Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St. Andrew the Apostle

St. Peter and St. Andrew were brothers. St. Peter was martyred in Rome and St. Andrew was martyred in Greece. They represent the “two lungs” of the Church, West and East. On this day the Pope traditionally sends representatives to Constantinople to celebrate the feast, and on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Eastern Church reciprocates by sending representatives to Rome. We have prayed this month that the riches of the Eastern Catholic Churches may be better known and esteemed by Roman Catholics. Let us pray today that this in turn will lead to full unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Our reflection is from part of a homily that Pope Benedict gave on this day when he personally visited Constantinople.

The two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and Andrew, were fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. The Risen Lord, before his Ascension, sent them out together with the other Apostles with the mission of making all nations his disciples, baptizing them and proclaiming his teachings (cf. Mt 28:19ff.; Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).

This charge left us by the holy brothers Peter and Andrew is far from finished. On the contrary, today it is even more urgent and necessary. For it looks not only to those cultures which have been touched only marginally by the Gospel message, but also to long-established European cultures deeply grounded in the Christian tradition. The process of secularization has weakened the hold of that tradition; indeed, it is being called into question, and even rejected. In the face of this reality, we are called, together with all other Christian communities, to renew Europe’s awareness of its Christian roots, traditions and values, giving them new vitality.

Our efforts to build closer ties between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches are a part of this missionary task. The divisions which exist among Christians are a scandal to the world and an obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel. On the eve of his passion and death, the Lord, surrounded by his disciples, prayed fervently that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21). It is only through brotherly communion between Christians and through their mutual love that the message of God’s love for each and every man and woman will become credible. Anyone who casts a realistic glance on the Christian world today will see the urgency of this witness.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who Saint Andrew was, according to Benedict XVI

In his catechesis on June 14, 2006, Benedict XVI reflected on the Apostle Andrew. He explained the meaning of his name, his role among the apostles and the story of his martyrdom. 


Continuing our weekly catechesis on the Church’s apostolic ministry, today we consider the figure of the Apostle Andrew. According to John’s Gospel, Andrew was the first Apostle to be called by Jesus; he then brought his brother, Simon Peter, to the Lord. The fraternal relationship of these two great Apostles is reflected in the special relationship between the sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople. 

The name "Andrew" is Greek, and in the Gospel of John, when some Greeks wish to see Jesus, it is Andrew, with Philip, who brings their request to the Lord. Jesus’ response, with its reference to the grain of wheat which dies and then produces much fruit (cf. Jn 12:23-24), is a prophecy of the Church of the Gentiles, which would spread throughout the Greek world after the Lord’s Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. According to some ancient traditions, Andrew preached the Gospel among the Greeks until he met his death by crucifixion. 

His example inspires us to be zealous disciples of Christ, to bring others to the Lord, and to embrace the mystery of his Cross, both in life and in death.

The Jesse Tree - Fall of Man - November 29

November 29
Symbols: Tree with Fruit or Apple
The parents of the human race, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God's command in the Garden of Eden, thereby commiting the original sin, resulting in the closing of the gates of Heaven to mankind.

Even after this sin, man was not abandoned by God. God promises a Messiah and Redeemer: "I will put emnity between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Gen 3:14)." He tells us of a "New Adam" who will have victory over sin.

This victory of Christ has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us. God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good: "O Happy Fault, whereby we have merited so great a Redeemer (Exsultet)."

Recommended Readings: Genesis 3:1-7, 9, 14-29, 23-24

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Million Roses for the World - Day 43

The Jesse Tree - Adam and Eve - November 28

 Symbols: Tree, Man and Woman

Adam and Eve are the first ancestors of the human race. Christ is called the "second" or "new Adam" because He ushered in the new creation by forgiving sin and restoring humanity to the grace of God's friendship lost by original sin. Mary, because she is the mother of the eternal Son of God made man, is called the "new Eve," the "mother of the living" in the order of grace.

Recommended Readings: Genesis 2:7-9; 18-24

Monday of the First Week of Advent

The prophet Isaiah foretold a time of universal peace when all nations would come to "the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob" and "beat their swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:2-4). Jesus fulfills this prophecy first by restoring both Jew and Gentile to fellowship with God through the victory he won for us on the cross. When he comes again he will fully establish his universal rule of peace and righteousness and unite all things in himself (Ephesians 1:10). His promise extends to all generations who believe in him that we, too, might feast at the heavenly banquet table with the patriarchs of the Old Covenant who believed but did not see the promised Messiah. Do you believe in God's promises and do you seek his kingdom first in your life? The season of Advent reminds us that the Lord wants us to actively seek him and the coming of his kingdom in our lives. The Lord will surely reward those who seek his will for their lives. We can approach the Lord Jesus with expectant faith, like the centurion in today's gospel reading, knowing that he will show us his mercy and give us his help.

"Lord Jesus, you feed us daily with your life-giving word and you sustain us on our journey to our true homeland with you and the Father in heaven. May I never lose hope in your promises nor lag in zeal for your kingdom of righteousness and peace."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Jesse Tree - Creation - November 27

The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. Even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained glass windows. The "tree" is usually a branch or sapling and is decorated with various symbols that remind us of the purpose and promises of God from Creation to the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesse was the father of King David and God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever. Two centuries after the death of King David, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Each Jesse Tree ornament usually consists of a handmade symbol or drawing that represents one of the major stories of the Old Testament along with a brief verse of Scripture from that story.

November 27 - Creation

Symbols: Sun, Moon, Stars, Earth

During this Advent season we review our salvation history, meditating on God's promise of a Savior. We begin with Creation, the birth of life, beginning of time.

In the creation of world and man, God gave the first and universal witness to His almighty love and His wisdom, the first proclamation of the "plan of His loving goodness," which finds its goal in the new creation of Christ.

Recommended Readings: Genesis 1-2

First Sunday in Advent

As we pray for Pope Benedict and his intentions we reflect on his Angelus Message for the First Sunday of Advent in 2008.

Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This season invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which always exerts great fascination over us. However, after the example of what Jesus loved to do, I wish to start with a very concrete observation: we all say that we do not have enough time, because the pace of daily life has become frenetic for everyone. In this regard too, the Church has "good news" to bring: God gives us his time. We always have little time; especially for the Lord, we do not know how or, sometimes, we do not want to find it. Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with ever new amazement. Yes, God gives us his time, because he entered history with his Word and his works of salvation to open it to eternity, to make it become a covenantal history. In this prospective, already in itself time is a fundamental sign of God's love: a gift that man, as with everything else, is able to make the most of or, on the contrary, to waste; to take in its significance or to neglect with obtuse superficiality. …

The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in its two moments: it first invites us to reawaken our expectation of Christ's glorious return, then, as Christmas approaches, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation. Yet the Lord comes into our lives continually. How timely then, is Jesus' call, which on this First Sunday is powerfully proposed to us: "Watch!" (Mk 13: 33, 35, 37). It is addressed to the disciples but also to everyone, because each one, at a time known to God alone, will be called to account for his life. This involves a proper detachment from earthly goods, sincere repentance for one's errors, active charity to one's neighbor and above all a humble and confident entrustment to the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father. The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Let us invoke her so that she may help us also to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The New Roman Missal

St. Peter of Alexandria

St. Peter, bishop of Alexandria, was beheaded on November 25, 311, during Maximinus Daia's persecution. He was a great bishop, famous for wisdom and holiness; "a model of charity and zeal, severe towards himself, merciful to sinners, a divine model of the Christian teacher," says Eusebius.

While in prison some priests pleaded for him with Arius, whom he had condemned. The action was reported to Peter; he replied that Jesus had appeared to him that very night with a torn garment, and when he sought an explanation, the Lord answered, "Arius has torn asunder My garment which is My Church." Peter's foremost virtue was perseverance; once he had made a decision he never vacillated. He is known as "the last martyr" of the Diocletian persecution.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Optional Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, virgin and martyr

The account of her martyrdom is legendary and defies every attempt to cull out the historical kernel. Old Oriental sources make no mention of her. In the West her cult does not appear before the eleventh century, when the crusaders made it popular. She became the patroness of philosophical faculties; she is one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers." The breviary offers the following:
Catherine, virgin of Alexandria, devoted herself to the pursuit of knowledge; at the age of eighteen, she surpassed all her contemporaries in science. Upon seeing how the Christians were being tortured, she went before Emperor Maximin (311-313), upbraided him for his cruelty, and with convincing reasons demonstrated the need of Christian faith in order to be saved. Astounded by her wisdom, the Emperor ordered her to be kept confined, and having summoned the most learned philosophers, promised them magnificent rewards if they could confound the virgin and turn her from belief in Christ. Far from being successful, a considerable number of the philosophers were inflamed by the sound reasons and persuasiveness of Catherine's speech with such a love for Jesus Christ that they declared themselves willing to offer their lives for the Gospel.
Then the Emperor attempted to win her by flattery and by promises, but his efforts proved equally fruitless. He ordered her whipped with rods, scourged with leaden nodules, and then left to languish eleven days without food in prison. The Emperor's wife and Porphyrius, general of the army, visited Catherine in prison; her words brought both to Christ and later they too proved their love in blood. Catherine's next torture consisted of being placed upon a wheel with sharp and pointed knives; from her lacerated body prayers ascended to heaven and the infernal machine fell to pieces. Many who witnessed the miracle embraced the faith. Finally, on November 25 Christ's servant was beheaded (307 or 312). By the hands of angels her body was carried to Mt. Sinai, where it was interred in the convent which bears her name.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
Patron: Apologists; craftsmen who work with a wheel (potters; spinners; etc.); archivists; attorneys; barristers; dying people; educators; girls; jurists; knife grinders; knife sharpeners; lawyers; librarians; libraries; maidens; mechanics; millers; nurses; old maids; philosophers; potters; preachers; scholars; schoolchildren; scribes; secretaries; spinners; spinsters; stenographers; students; tanners; teachers; theologians; turners; unmarried girls; wheelwrights.
Symbols: Wheel set with sharp knives; broken wheel; sword; crown at her feet; hailstones; bridal veil and ring; dove; scourge; book; spiked wheel; woman strapped to the spiked wheel on which she was martyred; woman arguing with pagan philosophers.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Lord, we thank you
for the goodness of our people
and for the spirit of justice
that fills this nation.
We thank you for the beauty and fullness of the
land and the challenge of the cities.
We thank you for our work and our rest,
for one another, and for our homes.
We thank you, Lord:
accept our thanksgiving on this day.
We pray and give thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro

Miguel Pro was born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico. From his childhood, high spirits and happiness were the most outstanding characteristics of his personality. The loving and devoted son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he retained all his life.
At 20, he became a Jesuit novice and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained in 1925. Father Pro suffered greatly from a severe stomach problem and when, after several operations his health did not improve, in 1926 his superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the religious persecution in the country.
The churches were closed and priests were in hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to the sturdy Mexican Catholics. In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out the works of mercy by assisting the poor of Mexico City with their temporal needs. He adopted many disguises to carry out his secret ministry. In all that he did, he remained filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King, and obedient to his superiors.
Falsely accused in a bombing attempt on the President-elect, Pro became a wanted man. He was betrayed to the police and sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process.
On the day of his death, Father Pro forgave his executioners, prayed, bravely refused the blindfold, and died proclaiming "Long Live Christ the King!"

St. Clement

St. Clement I of Rome (92-101) was one of the first popes; according to St. Ireneus, he was the third after Peter. Clement most probably died as a martyr. Otherwise little is known of his life. It is not certain whether he is the one Paul mentions as his companion in Phil. 4:3. St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians is authentic; in it he authoritatively intervenes in that strife-torn community, a memorable act in the early history of the papacy.
The breviary gives these legendary details. Because of his zeal for souls, Pope Clement was banished to distant Chersonese; there he found two-thousand Christians who had received a similar sentence. When he came to these exiles he comforted them. "They all cried with one voice: Pray for us, blessed Clement, that we may become worthy of the promises of Christ. He replied: Without any merit of my own, the Lord sent me to you to share in your crowns." When they complained because they had to carry the water six miles, he encouraged them, "Let us all pray to the Lord Jesus Christ that He may open to His witnesses a fountain of water." "While blessed Clement was praying, the Lamb of God appeared to him; and at His feet a bubbling fountain of fresh water was flowing." Seeing the miracle, "All the pagans of the neighborhood began to believe."
When Trajan heard of these marvels, he ordered Clement to be drowned with an iron anchor about his neck. "While he was making his way to the sea, the people cried with a loud voice: Lord Jesus Christ, save him! But Clement prayed in tears: Father, receive my spirit." At the shore the Christians asked God to give them the body. The sea receded for three miles and there they found the body of the saint in a stone coffin within a small marble chapel; alongside lay the anchor. "You have given a dwelling to Your martyr Clement in the sea, O Lord, a temple of marble built by the hands of angels." The body was taken to Rome under Nicholas 1 (858-867) by Sts. Cyril and Methodius and placed in a church dedicated to his honor (S. Clemente). This is one of the most venerable of the churches in Rome because it retains all the liturgical arrangements of ancient times.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.
Patron: Boatmen; marble workers; mariners; sailors; sick children; stonecutters; watermen.
Symbols: Double or triple cross; tiara; fountain; anchor; maniple; marble temple in the sea; cross and anchor; nimbed lamb.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr

According to tradition, Cecilia was a young Roman woman who took a vow of virginity and was beheaded when she refused to renounce her vow and her faith. She is the patron saint of musicians. How did she come by this designation? Apparently her executioner botched his work as he tried to behead her and finally fled in fear when in his third attempt he failed. Cecilia lingered and as she lay dying for three days she sang God’s praises. Imagine: in pain and dying and praising God! Whether in good times or in bad we too are called to praise God always. That’s what St. Paul told the Ephesians would help them live a good life. He wrote: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father” (Ephesians 5: 4). One of the great traditions of the Eastern Catholic Churches is music. Let us pray that we may esteem the liturgy and music of the East so that our own celebration may become more beautiful. Our reflection is from Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter “The Light of the East.”

[I]n comparison to any other culture, the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born. The Christian tradition of the East implies a way of accepting, understanding and living faith in the Lord Jesus. … From the beginning, the Christian East has proved to contain a wealth of forms capable of assuming the characteristic features of each individual culture, with supreme respect for each particular community. …

[C]onversion is required of the Latin Church, that she may respect and fully appreciate the dignity of Eastern Christians, and accept gratefully the spiritual treasures of which the Eastern Catholic Churches are the bearers, to the benefit of the entire catholic communion; that she may show concretely far more than in the past, how she esteems and admires the Christian East and how essential she considers its contributions to the full realization of the Church’s universality.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prayer to Christ the King

O CHRIST, JESUS, I acknowledge Thee as Universal King.
For Thee all creatures have been made. Do Thou exercise
over me all the rights that Thou hast.

Renew my Baptismal Vows, I renounce Satan,
with all his works and pomps, and I promise to live as a
good Catholic: Especially, do I pledge myself, by all
the means in my power, to bring about the triumph of the
rights of God and of Thy Church.

Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer Thee all my poor actions to obtain
that all hearts may recognize Thy Sacred Royalty, and that thus the
reign of Thy Peace may be established throughout the entire world.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

When she was a child, Mary’s parents consecrated her to God in the temple, an event that we commemorate today. In 1997 Blessed John Paul II asked that this day be set aside to thank God for the gift of cloistered and monastic life in the Church. Let us pray for all those called to the contemplative life. With them, we Apostles of Prayer, join in offering our day to God for the needs of the Church and the world. Our reflection is from a homily Pope Benedict gave when he visited cloistered Dominican Sisters in Rome.

Your consecration to the Lord in silence and in hiddenness is rendered fertile and fruitful through this choral prayer which culminates in daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. This is not only with regard to the journey of personal sanctification and purification but to that apostolate of intercession which you carry out for the entire Church, so that she may appear pure and holy before the Lord. You who are well acquainted with the efficacy of prayer, experience every day all the graces of sanctification it can obtain for the Church.

Dear Sisters, the community you form is a place in which it is possible to dwell in the Lord; for you it is the new Jerusalem to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord. Be grateful to divine Providence for the sublime and free gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you through no merit of your own. With Isaiah you can say: "The Lord formed me from the womb to be his servant" (Is 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had reserved your heart for himself, to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of Baptism you received divine Grace within you and, immersed in his death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, in order to belong exclusively to him. The form of contemplative life, which you received from the hands of St Dominic in the manner of the cloister, place you as living, vital members in the heart of the Mystical Body of the Lord, which is the Church; and just as the heart makes the blood circulate and keeps the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, where work and prayer alternate, helps to sustain the Church, the instrument of salvation for every person whom the Lord has redeemed with his Blood. …

May you say every day your "yes" to God's plans with the same humility with which the Blessed Virgin said her "yes". May she, who received the Word of God in silence, guide you in your daily virginal consecration so that you may experience hiddenness, the profound intimacy that she herself lived with Jesus.

Dear Sisters, the community you form is a place in which it is possible to dwell in the Lord; for you it is the new Jerusalem to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord. Be grateful to divine Providence for the sublime and free gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you through no merit of your own. With Isaiah you can say: "The Lord formed me from the womb to be his servant" (Is 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had reserved your heart for himself, to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of Baptism you received divine Grace within you and, immersed in his death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, in order to belong exclusively to him. The form of contemplative life, which you received from the hands of St Dominic in the manner of the cloister, place you as living, vital members in the heart of the Mystical Body of the Lord, which is the Church; and just as the heart makes the blood circulate and keeps the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, where work and prayer alternate, helps to sustain the Church, the instrument of salvation for every person whom the Lord has redeemed with his Blood. …

May you say every day your "yes" to God's plans with the same humility with which the Blessed Virgin said her "yes". May she, who received the Word of God in silence, guide you in your daily virginal consecration so that you may experience hiddenness, the profound intimacy that she herself lived with Jesus.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Benedict in Benin: Day 3

There are no words to describe how incredibly uplifting these past few days have been. Not only has it been uplifting for the people of Benin but for Africa and the universal Church, as a whole.

Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, Pope Benedict set out on a mission. It was quite evident these past three days that he wanted the people of Benin and Africa, as a continent, to know that they are an integral part of the Church. He inspired those he saw to become “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”, as called for by the theme of this papal visit.
He so intimately touched the hearts of all those who gathered and enkindled in them the fire of the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt, many people from Benin and Africa will be reflecting upon this visit for many years to come.
Looking back on today’s events, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass with a multitude of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons and faithful at Friendship Stadium in Cotonou. In his homily, he asked the people of Benin to be concerned for evangelization in their country, and among the peoples of Africa and the whole world.
Following Mass, he recited the Angelus Domini and presented the long-awaited Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa, which had been released on Saturday.

In Pictures - Pope Benedict XVI Mass at the l'Amitié stadium in Cotonou.

Priests queue to be blessed by Pope Benedict XVI during a mass at the Friendship Stadium in Cotonou on November 20, 2011.
Catholic faithfuls sporting a photo of Pope Benedict XVI stand during a mass at the 'Friendship Stadium' in Cotonou on November 20, 2011.

Catholics react to the sun coming out from behind the clouds, as they wait for the start of a Sunday Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, at the national stadium in Cotonou, Benin Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011.
Priests carry tubers of yam to the alter for blessing during the mass conducted by Pope Benedict XVI at the 'Friendship Stadium' in Cotonou on November 20, 2011.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithfuls from his popemobile after celebrating a mass at the 'Friendship Stadium' in Cotonou on November 20, 2011.

A woman holds a picture of the the Pope as she attends a public mass by Pope Benedict XVI at the 'Friendship Stadium' in Cotonou on November 20, 2011.
Pope Benedict XVI, second right, is accompanied by members of the clergy as he leaves following Sunday Mass, at the national stadium in Cotonou, Benin Sunday,
African members of the clergy file out in procession at the end of Sunday Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at the national stadium in Cotonou, Benin Sunday.

Benedict in Benin: Day 2

Smiles, cheers, waves and speeches! That’s the kind of day it’s been for Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican officials as day 2 of his apostolic voyage to Benin comes to a close.
The Holy Father made his first address of the day to members of the Benin government, diplomatics corps and representatives of Benin’s major religions in a meeting at Cotonou’s Presidential Palace.
As the day went on, Pope Benedict visited the tomb of his close friend and renowned Beninese citizen Cardinal Bernardin Gantin in the courtyard of St. Gall Seminary in Ouidah. Following that, he spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of seminarians, men and women religious and lay faithful.
Moving forward, the Holy Father visited the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where he formally signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa.
In one of his most touching events yet, Pope Benedict returned to the city of Cotonou where he met with children from St. Rita’s Parish at the “Peace and Joy Centre”, a beautiful community run by the Missionaries of Charity. Here is his address.
Last but not least, the Holy Father finished his day by speaking to the Bishops of Benin at the Apostolic Nunciature in Cotonou.


We pray for Pope Benedict, for his safe return today from Africa, and for all his intentions as we reflect on his Angelus Address on this feast in 2008.

Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. … Christ's kingship is in fact a revelation and actuation of that of God the Father, who governs all things with love and justice. The Father entrusted to the Son the mission of giving mankind eternal life by loving it to the point of supreme sacrifice and, at the same time, conferred upon him the power of judging humanity, since he made himself Son of man, like us in all things (Jn 5: 21-22, 26-27).

Today's Gospel insists precisely on the universal kingship of Christ the Judge, with the stupendous parable of the Last Judgment, which St Matthew placed immediately before the Passion narrative (25: 31-46). The images are simple, the language is popular, but the message is extremely important: it is the truth about our ultimate destiny and about the criterion by which we will be evaluated. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25: 35) and so forth. Who does not know this passage? It is part of our civilization. It has marked the history of the peoples of Christian culture: the hierarchy of values, the institutions, the multiple charitable and social organizations. In fact, the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but it brings to fulfillment all the good that, thank God, exists in man and in history. If we put love for our neighbor into practice in accordance with the Gospel message, we make room for God's dominion and his Kingdom is actualized among us. If, instead, each one thinks only of his or her own interests, the world can only go to ruin.

Dear friends, the Kingdom of God is not a matter of honors and appearances but, as St Paul writes, it is "righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rm 14: 17). The Lord has our good at heart, that is, that every person should have life, and that especially the "least" of his children may have access to the banquet he has prepared for all. Thus he has no use for the forms of hypocrisy of those who say: "Lord, Lord" and then neglect his commandments (Mt 7: 21). In his eternal Kingdom, God welcomes those who strive day after day to put his Word into practice. For this reason the Virgin Mary, the humblest of all creatures, is the greatest in his eyes and sits as Queen at the right of Christ the King. Let us once again entrust ourselves to her heavenly intercession with filial trust, to be able to carry out our Christian mission in the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pope explains to children in Benin, how he prays

The pope visited a shelter that welcomes dozens of abandoned children, some of whom are sick or malnourished. It's called “Peace and Joy,” and it's run by the Missionaries of Charity in Benin.

Cotonou's Archbishop and the Mother Superior welcomed the pope, while children sang and danced for Benedict XVI.

Another 800 people, many of them children, waited for the pope in the nearby church of St. Rita. There, the pope talked about the day of his First Communion.

Benedict XVI
“The day of my First Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life.”

He also said that during Communion, one should be ready to “receive Jesus with love and attention.”

Talking to others about God is also key, said the pope. He described it as a treasure that should be used generously. The pope then explained to children how he prays.

Benedict XVI

“I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day.”

When it comes to praying, the pope asked them to pray as a family. He also called on children to encourage their parents to pray together as a unit.

Benedict XVI

“Ask your parents to pray with you! Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important.!”  

The pope also explained what a rosary is and how to pray it.

At the end of the gathering, the pope gave a rosary to each one of the children.

During the pope's international trips he usually sets time aside to meet with underprivileged children.

The exhortation has been signed

In another key event today in Benin, Pope Benedict formally signed the Apostolic Exhortation for Africa. The exhortation is titled “Africae Munus”, which means “The Commitment of Africa”. This text is the result of the 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa.
The document touches upon issues such as sacraments, dialogue between various religions and social justice.
The signing occurred during the visit to the the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Ouidah. Prior to this, the Holy Father met with priests, seminarians, and religious in the courtyard of St. Gall Seminary.
He moved on to meet the many children of St. Rita’s Parish in Cotonou at the Peace and Joy Centre, which is run by the Missionaries of Charity.

Pope to government and religious leaders in Benin

Pope Benedict met on Saturday morning with Benin's president, members of the government, representatives of the diplomatic corps and of the principle religions of the country, gathered at the Presidential Palace in Cotonou. In his address to the gathering, the Pope urged Africa's leaders not to deprive their people of hope. READ FULL ADDRESS

Benedict in Benin: Day 1

The Pope left Rome’s Fiumicino Airport around 9:00am (Rome time). During the six-hour flight, he took the opportunity to answer several questions from reporters who were part of the press corps traveling with him.
He landed at Cotonou’s Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport at around 3:00pm, where he was greeted by the President of Benin, Yayi Boni. In a welcoming address to the nation, Pope Benedict touched upon the issue of modernity, as the country continues its transition from its traditional past.
Immediately following the welcoming ceremony, the Pope made his way to Cotonou’s Notre Dame des Apôtres Cathedral where he led a prayer service

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pope Benedict's prayer to Our Lady of Africa

The following prayer was recited by Pope Benedict at his visit to the Cathedral of Cotonou (November 18, 2011):

O Mother of Mercy,
We salute you, Mother of the Redeemer;
We salute you, Glorious Virgin;
We salute you, our Queen!

O Queen of Hope,
Show us the face of your divine Son;
Guide us along the way of holiness;
Give us the joy of those who say Yes to God!

O Queen of Peace,
Fulfil the most noble aspirations of the young people of Africa;
Fill the hearts of those who thirst for justice, for peace and for reconciliation;
Fulfil the hopes of children, victims of hunger and of war!

O Queen of Peace,
Obtain for us a filial and fraternal love;
Grant that we may be friends of the poor and the little ones;
Obtain for the peoples of the earth a spirit of brotherhood!

Our Lady of Africa,
Obtain from your divine Son healing for the sick, consolation for the afflicted, pardon for sinners;
Intercede for Africa before your divine Son,
And obtain for all of humanity salvation and peace!

God Bless Benin says Pope Benedict arriving on African soil

Pope Benedict has arrived in Benin at the start of his 48-hour apostolic visit to the West African nation. Here is the full transcript of his arrival address, translated in English, delivered at the international airport of the capital, Cotonou:

"Mr President,
Your Eminence,
Dear President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin,
Civil, Ecclesiastical and Religious Authorities,
Dear Friends,

I thank you, Mr President, for the warm words of welcome. You know well the affection which I have for your continent and for your country. I was eager to return to Africa, and a threefold motivation has provided the occasion for this Apostolic Journey.

First and foremost, Mr President is your kind invitation to visit your country. Your initiative was received along with that of the Episcopal Conference of Benin. These are auspicious, since they come during the year in which Benin celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, as well the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of her evangelization. While among you, I will have the occasion to meet many people, and I look forward to it. Each of these experiences will be different, and will culminate in the Eucharist which I will celebrate before I leave.

This Apostolic Journey also fulfils my desire to bring back to African soil the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. Its reflections will guide the pastoral activities of numerous Christian communities in the coming years. May this document fall into the ground and take root, grow and bear much fruit “in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty”, as Christ himself said (Mt 13:23).

which is more personal and more emotive. I have long held in high esteem a son of this country, His Eminence Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. For many years, we both worked, each according to his proper competence, labouring in the same vineyard. We both happily assisted my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. We had many occasions to meet, to engage in profound discussions and to pray together. Cardinal Gantin won the respect and the affection of many. So it seemed right that I should come to his country of origin, to pray before his tomb, and to thank Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son.
Additionally, there exists a third reason. Benin is a country of ancient and noble traditions. Her history is significant. I am pleased to take this opportunity to greet the traditional Chiefs. Their contribution is important in the construction of the country’s future. I would like to encourage them to contribute, with their wisdom and understanding of local customs, in the delicate transition currently under way from tradition to modernity.

Modernity need not provoke fear, but neither can it be constructed by neglecting the past. It needs to be accompanied by prudence for the good of all in order to avoid the pitfalls which exist on the African continent and elsewhere, such as unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance, nationalism or exaggerated and sterile tribalism which can become destructive, a politicization of interreligious tensions to the detriment of the common good, or finally the erosion of human, cultural, ethical and religious values. The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues, which are listed in your national motto, but equally which are firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life. All of these values exist in view of the common good which must take first place, and which must constitute the primary concern of all in positions of responsibility. God trusts in man and desires his good. It is our task to respond, in honesty and justice, to his high expectations.
The Church, for her part, offers her own specific contribution. By her presence, her prayer and her various works of mercy, especially in education and health care, she wishes to give her best to everyone. She wants to be close to those who are in need, near to those who search for God. She wants to make it understood that God is neither absent nor irrelevant as some would have us believe but that he is the friend of man. It is in this spirit of friendship and of fraternity that I come to your country, Mr. President."


Dedication of the Churches of Peter and Paul

When the Roman emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the early 4th Century, he built basilicas over the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. The church over St. Paul’s tomb proved too small and was rebuilt and dedicated about sixty years later. Today’s feast celebrates the dedication of these two important churches and also honors the memory of these two great apostles. Let us pray today for the successor to St. Peter, Pope Benedict, who travels to Benin, Africa today to sign and publish the Apostolic Exhortation he wrote after the 2009 Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. May his visit bring hope to that continent for which we are praying in our Mission Intention this month. Our reflection is from another pope, St. Leo the Great, who said the following in a sermon on today’s saints.

The Church is not diminished by persecutions, but rather increased. The field of the Lord is always being enriched with a more abundant harvest, while the seeds which are sown one by one yield a manifold return. From this field those two famous shoots of the divine seed burst forth into a great progeny, witnessed by thousands of blessed martyrs. … On the commemoration of all the saints it is right for us to rejoice in this heavenly band, fashioned by God as models of patience and a support for our faith; but we must glory and exult even more in the eminence of these two forbears, whom the grace of God raised to so high a summit among all the members of the Church, and established like two eyes that bring light to the body whose head is Christ.

As to their merits and virtues, which no words can describe, we should not think of any difference or distinction between them; their calling was the same, their labors were similar, theirs was a common death. Our experience has shown, as our predecessors have proved, that we may believe and hope that in all the labors of the present life, by the mercy of God, we shall always be helped by the prayers of our special patrons. Just as we are humbled by our own sins, so we shall be raised up by the merits of these apostles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pope's schedule during coming trip to Benin

The pope will be welcomed by Benin's president at the international airport named “Cardinal Bernard Gantin.” Later on in the afternoon, the pope plans to visit the Cathedral of Cotonou, before taking a break at the Holy See's local embassy.

On Saturday 19th, the pope will meet with government officials, diplomats and representatives of major religions in Benin.

The pope will then visit the “San Gallo” seminary in Ouidah, to pray before the tomb of  Cardinal Bernard Gantin. Once there the pope will meet with local priests, religious and laypeople.

The pope will then sign the Apostolic Exhortation on Africa at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Ouidah. The document will be based on the conclusions of the 2009 Synod that took place at the Vatican. The pope will sign a copy in English, French, Portuguese and Italian.

That same day, he will return to Cotonou to visit roughly 200 children who live in center run by the Missionaries of Charity. He will then go back to the nunciature to meet with local bishops.

Sunday the 20th, will be the last day of his trip. The pope will celebrate a Mass at the “Stade de l'amitie' where bishops will receive the apostolic exhortation. Then the pope will have lunch with 15 members of the Special Council for Africa.

During the visit, the pope will celebrate the150th anniversary of the evangelization of Benin. The visit will also mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Benin and the Holy See. Finally, throughout those three days, the pope will honor late Cardinal Gantin, who served as the dean of College of Cardinals during much of John Paul II's pontificate. To this day, the late Cardinal is recognized as a key figure in his native country of Benin. 

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Elizabeth was the daughter of the Hungarian King Andrew II. At the age of four (b. 1207), she was brought to the court of her future husband, Ludwig, landgrave of Thuringia. After her marriage in 1221, she very conscientiously fulfilled her duties both toward her husband and as a servant of God. During the night she would rise from bed and spend long periods in prayer. Zealously she performed all types of charitable acts; she put herself at the service of widows, orphans, the sick, the needy. During a famine she generously distributed all the grain from her stocks, cared for lepers in one of the hospitals she established, kissed their hands and feet. For the benefit of the indigent she provided suitable lodging.
After the early death of her husband (in 1227 while on a crusade led by Emperor Frederick II), Elizabeth laid aside all royal dignities in order to serve God more freely. She put on simple clothing, became a tertiary of St. Francis, and showed great patience and humility. Nor was she spared intense suffering -- the goods belonging to her as a widow were withheld, she was forced to leave Wartburg. In Eisenach no one dared receive her out of fear of her enemies. Upon much pleading a shepherd of the landgrave permitted her to use an abandoned pig sty. No one was allowed to visit or aid her; with her three children, of whom the youngest was not more than a few months old, she was forced to wander about in the winter's cold.
In 1228 she took the veil of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis at Marburg and there built a hospital with some property still belonging to her. She retained for herself only a small mud house. All her strength and care were now devoted to the poor and the sick, while she obtained the few things she needed by spinning. Young in years but rich in good works, she slept in the Lord in 1231, only twenty-four years old.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Bakers; beggars; brides; Catholic charities; charitable societies; charitable workers; charities; countesses; death of children; exiles; falsely accused people; Franciscan Third Order; hoboes; homeless people; hospitals; in-law problems; lacemakers; lace workers; nursing homes; nursing services; people in exile; people ridiculed for their piety; Sisters of Mercy; tertiaries; Teutonic Knights; toothache; tramps; widows.
Symbols: Three crowns (virgin, wife, widow); triple crown; roses; basket of bread and flask of wine; roses in a robe; infant in a cradle; model of a hospital or of Warburg castle; distaff.

Often Portrayed As: Queen distributing alms; Woman wearing a crown and tending to beggars; Woman wearing a crown, carrying a load of roses in her apron or mantle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What does the Catholic Church do for Africa?

The pope has described Africa as a type of “spiritual lung.” It's no surprise then, that he's getting ready to visit the continent once again. After Asia, Africa is the most populated continent with just over one billion people. In fact, about 2,000 languages and dialects are spoken in Africa's 56 countries.

The majority practice traditional African religions like animism. In North Africa, Islam is the main religion. Catholics make up roughly 17.5 percent, which adds up to about 165 million people.

Africa is full of contrasts though. Despite it's cultural riches, every year, close to a million people die of malaria. Among them, 85 percent are children younger than five.

Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou - Secretary, Pontifical Council for Culture
“In social terms, the Church is present in a very efficient way. Hospitals run by the Church are always full, and it's not just because of the medical service, but also because of the heartfelt care and concern.  There are several hospitals and clinics that do a lot with few resources.”

The numbers speak for themselves. The Church in Africa manages roughly 16,200 medical centers. They include 1,074 hospitals as well as 5,373 primary care centers and 186 facilities that care for people with leprosy. It also has a total of 1,279 clinics. They include 753 homes for the elderly and disabled, 979 orphanages and 1,997 nurseries.  Marriage counseling centers add up to 1,590. There are also 2,947 social education centers.

The Catholic Church has about 12,496 elementary schools. Roughly 33,000 secondary schools and close to 9, 900 higher education centers. But, Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou says the main challenge is higher education.  

Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou -Secretary, Pontifical Council for Culture
“When it comes to education, the Church has a clear success in  building elementary and secondary schools. But there is a lack of universities, so those who want to study go elsewhere.” Despite its challenges, African leaders say they are optimistic about the future.

Pope Benedict XVI seeks prayers ahead of Benin visit

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the West African country of Benin from Nov. 18 to 20 this week. He has asked for prayers for his upcoming trip and for “the people of the beloved African continent,” especially those who suffer insecurity and violence.

“May Our Lady of Africa accompany and support the efforts of all the people who work for reconciliation, justice and peace,” he told French-speaking pilgrims after the Angelus on Nov. 13.

Pope Benedict will visit for the release of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod took place in Rome on Oct. 2009.

In his Sunday remarks, the Pope cited the parable of the talents. He said that God has given each person gifts, entrusting them with the responsibility to make their gifts “fruitful.” Christ’s words guided the works of the special assembly, the Pope said.

“I hope to repeat them all as I prepare to go to Benin to reconfirm faith and hope of the Christians in Africa and adjacent islands.”

The Pope is scheduled to arrive at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin airport in Benin’s largest city, Cotonou, at 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 18. He will visit the city’s cathedral later that day.

On Nov. 19 he will meet with government officials, civil society representatives, diplomats and religious leaders at the Presidential Palace of Cotonou before making a courtesy visit with the country’s president.

He will visit the tomb of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin and meet with priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful at St. Gall Seminary in Ouidah. He will then visit Ouidah’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, where he will sign the apostolic exhortation.

Later that day he will meet with children and with the bishops of Benin.

On Sunday, Nov. 20 he will celebrate a 9 a.m. Mass at a Contonou stadium and recite the Angelus. After lunching with synod leaders, he will deliver a farewell address at the Cotonou airport and depart at 4:30 p.m. local time.

There are almost three million Catholics in Benin, out of a population of about 8.8 million. The country has 11 bishops, 684 diocesan priests and 127 religious priests, over 1,200 professed religious and over 11,000 catechists.

St. Margaret of Scotland

She was born in Hungary (1046), where her father was living in exile, and likewise spent her childhood there as an unusually devout and pious girl. In the course of time she went to England, when her father was called to high office in his fatherland by his uncle, King St. Edward III. Fortune, however, soon reversed itself again (Margaret's father died suddenly in 1057), and upon leaving England a mighty storm — or better, divine Providence — brought her to the shores of Scotland. Upon instructions from her mother, Margaret married Malcolm III, king of Scotland, in 1069. The country was blessed by her holy life and by her deeds of charity for the next thirty years. Her eight children she zealously trained in the practice of Christian virtues.
In the midst of royal splendor Margaret chastised her flesh by mortification and vigils and passed the greater part of the night in devout prayer. Her most remarkable virtue was love of neighbor, particularly love toward the poor. Her alms supported countless unfortunates; daily she provided food for three hundred and shared in the work of serving them personally, washing their feet and kissing their wounds
Excerpted from the Roman Breviary
Queen Margaret of Scotland is the secondary patroness of Scotland. Margaret's copy of the Gospels is preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.
Patron: Death of children; large families; learning; queens; Scotland; widows.
Symbols: Black cross; sceptre and book; hospital.

Often portrayed as: queen, often carrying a black cross, dispensing gifts to the poor.