activity is impoverished and persons are reduced to objects that can be exploited. Only when politics and the economy are open to moving within the wide space ensured by the One who loves each man and each woman, will they achieve an ordering based on a genuine spirit of fraternal charity and become effective instruments of integral human development and peace.
We Christians believe that in the Church we are all members of a single body, all mutually necessary, because each has been given a grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, for the common good (cf. Eph 4:7,25; 1 Cor 12:7). Christ has come to the world so as to bring us divine grace, that is, the possibility of sharing in his life. This entails weaving a fabric of fraternal relationships marked by reciprocity, forgiveness and complete self-giving, according to the breadth and the depth of the love of God offered to humanity in the One who, crucified and risen, draws all to himself: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35). This is the good news that demands from each one a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others, even those furthest away from me, and walking the demanding path of that love which knows how to give and spend itself freely for the good of all our brothers and sisters.
Christ embraces all of humanity and wishes no one to be lost. “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). He does it without oppressing or constraining anyone to open to him the doors of heart and mind. “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” – Jesus Christ says – “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:26-27). Every activity therefore must be distinguished by an attitude of service to persons, especially those furthest away and less known. Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.
May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this our beloved earth.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2013
Shared from Vatican Radio website 

POPE FRANCIS "IT WOULD DO US GOOD TO HAVE A LITTLE SILENCE..."

(Vatican Radio) Preparing for Christmas, we would do well to take a moment of silence to listed to God who speaks to us with the tenderness of a father and of a mother. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, on the second Thursday of Advent. 

Beginning with the reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Pope emphasized not only “what the Lord says” but “how He says it.” God speaks to as a father or a mother speaks to their children:

“When the child has a bad dream, he wakes up, cries . . . the father goes and says, ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, I’m here.’ That’s how the Lord speaks to us. ‘Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you maggot Israel’ (Isaiah 41,13). The Lord has this way of speaking to us: He is near . . . When we look at a father or a mother who speaks to their little child, we see that they become little and speak with a voice of a child and with the manners of children. Someone looking in from the outside think, ‘This is ridiculous!’ They become smaller, right there, no? Because the love of a father and a mother needs to be close. I say this word: to lower themselves to the world of the child. . . . If the father and mother spoke to them normally, the child would still understand; but they want to take up the manner of speaking of the child. They come close, they become children. And so it is with the Lord.”
The Greek theologians, Pope Francis recalled, explained this attitude of God with a somewhat difficult word: “synkatábasi” or “the humble and accommodating disposition [condiscendenza] of God who lowers Himself to make Himself one of us.”

“And so, the father and the mother also say ridiculous things to the child: ‘Ah, my love, my toy . . .’ and all these things. And the Lord says this too, ‘you worm Jacob,’ ‘you are like a worm to me, a tiny little thing, but I love you so much.’ This is the language of the Lord, the language of the love of a father, of a mother. The word of the Lord? Yes, we understand what He tells us. But we also see how He says it. And we must do what the Lord does, do what He says and do it as He says it: with love, with tenderness, with that condescension towards the brethren.”

Pope Francis referred to Elijah’s encounter with God, when the Lord came to him as “a sweet breeze” (cf. 1 Kings 19,11ff), or, as it says in the original text, “a sound of silence”. That is how the Lord draws near, with that resonance of silence that is proper to love. Without making a spectacle.” And “He becomes small in order to make me strong; He goes to death, with that condescendence, so that I might live”:

“This is the music of the language of the Lord, and we, in the preparation for Christmas, ought to hear it: it would do us so much good. Normally, Christmas seems to be a very noisy holiday: it would do us good to have a little silence and to hear these words of love, these words of such nearness, these words of tenderness . . . ‘You are a worm, but I love you so much.’ [Let us pray] for this, and to be silent in this time in which, as it says in the preface, we are watchful in waiting.”


Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/12/12/pope_francis:_be_silent,_so_we_can_hear_the_tenderness_of_god/en1-755064
of the Vatican Radio website 

"TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN PERSONS IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY" POPE FRANCIS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received a group of non-resident Ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. The diplomats represent Algeria, Iceland, Denmark, Lesotho, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde, Burundi, Malta, Sweden, Pakistan, Zambia, Norway, Kuwait, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Jordan. The Holy Father focused his remarks to his guests on the scourge of human trafficking, denouncing the practice as a “real form of slavery” and calling for renewed and concerted efforts to end the inhuman trade.

Pope Francis said that the trafficking of persons is an evil that involves every country – even the most developed – and harms the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, especially women and girls, children, the disabled, the poorest of the poor, and anyone affected by a disintegration of family or social life. “In these,” he said, “we Christians see the face of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the least and the most needy.” Calling the persistence of the trade in human persons, “shameful,” Pope Francis said, “Every person of goodwill, whether he professes religion or not, cannot allow these women, these men, these children to be treated as objects: cheated, raped, often sold several times, for different purposes, and eventually killed, or at least, ruined in body and mind, and finally discarded and abandoned.”

The Pope went on to say, “Trafficking in human persons is a crime against humanity.” He added, “We must join forces to free the victims and to stop this ever more aggressive crime, which threatens not only individual persons, but also the foundational values ​​of society, as well as international security and justice, along with the economy, family structure and social life.”

The Holy Father called on the international community to work in greater concert to develop more effective strategies to combat human trafficking, so that in no part of the world might men and women be used as a means, but always be respected in their inviolable dignity



SHARED from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/12/12/pope_to_ambassadors:_work_to_end_human_trafficking/en1-755007
of the Vatican Radio website 

DEATH TOLL NEARS 1000 IN ONE WEEK IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

ICN REPORT: 
Central African Republic: death toll reaches 1,000 | Central African republic, CSW, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Local sources are reporting that almost 1,000 people have been killed in the last week after fighting broke out between the Seleka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka groups in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

On 9 December the Red Cross had confirmed 400 deaths in Bangui. However, local eyewitnesses report a number of unburied or uncollected bodies in many parts of the city.

Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition, took power in a coup in March 2013, suspending the constitution, dissolving the government and National Assembly, and eventually installing one of its leaders, Michael Djotodia, as president. In September, Djotodia officially disbanded Seleka; however many rebels refused to disarm and began sectarian killings, looting and burning villages, with worrying reports in November of an influx of extremists from other countries. The sustained and severe human rights violations eventually resulted in retributive violence following the emergence of anti-Seleka groups commonly referred to as ‘anti–Balaka’ (anti-machete), and largely composed of ex-Seleka members, vigilante villagers and former members of the national army.

The latest fighting intensified after daybreak on 5 December, when armed anti-Balaka groups declared an invasion of Bangui. Local sources reported the sound of heavy artillery in the Gobongo, Boy Rabe, Kassai and Boieng districts before the anti–Balaka forces retreated to the hills and forests surrounding Bangui. Muslims in the Km5 district were reported to have subsequently taken to the streets destroying property belonging to non-Muslims. Unconfirmed reports also state that members of the Seleka militia went from door to door searching for men, destroying property, and killing civilians. Victims included a pastor of the Elim church in the PK12 district and his grandchildren. According to local reports, Seleka members also abducted his four children. Similar atrocities are being reported from the interior of the country.

Over the weekend reprisal attacks on Christians continued in which families with young men were reportedly targeted. In districts across the capital, civilians are currently seeking refuge in church buildings, while others are hiding in the bush or at Bangui airport.

While the anti-Balaka groups have been generally described as Christian militia, their actions have been condemned by the Church in CAR, which is calling for peace, the disarming of all armed groups and national reconciliation. Church leaders have also been working with imams in the tense months following the coup to bring reconciliation, and calling for a return to peaceful coexistence between the two religious communities.

On 5 December the UN Security Council approved a proposal to increase the numbers of French and African Union troops in the country with a madate to disarm militias. On Monday 9 December two French paratroopers were killed in Bangui in a clash with unidentified men.

Also on 9 December, and following comments by President Hollande questioning the effectiveness of his leadership, Djotodia is alleged to have implied on radio that there would be fighting between French troops and Seleka, and that the country would be divided along sectarian lines if he is removed from power. According to unconfirmed reports these remarks were also being broadcast in mosques, and could stoke sectarian tensions even further.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW condemns the killings of civilians and the widespread violations of human rights, including of freedom of religion or belief. We echo the call of the Church in the Central African Republic for peace, and urge both sides of the conflict to embrace reconciliation and co-existence. The restoration of security is paramount, as is the need to combat impunity. We therefore welcome the Security Council's decision to increase troop numbers in the CAR, and call for investigations to identify those suspected of involvement in gross human rights violations with a view to bringing them to justice. We also urge UN member states to ensure that the international forces are sufficiently resourced and to respond swiftly to the worsening humanitarian crisis in the country.”

The Central African Republic is a majority Christian country with a 15% indigenous Muslim population. Since independence in 1960 the country has been plagued with instability and has endured a series of rebellions and five coups, including the Seleka coup. The recent Seleka coup was the first in the nation’s history to divide the country on sectarian lines.

Since March, there has been a growing humanitarian crisis, and widespread violation of human rights. International observers and CSW sources have noted a weakening of state institutions, widespread insecurity, arbitrary detentions, summary executions and no access for humanitarian assistance. According to current estimates, approximately 10% of the population has been internally displaced and living in dire conditions.
SHARED FROM INDEPENDENT CATH. NEWS

ARCHBISHOP , NUNS , AND 300 CLERGY ATTACKED AND ARRESTED FOR PEACEFUL WALK IN INDIA - RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION

ASIA NEWS REPORT: Mgr Anil JT Couto, along with other members of the local clergy, was taking part in a protest for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims. Police apparently beat the religious leaders present, charging the crowd with water cannons. Several people have been injured. For Card Gracias, "violence on priests, religious and nuns" is a disgrace for India. The country "cannot move forward as long as one part of society is discriminated and deprived of something on religious grounds."


New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Police in New Delhi arrested Archbishop Anil JT Couto, as well as priests and nuns from his diocese, during a peaceful march for the rights of Dalit Christians and Muslims.
According to eyewitnesses, police agents beat vested priests and nuns who are presently being held at a police station near the parliament building.
Several people have also been reportedly injured. Some sources note that agents charged the crowd using water cannons.
Card Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops' Conference (CBCI) and archbishop of Mumbai, told AsiaNews that "the excessive violence on our bishops, priests and nuns" was a disgrace. They were "arrested and detained because they fought for the rightful demands of the country's poor and marginalised."
The Archbishop of Delhi and other religious leaders were silently marching from Jantar Mantar, headed to the parliament building when the police intervened using water cannons.
In addition to Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto, those arrested include Church of North India (Anglican Church) General Secretary Alwan Masih, Dr Roger Gaikwad from the National Council of Churches in India, National Council of Dalit Christians President Mary John, Delhi Minorities Commission member A C Michael, All India Christian Council Secretary General John Dayal and Member of Parliament Anwar Ali.
"The Catholic Church of India is deeply saddened by the detention of our clergy, religious and other people, who were merely asking for justice and equality for Dalit Christians and Muslims," Archbishop Couto said.
The struggle to achieve equal rights for Dalit Christians and Muslims has been going on since 1950, when the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 was adopted, granting economic, educational and social advantages to Dalit Hindus. In 1956 and 1990, the status was extended to Buddhists and Sikhs.
"Such discrimination violates the constitution, which instead treats all citizens as equals," said the president of the Bishops' Conference. "Our concern touches the whole of India, which cannot move forward as long as one part of society is discriminated and deprived of something on religious grounds. This is detrimental to the development and moral authority of the nation."

This is the first time since 27 November 1997 that bishops and religious leaders are arrested for embracing the Dalit cause.
ASIA NEWS REPORT

NOVENA TO OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE


(Original Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico - shared from Google)
Novena by Fr. Lovasik:
Our Lady of Guadalupe,  According to your message in Mexico  I venerate you as "the Virgin Mother  Of the true God for whom we live,  The Creator of all the world,  Maker of heaven and earth."  In spirit I kneel before your most holy Image  Which you miraculously imprinted  Upon the cloak of the Indian Juan Diego,  And with the faith  Of the countless numbers of pilgrims  Who visit your shrine,  I beg you for this favor:  To be a generous, self-sacrificing,  Faithful Marian Catechist all the days of my life.
 Remember, O Immaculate Virgin,  The words you spoke to your devout client,  "I am a merciful Mother to you  And to all your people  Who love me and trust in me And invoke my help.  I listen to their lamentations and solace All their sorrows and their sufferings."  I beg you to be a merciful Mother to me,  Because I sincerely love you and trust in you  And invoke your help.  I entreat you, Our Lady of Guadalupe,  To grant my request,  If this should be the Will of God,  In order that I may  "Bear witness to your love, your compassion,  Your help and protection."  Do not forsake me in my needs. Amen.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. Hail Mary . . . (3 times)
DAY ONE
Dearest Lady of Guadalupe, fruitful Mother of holiness, teach me your ways of gentleness and strength. Hear my humble prayer offered with heartfelt confidence to beg this favor... State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY TWO
O Mary, conceived without sin, I come to your throne of grace to share the fervent devotion of your faithful Mexican children who call to you under the glorious Aztec title of Guadalupe. Obtain for me a lively faith to do your Son’s holy will always: May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY THREE
O Mary, whose Immaculate Heart was pierced by seven swords of grief, help me to walk valiantly amid the sharp thorns strewn across my pathway. Obtain for me the strength to be a true imitator of you. This I ask you, my dear Mother. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY FOUR
Dearest Mother of Guadalupe, I beg you for a fortified will to imitate your divine Son’s charity, to always seek the good of others in need. Grant me this, I humbly ask of you. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY FIVE
O most holy Mother, I beg you to obtain for me pardon of all my sins, abundant graces to serve your Son more faithfully from now on, and lastly, the grace to praise Him with you forever in heaven. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY SIX
Mary, Mother of vocations, multiply priestly vocations and fill the earth with religious houses which will be light and warmth for the world, safety in stormy nights. Beg your Son to send us many priests and religious. This we ask of you, O Mother. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY SEVEN
O Lady of Guadalupe, we beg you that parents live a holy life and educate their children in a Christian manner; that children obey and follow the directions of their parents; that all members of the family pray and worship together. This we ask of you, O Mother. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY EIGHT
With my heart full of the most sincere veneration, I prostrate myself before you, O Mother, to ask you to obtain for me the grace to fulfill the duties of my state in life with faithfulness and constancy. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
DAY NINE
O God, You have been pleased to bestow upon us unceasing favors by having placed us under the special protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Grant us, your humble servants, who rejoice in honoring her today upon earth, the happiness of seeing her face to face in heaven. State your request here... Recite the following prayers... Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be...
 
 

  Closing Prayer:
    Remember, 0 most gracious Virgin of Guadalupe,     that in thy celestial apparition on the Mount of Tepeyac,     thou didst promise to show thy compassion     and pity towards all who,     loving and trusting thee,     seek thy help and call upon thee     in their necessities and afflictions;     also to hearken to our supplications,     to dry our tears and to give us consolation and relief.
    Inspired with this confidence     we come before thy august presence,     certain that thou wilt deign     to fulfill thy merciful promises.     We are full of hope that,     standing beneath thy protection     nothing will trouble or afflict us.     Thou has desired to remain with us     through thy admirable image,     thou who art our Mother,     our health and our life.
    O Mary, Mother of God,     hear our petitions and in thy mercy answer us.
    Amen
This novena prayer, written by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., is approved by Bishop Burke for use preceding Consecration / Renewal.

TODAY'S SAINT: DEC. 12: OUR LADY OF GUADELUPE

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feast: December 12


Information:
Feast Day:December 12

More on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the sixteenth century, the Blessed Virgin, moved with pity for the Aztec people who, living in the darkness of idolatry, offered to their idols multitudes of human victims, deigned to take into her own hands the evangelization of these Indians of Central America who were also her children. One of the Aztec gods, originally considered the god of fertility, had transformed himself over time into a ferocious god. A symbol of the sun, this god was in continuous battle with the moon and the stars and was believed to need human blood to restore his strength; if he died, life would be extinguished. Ever new victims, to be offered to him in perpetual sacrifice, therefore seemed essential.
An eagle on a cactus
Aztec priests had prophesied that their nomadic people would settle in the place where an eagle would be seen perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This eagle appears on the Mexican flag today. Having arrived on a swampy island, in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs saw the foretold sign: an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent. This was in 1369. There they founded their town Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City. The town expanded to become a city on pilings, with many gardens abounding in flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The organization of the Aztec kingdom was very structured and hierarchical. The knowledge of their mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers, architects, doctors, artists, and artisans was excellent for that time. But the laws of the physical world remained scarcely known. Tenochtitlan drew its power and wealth primarily from war. The conquered cities had to pay a tribute of various foodstuffs and men for war and sacrifices. The Aztecs' human sacrifices and cannibalism are almost unequaled throughout the course of history.
In 1474, a child was born who was given the name Cuauhtlatoazin ("speaking eagle"). After his father's death, the child was taken in by his uncle. From the age of three, he was taught, as were all young Aztecs, to join in domestic tasks and to behave in a dignified manner. At school, he learned singing, dancing, and especially the worship of many gods. The priests had a very strong influence over the population, whom they kept in a submission bordering on terror. Cuauhtlatoazin was thirteen years old when the great temple at Tenochtitlan was consecrated. Over the course of four days, the priests sacrificed 80,000 human victims to their god. After his military service, Cuauhtlatoazin married a young woman of his social status. Together they led a modest life as farmers.
In 1519, the Spaniard Cortez disembarked in Mexico, leading 500 soldiers. He conquered the country for Spain, yet was not lacking in zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs. In 1524 he obtained the arrival of twelve Franciscans to Mexico. These missionaries quickly integrated into the population. Their goodness contrasted with the harshness of the Aztec priests, as well as that of some conquistadors. They began to build churches. However, the Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.
Cuauhtlatoazin and his wife were among the first to receive Baptism, under the respective names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia. After his wife's death in 1529, Juan Diego withdrew to Tolpetlac, 14 km from Mexico City, to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well. On December 9, 1531, as was his custom every Saturday, he left very early in the morning to attend the Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, at the Franciscan fathers' church, close to Mexico City. He walked past Tepeyac Hill. Suddenly, he heard a gentle and resounding song that seemed to come from a great multitude of birds. Raising his eyes to the top of the hill, he saw a white and radiant cloud. He looked around him and wondered if he was dreaming. All of a sudden, the song stopped and a woman's voice, gentle and graceful, called him: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" He quickly climbed the hill and found himself in the presence of a very beautiful young woman whose garments shone like the sun.

"A church where I will show my love"
Speaking to him in Nahuatl, his native language, she said to him, "Juanito, my son, where are you going?"—"Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear the divine things that the priest teaches us there."—"I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin MARY, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love Me, trust in Me, and have recourse to Me. I will hear their complaints and I will comfort their affliction and their sufferings. So that I might show all My love, go now to the bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him the great desire I have to see a church dedicated to me built here."
Juan Diego went straight to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal, who had a heart overflowing with kindness towards the Indians. He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story. Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home. At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Apparition again. He told her about his mission, then added, "I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it. I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person. Therefore, he didn't believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you."—"My dearest son, "replied the Lady, "you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin MARY, Mother of God, who am sending you."
On Sunday morning after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the bishop's house. The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the apparition. When Juan Diego went home, the bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants. At Tepeyac Bridge, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him again. Furious, they declared to the bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not be believed. During this time, Juan Diego told the beautiful Lady, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the bishop. "Come back tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for," replied the Apparition.
Roses, in the middle of winter!
Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him. As the illness got worse, the uncle asked his nephew to go look for a priest. At dawn on Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego started on the road to the city. Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it best to make a detour so as not to meet the Lady. But suddenly, he perceived her coming to meet him. Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to administer last rites to his uncle. "My dear little one," replied the Apparition, "do not be distressed about your uncle's illness, because he will not die from it. I assure you that he will get well... Go to the top of the hill, pick the flowers that you will see there, and bring them to me." When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian roses that gave off a very sweet fragrance. Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there. Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his cloak, or tilma, then went back down the hill. "My dear son," said the Lady, "these flowers are the sign that you are to give the bishop... This will get him to build the church that I have asked of him."
Juan Diego ran to the bishop. When he arrived, the servants made him wait for hours. Amazed at his patience, and intrigued by what he was carrying in his tilma, they finally informed the bishop, who, although with several people, had him shown in immediately. The Indian related his adventure, unfolded his tilma, and let the flowers, which were still shining with dew, scatter to the floor. With tears in his eyes, Bishop Zumárraga fell to his knees, admiring the roses from his country. All of a sudden, he perceived, on the tilma, the portrait of Our Lady. MARY's image was there, as though printed on the cloak, very beautiful and full of gentleness. The bishop's doubts gave way to a sure faith and a hope filled with wonder. He took the tilma and the roses, and placed them respectfully in his private oratory. The next day he went with Juan Diego to the hill where the apparitions had taken place. After having examined the sites, he let the seer return to his uncle's house. Juan Bernardino had been completely cured. His cure had taken place at the very hour when Our Lady appeared to his nephew. He told him, "I have also seen her. She even came here and talked to me. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac Hill and wants her portrait to be called 'Saint MARY of Guadalupe.' But she didn't explain to me why." The name "Guadalupe" is well known by the Spanish, because in their country there is a very old sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The news of the miracle spread quickly. In a short time, Juan Diego became well-known. "I will spread your fame," MARY had told him, but the Indian remained as humble as ever. To make it easier to meditate on the Image, Bishop Zumárraga had the tilma transported to his cathedral. Then work was begun on the construction of a small church and a hermitage for Juan Diego on the hill of apparitions. The next December 25, the bishop consecrated his cathedral to the Most Blessed Virgin, to thank her for the remarkable favors with which she had blessed his diocese. Then, in a magnificent procession, the miraculous Image was carried to the sanctuary that had just been completed on Tepeyac Hill. To express their joy, the Indians shot arrows. One of them, shot carelessly, went through the throat of a participant in the procession, who fell to the ground, fatally wounded. A great silence fell and intense supplication rose to the Mother of God. Suddenly the wounded man, who had been placed at the foot of the miraculous Image, collected himself and got up, full of vigor. The crowd's enthusiasm was at its peak.

Millions of Indians become Christian
Juan Diego moved into his little hermitage, seeing to the maintenance and cleaning of the site. His life remained simple—he carefully farmed a field close to the sanctuary that had been placed at his disposal. He received pilgrims in ever larger numbers, and enjoyed talking about the Blessed Virgin and untiringly relating the details of the apparitions. He was entrusted with all kinds of prayer intentions. He listened, sympathized, and comforted. A good amount of his free time was spent in contemplation before the image of his Lady. He made rapid progress in the ways of holiness. Day after day, he fulfilled his duty as a witness up until his death on December 9, 1548, seventeen years after the first apparition.
When the Indians had learned the news of Our Lady's apparitions, an enthusiasm and joy such as had never been seen before spread among them. Renouncing their idols, superstitions, human sacrifices, and polygamy, many asked to be baptized. Nine years after the apparitions, nine million Indians had converted to the Christian faith—nearly 3,000 a day! The details of the Image of MARY moved the Indians deeply—this woman is greater than the sun-god since she appears standing before the sun. She surpasses the moon god since she keeps the moon under her feet. She is no longer of this world since she is surrounded by clouds and is held above the world by an angel. Her folded hands show her in prayer, which means that there is Someone greater than she...
Even in our time, the mystery of this miraculous Image remains. The tilma, a large apron woven by hand from cactus fibers, bears the holy Image, which is 1.43 meters tall. The Virgin's face is perfectly oval and is a gray color verging on pink. Her eyes have a profound expression of purity and gentleness. The mouth seems to smile. The very beautiful face, similar to that of a mestizo Indian, is framed by a black head of hair that, up close, is comprised of silky locks. She is clad in a full tunic, of a pinkish red hue that no one has ever been able to reproduce, and that goes to her feet. Her bluish-green mantle is edged with gold braid and studded with stars. A sun of various shades forms a magnificent background, with golden rays shining out.
The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to this day is inexplicable. After more than four centuries, this fabric of mediocre quality retains the same freshness and the same lively color as when it was new. By comparison, a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted in the 18th century with great care, and preserved under the same climatic conditions as Juan Diego's, had completely deteriorated in a few years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a painful period of revolutions in Mexico, a load of dynamite was put by unbelievers at the foot of the Image, in a vase of flowers. The explosion destroyed the marble steps on the main altar, the candelabras, all the flower-holders. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the tabernacle was split in two. The windows in most of the houses near the basilica were broken, but the pane of glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked. The Image remained intact.
The most moving experience of my life
In 1936, an examination conducted on two fibers from the tilma, one red and the other yellow, led to an astounding finding—the fibers contained no known coloring agent. Ophthalmology and optics confirm the inexplicable nature of the Image—it seems to be a slide projected onto the fabric. Closer analysis shows that there is no trace of drawing or sketching under the color, even though perfectly recognizable retouches were done on the original, retouches which moreover have deteriorated with time. In addition, the background never received any primer, which seems inexplicable if it is truly a painting, for even on the finest fabric, a coat is always applied, if only to prevent the fabric from absorbing the painting and the threads from breaking the surface. No brush strokes can be detected. After an infrared analysis conducted on May 7, 1979, a professor from NASA wrote, "There is no way to explain the quality of the pigments used for the pink dress, the blue veil, the face and the hands, or the permanence of the colors, or the vividness of the colors after several centuries, during which they ordinarily should have deteriorated... Studying this Image has been the most moving experience of my life."
Astronomers have observed that all the constellations present in the heavens at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531, are in their proper place on MARY's mantle. It has also been found that by imposing a topographical map of central Mexico on the Virgin's dress, the mountains, rivers and principal lakes coincide with the decoration on this dress.
Ophthalmological tests have found that MARY's eye is a human eye that appears to be living, and includes the retina, in which is reflected the image of a man with outstretched hands—Juan Diego. The image in the eye conforms to the known laws of optics, particularly to that which states that a well-lighted object can be reflected three times in an eye (Purkinje-Samson's law). A later study allowed researchers to discover in the eye, in addition to the seer, Bishop Zumárraga and several other people present when the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. And the normal microscopic network of veins in the eyelids and the cornea of the Virgin's eyes is completely recognizable. No human painter would have been able to reproduce such details.
Three months pregnant
Gynecological measurements have determined that the Virgin in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is three months pregnant. Under the belt that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals stands out—the Solar Flower, the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space. On the Virgin's neck hangs a brooch, the center of which is decorated with a little cross, recalling the death of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. Many other details of the Image of MARY form an extraordinary document for our age, which is able to observe them thanks to modern technology. Thus science, which has often been a pretext for unbelief, helps us today to give prominence to signs that had remained unknown for centuries and that science is unable to explain.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears a message of evangelization: the Basilica of Mexico is a center "from which flows a river of the light of the Gospel of Christ, spreading throughout the earth through the merciful Image of MARY" (John Paul II, December 12, 1981 ). In addition, through her intervention on behalf of the Aztec people, the Virgin played a role in saving innumerable human lives, and her pregnancy can be interpreted as a special appeal on behalf of unborn children and the defense of human life. This appeal has a burning relevance in our time, when threats against the lives of individuals and peoples, especially lives that are weak and defenseless, are widespread and becoming more serious. The Second Vatican Council forcefully deplored crimes against human life: "All offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia... all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization ; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator" ( Gaudium et Spes, 27). Faced with these plagues, which are expanding as a result of scientific progress and technology, and which benefit from wide social consensus as well as legal recognition, let us call upon MARY with confidence. She is an "incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for... Showing us her Son, she assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, nos. 102, 105). "Death and life are locked in an incredible battle; the Author of life, having died, lives and reigns" (Easter Sequence).

TODAY'S MASS ONLINE : THURS. DEC. 12, 2013 - OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE FEAST

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Lectionary: 690A


Reading 1              ZEC 2:14-17

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
The LORD will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land,
and he will again choose Jerusalem.
Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD!
For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

Or                RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”

Responsorial Psalm                             JDT 13:18BCDE, 19

R. (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.

Gospel                                  LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Or                    LK 1:39-47

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
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