Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Matthew 3.1-12.

Experiencing Forgiveness and Salvation

In today’s Scripture readings, two of the three outstanding Advent guides (Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary) show us the proper attitude to assume as we prepare to welcome the Saviour of the world.  First of all, Isaiah, the prophet of consolation and singer of hope.  The idyllic reading from the prophet Isaiah [11:1-10] speaks of a shoot that will sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom [1].  This is a reference to the fact that after the Babylonian Exile only a stump of the Davidic dynasty would remain; from it would arise the new shoot, the messianic King.  In verses 2-3 we have the source of the traditional names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

An image of the idyllic harmony of paradise in vv 6-9 is a dramatic symbol of the universal peace and justice of messianic times.  Throughout this season of Advent, Isaiah proclaims a true and proper Gospel for the people of Israel, enslaved in Babylon, and urges them to remain vigilant in prayer, to recognize “the signs” of the coming of the Messiah.

The kingdom of heaven is at hand

Then there is John the Baptist [Matthew 3:1-12], the precursor of the Messiah, who is presented as a “voice crying in the wilderness”, preaching “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  Unlike Luke, Matthew says nothing of the Baptist’s origins and does not make him a relative of Jesus.

Matthew takes up the order of Jesus’ ministry found in the gospel of Mark, beginning with the preparatory preaching of John the Baptist.  The Baptist calls for a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience towards God. It is the only condition for recognizing the Messiah already present in the world.  The kingdom of heaven is at hand: “heaven” (literally, “the heavens”) is a substitute for the name “God” that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, ultimately over death.  In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was later modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the parousia (second coming) of Jesus.

John’s wardrobe

Matthew presents John the Baptist as the first Christian preacher.  Wearing the clothes of a latter-day Elijah [II Kings 1:8], John solemnly proclaims that God is undertaking a new involvement with humankind.  The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread, and according to Matthew this expectation was fulfilled in the Baptist’s ministry [Matthew 11:14; 17:11-13].

Ritual washing [6] was practiced by various groups in Palestine between 150 B.C. and A.D. 250. John’s baptism may have been related to the purificatory washings of the Essenes at Qumran along the shores of the Dead Sea.  John’s is a baptism of repentance requiring the convert to adopt a new way of thinking and acting.

The Pharisees, Sadducees and us

The unlikely combination of Pharisees and Sadducees in today’s Gospel passage is evidence of this desire to reform. [7] The Pharisees were marked by devotion to the law, written and oral, and the scribes, experts in the law, belonged predominantly to this group. The Sadducees were the priestly aristocratic party, centered in Jerusalem. They accepted as scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament, followed only the letter of the law, rejected the oral legal traditions, and were opposed to teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the resurrection of the dead. Matthew links both of these groups together as enemies of Jesus.  The threatening words that follow are addressed to them rather than to “the crowds” as in Luke 3:7. The “coming wrath” is the judgment that will bring about the destruction of unrepentant sinners.

At the end of our days on earth, at the moment of death, we will be evaluated on our acceptance of Jesus’ words and imitation of his life.  God calls each of us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, making our existence, as he did, a gift of love. And the fruit of love is that fruit which “befits repentance”, to which John the Baptist refers while he addresses cutting words to the Pharisees and Sadducees among the crowds who had come for Baptism.

In verse 11 we hear of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  The water baptism of John will be followed by an “immersion” of the repentant in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God, and of the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s judgment. However, some see the Holy Spirit and fire as synonymous, and the effect of this “baptism” as either purification or destruction.  The discrimination between the good and the bad [12] is compared to the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat and chaff. The winnowing fan was a forklike shovel with which the threshed wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff, blown off by the wind, was gathered and burned up.

The Baptist’s Mission

John’s whole mission was a preparation for the Messiah’s coming.  When his own disciples came to him and were troubled about the meaning of Jesus’ baptizing in the Jordan, he answered them confidently:  “No one can receive anything except what is given them from heaven…”  John says that he is only the friend of the bridegroom, the one who must decrease while his master increases [Jn 3:25-30].  The Baptizer defined his humanity in terms of its limitations.  When the time had come, John led his own disciples to Jesus and indicated to them the Messiah, the True Light, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus’ own testimony to John makes the Baptizer the greatest of all Israelite heroes [Mt 11:7-19; Lk 7:24-35].

John considered himself to be less than a slave to Jesus:  “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire [Matt 3:11].  John gave the people of his time an experience of forgiveness and salvation, knowing full well that he himself was not the Messiah, the one who could save. Do we allow others to have experiences of God, of forgiveness and of salvation?

The crowds came to John and asked him, “What then shall we do?” The Baptist didn’t mince words.  He got right to the point and said what needed to be said.  He advised no one to leave the world they are in, however ambiguous it may be.  Rather he told those with two coats to share one with those who had none.  Likewise those with an abundance of food were to share with the hungry.  Tax collectors were told to collect no more than was appointed to them.  Soldiers were to rob no one by violence or by false accusation.  They were to be content with their wages.  What were people to do to prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah?  To be generous, just, honest, grateful and compassionate. [Lk 3:10-14].

The perennial message of John the Baptist

The Israelite prophet is one who has received a divine call to be a messenger and interpreter of the Word of God.  The word which came to the prophet compelled him to speak.  The prophet is also the conscience of a community and the conscience of a nation.  Ezekiel tells us a prophet is like the watchman, the person who is out there watching for what might happen to the community, issuing a warning, trying to alert everyone, “Things are going the wrong way” or “We’re in danger. We have to change. We have to be ready to protect ourselves.” The prophet is the one who sees farther, perhaps, than others, and the one who sees implications in what is going on.

At times prophets shared God’s anger, God’s compassion, God’s sorrow, God’s disappointment, God’s revulsion, God’s sensitivity for people, and God’s seriousness.  They did not share these things in the abstract; rather, they shared God’s feelings about the concrete events of their time.  This is the type of prophet that John the Baptist was.  He didn’t mince words.  He got right to the point and said what needed to be said.  How often our words, thoughts and actions are incoherent and ambiguous!  How often do the skirt the issues and great questions of our time and of our Church!  The true prophets of Israel model for how to counter all forms of duplicity in our own lives.

John the Baptist continues to speak down the centuries to every generation.  The “voice” of the great prophet asks us to prepare the way of the Lord, who comes in the external and internal wildernesses of today, thirsting for the living water that is Christ. May the memory of John guide us to true conversion of heart, so that we may make the necessary choices to harmonize our mentalities and lives with the Gospel.

“Verbum Domini” along the Advent journey

May I suggest to you a wonderful way to prepare a way for the Lord in your own lives this Advent?  Read Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini [The Word of the Lord Abides Forever] that was recently published by the Vatican.  This important document is the culmination of the very important Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church that took place in October 2008.  For the next months, I will be suggesting particular sections of the Apostolic Exhortation to read during the week.  This week, I suggest section #11 on the “Christology of the word”:

Christology of the word

11.  From this glimpse at all reality as the handiwork of the Blessed Trinity through the divine Word, we can understand the statement made by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: “in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (1:1-2). It is very beautiful to see how the entire Old Testament already appears to us as a history in which God communicates his word: indeed, “by his covenant with Abraham (cf. Gen 15:18) and, through Moses, with the race of Israel (cf. Ex 24:8), he gained a people for himself, and to them he revealed himself in words and deeds as the one, living and true God. It was his plan that Israel might learn by experience God’s ways with humanity and, by listening to the voice of God speaking to them through the prophets, might gradually understand his ways more fully and more clearly, and make them more widely known among the nations (cf. Ps 21:28-29; 95:1-3; Is 2:1-4; Jer 3:17)”.

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Feast of St. Francis Xavier – December 3rd.

St. Francis Xavier was a Navarrese-Basque Roman Catholic missionary born in the Kingdom of Navarre on April 7, 1506. His father was a privy counselor and finance minister to King John III of Navarre. He was the youngest in his family and resided in a castle which still partially stands today and is in the possession of the Jesuit order.

As the young Francis grew, he was surrounded by war. Navarre was the target of a campaign by King Ferdinand of Aragon and Castile, and the kingdom was eventually conquered.

When the war stopped and Francis came of age, he was sent to study at the University of Paris. While there he roomed with his friend, Peter Favre. The pair met and were heavily influenced by Ignatius of Loyola, who encouraged Francis to become a priest.

In 1530, Francis Xavier earned his master’s degree, and went on to teach philosophy at the University of Paris.

On August 15, 1534, Francis Xavier along with Peter Favre, and several other friends, made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The men planned to travel to the Holy Land to convert non-believers. Francis Xavier started his study of theology that same year and was ordained on June 24, 1537.

Pope Paul III approved the formation of their order in 1540, which became The Society of Jesus. The order is more popularly became known as the Jesuits.

While Francis Xavier was becoming a priest, Portugal was colonizing India. The Portuguese settlers in India and elsewhere were losing their faith and Christian values. To restore these values, the King of Portugal asked the Pope to send missionaries to the region.

Pope Paul III asked the new order to take the mission, particularly since they could not undertake their preferred mission to the Holy Land due to warfare there. Ignatius ultimately decided to send Francis.

Francis Xavier left for India in 1541, on his thirty-fifth birthday. As he departed he was informed that the pope appointed him to be the Papal Nuncio in the East. A Papal Nuncio is a diplomat who takes up permanent residence in another country to formally represent the Church there. He arrived in the region and colony of Goa, India on May 6, 1542.

Although Goa had churches and even a bishop in the Portuguese colony, there were few people to preach and minister to the Portuguese, especially outside the walls of the city.

A major problem Francis quickly recognized was the nature of the people and their intentions. Many sailors and settlers were former prisoners who had been recruited from Portuguese jails or were fleeing mistakes they made back home. None of them came to spread or live virtuous lives. Instead they came to escape Portugal, find adventure, or to make fortunes. Still, they settled and made families.

Xavier ministered first to the sick and the children. Then he learned about the native people of the Pearl Fishery Coast, which had been baptized a decade earlier, but were never taught their faith. Xavier began ministering to them. He spent three years among them, but was often embarrassed by the conduct of his Portuguese countrymen who were already Catholic, but frequently misbehaved.

Xavier built 40 churches for the people of the Pearl Fishery Coast. Xavier encountered difficulty in his mission because he usually worked to convert the people first, instead of their leaders.

Xavier eventually decided to travel to Malacca and the Maluku Islands to evangelize the people there. He spent about two years in the region, and while in Malacca, a Japanese man named Anjiro caught up with him. Anjiro was accused of murder in Japan but had managed to flee. Learning about Xavier, he decided to find Xavier and tell him about Japan, which he did. Xavier converted Anjiro to Christianity, making him the first Japanese convert to Christianity.

Xavier returned to Goa for about a year to attend to his official responsibilities, but he was very interested in visiting Japan. In 1549, he finally departed for the country, arriving in July of that year.

The local daimyo warmly received Xavier, but forbade his subjects from converting to Christianity. In addition to the legal obstacle, Xavier found language to be a barrier. The Japanese language was different than any other he had previously encountered.

Xavier was surprised to find that his poverty was a barrier to his communication. Poverty was not respected in feudal Japan as it was in Europe, so Xavier was compelled to change his strategy. On one occasion, when meeting with a local prince, Xavier arranged to be finely dressed and for his fellow missionaries to wait on him. He had gifts from India delivered to him. The charade had the desired effect and improved his reputation.

Despite his efforts, the Japanese were not easily converted. Most held fast to their traditional Buddhist or Shinto beliefs. The Japanese also found the concept of hell as a place of eternal torment to be difficult to accept.

Some traditionalists, including priests from the native religions, grew hostile toward Xavier and Christianity. Xavier established a few congregations, but the religion was suppressed from spreading by the nobility to grew to mistrust the outsiders and their faith. Eventually, Christianity became the subject of great persecution, forcing many to go underground with their belief.

Xavier finished his work in Japan for the time and decided to return to India with a stop in Goa. During his voyage, he was petitioned to meet with the Chinese emperor and argue for the release of several Portuguese prisoners as a representative of their government. Xavier decided to make the trip to China, but first felt the need to return to his headquarters in Goa.

He departed India for the last time in April, 1552 and stopped in Malacca to obtain official documents attesting to his status as a representative of the Portuguese king. However, the harbor in Malacca was now controlled by Alvaro da Gama, the Captain of Malaca and the son of Vasco da Gama.

Da Gama was not friendly to Xavier who refused to recognize his official status as Papal Nuncio. He confiscated the gifts Xavier intended for the Chinese emperor and staffed his ship with a new crew, loyal to himself.

Xavier’s ship reached China in August, stopping at an island off the Chinese coast. From there, Xavier was on his own. He managed to find a man to agree to take him to China for a large fee, but while he was waiting for his boat to arrive became ill with a fever. Xavier died on December 3, 1552.

Xavier was buried on the island until February 1553 when his body was removed and taken to Malacca where it was buried at a church for a month. Then one of Xavier?s companions moved his body to his own residence for the rest of the year. In December, his body was moved to Goa. Xavier remains buried in a silver casket enclosed in a glass case.

Several of his bones have been removed. His right arm, used to bless converts, is on display in Rome. Another arm bone is kept on Coloane island, in Macau, which today is part of China.

Xavier was beatified by Pope Paul V on Oct. 25, 1619, and canonized by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 at the same ceremony as Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron of Catholic missions and his feast day is today.

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Vatican doctrinal chief: it’s not my job to engage in the dubia controversy

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CNS)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CNS)

by Staff Reporter at The Catholic Herald, posted Friday, 2 Dec 2016

Cardinal Gerhard Müller said the CDF could only speak with the authority of the Pope

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has said that his role is not to participate in the controversy over the four cardinals’ letter to the Pope.

He has also indicated that he does not believe Church doctrine can change on Communion for the remarried.

In an interview with the German website Kathpress, Cardinal Müller said that the CDF’s role was to speak with the authority of the Pope, not to “participate in the controversy of opinion”.

He was answering a question about the dubia – that is, requests for clarification submitted to the Pope by four cardinals. They ask whether certain teachings of the Church, repeated in the last 35 years by Pope St John Paul II, are still valid. The Pope has not replied to the dubia since they were submitted in September.

It is common for the Pope to ask the CDF to answer such a request. Cardinal Müller said the Pope could do so in this case.

In the interview, Cardinal Müller said that the CDF’s 1994 letter to bishops was still Church teaching, and that Pope Francis’s recent document, Amoris Laetitia, had not altered anything in this regard.

The 1994 letter repeated the teaching of St John Paul’s 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which says that the remarried can only receive absolution, and therefore Communion, if they resolve to live “as brother and sister”.

The letter, which was signed by the then-CDF head Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and officially approved by St John Paul, says that the teaching of Familiaris Consortio applies without exception: “The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.”

In the wake of Amoris Laetitia, some bishops have suggested that the Church’s doctrine on divorce, remarriage and Communion might admit exceptions. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego has issued guidelines which say “the conscience of the discerner” should decide whether to receive Communion.

The 1994 letter, however, says that the decision should be taken in obedience to the Church’s teaching, which conscience cannot override. It states: “The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible.”

Cardinal Müller also downplayed the controversy over the dubia, saying that it was wrong to think of a power struggle: emphasis should be on “the victory of truth and not the triumph of power”, the cardinal said.

CP&S comment – Is this a form of hand-washing by Cardinal Müller of the sticky problem of the unanswered dubia? Or is it a strategic move from a true Cardinal of the Church not wanting to take on the responsibility for a Pope who could be trying to veer from the Catholic Faith’s dogmatic teaching? 

LifeSiteNews has also reported on this

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The Novus Ordo Mess


Andrew McDowell, ‘The Tie’ counterpart of the Catholic Collar and Tie blog, has written an honest account of his experiences in attending different Novus Ordo Masses in his area. His negative discoveries of a total lack of respect towards the Blessed Sacrament, plenty of banality, and an exaggerated focus on the celebrant instead of Our Lord Jesus Christ will be sadly all too familiar with the majority of Catholics.

Liturgy well done can lift the mind and heart to the contemplation of God, and inspire a deeper prayer life and a more active charitable life outside of Mass. Good and clear proclamation of the word and sound preaching at Mass provide us with tools for evangelisation in our day to day life. Surely Vatican II rightly called the Holy Eucharist the ‘source and summit’ of the Christian life. Sadly, not every celebration of Mass lifts the mind and heart to God, because the priest gets in the way.

Now that we no longer have daily Mass in our parish I have experienced Mass in a dozen different places with a dozen different priests (good and sincere men all of them), but I have to say I have found all but one celebration of the Novus Ordo to be irritating; some more than others, but all primarily because each celebrant seems to think his inflection and gestures are responsible for engaging the congregation in the celebration of Mass. Yet the gestures properly carried out rather than exaggerated, with a simple recitation of the words printed in the Missal would allow me to pray; the exaggerated gestures and inflected modulation demand that I hear the emphasis the celebrant wants me to hear rather the emphasis the Holy Spirit wants me to hear. So what are the things that disturb?

The first is that on entering the Church one is confronted by noise: our places of worship are given no more respect than meeting rooms or bingo halls. One priest defended this with, ‘Well they only see each other at Mass so they like to meet and greet’. But surely they can talk outside? We don’t pray in a club or a bingo hall; why should we chatter in a Church? Another priest’s defence was: ‘We’re a community and this is where the community meets. If I tell them to stop talking they’ll be offended and I’m not going to do that’. Permitting noise is thus more important than passing on spiritual values, reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and respect for those who wish to pray. And these are our priests? If we don’t reverence the Blessed Sacrament and respect others at prayer in Church, where are we going to respect them?

Second, there are irritations during the liturgy itself, where the flouting of liturgical norms is manifold. This means I rarely (if ever) get the New Rite of Mass as the Church intends me to have it. What are some of the norms flouted?

Well, I have seen the lectern (reserved for the proclamation of the Word) used as a podium for appeals, talks and even the long-forbidden eulogies at funerals; I have seen Extraordinary Ministers performing the purifications while the priest sits down; I have seen (presumably so the people don’t feel excluded) every word of the Missal being read aloud, including the priest’s private prayers (‘With humble and contrite Heart…’; ‘Lord wash away my iniquity…’). I have also heard the opening and closing Collects, Eucharistic Prayer, and even the words of consecration, changed.

And there is more. I have seen the Sunday Gospel extended so as to include the line the celebrant wanted to preach on; I have seen the consecration ‘acted out’; the priest extending his hands and offering the gifts to the congregation rather than to the Lord as he waves them from side to side saying ‘Take this, all of you, and eat of it’ –as though Mass were a play performed for the congregation.

imageI have seen priests leave the sanctuary to distribute Holy Communion from the front of the Church. I am told (by Fr Dickson) that this comes from ‘Incarnational Theology’, an emphasis on God coming to earth as man. But did He not come so as to die and rise again and thus draw us to Heaven? Priests leaving the sanctuary to offer the sign of peace is also very irritating: he has already offered it to the whole community at the Pax, by wandering into the congregation he singles some out for special attention –and encourages a flippant Pax wherein the congregation not only stretch over benches but cross from one side of the Church to the other to greet family and friends, thereby using the sign of peace for a purpose for which it is not intended. Meanwhile the Blessed Sacrament is ignored. It is a complete departure from the purpose of the liturgy.

All in all, the clergy are trying to make us feel valued and loved, but in the process have forgotten that we come to Mass to worship God, not to be affirmed. The place for our affirmation is in our team meetings and at social occasions. Our clergy have lost sight of the core purpose of the Mass; they have turned it into a celebration of the community; a time of upliftment and affirmation of man rather than an offering to God in adoration, impetration and propitiation (GIRM #2).

Truly, it is impossible to attend the Mass Paul VI gave us because each celebrant gives the texts and gestures his own emphasis and slant, with norms flouted. They may say they are loyal to, supportive of, and happy with the Novus Ordo, but are they, when they feel the need to constantly ‘improve’ upon it at their own volition? Perhaps what supporters of the Novus Ordo are happy with is the fact that they slant the liturgy to embody their favoured theological ideology.

I have not mentioned the fact that Mass is always said facing the people but I won’t omit to say that this orientation means we are plagued by seeing the priest perform for us, blow his nose, fiddle with his spectacles, lose his place in the Missal and make idiosyncratic facial grimaces.

Sorry Fathers, I have no doubt that each of you has a good heart and are well intentioned; but you truly are a distraction from the Lord as you stage-manage the liturgy to your own taste. How long must we put up with such a priest-centred, man-focused liturgy? Our Bishops are allowing all of this to continue, and must therefore take responsibility for denying us the Mass as the Church gives it to us. The Bishops’ own publication, ‘Celebrating the Mass’ is ignored by all and sundry –even by the Bishops themselves who see such antics as I have described in their parish visitations and do nothing to call a halt to them. Yet should a priest celebrate Mass with Latin for the people’s parts (as Vatican II decreed; Sacrosanctum concilium #36, 116) or facing the altar from the Offertory onwards as the Missal directs (rubrics #127, 132, 133), you can be sure his Bishop will put pressure on him to make the options of the vernacular and facing the people things to be set in stone. The stone is really in the hearts of those who refuse to provide liturgy that is God-centred in order to satisfy the folk who have rejected Vatican II with its insistence upon Latin, and who have rejected the Novus Ordo’s directive to face the altar. I think we no longer have a Novus Ordo Mass but a Novus Ordo Mess.

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Confusion, Conflict, and Chaos Increase in the Wake of the Dubia

From OnePeterFive, November 29, 2016

In the following, I shall give just two examples of the ongoing debate surrounding the Four Cardinals Letter — though more are yet emerging — with a contrasting third example added at the end to show also the growing sense of heterodoxy in the Church.

First, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has made some comments about the Four Cardinals Letter that are derogatory and depreciative. As the well-respected French Catholic website Riposte Catholique on 21 November 2016 reports, Schönborn  made a comment on the matter of Amoris Laetitia on 18 November, during a meeting with the Roman Rota Tribunal in Rome, saying that this document is “magisterial.” As the French website rightly observes, this comment stands in direct contradiction to Amoris Laetitia which, “in its introduction, takes great care to affirm the legitimacy of a free discussion.” According to Riposte Catholique, Schönborn claimed that The Four Cardinals Letter is “an attack on the pope,” because the cardinals “have to obey the pope.” As the French website comments: “To request a clarification is thus from now on already a form of disobedience….” For Cardinal  Schönborn, moreover, this document has thus already become “a super dogma.”

Also important to note in this context is that this same French article reveals that Cardinal Schönborn had originally been (in 2015) the twelfth author of the now-called “Eleven Cardinals Book.” However, his contribution had not been accepted by its editors, because he was “too unpredictable and too fickle.” As Riposte Catholique concludes: “Just as with the Apostles, the twelve cardinals found themselves to be eleven….”

A second example of the growing conflict — as well as the loyal resistance — within the Church is coming to us from out of Germany. Hans Hoping, a professor of theology at the University of Freiburg, has now expressed his own grave reservations and explicit objections to the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As the Austrian Catholic website,, reports on 21 November, Hoping has recently raised in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the following piercing and very logical question: “Can remarried divorcees be married in two valid marriages at the same time?” The theologian adds: “The text Amoris Laetitia leaves open the answer to this crucial question that it itself has provoked.”

Hoping argues that – since Amoris Laetitia has not put into question the indissolubility of marriage – “one has to clarify how the marriage of remarried divorcees is related to it.” Some argue, according to the German theologian, that this new marriage is a form of a natural marriage. But he objects that even “such a non-sacramental, natural marriage” can also be, in the eyes of the Church, a valid marriage, for example in the case of a mixed marriage.

With reference to Cardinal Walter Kasper – who claims that Amoris Laetitia does not change the teaching of the Church but, at the same time, is somehow still a “paradigm shift” – Hoping says that this cardinal is trying to avoid “the impression of a breach with the previous magisterial tradition.” However, says the theologian, Amoris Laetitia not only “re-adjusts” the pastoral care, but also considers – depending upon the circumstances – “a sexual relationship outside of an existing marriage not any more as being in all cases illicit (Al 301).” Hoping sees that this new approach thus departs “from a crucial point made by Pope John Paul II’s teaching on marriage and the family where he, along with [Saint] Thomas,  held firm to the decisive magisterial tradition.”

Thus Professor Hoping now adds his own resistant voice to those voices of many other theologians who have so far already publicly criticized Amoris Laetitia.

Just how far the confusion in the Church reaches and spreads nowadays is shown by the third event coming to us from the German-speaking world. Cardinal Karl Lehmann – one of the members of the progressivist “Sankt Gallen Group” – has recently made another stunning commentary in which he now invites all bishops to an act of disobedience toward the Church. As Peter Winnemöller, author at reports:

“For that matter, what, then, is hindering us from taking married deacons – who perform a great service in the Church – and then ordaining them so that they may also take over priestly duties?” Such is the question, according to a KNA report, that was raised by Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the bishop emeritus of Mainz, in a discussion with the head of the ZDF [German television]. He [Lehmann] invited the bishops, in a provocative way, to use the freedoms which Pope Francis purportedly is granting. With reference to the fact that all religions [in Germany] are now inundated up to the neck, there should finally come some reforms, the cardinal himself stressed.

Winnemöller then asks the very good question:

Why has the cardinal, during his long life as a bishop, not already performed this act [of disobedience] himself? The question could very well give its own clear answer by itself. For, still also under Pope Francis, any bishop who performs such an illicit consecration would himself be immediately suspended.”

This Catholic author is rightly indignant about Cardinal Lehmann when he says: “It is unclear why a retired bishop now calls upon his fellow bishops to risk their own offices. […] It is of very little help in a situation of crisis to promote a further split and to call upon fellow bishops to violate the law and to be disobedient.” Winnemöller also highlights and emphasizes that “all Protestant communities ordain married persons. The lack of ministers in the EKD [Evangelical Church in Germany], however, is far more dramatic than the lack of priests in the [Catholic] Church.” Thus, in his eyes, Cardinal Lehmann’s proposal would not even slightly help solve the current problems of the Church. Winnemöller concludes:

Thus, the cardinal has done nothing else but to throw a populist [an alluring] stink bomb [or some Mainzer Stinkkäse?] into the already crisis-ridden ecclesial landscape. To speak out at a Theological Faculty [of a University] – and thereby to increase there the anyway already existent lack of sentire cum ecclesia – is irresponsible and it also promotes the latently existing inner split of the Church.

Thus, Cardinal Lehmann – one of the very men who, as it now seems, has helped Jorge Bergoglio attain his papal office – is currently further helping to undermine that same office. In light of all of this disorder and infidelity, may we keep our own heads clear and stay strong. This demoralizing time of “confusion worse confounded” – with its conflict and with its chaos – will also, we hope, soon pass!

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The Holy Grail of Holy Medals

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on Dominus mihi adjutor:
Some time earlier this year I was on the hunt for a medal of St Benedict. Not one of the vin ordinaire cheapies (though they are not unworthy) and certainly not the mass-produced Chinese…

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Spadaro questions sincerity and integrity of ‘Dubia’ Cardinals

From EWTN News

Comments in bold by Deacon Nick Donnelly:

fotoemi4_810_500_55_s_c1Fr Antonio Spadaro, widely known as the “mouthpiece of Pope Francis”, has written an op-ed for CNN that questions the integrity and sincerity of those who continue to question Amoris Laetitia. The CNN introduction to Fr Spadaro’s post makes it clear that it has been written in response to the four cardinals’ dubia submitted to the Holy Father, noting that Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the dubia.  Delia Gallagher, CNN’s Vatican correspondent, summarises the message of this op-ed from a close confidant of Pope Francis, ” Fr. Spadaro suggests that those who criticize the Pope’s document may be trying to create division rather than sincerely seek answers.”

Here’s a fisk of Fr Spadaro’s CNN op-ed:

Fr. Antonio Spadaro: An open and interesting debate

I think that Amoris Laetitia has created an open and interesting debate within the Catholic Church thanks to Francis, a Pope who never blocks dialogue, if it is loyal and motivated by the good of the Church. 

The case, however, of those who use criticism for other purposes or ask questions in order to create difficulty and division, would be different, of course. 

[Fisk: As the CNN introduction states that Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the cardinals’ dubia what are we to make of Fr Spadaro’s assertion that the Holy Father never blocks dialogue “if it is loyal and motivated by the good of the Church”? Of course Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner are loyal and motivated by the good of the Church. So why has Pope Francis chosen not to respond to them? Surely Pope Francis doesn’t think, in the words of his confidant, that the four cardinals are seeking to create “difficulty and division”? The Holy Father must know these senior cardinals better than that!]

The interesting questions of the four cardinals, in reality, were already raised during the Synod, where the dialogue was deep, extensive and most of all, frank. Amoris Laetitia is only the mature fruit of Francis’ reflection after listening to everyone and reading the Synod’s final document. 

It is the result of a Synod and not just a personal idea of the Pontiff, as some might think.

[Fisk. The proposal to allow to divorced & “remarried” to be admitted to Confession and Holy Communion was rejected at the conclusion of the first synod. It failed to attain two-thirds majority. Pope Francis insisted that the failed proposal be included in the Synod Final Report. The mature reflection of the first synod was ignored, and the proposal only made it into the Final Report of the second synod by ONE VOTE. By no stretch of the imagination can it be be claimed that the footnote in Amoris Laeititia allowing divorced and “re-married” to receive Holy Communion reflects the dialogue of the two Synods].

During the Synod, all of the necessary responses were given and more than once. Since then, many other pastors, among them many bishops and cardinals, carried on and deepened the discussion, including recently. The Pope even indicated Cardinal Schönborn as a faithful interpreter of the document. 

[Fisk: The doubts expressed in the dubia concerning the doctrinal implications of allowing divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion won the day at the first Synod. The Synod Fathers realised that allowing individuals to receive the sacrament of Confession and the sacrament of the Eucharist while continuing to commit the intrinsically evil act of adultery would drive a coach and horses through the Church’s moral teaching. The cardinals’ dubia raises the same grave concerns that Amoris Laetitia ignores. All the necessary responses have most definetly NOT been given].

Thus I believe that a doubtful conscience can easily find all of the answers it seeks, if it seeks them with sincerity. 

[Fisk. It is not a doubtful conscience that raises serious questions about Amoris Laetitia but a certain faith and a genuine concern for the salvation of souls]

In this case, however, as in others, everything which touches the lives of people should not be resolved in the abstract, but must be dealt with — as the four cardinals themselves affirmed — continuing, “the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect.”

[Fisk. Our Lord’s clear teaching that the divorced and “re-married” commit adultery is not “abstract” but advice of the utmost clarity. If you break the Sixth Commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery, you do grave harm to yourself, your children, your family, and your society. Nothing could be more real and concrete.]


From the Catholic Herald: Cardinal Pell: How can you disagree with a question?

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Dean of Rota warns Pope could strip Cardinal Burke & others of cardinalate


By Deacon Nick Donnelly,  Holy See, Nov 29th 2016 


 (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

(AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto, Dean of the Roman Rota, told a conference in Spain that Cardinal Burke and the three cardinals who submitted the dubia to Pope Francis “could lose their Cardinalate” for causing “grave scandal” by making the dubia public. The Dean of the Roman Rota went on to accuse Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner of questioning the Holy Spirit. Archbishop  Pio Vito Pinto made his astounding accusations during a conference to religious in Spain.

Archbishop Pio Vito’s indictment against the four cardinals, and other people who question Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia, was that they not only questioned one synod of bishops on marriage and the family, but two synods, about which,  “The action of the Holy Spirit can not be doubted.”.

The Dean of the Roman Rota went on to clarify that the Pope did not have to strip the four senior cardinals of their “cardinalate”, but that he could do it. He went on to confirm what many commentators have suspected that Pope Francis’ interview with Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, was the Holy Father’s indirect response to the cardinals’ dubia:

During the conference, Pius Vito made clear to those present that the Pope did not respond directly to these four cardinals, “but indirectly told them that they only see white or black, when there are shades of color in the Church.”

The Dean of the Roman Rota, the highest canonical court responsible for marriage in the Catholic Church, went on to support Pope Francis’ innovation of allowing divorced and “remarried” to receive Holy Communion. In response to a question asking if it was better to grant divorced and civily remarried couples nullity of marriage so they can marry in the Church before they receive Holy Communion Archbishop Pio Vinto expressed preference for Pope Francis’s “reform”:

Pope Francis’ reform of the matrimonial process wants to reach more people. The percentage of people who ask for marriage annulment is very small. The Pope has said that communion is not only for good Catholics. Francisco says: how to reach the most excluded people? Under the Pope’s reform many people may ask for nullity, but others will not.


The Dean of the Roman Rota appears to be overlooking the canonical rights of the faithful, including cardinals, to make their concerns about the state of the Church known to the people of God. Can. 212 §3 sets out this solemn right and duty:

According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Can. 212 §3).

Cardinals Burke, Caffarra, Brandmüller and Meisner expressed due respect to Pope Francis and his “sovereign decision” not to respond to their dubia, while at the same time meeting their right and duty to communicate with the People of God. For the Dean of the Roman Rota to warn the four cardinals that they could be stripped of their cardinalate for acting in accord with the law of the Church is oppressive.

[It has been pointed out to us that Pio Vito Pinto is not an Archbishop but a Monsignor]

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From Liturgy Guy:

When speaking of the season of Advent in his classic The Liturgical Year, the nineteenth century French Benedictine liturgist Dom Prosper Guéranger wrote:

The name Advent (from the Latin word Adventus, which signifies a coming) is applied, in the Latin Church, to that period of the year, during which the Church requires the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. The mystery of that great day had every right to the honour of being prepared for by prayer and works of penance…

Amidst a highly secular and overly materialistic culture, which began preparing for Christmas immediately following Halloween, Catholics are called to delay holiday celebrations, entering instead into a season of penitential preparation. Addressing this cultural and liturgical disconnect, the Fisheaters website explains:

The focus of Advent is preparation for the coming of the Lord — both in commemoration of His Nativity and His coming again at the end of time. Though most Protestants — and far too many Catholics — see this time of year as a part of the “Christmas Season,” it isn’t; the Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass at Christmas Eve, and doesn’t end liturgically until the Octave of the Epiphany on January 14…

They continue by discussing the reason for the season (of Advent):

The mood of this season is one of somber spiritual preparation that increases in joy with each day, and the gaudy “Christmas” commercialism that surrounds it in the Western world should be overcome as much as possible. The singing of Christmas carols (which comes earlier and earlier each year), the talk of “Christmas” as a present reality, the decorated trees and the parties — these things are “out of season” for Catholics; we should strive to keep the Seasons of Advent holy and penitential, always remembering, as they say, that “He is the reason for the Season.”

Recalling that the liturgical color is purple, and the mood more restrained, we do well to give up something during Advent, much as we would during Lent. Identifying something to eliminate from our diet, or from our daily habits, can help us to ‘fast’ from the world as we anticipate He who entered the world over two thousand years ago.

The darkness of the confessional should also be sought out during Advent. Father Francis Fernandez (In Conversation with God, speaking of the Sacrament of Penance, connects the arrival of Christ at Christmas with our preparation for His second coming:

“Since God is coming to us, we have to get ready for Him, to prepare ourselves. When Christmas arrives, Our Lord should find us with everything in order and our soul fit to receive Him, just as He ought to find us in our final encounter with Him.”

Finally, the faithful should seek opportunities to assist at Holy Mass more frequently during Advent. Once again, Dom Guéranger:

“There is no exercise which is more pleasing to God, or more meritorious, or which has greater influence in infusing solid piety into the soul, than the assisting at the holy sacrifice of the Mass. If this be true at all the various seasons of the Christian year, it is so, in a very special manner, during the holy time of Advent. The faithful, therefore, should make every effort in order to enjoy this precious blessing, even on those days when they are not obliged to it by the precept of the Church.”

To that end, and where available, Catholics should seek out and assist at Rorate Caeli masses during Advent.

As I have written about before, the Rorate Mass is lit only by candlelight. Because it is a votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin, white vestments are worn instead of Advent violet. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) explains the powerful symbolism of this traditional Mass:

In the dimly lit setting, priests and faithful prepare to honor the Light of the world, Who is soon to be born, and offer praise to God for the gift of Our Lady. As the Mass proceeds and sunrise approaches, the church becomes progressively brighter, illumined by the sun as our Faith is illumined by Christ.

Ultimately the season of Advent invites us to better prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival through prayer and works of penance. Pray that more Catholics choose to frequent Mass and Confession during this time of year, bypassing many of the premature celebrations offered by our secular culture. And may the joy of Christmas be greater realized because of an Advent more fully entered.

Originally published on November 28, 2015

Photo Credit: John Cosmas

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The Lord Cometh from Afar

“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…. I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…. Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule….’” These words are taken from the liturgy for Advent, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…” (old Roman Breviary).

847fc686abfb3d389ac242f8a29e290e“A unique case in all of history is the fact that the coming of a Saviour Messiah was expected in Israel, on account of so many prophecies!

When she was a child, Mary was waiting, in the midst of her people Israel, for the coming of the Messiah, who had not been announced by just one prophet, but by a long line of men, predicting and completing their prophecies, one after the other over several centuries.

Mary was waiting at the heart of a small nation, buffeted by history, which had survived confrontations with neighbouring empires and eventually became the only nation to survive the dissolution of the ancient world, keeping its identity intact, and always holding on to the unwavering certainty of being the instrument of an eternal destiny, as large as the world itself.

The many prophecies surrounding the arrival of the Messiah trace a surprisingly accurate portrait of the Expected One: His Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and mission, as it was witnessed by Christ’s contemporaries and recognised by the Christians who followed Jesus.

This expectation of the Messiah was especially high at the beginning of our era, at the time of the Virgin Mary, as evidenced by the Gospel and several Jewish and pagan writings, because some prophecies explicitly and specifically talked about the time of His coming.

The Gospel testifies to the ever-present character of this special expectation that seized everyone. As “the people were waiting expectantly” (Lk 3:15), when John the Baptist appeared, all were asking him: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”(Lk 7:19).

It was an absolutely unprecedented context, and, in the opinion of many historians, the exceptional character of Christianity’s appearance alone is enough to place it apart in the religious history of the world.

The expectation of the fullness of time had become so strong and precise, in that particular period of history, that more than 100 Messiah candidates were identified by historians! Gamaliel alludes to them in his speech in the defense of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin.”

From “Foi Chrétienne” – (abbreviated)


The Lord Cometh from Afar

This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Saviour who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire, founded on the consoling reality of the Redemption already accomplished. Although historically completed nineteen centuries ago, this longing should be actualised daily, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us an intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul. This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!” (old Roman Breviary).


O my God, Word of the Father, Word made flesh for love of us, You assumed a mortal body in order to suffer and be immolated for us. I wish to prepare for Your coming with the burning desires of the prophets and the just who in the Old Testament sighed after You, the one Saviour and Redeemer. “O Lord, send Him whom You are going to send…. As You have promised, come and deliver us!” I want to keep Advent in my soul, that is, a continual longing and waiting for this great Mystery wherein You, O Word, became flesh to show me the abyss of Your redeeming, sanctifying mercy.

O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You. Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offences!” (Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection, 40).

O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently, not only to escape Your stern eye at Judgment but especially in order to repay You in some degree for Your infinite charity.

O Lord, do not, I beseech You, permit that this exceeding great love which led You to become incarnate for my salvation, be given in vain! My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigour, new enthusiasm, new life. Come, Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come! Come, delay no longer!

(Meditations from Divine Intimacy)

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Please consider helping a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate

 From Rorate Caeli:

The following note is from a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI). We here at Rorate chronicled the brutal treatment of these priests under the current pontificate for the last few years. So those of you who have read this blog for a while know what they’ve gone through. This good priest’s request is a win-win for him, his new mission and you. By helping him you are helping sanctify your family and/or other families you enroll. What a great Christmas present this would make for your family or a family you care about! Please see Father’s note below:

Dear Rorate Caeli:

Grace, peace and joy to you in the Most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary!

I have been a longstanding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and, in 2013, I obtained permission from our Apostolic Commissioner to discern my contemplative vocation outside the walls of the Order. Thanks be to God I have recently been welcomed by a benevolent Bishop to be a hermit in his Diocese.

One of the conditions for being received into his Diocese is that I be “self-sustaining.”

Providentially, a group of the lay faithful who used to assist the missionaries and contemplatives of the Franciscans of the Immaculate through a Latin Mass Novena website have recently offered the use of this website to me. Besides my normal expenses (food, utilities, healthcare, etc.), there are the initial costs of getting set up as a hermit, so I was wondering if Rorate Caeli might be in a position to let people know about my upcoming Christmas Latin Mass Novena which, besides enrollment in 9 Tridentine Masses, includes a beautiful Christmas enrollment card and a CD (anthology of sacred and classical music I have recorded as a seminarian and friar over the past 26 years). All of the information can be found HERE.

Thank you and God bless you.

In Corde Matris,

Fr. Maximilian Mary

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Bishop Barron on Ross Douthat’s “Bad Religion”

Is this the underlying “American heresy” – also known as, “Americanisn” – that Ross Douthat discusses in his book, “Bad Religion”? Listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s explanation.


There is also a link on “Morning Catholic must-reads” in the UK Catholic Herald today that takes us to Ross Douthat’s recent intuitive article in the New York Times, entitled: “His Holiness Declines to Answer”, discussing the implications of Pope Francis’ silence towards the questions put to him in the ‘dubia’. Ross Douthat’s says that Catholicism has “entered terra incognito” with the four cardinals’ dubia.  Well worth reading.

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Do the Prophecies of Saint Francis Explain It All?

From Les Femmes – The Truth

Take a look at this and see what you think, but please don’t be alarmed. Church history is filled with challenging periods when corrupt popes ruled and anti-popes added to the confusion. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Trust in God and pray. I don’t know if we are living in the time prophesied by St. Francis or not. I do know that our response in all circumstances is to commit to the duties of our state in life and to work out our salvation in fear and trembling committing ourselves to the will of God.   Mary Ann 

Guest post by David Martin:

The Prophecy of St. Francis about a Future Pope

Shortly before his death, St. Francis of Assisi called together the friars of his Order and detailed a prophecy of what was to come upon the Church in the latter days. That this prophecy references the last times is evident by the prediction of events that would not be fulfilled until after Vatican II, and by its placing these events in the time frame of the Gospel prophecy concerning the great tribulations just before Christ’s Second Coming. (Matthew 24) St. Francis relates the following concerning the future Church under siege.

“The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase.

“The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff [cf, Benedict XVI] and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavor to draw many into error and death.

“Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it.

“There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God.

“Then our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us. [cf, Franciscans of the Immaculate] Those who are found faithful will receive the crown of life; but woe to those who, trusting solely in their Order, shall fall into tepidity, for they will not be able to support the temptations permitted for the proving of the elect.

“Those who persevere in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such ‘pestilent men’ from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head [Christ], these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.

“Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true pastor, but a destroyer.”

TAKEN FROM Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi, R. Washbourne, 1882, pp. 248-250, with imprimatur by His Excellency William Bernard, Bishop of Birmingham.  

In this prophecy, St. Francis relates how very few Christians “will obey the true sovereign pontiff” [presumably Benedict XVI] and how many would be misled by “a man, not canonically elected” who “will be raised to the Pontificate.” The mention of a “true” sovereign pontiff implies that the opposite would coexist with him. To infer that this refers to Pope Francis is in no way unreasonable, when we consider his ongoing contempt for rules, discipline, and tradition, and the fact that he has praised enemies like abortionist Emma Bonino and heretic Martin Luther, while persecuting holy men like Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Sarah, and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Rome (FFI).

St. Francis no doubt was referring to the FFI, when he said, “our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us.” We all know of the cruel punishment that came upon the Franciscan Friars in 2013, whose founder Fr. Stefano Manelli was dismissed and whose members were forbidden from saying the Latin Mass and forced into saying the modern Mass against their conscience and against the rules of the order.

In speaking of the Church, St. Francis said, “scandals will be multiplied,” which have certainly come to pass. What else could describe a pope dubbing Catholic procreation as “rabbit breeding” while warmly inviting transgenders to the Vatican to meet with him and receive his blessing? And of course there is the hot-button issue of allowing divorced and civilly remarried adulterers to receive Communion, as sanctioned in Amoris Laetita. Jesus spoke of this very thing, saying, “Woe to the world because of scandals.” (Matthew 18:7)

From the onset we have seen something very “contrary” with Francis. While scolding any attempts to convert outsiders to the Catholic Faith, he blesses apostates and permits them to poison his flock with their rebellious thinking. While dubbing “idolaters” those Christians who hold tenaciously to Catholic tradition, he blesses the lost and misled who bow to the planetary idol of “Mother Earth.”

Worse yet is his formal denial of the Church’s dogmatic teaching on eternal hell, as inscribed in Article 297 of Amoris Laetita. “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.” Formal heresy anyone?

However, the real crime of his pontificate was nailed by St. Francis, when he said, “Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it.” Francis, who has often fashioned nice words of praise for the pro-life movement, recently dismissed all the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life and has rewritten its statutes in such a way that, beginning January 1, 2017, the new members will not be required to hold to the oath to defend the dignity of a person “from conception until (natural) death.” (Source)

And now Pope Francis has praised the 1960s German moral theologian Bernard Häring, one of the most prominent dissenters from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, for his new morality which the pope said helped “moral theology to flourish.” “I think Bernard Häring was the first to start looking for a new way to help moral theology to flourish again,” he said in comments, published Sunday by La Civiltà Cattolica, that were given during a dialogue with the Jesuit order which was gathered for its 36th general Congregation on October 24, 2016, in Rome. (Source)

Apparently Francis thinks that Humanae Vitae was serving to drive morality back to the jungle. Humanae Vitae, as we know, is Pope Paul’s crowning masterpiece on the sanctity of human life which absolutely forbids abortion or any type of artificial birth control. The entire Church is bound by it.

Even so, Francis is complicit with United Nations anti-life agenda. We recount the infamous event of April 28, 2015, when the Vatican hosted a Soros-backed climate change conference in which several key pro-abortion advocates from the U.N., including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Jeffrey Sachs, proposed that the Church adopt their Sustainable Development Goals of making the planet a safer place through worldwide depopulation. (abortion) The proposals of April 28 were fully endorsed by the Vatican the very next day.

On September 25, 2015, Pope Francis addressed the United Nations General Assembly, urging the approval of the Sustainable Development Goals, which passed that day in the U.N. His encyclical on climate change would serve to get the fire going on this, and he himself had expressed hope that his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, would be used to promote the passage of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015.

The foregoing warrants still a closer look at the prophecy about an uncanonically elected pope. St. Francis said, “a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate,” indicating that his ascent to the papacy will be done before the entire Church, but somehow his election will not be canonical. It suggests that a private interest group will place this man into power under the guise of an election, so that he could advance their agenda.

Credible reports from 2015 indicate that Benedict XVI was coerced into resigning, which was providentially foreshadowed in Pope Benedict’s inaugural speech of April 24, 2005, when he said: “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” We know from Cardinal Danneels of Brussels that he was part of a radical “mafia” reformist group opposed to Benedict XVI. Danneels, known for his support of abortion, LGBT rights, gay-marriage, and pornography said in a taped interview in September 2015 that he and several cardinals were part of this “mafia” club which bore the name of St. Gallen. He said the group was calling for drastic changes in the Church, to make it “much more modern,” and that the plan all along was to have Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio [Francis] head it. (Source)

This infamous clique which is documented in Austen Ivereigh’s biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer, comprised the key members of the Vatican “gay-lobby” which held the reigns and created much chaos at the October 2014-2015 Synods on the Family. According to some reports, lobby members threatened Pope Benedict with extortion prior to his resignation.

This is credible when we consider that on February 11, 2012, one year before Pope Benedict announced his resignation, it was reported that Benedict XVI was given only one year to live if he didn’t resign. Cardinal Paolo Romeo, Archbishop of Palermo, reportedly said these things to a group of people in Beijing toward the end of 2011. According to the report, Cardinal Romeo “harshly criticized Pope Benedict XVI,” and “with self-assurance, as if he knew with precision, Cardinal Romeo announced that the Holy Father would have only twelve months to live. During his conversations in China he prophesied the death of Pope Benedict XVI within the next 12 months.” (Source)

Still another point that lends credence to the idea of an “uncanonically elected pope” is the testimony of Pope Benedict himself, who stated that he never renounced his Petrine Office. On the eve of his resignation, he said: “Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated.” … “The ‘always’ is also a “forever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this.” (Pope Benedict XVI at the General Audience of February 27, 2013)

Hence Benedict XVI is still pope, wholly and entirely, so that nothing of his Petrine character has been diminished. Yet, there can only be one pope, not two, so what does that make Francis? If Francis is a true, canonically elected pope, then Benedict XVI can no longer be pope, since the Grace of State of his Office no longer rests with him, but has been given to Pope Francis. Yet Benedict insists he is pope “forever” and that his “decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this.”

If Benedict XVI had renounced the entirety of the Petrine Office, i.e. the contemplative and active ministry together, it could perhaps be argued that he is merely Pope Emeritus and is no longer a valid pope, but he argues emphatically against this, stating that he is pope “forever” and that he has resigned only the active ministry thereof. Yet there cannot exist two popes simultaneously. The idea of a “two-headed” pope or a “communal papacy” is heretical and foreign to anything Christ taught. It’s either Francis or Benedict XVI. Which is it?

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Bishop Bernard Fellay’s Authentic Catholic Witness

By Maike Hickson at OnePeterFive:

img_0536b-600x410On 4 November, 2016, the day of the opening ceremony of the new seminary of the Society of St. Pius X in Dillwyn, Virginia – three little children were blessed to be confirmed by His Excellency Bishop Bernard Fellay. Everything surrounding this little ceremony – with some twenty priests, seminarians and different family members gathered around – turned an otherwise small event into something very large and holy. Each individual who was present there will no doubt count it as one of the great blessings of his life.

As with so many such blessings, it started with a cross. The confirmations were to start in the evening, at 6:30 pm, after the long opening ceremony for the seminary. The small group of families, sponsors, and seminarians was gathered around in the provisional chapel of the seminary (which shall one day be replaced by a larger, more beautiful church adjacent to the seminary) when suddenly a seminarian walked up the aisle, stood in front of the faithful, and told them that Bishop Fellay just had had an accident, and that he had injured his foot. Some medical experts were just then examining him, the seminarian said. We were to wait another thirty minutes in order to be further instructed. As it turned out, we waited an hour or so, not knowing whether the ceremony would take place at all.

It was around eight o’clock in the evening that the seminarian came one last time (after several updates) into the chapel. Since the bishop could not walk, we were invited upstairs to the private chambers of His Excellency so that he could help the Little Ones become Christian Soldiers. When all had gathered in a modest little room, Bishop Fellay came in to greet us. Nobody who was in that room is likely to forget what happened next: Bishop Fellay came in, with his as yet untreated foot – which turned out to have been seriously broken – on crutches, and with a big smile on his face! After first apologizing for the “inconvenience” (!) his injury had caused, Fellay then suddenly said, with an even bigger smile: “This is a very good sign! It is a very good sign, because it shows that the devil is very angry that these little children receive the Sacrament of Confirmation!”

The faithful present were astonished. How was it that this holy man smiled through the pain of a broken foot and yet rejoiced over obstacles put into his way? (One lady present said later that she had once had a broken foot; she confessed that she was not able to sleep all night because of how much it hurt.) And how was it that he ignored his suffering and did not allow such obstacles to hinder him from performing what might have otherwise be seen as only a small ceremony for just three children?

It was not much later that we were given a little more insight into Bishop Fellay’s deeply rooted conviction and principles. As soon as he was able to perform the ceremony – he had to be seated carefully – his eyes lit up even more. He completely focused his attention on the little children, looking only into their eyes – and quite intensely so – in order to explain to them the greatness of the Sacrament of Confirmation. His eyes were radiant and glowing when he explained to the children with words they could understand what they were about to receive. The warmth of his gaze toward the little ones was touching, as were his smile and tone of voice. It was quite a witness to us adults, seeing how a man of his stature paid no heed whatsoever to the adults around him, and how he gave his best to prepare the hearts of the little ones for the sacrament, and in a language that they might understand. Bishop Fellay had no prepared remarks, yet he cheerfully and with great concentration spoke for about twenty minutes or so, in what was for him a foreign language, and all without any sign of rushing or impatience. He was fully present for the children, acting as a supreme pastor for their souls.

Thankfully, I was able to record most of what His Excellency said. I received permission to make use of the transcript I have produced of those remarks in order to spread to as many Catholics as possible the radiant depiction of this channel of grace and a glimpse of the abundant graces we received that night in a bare room, in the twilight.  The words speak for themselves and will bring us all back to the foundations of our beloved Faith. Since His Excellency, despite his poignant efforts, could still not kneel, as is traditional when singing the first stanza of the Veni Creator Spiritus, the very beautiful Latin chant to the Holy Ghost, he asked us to recite the very beautiful prayer to the Holy Ghost aloud and together.

Here now the transcript which I have produced to the best of my ability:

His Excellency, Bishop Bernard Fellay:

[A few introductory sentences are missing at the beginning where His Excellency introduces the theme of the Sacraments.] All the Sacraments, God wanted them, and He did institute all of them. Now, when God does something, it means it is important. And you know that Confirmation, you receive it only once in your life. You receive it only once in your life because it is going to give you something which you will never lose. Whatever will happen to you, you will have it. It is a mark. The Holy Ghost will come into your soul today and will mark your soul. This mark does not go away. You see, there are other things which God has given to us, that we would call a Grace. Unfortunately, the people who are in mortal sin, they lose this Grace; this mark [this sacramental “character”], they don’t lose.

This mark is going to consecrate you to the Holy Ghost.  Consecrated things are made holy, like a bell, like a ciborium, like an altar – when they are consecrated, they are made holy. And this is going to happen, at the very moment when the bishop is going to make a cross on your forehead. At the same time, I will say: “I sign you with the sign of the Cross.” That is exactly what we call a Sacrament. It is a visible sign, you can see, you can hear, but the sign indicates something else.

The difference between the Sacrament and the other signs: the other signs just indicate something. When you are on the road, and you see “Richmond, so many miles,” you know that when you go that way, you will get to Richmond. But these signs don’t change things.

The Sacraments. When you have here the sign, they will not only indicate something, but they will produce things. So, we have the sign, outside, and in your soul, at that moment, this mark – you see the mark, the sign of the Cross is a mark, and the words “I mark you with the sign of the Cross” these are words which are the same – then you have a sign in your soul. You receive this sign, this mark.

This mark is very special. It is, as I said, consecrating you, it is making out of you an instrument in the hands of the Holy Ghost. But it is a different instrument than the ones that I use as a tool. You use, for example, a pencil, that is, an instrument which allows you to write. A knife is an instrument that allows you to cut. A car is an instrument that allows you to drive. But you see, all of these instruments, they simply obey. If you take the pencil into your hand, you move it, that is it. The pencil is very docile. I have never seen a pencil which runs away so that one has to grab it. That does not exist, it is very docile.

We are instruments that are free. That is, we are instruments that can still move, and that is very special. And we will call it “instrument” because the agent – which is the Holy Ghost – will use even your free will to do the thing. And what thing does He do?  (Pause. Continues slowly:) Ah. He joins you, or He makes you sink into the Mission of Jesus. Jesus has a mission. What does it mean, “mission”? We have a mission when somebody sends us to do something. And God the Father sent God the Son to save us. This is so true that the name He received from the Father is Jesus. Jesus means “Savior”. It expresses the mission of Jesus Our Lord. And He became flesh and assumed the human nature with which He was able to do His mission. And He died on the Cross. That is the way He saved us.

Now, before going back to Heaven, He transmitted His mission to the Apostles, to the Church. The Church is Jesus, but not Jesus on His own, but Jesus with the souls united with Himself through Baptism. With the greatness of Confirmation comes this very special call from Our Lord. He is calling you. He wants you to help Him. He does not need your help, if He wants it to save souls. Precisely this character will put you into this mission. That is why we call you from that moment on Soldier of Christ, because to save souls means fight. Why fight? Because the devil will do whatever he can to prevent souls from going to Heaven. So, those who will have to help Jesus will have to fight. You see, that is why you are soldiers. But you must not fear, because He is going to give you all the strength you need.

That is the second part of Confirmation. I say second, but all of it is happening at the same time. So this gives you a mark, it gives you a mission, and now He is going to put into you an incredible strength.

First, He is going to increase what we call the Sanctifying Grace. That which we have received in Baptism. Sanctifying Grace. What does it mean sanctifying? “Sancti” means saints, “fying” means to make. To make saints. The Grace that makes a saint. You received it at Baptism. That is why, without Grace, if you die, you go to hell. Only those who have it can go to Heaven. In Heaven, there are only saints. But there are degrees. They have more or less so that those with more Grace will have a nicer place in Heaven. And today, He wants to increase how much the level with which you started at Baptism? Three times? Ten times? One hundred times?

We don’t have words to say it. There is only one word we know. And the word is: fullness. Fullness that makes your soul filled. [short interruption of recording] There are ways for us to grasp this. I can give you one, but that is not enough. You see the difference between the moon and the sun. The moon is giving some light that you can look at it without being bothered. The sun is giving so much light that you cannot look at it, you would hurt your eyes. So, there is an increase in light between them both. That is an example for an increase of Grace that you will receive today. That means you will increase much more, much more in Grace. I will say this for you: for God, one Confirmation is something greater than the creation of all the creatures – all the stars, all these moons, planets, all the animals on earth, and so on. God, when He was doing that, He was doing less than what He is doing with one Confirmation. It is difficult to understand, but it is true.

So, He will give you an enormous increase in Grace. Now you have to understand that on the same level, He is going to increase all of your virtues, in the same proportion, you will receive an increase in Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Temperance, all the virtues now elevated in one person, like this (lifts his arms into the air). You are going to make progress, a great progress. The problem is you are not going to feel it. You cannot feel it because it is too high, too high for our means of measuring. It is only the Faith which tells us that. You see, when we talk about Confirmation, we hardly say a word about that. We insist upon one point, which we call the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Because, there is something we have already received in Baptism, also, but the enormous jump in these [Seven Gifts]. So now, what are these going to do? The Gifts will make you docile, docile to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. You see, as Saint Paul says it to us, it is very wonderful, those who are moved by the spirit of God are children of God. So you want to be children of God. For that we need that God moves us. [Short interruption of recording]

[So when we say God Our Father,] He is first in us, He helps us. He says it! He says it! And He grabs us, He puts us into this prayer. So every time you say “Our Father,” it is not you, it is He, the Holy Ghost who says it. He wants to help us, to help you. You don’t see it. You see, we have different examples of this. For example, Saint Paul says no soul can say “Jesus is God,” “Jesus is the Lord,” nobody can say “Jesus is the Lord,” if not in the Holy Ghost. So, every time we say “of course Jesus is God,” we say it because the Holy Ghost is pushing us to say it. So, every time we say “Our Father,” remember that He is putting that into you. Because He is the one who is in charge, with the Father and the Son, to make you children of God.

Now I will describe to you quickly what happens to you when you follow these inspirations. Suddenly, you have in your mind a good idea. You are doing [something] – whatever you do – suddenly there is this idea. We call that an inspiration. It is an invitation to do something good. It can be a prayer, a sacrifice, to do your duty, it can be at play or at work, to be fair, don’t be bad, it can be anything; don’t say a bad word; help Mom; do your homework; any kind of good idea!

And when you follow – when you have that idea and you say, okay, I am going to do it! – (and sometimes you say: no, I am not going to do it; sometimes there is a little bit of a fight in us and you say no, I don’t do it). But sometimes, we just do it. And when you do it, you are not alone. I am giving you an example. I give you a pencil. And I say: “Now, you make a drawing.” You then make your drawing. You take a pencil and you try to make a drawing. That’s once. That’s when YOU do it.

Now, let’s suppose, you get the pencil, a paper, and we have a tremendous artist who comes by. You are going to say: do help me do it. He grabs your hand which holds the pencil, then leads your hand, with the pencil, on the paper. This time, as far as you follow this slightest movement of the artist, you have a masterpiece. It is the Holy Ghost who did it! Leading you. So, every time, you just follow the inspiration, the Holy Ghost is doing a marvel. Can you grasp that? You have the impression that you do it, but as long as you stay a friend of His inspirations, what is happening is a masterpiece.

So, that is why these Gifts are so important. The Holy Ghost will come today to you, wants to make out of all of your actions a masterpiece. He wants to make you beautiful! As Saint Paul says – and so it is in the Holy Scriptures – God tells us what He wants us to do, and he says it this way: the Holy Ghost wants us to grow in the shining living image of the Son of God. So, He wants us to grow from the shining of the moon to the shining of the sun – or even more! And He does the job, as long as we just follow.

That is all, that is the major part of the Sacrament you are about to receive.

So, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, that she may help you, prepare you to receive the Sacrament the best you can. We ask also for the Grace for you – but also for those who are present here – that is, that all of us, we may be always faithful to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, so that every day, we may really grow, as real children of God – not children of this world – that this will lead our souls, many souls, to God, to Heaven, that we may save souls.

So, the ceremony, we will start this way: First, we will ask for the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and every time we ask with “Amen”. And then the second part, you will come here, where I am sitting, and we will have Confirmation here, you  will be accompanied by your sponsor, who will put his right hand on your right shoulder, and you will kneel down here, we anoint you, and then afterward the ceremony, you will go over there to have Father remove the Chrism from your forehead, and then you will go back to your place. And then there is another prayer, and I will give you the blessing, and then we will pray the Profession of Faith.

Now let us start with the first prayer…

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Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A. 27th November 2016

The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.37-44.

 The Advent season in its liturgical observance is devoted to the coming of God at the end of history when Jesus shall reign as king.  The time is chiefly a celebration of “the coming of God” in ultimate triumph.  Our three Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A) challenge us to adopt a timetable in which the seemingly distant parousia (final coming) impinges on the present moment.

An unexpected vision of salvation

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah [2:1-5] sends chills up and down our spines today.  The prophet describes a beautiful and rather unexpected vision of universal salvation, justice and peace, not only for Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but for all of humanity:

In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.  All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” [vv 2-3].

In the messianic kingdom the prophets generally see the Lord’s house as the seat of authority and the source of clear and certain doctrine; also, its rule willingly accepted by all peoples, maintained by spiritual sanctions, and tending to universal peace. This passage is found substantially unchanged in Micah 4:1-3; it probably, although not certainly, has Isaiah as its author.

The Isaiah reading is very fitting to begin the Advent season, for we are truly on pilgrimage during the next few weeks – making our long and tedious journey up to the Lord, in order that we may pay him homage and recognize in the Child of Bethlehem just to what degree God would go to show us his love.

Awaking from our hypnotic conditions

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans [13:11-14], the Apostle to the Gentiles says that Christians claim to be people of the new day that will dawn with the return of Christ.  In verse 11-12, Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome that this is the hour to awake from their sleep… for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the armor of light…

The Greek word for sleep is hypnos, (11) and while we cannot attribute the full notion of being “hypnotized” to Paul himself in this text, it is nonetheless true that we can become so accustomed to the normalcy of evil that we live under its spell, as if hypnotized by a power outside ourselves that we cannot discern or dislodge ourselves. It is good for us during Advent to ask: “What are the hypnotic conditions that we experience without our consciousness of them?” The sins of the “flesh” (v. 14) are not only sexual sins, but anything that opposes the life-giving work of the Spirit begun in Christ.  Instead of planning for nighttime behavior they should be concentrating on conduct that is consonant with avowed interest in the Lord’s return.

In the days of Noah

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew [24:37-44], Noah’s contemporaries were unprepared for the flood. They ate and drank and married. They didn’t dream of an event that would mark the end of time as they knew it. The people of Noah’s time were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Three parables are told to remind us of the necessity of vigilance–because the Second Coming has no “estimated time of arrival.”

In the verses: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left [40-41], the former probably means taken into the kingdom; the latter, left for destruction. People in the same situation will be dealt with in opposite ways. In this context, the discrimination between them will be based on their readiness for the coming of the Son of Man.  The theme of vigilance and readiness is continued with the bold comparison of the Son of Man to a thief who comes to break into a house [42-44].

Centrality of time

Time is central to the Christian celebration of Advent.  This season reminds us that the mystery of faith is not complete until Jesus’ Second Coming.  We are living in this in-between time of Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost and the time of the Parousia.  How do we deal with the issue of time?  Christ has given us warning of such an event coming.  We can’t say, “We had no idea,” as the people said up to the day that Noah went into the ark and closed the door.

We need to be ready and we need to be awake.  Just like a security alarm wakes up a homeowner, Advent wakes up Christians who are in danger of sleeping through their lives.  If we are no longer asking the hard questions and if we are no longer getting our answers from God through his Scriptures, then it is time to wake up!  Advent asks us to be aware of responsibilities and see to their fulfillment!  Advent challenges us to attend to relationships, reach out to the needy, cherish the gift of human life, and make time for prayer!  The Second Coming thus becomes an event that gives purpose and energy to our every breath and pulse here and now.

The coming of Christ

Advent does not change God.  Advent deepens our longing and anticipation that God will do what prophets and the anointed have promised.  We pray that God will yield to our greedy need to see and feel the promise of salvation here and now.  As Christians, we proclaim the coming of Christ – not just a first coming but another as well that will be far more glorious than the first.  The first took place under the sign of patient suffering; the second, on the contrary, will see Christ wearing the crown of God’s kingdom.  In the meantime, however, there is the painful necessity of the cross for Jesus and all believers in him.

The pregnant season

On Saturday evening, November 27, eve of Advent this year, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate in St. Peter’s Basilica a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” coinciding with first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. The Holy Father has said:

The period in which we prepare for Christmas is an appropriate time to invoke divine protection on every human being called into existence, and to thank God for the gift of life we received from our parents.

“Nascent” is a word not frequently used in our daily vocabulary.  While it clearly refers to unborn human life, its other meanings include “promising”, “growing”, and “hopeful”. As we enter into Advent, our thoughts naturally focus on the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ came to us first as an unborn child, tiny, vulnerable and in need of protection and care of his mother.

By calling for this worldwide prayer vigil, Pope Benedict invites us to focus both on the hope and promise of new life in Christ that we celebrate at Christmas but also to acknowledge the sad fact that world-wide there are an estimated 50 million abortions performed each year.  Lives are simply thrown away.  Many people in our time have truly become “hypnotized” to this reality.  We have justified our reasons and means for destroying life in the womb because it disturbs and upsets us, forcing us to change our way of living. What are the hypnotic conditions against human life that we experience without our consciousness of them?

More than any other time of year, Advent is a pregnant season.  We need a renewal of faith and hope about the meaning of life as the reflection of God. The timing of this prayer service for “nascent life” at the beginning of the Advent season is a happy coincidence that reminds us of the great gift from God that each and every human life represents.

Taking stock of human life

As we begin this holy season of longing and waiting for the Messiah, let us take stock of human life and not become like the people of Noah’s time who were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Advent reminds us that it is no longer business as usual.  Something new is about to happen.

Let us pray during these days of Advent:  May God, the Father of Life have mercy on all who have sinned against life.  May the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus, who knit us in our mother’s womb, preserve all infants from physical harm from the moment of conception.

May Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, who ennobled all human life when he became flesh in the womb of the Daughter of Zion, enlighten our minds to see the dignity of every human life from its earliest moments.

May Jesus of Nazareth who loved the afflicted, the sick, the broken and those who mourn, strengthen parents of unborn children with disabilities to cherish the infant entrusted to their care.

May the Lord who forgives sinners each day, draw all who have acted against innocent human life to repentance and forgiveness, and heal them through an outpouring of grace.

May the God of Israel increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.

Looking forward to the second coming

Let us not forget the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem this season:

At his first coming, he was wrapped in linens and laid in a manger; at the second, light shall be his robe.  In the first coming he endured the Cross, heedless of its shame; in his second coming he will be in glory surrounded by an army of angels.  Let us therefore not stop at his first coming but look forward to the second.  We hailed him at his first coming with the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and shall hail him in the same way at his second coming.  For we shall go out to meet the Lord and his angels, and, prostrating ourselves before him, we shall cry, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

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