Archive of December 6, 2009

Church celebrates feast of St. Nicholas, the 'original' Santa Claus

CNA STAFF, Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) -

Today, December 6, the faithful commemorate a bishop in the early church who was known for generosity and love of children. Born in Lycia in Asia Minor around the late third or fourth century,  St. Nicholas of Myra is more than just the inspiration for the modern day Santa.

As a young man he is said to have made a pilgrimage to Palestine and Egypt in order to study in the school of the Desert Fathers. On returning some years later he was almost immediately ordained Bishop of Myra, which is now Demre, on the coast of modern day Turkey.

The bishop was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution and only released when Constantine the Great came to power and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

One of the most famous stories of the generosity of St. Nicholas says that he threw bags of gold through an open window in the house of a poor man to serve as dowry for the man’s daughters, who otherwise would have been sold into slavery.

The gold is said to have landed in the family’s shoes, which were drying near the fire. This is why children leave their shoes out by the door, or hang their stockings by the fireplace in the hopes of receiving a gift on the eve of his feast.

St. Nicholas is associated with Christmas because of the tradition that he had the custom of giving secret gifts to children.   It is also conjectured that the saint, who was known to wear red robes and have a long white beard, was culturally converted into the large man with a reindeer-drawn sled full of toys because in German, his name is “San Nikolaus” which almost sounds like “Santa Claus.”

In the East, he is known as St. Nicholas of Myra for the town in which he was bishop. But in the West he is called St. Nicholas of Bari because, during the Muslim conquest of Turkey in 1087, his relics were taken to Bari by the Italians.

St Nicholas is the patron of children and of sailors. His intercession is sought by the shipwrecked, by those in difficult economic circumstances, and for those affected by fires. He died on December 6, 346.

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Cardinal Karlic urges laity to turn to prayer and the Eucharist to be missionaries of Christ

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Estanislao Karlic, Archbishop Emeritus of Parana, Argentina, encouraged the participants of 3rd Plenary Assembly of the Christian Life Movement to be true missionaries of Christ by always resorting to prayer and the Eucharist.

On the second day of the assembly, which runs December 1-8, Cardinal Karlic delivered the keynoted address on the theme, “The spiritual life as the foundation of apostolic fruitfulness.”

“We are all elected by God for a mission,” he said, and we must become “other Christs in order act as missionaries of Christ.”

“How do we live this missionary mystery? We must discover ourselves in this mystery, believe it, celebrate it, live it and pray it,” he explained.

The cardinal noted that in order to celebrate and communicate the mystery, one must first live the experience of “being given by God in order to later give Him away.” God “comes to us and when He makes His dwelling in us, his temple, then we are able to communicate Him” to others.

“The encounter between men must be an encounter of mutually communicating God to one another.  That is friendship; it’s not only giving things or giving one’s self, its giving God,” he added.

Cardinal Karlic recalled that prayer “implies friendship as well as  intimate and frequent dialogue with the One who is loved.”  In this way one learns to dialogue with God in order to learn how to convey Him in the apostolate to others, said the cardinal.

He added that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life, from which everything flows and towards which everything leads.

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Mikulski Amendment would include Planned Parenthood in health care bill, says pro-life leader

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) - A pro-life leader has criticized the Senate’s addition of the Mikulski Amendment to the proposed health care bill, voicing concerns that the provision’s sponsor herself has admitted it would fund some of Planned Parenthood’s services. The amendment’s required coverage of “preventive care” could also include abortions.


The Mikulski Amendment, passed on Thursday by a vote of 61-39, requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide coverage for “preventive care” for women and bars them from imposing cost sharing requirements on such care.


Under the amendment, “preventive care” would be defined by the comprehensive guidelines of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).


Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, charged that the bill would “further mandate inclusion of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest network of abortion, in a national health care scheme.”


He described this as a “breach of faith” with the American people. Perkins claimed that because the bill does not exclude abortion explicitly, there is “no doubt” that the Mikulski Amendment creates the opportunity for a “massive public underwriting of abortion.”


He also cited a July 9, 2009 exchange between Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and the amendment’s sponsor Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).


In that exchange, Sen. Hatch asked if her amendment would include abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.


“It would include women's health clinics that provide comprehensive services and under the definition of a woman's health clinic, it would include Planned Parenthood clinics,” Sen. Mikulski replied.


She said that the bill would provide for “any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate.”


Sen. Hatch responded that he would have difficulty supporting the bill.


Sen. Mikulski, a self-professed Catholic, later told Sen. Hatch that she would not be willing to add language about excluding abortion services “at this time.”


In his Thursday statement, Perkins said that without the adoption of the Stupak Amendment’s language in the Senate, it is “very clear that taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions.”


Perkins added that the FRC applauded Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for opposing the Mikulski Amendment.

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Catholic Senator won't say if he agrees with Cardinal Rigali's pro-life statement

Washington D.C., Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) - Pro-life Catholic Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) wouldn’t give a clear response when asked if he agreed with Cardinal Justin Rigali’s Nov. 20 statement that there is “no way” the current Senate health care bill can be supported as it currently stands, since it permits tax dollars to fund abortions.


“I'm not going to comment on what he (Rigali) has said in particular,” said Sen. Casey to reporters on Tuesday. “I'm not one who compares what I say versus what someone else says about the bill.”


Though Sen. Casey, a self-professed pro-life Catholic, stated in the interview that his position is to “continue the consensus that's been in existence for 25 years that tax payer dollars don't pay for abortion,” he declined to say whether or not he supported the Archbishop of Philadelphia's public disapproval of the current Senate bill.


Sen. Casey came under criticism earlier this year by the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania for being “inconsistent” in his pro-life voting record. The diocese issued an online statement in April that referred to the Senator's stand against the Mexico City Policy as well as his vote to appoint a pro-abortion candidate as solicitor general.


The April 27 statement said that the Bishop Joseph Martino of the Scranton Diocese “has communicated with Sen. Casey about these issues, and his responsibilities as a Catholic and public official” and “will continue to monitor the Senator's positions and votes concerning life issues.”

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Word of God produces abundant fruits, Pope Benedict says at Angelus

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) - From the window of the Vatican Palace, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his pre-Angelus address to the pilgrims and faithful gathered below in St. Peter's Square on the second Sunday of Advent. His message encouraged them to follow the word of God, which St. Ambrose said "will produce its fruits for us."

The Pontiff began his pre-Angelus address by speaking of Luke's Gospel (Lk 3, 1-6) referring to John the Baptist, who at the time is preparing "the scene on which Jesus is about to appear and begin his public mission."

Pope Benedict noted the "abundant references" of St. Luke to political and religious figures of the time, the years 27 or 28 A.D.

"After this broad historical introduction," he added, "the subject becomes 'the word of God', presented as a force that comes down from on high and descends upon John the Baptist."

"Thus," said the Pontiff, using the words of St. Ambrose, "St. Luke says that the word of God came down on John... so that the Church gets its start not from men, but from the Word."

"That, then, is the meaning: the Word of God is the subject that moves history, inspires the prophets, prepares the way of the Messiah, calls together the Church."

"Jesus himself is the divine Word made flesh in the virgin womb of Mary; in Him God revealed himself fully, he has said to us and given us everything, thus opening for us the treasures of his truth and of his mercy."

The Holy Father again cited St. Ambrose, whose feast day is tomorrow: "Then the Word descended, down to the earth, which before was a desert, so that it would produce its fruits for us."

"Dear friends," concluded Benedict XVI, "the most beautiful flower germinated from the word of God is the Virgin Mary. She is the gem of the Church, garden of God on earth. But, while Mary is the Immaculate One... the Church is always in a fight between the desert and the garden, between the sin that dries the earth and the grace that irrigates it so that it might produce abundant fruits of saintliness."
"We pray then that the Mother of the Lord will help us, in this time of Advent, to ‘straighten out’ our lives, that we let ourselves be guided by the word of God," his pre-Angelus address concluded.

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Pope Benedict invites Copenhagen representatives to rediscover the ‘moral dimension of human life'

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2009 (CNA) - Following the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father commented on the United Nations Conference on Climate Change which will begin on Monday in Copenhagen. He expressed his hope that the conference would uphold an attitude of respect and responsibility for creation.

The Pontiff’s poignant message was the latest in his work to raise awareness of nature, which has led some to name him "The Green Pope."
Addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, he reiterated the same message he has given on other occasions. He stated his hope that the representatives at the conference, who come from most of the world’s nations, will help to localize actions that are "respectful of creation and that support development, grounded in the dignity of the human person and oriented to the common good." 

For the safeguarding all of creation, Benedict XVI urged the adoption of "sober and responsible lifestyles, above all towards the poor and future generations."

He concluded saying, "to guarantee the full success of the conference, I invite all people of good will to respect the laws made by God in nature and rediscover the moral dimension of human life.

The Conference will convene government representatives from at least 170 countries, according its official website.  The purpose of the summit is to evaluate and renew pledges made in the Kyoto protocol and to engage greater commitment from participating nations, especially in regard to carbon emissions.

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