CNA STAFF, Dec 13, 2009 (CNA) -
On December 14, the church will commemorate the life of St. John of the Cross, the doctor of the Church who first wrote about the “long dark night of the soul.”
John of the Cross was born in the 16th century into a family which had fallen out of wealth. His father, a silk trader, had been disowned by his own family for marrying a woman of a lower social class. The family survived as silk weavers, but John's father died while John was very young. The boy began to work in a hospital while attending school part time. It is said that he seemed incapable of learning any trade.
He entered the Carmelite Order, but became disillusioned and thought of leaving. Then he met St. Teresa of Avila. Together with the saint, he reformed the Carmelite order by founding the Discalced (literally“shoe-less”) Carmelites. At the time, many Carmelites had moved from a life of fasting, prayer and penance. They resented the reforms.
John was kidnapped by members of his own order and imprisoned in a small, cold and dark cell. He was beaten regularly. Yet in this time, he wrote some of his most profound poetry. Eventually, he escaped and was able to share some of his mystical writings with the world. He is famous for having written “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel,” “The Dark Night of the Soul,” and “The Spiritual Canticle.”
He died at the age of 49, and was canonized in 1726. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.
Today he is considered one of the first, and greatest mystics.
Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2009 (CNA) - In observance of Human Rights Day on December 10, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) released a summary of the numerous human rights abuses in China, Cuba, Sudan, Vietnam and other countries. Rep. Smith highlighted that 2009 has not been a good year for many people around the world.
Vietnam, whose president met with Pope Benedict on Friday, was cited by Rep. Smith in his 2009 summary as a place where respect for human rights has gone “from bad to worse.”
“Hanoi has unleashed a torrent of repression upon courageous citizens fighting for basic rights. These victims have been imprisoned by the regime for practicing their faith and standing up for what they believe in,” he charged.
Smith has introduced to the U.S. House the Vietnam Human Rights Act for the purpose of holding the Vietnamese government accountable for its mistreatment and incarceration of democracy activists, people of faith and labor rights activists.
Rep. Smith, who is the ranking member on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, also voiced concern about human rights in China.
“The United States has been sending a message that profits and money-making and climate change issues trump human rights,” he claimed.
China has an oppressive one-child policy and its women reportedly have the highest suicide rate in the world.
Smith also voiced concern about peace in Sudan, which has suffered massacres, sexual violence and the destruction of entire villages.
On the matter of U.S.-Cuba relations, he advocated that the release of political prisoners should be a priority ahead of permitting travel to Cuba or altering the trade embargo on the country.
Last week the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) held a hearing on international child abduction. Parents, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and judicial and legal experts on relevant international law testified at the hearing.
Rep. Smith, an executive member of TLHRC, said that child abduction is a “growing problem” that needs “real systematic change.”
Birmingham, England, Dec 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Birmingham Oratory has announced that it will work closely with the Cardinal Newman Society of America to promote and fundraise for the Oratory in the United States. The partnership will help develop archives facilities and a visitor’s center in view of Cardinal Newman’s likely beatification in 2010.
Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, a prominent 19th century theologian and convert to Catholicism, founded the Birmingham Oratory in 1848.
“The Fathers of the Oratory are very grateful to the Cardinal Newman Society of America for offering them this influential platform in the USA to achieve these goals,” Fr. Paul Chavasse, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, commented in a Dec. 11 statement.
Fr. Chavasse’s new work will involve extensive periods of travel in the United States during 2010.
Fr. Felix Selden of the Vienna Oratory, the Delegate of the Holy See for the Congregation of the Oratory throughout the world, has been in England visiting the Oratories of Birmingham, London and Oxford before what could be an historic year.
“Fr. Paul has taken on a vital work to make the Birmingham Oratory ready to receive the pilgrims and scholars who will come as a result of the beatification,” Fr. Selden commented. “I am grateful to the Cardinal Newman Society of America and to Father Richard and the Fathers of the Oxford Oratory for their generous assistance.”
The Oxford Oratory has released Fr. Richard Duffield to move to Birmingham, where he will assist the community there in its work both for the Oratory and for the Cause of Cardinal Newman’s beatification.
Cardinal Newman's beatification is expected to take place in 2010, according to the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
Vatican City, Dec 13, 2009 (CNA) -
Saying he shared the “secret joy” of his audience, Pope Benedict dedicated his Angelus address to the blessing of the "Bambinelli," the baby Jesus figurines to be used in family, school and parish Nativity scenes all over Rome.
The central message of the liturgy on the Third Sunday of Advent was the apostle Paul´s invitation to the Philippians: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: rejoice the Lord is near!"
Pope Benedict XVI spoke on a cool, rain-sprinkled afternoon in Rome.
"The Mother Church," he explained before the Angelus, "while she accompanies us towards the holy feast of Christmas, helps us rediscover the meaning and the delight of Christian joy, so different from that of the world."
The Pope noted that so many families, teachers and catechists come to St. Peter's Square to have their baby Jesus figurines blessed. He remarked that he is filled with great joy at their presence and interest in keeping alive the tradition. He also said it is necessary to “try to live in the everyday reality of what Christ's Nativity represents, which is the love of Christ, his humility and his poverty.
The blessing of the Bambinelli, he added, “reminds us that the Nativity is a school of life, where we can learn the secret of true joy. This doesn't consist of having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in making ourselves a gift to others and in loving ourselves."
Pope Benedict alluded to the Holy Family, who didn't seem to be “a very fortunate family” but were still "filled with intimate joy because they loved and helped each other and most have all they were sure that their story is the work of God, Who is made present in little Jesus."
The shepherds would have also been joyful in seeing the Lord despite their meager conditions, the Pontiff explained, because in the infant Jesus they would have recognized, with the help of their faith, "the sign of God's promise coming true for all men who love Him."
True joy, he said, consists in its feeling that our personal and communal existence is fulfilled by “a great mystery, the mystery of the love of God."
"To rejoice we need not only things, but also love and truth, we need a God that is near, that warms our heart and responds to our profound expectations. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary."
"Thus," concluded the Holy Father, "that 'Bambinello' that we put in the stable or the cave is the center of everything, the heart of the world."
After the Angelus, the Pope invited the faithful and pilgrims to pray with him for the four missionaries killed in Africa last week, so that the Lord “may take them into His House, console those that cry for their loss and bring, with His coming, reconciliation and peace."