Friday, March 21, 2014




A heartwarming message from 15 people with Down syndrome to a future mom. This video has received over 2 million views; it will touch your heart.
March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. Please Share!
From the WDSD website:

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. Each year the voice of people with Down syndrome, and those who live and work with them, grows louder. But there is still so much more we can do.
Down Syndrome International (DSi) encourages our friends all over the world to choose your own activities and events to help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.
The internet is a powerful tool for raising awareness and we encourage people to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day through your own websites, blogs and social networking sites. 

POPE FRANCIS “This is the attitude of those who will to hear the Word of God: first, humility; second, prayer."

(Vatican Radio) In order not to “kill” the Word of God in our hearts, we need to be humble and capable of prayer. Pope Francis pointed out these attitudes in his homily this morning in his homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. If a Christian is not humble, if he does not pray, he risks taking the Word of God and remaking it in his own liking. To see how to guard against this temptation, Pope Francis looked the Gospel of the day. Jesus recounts the story of the workers in a vineyard, who killed first the servants, and ultimately the son, of the master of the vineyard, with the intention of making themselves masters of his inheritance.
This parable, was directed to the Pharisees, the elders of the people, the priests; Jesus, the Pope said, was trying to show them “where they had fallen” by not having their “hearts open to the Word of God”: “This is the drama of these people, and our drama too! They have taken over the Word of God. And the Word of God becomes their word, a word according to their interests, their ideologies, their theologies... but in their service. And everyone interprets it according to their own will, according to their own interests. This is the tragedy of this people. And to preserve this, they kill. This happened to Jesus.” When they heard this parable, the chief priests and the Pharisees understood that Jesus was talking about them – and “they sought to capture Him, and to kill Him.” In this way, the Pope said, “the Word of God dies, is imprisoned, the Holy Spirit is caged in the desires of each of them.”
And that is exactly what happens to us, the Pope noted, “when we are not open to the newness of the Word of God, when we are not obedient to the Word of God”: “But there is a phrase that give us hope. The Word of God died in the hearts of these people; and can die in our heart! But it is not finished, because it is alive in the hearts of the simple, of the humble, of the people of God. They seek to capture it, but they were afraid of the crowds of the people of God. That simple crowd — that followed Jesus because what He said did their hearts good, warmed their hearts — this people wasn’t wrong. They didn’t use the Word of God for their own interests, they listened and sought to be a little bit better.”
 And so, Pope Francis asked in conclusion, “what can we do to not kill the Word of God,” to “be docile,” to “not cage the Holy Spirit?” His answer? “Two simple things”: “This is the attitude of those who will to hear the Word of God: first, humility; second, prayer. This people didn’t pray. They didn’t need to pray. They thought they were safe, they thought they were strong, they thought ‘gods.’ Humility and prayer: with humility and prayer we go forward by listening to the Word of God and obeying it. In the Church. Humility and prayer in the Church. And so, what happened to these people will not happen to us: we should not kill to defend the Word of God, that Word which we believe is the Word of God, but is a word totally altered by us.”
 Text from page the Vatican Radio website


Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 234

Reading 1          GN 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.

One day, when his brothers had gone
to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
“Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them.”

So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”

When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
“We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood,” he continued,
“just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright.”
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.

They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
“What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.”
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Responsorial Psalm                      PS 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.

Gospel                     MT 21:33-43, 45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes

Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.


by Vladimir Rozanskij
Kirill not present for Putin's great speech to the Duma. While Russia follows in the footsteps of the empire of Ivan the Terrible, the Orthodox Churches of Ukraine are pushed towards autonomy by Moscow. The Moscow Patriarchate risks being a minority in the next pan-Orthodox Council.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - When last March 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the federal parliament in impassioned defense of Great Russia, to justify the annexation of the Crimea, the expressions on the faces of the front rows of the assembly betrayed an unusual concern. Amid the Imam's turban and the rabbi's hat, the absence of Patriarch Kirill's white tiara. Two rows behind the veiled miter of his vicar, the elderly Metropolitan Juvenalij, nodded uncertainly. He was sent to represent the Patriarchal Church, whose blessing was essential to confirm the necessary re-appropriation of the "holy land" of the Crimea.
Kirill's absence was justified by his spokesman with uncertain references to his state of health (but the day before he had regularly presided over a long celebration) and the devout silence of Lent (but this should also apply to Juvenalij) . In reality, the absence of Kirill's blessing demonstrates the extreme embarrassment of the Moscow Patriarchate over the Ukrainian crisis, which threatens to upset even the structure of the same ecclesiastical institutions, and obliterate the enlargement projects pursued with great tenacity by Kirill himself in recent years. It seems that Putin has gone too far for his spiritual fathers.
Kirill does not lack in patriotism, rather he has been its primary protagonist and custodian: since the time of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the then Metropolitan Kirill Gundjaev always stood out as the main inspiration for a new post-Soviet state ideology, based on the restoration of the ideal of Holy Russia, seen as a Church-State capable of affirming itself at home and abroad as a great defender of Christian values ​​in a secular world. Kirill is the very expression of the model first proposed by the monk Joseph of Volokolamsk who in 1500 created the idea of the "State constituted by the Church", one of the favorite expressions of the current patriarch, realized by Tsar Ivan the Terrible , the true figure of reference of his current successor Vladimir Putin. Yet today, when 95 % of the Crimean Russians enthusiastically approve the return to Mother Russia, and the vast majority of Russians are proud to show even through force that the country opposes the corrupt intentions of the West, the patriarch withdraws within an ascetic in silence.
The fact is that Kirill had gambled everything on Ukraine, and certainly not on the tiny Crimea or on some eastern province thereof. In the five years since his election, the patriarch has visited the country at least 30 times, going everywhere, even the most Western and anti-Russian dioceses, which his predecessor Alexy II was afraid to visit The head of the Ukrainian section of the Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev , was included by Kirill within the Synod of Bishops in Moscow, the true governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church, with a title of honor almost equal to his own, and he had co-opted other members of the Ukrainian jurisdiction , seen as a quasi-autonomous Church, but well within the structure of the Moscow Patriarchate .
And now what will happen? Will a Church independent from Moscow be created? And what to do with the diocese of Crimea, now Russian on a civil level: will it pass directly under the Moscow Patriarchate? And what if Kiev does not agree?
This prospect terrifies Kirill more than one can imagine. On an ecclesiastical level Ukraine counts for little less than half of the parishes subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate (13 thousand as opposed to 15 thousand Russian), and about 60% of the clergy is from Ukraine, including many bishops active in Russia itself. Aspirations for autonomy have grown in recent years in Ukraine, which desires complete autocephaly and independence from Moscow.  Moreover, the seat of Kiev is historically the original one, from which Moscow separated only in 1589. Currently, the Metropolitan of Kiev Vladimir Sabodan, almost eighty years old, is in bad health, and Kirill is raising some heartfelt prayers that the Lord preserve him for as long as possible: the election of a new Metropolitan right now would certainly be accompanied by strong demands for autonomy . The Vladimir's vicar, Metropolitan Onufrij Berezovsky, originally pro-Russian, has increasingly been drawn towards the defense of the integrity of the Ukrainian state and its independent church, and the other bishops are even more explicit in this regard. The Moscow Church of obedience is beginning to appear to Ukrainians as the "Church occupier", which could lend renewed authority to the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Patriarch Filaret Denisenko, which may be greatly diminished, but is still large . Not to mention the extreme push for autonomy of the Greek - catholic Church led by Archbishop Sviatoslav Sevchuk , which has its stronghold in western Ukraine and which was the greatest supporter of the Majdan protests and the revolution taking place in Kiev.

Kirill is also afraid of losing his dominant position over the entire Orthodox communion, which in 2016 will meet at the Phanar for the great pan-Orthodox Council, the first in the entire history of Orthodoxy. Currently Moscow accounts for 70% of all Orthodox in the world. If its jurisdiction was halved, it might end up in the minority, and have the great success of the convocation of the Council of Constantinople come back to haunt it. This, in fact, may become the grave of Russian ambitions to lead the Christian world in opposition to (or at least on par) with the Pope of Rome. The great Russia, in annexing the small Crimea, instead of expanding will ultimately become smaller and smaller.


St. Nicholas of Flue
Feast: March 21

Feast Day:March 21
Born:21 March 1417 at Sachseln, Canton Obwalden, Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
Died:21 March 1487
Canonized:15 May 1947 by Pope Pius XII
Major Shrine:Sachseln, Switzerland
Patron of:councilmen, difficult marriages, large families, magistrates, parents of large families, Pontifical Swiss Guards, separated spouses, Switzerland
Had Nicholas not been a saint, or had he eaten and drunk like other saints, Switzerland with all it has meant for peace and humanity would probably not exist today. For Nicholas's entire life was ordained in view of his vocation to save his country.
Nicholas von Flue was born on March 21st, 1417 in the Canton of Unterwalden on the lake of Lucerne, a citizen of a peasant democracy and a farmer's son. As he grew up he proved himself a capable farmer, and the ability he displayed in the local parliament, of which every male citizen was a member, led to his election at an early age as councillor and judge. He also proved himself a capable commander of troops. In the war against the duke of Tirol he persuaded his compatriots to respect a convent of nuns. Though willing to perform his military service, Nicholas condemned as immoral, wars of aggression and the slaughter of non-combatants inevitable in any major modern war. About the age of thirty he married a farmer's daughter, Dorothy Wiss, and built a farmhouse to receive her. The couple had ten children and descendants survive to this day.
Nicholas had thus approved himself to his countrymen as a thoroughly capable man, as farmer, military leader, member of the assembly, councillor, judge and father of a family—also a man of complete moral integrity. All the while, however, he led a life of contemplative prayer and rigorous fasting. He was the subject of symbolic visions and a diabolic assault.
After some twenty years of married life, in 1467 Nicholas received a compelling call to abandon his home and the world and become a hermit. Though she had just borne his tenth child his wife heroically consented. His neighbors, however, even his older children, regarded his action as indefensible, unbalanced, immoral and irresponsible. He set out for Alsace, where he intended to live. Had he carried out his intention his vocation would have been missed. A storm, however, symbolically interpreted, and friendly advice not to settle where the Swiss were detested made him turn back from the border. At the same time he became incapable of eating or drinking—a condition which continued for the rest of his life. As an act of obedience to a bishop he once ate with acute agony a piece of soaked bread. (The problem of prolonged fasting is more fully discussed in the account of St. Lidwina of Schiedam.)
He resumed to his native canton, passing the first night undiscovered in the cow-shed of his farm and settled in a hermitage at Ranft within a few miles of his home. It was no temptation to return home, as he never felt the least desire for his former life. Symbolic visions continued to be a feature of his contemplation, and when, after a month's strict surveillance, his countrymen were convinced that his fast was genuine, they recognised his sanctity and vocation, and he became a spiritual guide whose advice was widely sought and followed. Pilgrims came from distant parts to consult him. He  acquired influence with Duke Sigismund of the Tirol, whom he confirmed in his neutrality when the Swiss confederacy met and defeated Charles of Burgundy. Everything was ready for the climax of Nicholas's life: the accomplishment of his unique vocation.
The victorious cantons were at loggerheads. The rural cantons opposed inflexibly the demand of Zurich and Lucerne that Freiburg and Soleure be admitted to the confederacy. A conference held at Stans, December 1481, failed to reach agreement. Next day the delegates would disperse and a civil war ensue which would presumably have destroyed the confederacy. The parish priest, once Nicholas's confessor, hurried to Ranft and laid the matter before the hermit. During the night Nicholas dictated suggested terms of agreement. The priest resumed in time to persuade the delegates to give a hearing to the proposals of a man so widely respected for his well tried practical abilities and so widely venerated for his holiness. The terms suggested—the conditional admittance of Freiburg and Soleure—were unanimously accepted and embodied in the agreement of Stans. Switzerland had been saved.
Nicholas survived his achievement almost six years, universally revered, visited and consulted. On March 21st 1487, his seventieth birthday, he died, apparently of his first illness. One is glad to know that his wife and children attended his deathbed. After all, she had never lost her husband completely. Honored by Swiss Protestants, venerated by Swiss Catholics, Nicholas's cult, uninterrupted since his death, was officially sanctioned by Clement IX (1667-9). In 1947 he was canonized by Pope Pius XII.


Pope Francis “never stop hoping for a better future”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reaffirmed that employment is essential to society, families, and individuals and for the dignity of the human person. In a Vatican audience Thursday for staff and families of the Italian Steel Works company “Acciaierie di Terni” celebrating its 130th anniversary, Pope Francis said his thoughts were directed not only to their company and others in the region, but to “all of the working world."

In the current economic climate and the difficulties facing the work environment, the Pope said, “it is necessary to reaffirm that employment is an essential reality for society, for families and for individuals. Work, in fact, directly regards the person, his/her life, freedom and happiness. The primary value of employment is the good of the human person,” because, the Pope explained, it “realizes a person,” intellectually by making demands on his or her attitudes and creative and manual abilities. 

Employment, then, should not be considered simply as a means for obtaining profit, he continued, “but above all a purpose that affects man and his dignity. And if there is no work, this dignity is wounded! Anyone who is unemployed or underemployed risks, in fact, being placed on the margins of society, becoming a victim of social exclusion. Many times it happens that people out of work - I think especially of the many unemployed young people today - slip into chronic discouragement or worse, apathy.”

Speaking of the “grave” unemployment problems affecting various European countries, Pope Francis said, this “is the consequence of an economic system that is no longer able to create jobs, because it places in its center an idol which is called money!”

The Pope called on society’s political, social and economic spheres “to promote a different approach, based on justice and solidarity, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to perform work with dignity.”

Work is an essential need, he emphasized, which “should be available to everyone.”

Creativity and solidarity are needed to confront periods of “severe hardship and unemployment,” he said, describing as “courageous” those “creative entrepreneurs and artisans” who “look to the future with confidence and hope”

But he also called on all members of society to act in solidarity with those in need by “giving up something” and adopting “a more sober lifestyle.”

In concluding, the Pope entreated the working world to “never stop hoping for a better future” and to not be “trapped in the vortex of pessimism!”

This difficult and burdensome period of economic turmoil can be overcome, the Pope stressed, if “everyone does their part” by placing the dignity of the human person at the center.

Text from Vatican Radio website 


POPE FRANCIS plants virtual olive tree for peace

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has planted a virtual olive tree for peace as part of an initiative aimed at getting children around the world to plant their own trees, to help foster an awareness of peace and what it means in their homes, communities, and countries. 

The Pope planted his virtual tree by tapping the touch screen of a tablet yesterday afternoon in the Santa Marta guesthouse in the Vatican, during an encounter with representatives of Scholas Occurrentes "the Worldwide Network of Schools Getting Together." The initiative is being promoted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Chancellor Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. In addressing the group of about 40 people, Pope Francis talked about education, sports and solidarity. 

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is inviting schools to participate in the initiative “in all levels.” Pope Francis, who Wednesday was also celebrating the first anniversary of his installation and Father’s Day, launched a tweet for the occasion: “I greet the World School Network for Encounter. Today we plant the first virtual olive tree for peace. @infoscholas”

Text from  Vatican Radio website 

Pope Francis meets with President of Montenegro

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday received in audience in the Apostolic Palace, Mr. Filip Vujanović, President of the Republic of Montenegro. A statement from the Vatican Press Office said the President subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

The statement described the talks as “cordial” and said satisfaction was expressed for the good status of bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Montenegro. These relations, the statement reads, “have been further strengthened by the Fundamental Agreement, which promotes collaboration between the Church and the State for the common good of society.”

The Press statement said a number of issues of common interest were discussed, focusing on key regional issues and on Montenegro's path towards integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Text from the Vatican Radio website 



Sister Cristina, a 25-year-old nun from Sicily, Italy, performed on the Italian talent show “The Voice” for a blind audition on Wednesday. The show’s judges have their back turned to the stage for part of the song. The nun makes an amazing performance, and was cheered on by three nun supporters backstage.

 When questioned by the judges the sister said,  “I have a gift and I’m giving it to you”. “If I had found you at mass I would always be in church,” said the judge, rapper J-Ax. Sister Cristina commented: “I hope that Pope Francis will call me now.” This video has gone viral receiving over 1 million views.

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