Archive of December 12, 2010

Benedict XVI calls for patience in preparation for Christ's coming

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2010 (CNA) - Advent calls man to strengthen the virtue of patience as he relies on Scripture to "make firm" his heart for the coming of the Lord, said the Pope at Sunday's Angelus.

More than 2,000 children were part of the large crowd present to pray the Angelus with the Pope at noon on Dec. 12. They had come especially to have Benedict XVI bless the baby Jesus statues from their family nativity scenes.

The Pontiff greeted them in particular as they waved handkerchiefs up towards his window and many cheered from their strollers or atop the shoulders of parents.

The Pope focused his message before the prayer on patience, as spoken of in the day's reading from the Letter of St. James.

"Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord," the reading began.

This virtue is more important than ever today in a world in which it is "less popular," where change and the capacity to adapt to change are exalted, said the Pope.

"Without taking anything from these aspects, which are also qualities of man," he taught, "Advent calls us to strengthen that interior persistence, that resistence of the soul that permits us to not despair ... but rather to wait for it, to prepare the coming with hard-working confidence."

St. James spoke of the patience of farmers who await the autumn and spring rains and called people to "make firm" their hearts for the coming of the Lord.

This comparison to farmers is a "very expressive" one, said the Pope, as the farmer is "the model of a mentality that unites faith and reason equally." He does his work using his knowledge of the laws of nature but also entrusts the fundamental elements of his work to God's providence.

"Patience and constancy are precisely the synthesis between human commitment to and reliance on God," said the Pope.

And, Scripture, he said, is unfailing in making man's heart firm because "while everything passes and changes, the Word of the Lord does not."

He called Scripture a "compass" and an "anchor" that can be used to regain orientation when one feels lost or uncertain.

Prophets have found joy and strength in the Word, announcing "the true hope, that which does not disappoint because it is founded on the faithfulness of God." Men often find themselves on "mistaken paths" when choosing to seek out their own paths to happiness, he said.

"Every Christian," concluded the Pope, "by virtue of Baptism, has received the prophetic dignity: may every person rediscover and feed it, with regular listening to the divine Word."

After the Angelus, Benedict XVI asked the children to say a prayer for him and his intentions as they place the baby Jesus in the manger or grotto this Christmas.

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Guadalupe celebration signifies history and future of Catholic America

San Antonio, Texas, Dec 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Five centuries ago, St. Juan Diego was the first believer to meet the Virgin Mary under the title and appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Today, millions continue to encounter and embrace her motherly presence, especially on her feast day of Dec. 12.

The story of the Virgin Mary's appearance in Mexico is well-known to many devotees. On Dec. 9, 1531, Juan Diego –a recently-baptized indigenous Mexican convert to Catholicism– was hurrying to Mass, to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But the woman he was heading to church to celebrate, came to him instead.

Regally attired, and speaking the native Aztec dialect, the radiant woman announced herself as the “ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God.”

“I am your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land,” she continued, “and also of all the other various lineages of men.” She asked Juan Diego to make a request of the local bishop.

“I want very much that they build my sacred little house here” – a house dedicated to her son Jesus Christ, on the site of a former pagan temple, that would “show Him” to all Mexicans and “exalt Him” throughout the world.

She was asking a great deal of the newly-baptized Mexican peasant. Not surprisingly, his bold request met with skepticism from Bishop Juan de Zumárraga. But Juan Diego said he would produce unquestionable proof of the apparition– just as soon as he was finished tending to his dying uncle, whose death seemed immanent.

Once again making his way to church on Dec. 12, this time to summon a priest to his uncle's deathbed, Juan Diego again encountered the radiant woman. She promised to cure his uncle, and to give him a sign to display for the bishop. On the hill where they had first met, she said he would find roses and other flowers, although it was the middle of winter.

Doing as she asked, he found the flowers and brought them back to her. The Virgin Mary then placed the flowers inside his tilma, the traditional winter garment he had been wearing, for their storage. She instructed him not to unwrap the tilma containing the flowers, until he had reached the bishop.

When he did, Bishop Zumárraga had his own encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe, through the image of her that he found miraculously imprinted on the flower-filled tilma. The Mexico City basilica that now houses that tilma has become, by some estimates, the most-visited Catholic shrine in the world.

The outlook for the Catholic Church in Mexico, where European religious orders had struggled to convey the faith to the native Mexicans, changed suddenly and dramatically once the tilma appeared. As many as nine-million native Mexicans are said to have become Catholic, between 1532 and 1538.

In 1999, three years before Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego, he summed up the significance of the Virgin of Guadalupe for Catholics throughout the Americas, describing her as the “mother and evangelizer of America.” The Pope also noted that “in the next millennium … (North and South) America will be the continent with the largest number of Catholics.”

Just as other Catholics might describe their faith as having a “Franciscan” or “Dominican” emphasis, some Catholics deeply identify with a “Guadalupan” Catholicism. That sensibility tends to emphasize the Virgin Mary's maternal care for all peoples, her identification with the humble and oppressed, and her call for all cultures to receive the Gospel message while preserving their own gifts.

Although the Virgin of Guadalupe announced herself to Juan Diego as the mother of all peoples, devotion to her is understandably strongest in Mexico and its former territories within the U.S., and among Latino Catholics everywhere. The image left for posterity on Juan Diego's tilma has also been imprinted on their culture and outlook.

For Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe began before he was even born.  As he explained to CNA on Dec. 10, his mother made a pilgrimage with his father to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe while she was pregnant with him.

“When I was in the womb of my mother, my father and my mother went on a pilgrimage to Mexico City,” about 300 miles from his birthplace in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. “They took me there, and they prayed for me.”

“They asked Mary to help raise me as a good kid, and a good Catholic,” the future archbishop recalled. He and his 14 siblings later made “many, many pilgrimages” to the shrine. Like many Mexican and other Latino Catholics, Archbishop Garcia-Siller remembers the Guadalupe image as a constant part of his home life, closely associated with the daily family Rosary and novena prayers for particular needs.

“My faith in Jesus Christ, and in the Church, has a lot to do with her,” he reflected.

Many Latino Catholics celebrating their faith and culture on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe would agree with his statement. His archdiocese's Cathedral of San Fernando, the oldest active cathedral in the U.S., has been a center for devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe for almost 300 years. And while the city has variously belonged to four different nations during that time, devotion to her has never changed.

“The devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is very festive,” he explained. “In the midst of tragic situations that people go through, (celebrating) Our Lady is an occasion to be festive– because of the hope that she brings.”

They'll celebrate that hope at Mass, and with processions and prayers– but also by singing and dancing,  eating and drinking, wearing costumes or watching plays in which children re-enact the story of Juan Diego. Even those who may not grasp or acknowledge it as a holy day, can celebrate it as a holiday– and perhaps, Archbishop Garcia-Siller speculated, they may hear what the image wordlessly conveys.

At San Fernando Cathedral, mariachi musicians and other devotees will gather “to serenade Our Lady for an hour,” expressing their love in a variety of songs many know by heart. Some are traditional hymns of the Church– but “also, there are songs that are popular,” expressing childlike or chivalrous affection toward “a mother who loves her children.”

For Catholics of other backgrounds, the experience might be a foreign one, at least on the surface. But Archbishop Garcia-Siller noted that Our Lady of Guadalupe, as a universal mother, can draw together communities that may not understand their own interconnections.

“Her presence, her message, is for all those who follow Jesus, who want to have a relationship with him,” he said.

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Archbishop Gomez praises DREAM Act progress in House

Los Angeles, Calif., Dec 12, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose H. Gomez has praised the passage of the DREAM Act in the House of Representatives, and called on the U.S. Senate to also pass the immigration reform measure.

Archbishop Gomez, the chair of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. bishops’ conference and co-adjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, commended the House for its “courageous and historic vote.” He said the legislation would give undocumented young people “a chance to reach their full, God-given potential.”

The bill would allow young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship as long as they completed two years of higher education or military service.

"We cannot let this moment pass. Our Senators must also pass this important legislation, so that it can be signed into law by the President as soon as possible," the archbishop continued.

According to Archbishop Gomez, the legislation would provide a “fair opportunity” to thousands of deserving young persons who want to become Americans.

"This would not only benefit them, but our country as well. It is the right thing to do, for them and for our nation," he said.

On Dec. 9 the Senate voted not to consider its version of the DREAM Act. This leaves open the possibility of a vote on the House version next week while avoiding any need to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill.

If the Senate approves the House version, the bill would go to President Obama for his signature.

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Humanitarian military mission demonstrates Catholics working throughout world

Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec 12, 2010 (CNA) - Being Catholic can be translated into many different words and works. A military mission that was sent months ago to Central America proves exactly that.

Doctors and nurses assigned to the joint Continuing Promise 2010 (CP10) team treated patients and also exchanged information with local medical personnel.

“Hundreds of military people from different Canada and the U.S. went into these countries to perform surgical procedures as well as dental ones,” said Roger Sausedo, a parishioner of St. Thomas More Catholic Church and military anesthesiologist who participated in the mission.

The CP10 medical staff is comprised of accredited active and reserve personnel from the United States Armed Forces as well as doctors from Germany, Netherlands, France, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Paraguay. The medical personnel had surgical rooms aboard the ship, where patients in need of simple medical procedures such as hernias were flown by helicopter.

Another part of the mission was an expertise exchange.

“Colombia doctors loved my lecture series,” wrote Cmdr. Vivian Sersen, USN, a peri-operative clinical nurse specialist from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in an article for the CP10 web page, adding that the Nicaraguan experience covered everything from the registered nurse experience to general medicine doctor to a pediatrician to a neonatal specialist.

For the dental procedures, the medical staff improvised dental rooms that set in schools in which the patients formed lines in order to be attended to.

In total, the team brought medical, dental, veterinary and preventive medical care to three medical sites in the rural cities of Punta Pina, Palma Real and Chiriqui Mali. Engineers rebuilt a medical storage building and car port and installed a septic system and installed bat screens at the Silico Creek School.

Continuing Promise 2010 international partners consisted of people from Germany, Paraguay, Netherlands, Canada, Costa Rica, and Panama and civilian partners from Project Hope, Registered Nurses National Response, World Vets, the Grietens Group, Give-A-Kid-A-Back Pack and the U.S. Peace Corps.

“It was a great experience,” Sausedo said.

Printed with permission from Intermountain Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Pope Benedict invites Catholics to bring light to the world

Rome, Italy, Dec 12, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The "silent light of the truth, of the goodness of God" leads to true change in the world, said the Pope at Mass on Dec. 12.

Benedict XVI traveled outside Vatican walls for Mass at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in an outer suburb of Rome.

In his homily the Pope recalled John the Baptist's expectation that the Son of God would bring about dramatic change in the world. The baptist sent disciples to ask Christ if he is the one who came to bring about radical change or if they should continue to wait for another.

Benedict XVI said Christ gives a response to John the Baptist's question by saying, "Look at what I have done. I have not made a bloody revolution, I have not changed the world with force, but I have lit many lights that make ... a great path of light in the millennia."

"So many" false prophets, ideologues and dictators have said that it was they themselves and not Christ who have brought change to the world, the Pope explained.

He admitted that they have succeeded in changing the world through empires, dictatorships and totalitarian rule. But, he added, "today we know that all that has remained of these great promises is great emptiness and great destruction.”

St. Kolbe, the parish's patron saint, showed this "light" in his life, said the Pope. He offered his life to guards in the place of a father of a family who was to be killed in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.

In doing so, he "encouraged others to give themselves, to be close to the suffering, to the oppressed," said Pope Benedict XVI.

St. Kolbe was declared a martyr of charity when he was recognized as a saint in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict added that other Christians such as St. Damian of Molokai who worked with lepers and Mother Teresa of Calcutta who assisted the poor lived in a similar way.

In looking to these figures, it continues to be seen that it is not "violent revolutions or "great promises" that change the world, rather it is "the silent light of the truth, of the goodness of God" that does so,” he continued.

The Pope then invited everyone to bring light to the world, to pray to become a light for others. He asked that Christians live Advent daily in all aspects of life by being ever more open to God in order to "have light amidst so many shadows, so many daily fatigues."

The Pope closed by urging fidelity in marriage, communion in parishes between families of all backgrounds, and greater involvement of young people in the life of parishes.

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