Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Benedict XVI becomes the sixth oldest pope in history

Today, Wednesday, February 29th, Benedict XVI passed John Paul II in becoming the sixth oldest pope in the history of the Church, completing 84 years, 10 months, 2 weeks and 1 day.

The ranking only looks at the popes elected since the year 1400, because there are no precise records that existed beforehand. This is according to Anura Guruge, he gathers papal statistics and is the creator of the web page “Popes and Papacy,” on the history of the popes.

Those pope that were older than Benedict XVI include Innocent XII and Pius XI, who both died at85 years old, Clement X was 86, Clement XII lived to 87, and topping the list is Leo XIII, who served as pope until he was 93.

The day may have had an historical significance for the Church, but Benedict XVI passed it quietly making his spiritual retreat in the Vatican.

Despite being nearly 85 years old, the pope has maintained a busy schedule ever since his election in 2005.

Although he has recently made some changes to save energy, such as now receiving bishops in a group, and he now crosses St. Peter's Basilica using a mobile platform to help him support his heavy robes.

Despite holding the sixth place in the list of papal longevity, the pope continues traveling and making plans for the future.

In March he will visit Mexico and Cuba. He's also preparing a trip to Lebanon in September, and in 2013 he will attend World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Also, in October, he will open the Year of the Faith, to remember the Second Vatican Council. It's a year of many ambitious events and ceremonies, the pope is also preparing a document to help explain its importance.

And as the pope spends this anniversary in his spiritual retreat, it shows how nothing passes the time like keeping busy.

His Most Sacred Heart

We pray one last time for the Holy Father’s intentions: that all peoples may have access to water and other resources needed for daily life and that the Lord may sustain the efforts of health workers assisting the sick and elderly in the world’s poorest regions. May our hearts open to the needs of these people just as the Sacred Heart of Jesus is open to them. This reflection is from Pope Benedict’s 2011 Message for the World Day of the Sick.

When contemplating the wounds of Jesus our gaze turns to his most sacred Heart, in which God’s love manifests itself in a supreme way. The Sacred Heart is Christ crucified, with the side opened by the lance from which flowed blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), ‘symbol of the sacraments of the Church, so that all men, drawn to the Heart of the Savior, might drink with joy from the perennial fountain of salvation’ (Roman Missal, Preface for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). Especially you, dear sick people, feel the nearness of this Heart full of love and draw with faith and joy from this source, praying: ‘Water of the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O good Jesus, hear my prayers. In your wounds, hide me’ (Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola).

…I would like to express my affection to each and everyone, feeling myself a participant in the sufferings and hopes that you live every day in union with the crucified and risen Christ, so that he gives you peace and healing of heart. Together with him may the Virgin Mary, whom we invoke with trust as Health of the Sick and Consoler of the Suffering, keep watch at your side! At the foot of the Cross the prophecy of Simon was fulfilled for her: her heart as a Mother was pierced (cf. Lk 2:35). From the depths of her pain, a participation in that of her Son, Mary is made capable of accepting the new mission: to become the Mother of Christ in his members. At the hour of the Cross, Jesus presents to her each of his disciples, saying: “Behold your son” (cf. Jn 19:26-27). Her maternal compassion for the Son becomes maternal compassion for each one of us in our daily sufferings.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prayer Before a Crucifix

A candle or vigil light is lit before the crucifix; with the electric lights turned off, the natural light of a candle aids concentration on the action of prayer. If at all possible, the entire family is present and participates. At the beginning or end a hymn could well be included—providing a setting that will be cherished in most family groups.
O good and dearest Jesus, I kneel before your face. With all my heart I ask you to place in my heart more faith, hope and charity. Give me a true sorrow for my sins and a strong will to do better With great sorrow and grief I look upon your five wounds and think about them. Before my eyes are the words that the prophet David said of you, O good Jesus: "They have pierced my hands and feet They have numbered all my bones."
Prayer Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975

St. Hilary

To replace a man like Leo was not easy, but the next pope was a man after Leo's heart, the archdeacon Hilary. Hilary was a Sardinian who had joined the Roman clergy and had been sent by St. Leo as one of the papal legates to the council at Ephesus in 449. This council, intended to settle the Monophysite affair, got out of hand. Packed with Monophysites and presided over by Dioscorus, the patriarch of Alexandria, the assembly refused to listen to the protests of the papal legates. Dioscorus steam-rollered through the council a condemnation of the orthodox and saintly Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople, and an approval of the Monophysite leader Eutyches. In vain Hilary protested. He had to fly in fear for his life and hide in a chapel of St. John the Evangelist. It was only with difficulty that he got back to Rome. No wonder St. Leo called this Ephesus council a gathering of robbers!
As pope, Hilary worked hard to foster order in the Gallic hierarchy. When a certain Hermes illegally made himself archbishop of Narbonne, two Gallic delegates came to Rome to appeal to Pope Hilary. He held a council at Rome in 462 to settle the matter. He also upheld the rights of the see of Arles to be the primatial see of Gaul. From Spain also came appeals of a similar nature. To settle these Hilary held a council at Rome in 465. This is the first Council at Rome whose acts have come down to us. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" he sent a letter to the East confirming the ecumenical councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, and the famous dogmatic letter of his predecessor St. Leo to Flavian. He also publicly in St. Peter's rebuked the shadow-emperor Anthemius for allowing a favorite of his to foster heresy in Rome.
St. Hilary deserves great credit for his work in building and decorating churches in Rome. Of especial interest is the oratory he built near the Lateran, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. The Pope attributed his escape from the wild Monophysites at Ephesus to the intercession of the Beloved Disciple, and to show his gratitude he built this beautiful oratory. Over its doors may still be seen the inscription, "To his deliverer, Blessed John the Evangelist, Bishop Hilary, the Servant of Christ." Hilary built two more churches and spent freely in decorating still others. The gold and silver and marble used so lavishly by this Pope in adorning the Roman churches indicate that the wealthy families of Rome must have saved something from the grasping hands of Goths and Vandals.
St. Hilary died on February 29. His feast is kept on February 28.
Excerpted from Defending the Faith

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daily Strength - Humility

Humility is the basis and guardian of all virtue. The Lord has promised to hear the prayers of all. The proud he hears with a deaf ear and he resists their petitions, but to the humble, he is liberal beyond measure. To them He opens His hands and grants whatsoever they ask or desire. Through our prayer we gain this grace, for it is only in humility that we are able to bring fruit to our lives. 

 Humble your soul before the Lord and expect from His hands whatever you seek.

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

On Ascension Day, 1920, Pope Benedict XV bestowed the honors of sainthood on a youth who is rightly called the Aloysius of the 19th century. He was Francis Possenti, known in religion as Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother.

Born in Assisi, January 3, 1838, he was given the name of the city's illustrious patron, St. Francis, at baptism. As a student in neighboring Spoleto, he led a good though rather worldly kind of life until God drew him closer to Himself through an illness. The decisive step was taken while seeing the highly honored miraculous picture of our Lady in Spoleto borne about in solemn procession. As his eyes followed our Blessed Mother, Francis felt the fire of divine love rising in his heart and almost at once made the resolve to join the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ (1856).
After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.
Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life - only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.
Saint Gabriel Possenti wrote: "Love Mary!... She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity."
Patron: Abruzzi region of Italy; Catholic Action; clerics; students; young people in general.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Two keepers

I love finding recipes that are so good I want to repeat them over and over again. Here are two great non-meat recipies for the Lenten season Had to share!

Easy Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers with Avocado,

Cold Noodles with Peanut or Sesame Sauce,

Daily Strength - Prayer

Our Lady tells us that we do not recognize the power given to us through prayer. We hold within our own hearts the key to peace in the world. Through prayer, a relationship will be increased; and through this heart to heart time we spend with Him, all our needs can be fulfilled. We should place aside a time for this relationship to grow. It is not possible to have a one-sided relationship. We must allow Jesus the time to reveal to our heart, His design created for us. Through the solitude of prayer, all the mysteries of heaven can be taught to our soul.

A family friendly workplace

I love that Licia Ronzulli has been taking her daughter, Victoria, to sessions of the European Parliament since she was just one month old.

Way to multitask, mama. Now if more employers could just see the benefits of creating a mother/baby/family-friendly work atmosphere. We'd all be better for it.

Benedictine nun set to make splash at this years Oscar ceremony

Among the Holywood stars walking the red carpet at this year's Oscars, will be this 73 year old Benedictine nun. She now goes by the name Mother Dolores and she belongs to the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. But long before she was known as Dolores Hart, a rising young actress. 

She is the subject of a new documentary “God is Bigger than Elvis” that has been nominated for an academy award. It's her life story, from an acting career that placed her in 11 movies alongside Elvis Presley to taking solemn vows to lead the cloistered life of a nun. 

She starred in films as diverse as “Where the Boys Are” alongside George Hamilton, to the 1961 film “Francis of Assisi”. 

This new documentary will focus not only on her Hollywood career and life as a nun, but also the daily activities of her sisters, that work to keep a farm on their monastery. 

The documentary is set to premiere on HBO this April 5th. Those in Hollywood are calling this the 'homecoming' for their lost star Dolores Hart.

Friday after Ash Wednesday

The reflection is once again from Pope Benedict’s Message for Lent 2012.

Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, yet there is a real need to reaffirm that good does exist and will prevail, because God is “generous and acts generously” (Ps 119:68). The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands. Concern for others means being aware of their needs. Sacred Scripture warns us of the danger that our hearts can become hardened by a sort of “spiritual anesthesia” which numbs us to the suffering of others. The Evangelist Luke relates two of Jesus’ parables by way of example. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite “pass by”, indifferent to the presence of the man stripped and beaten by the robbers (cf. Lk 10:30-32). In that of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables show examples of the opposite of “being concerned”, of looking upon others with love and compassion.

What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. “The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it” (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of “those who mourn” (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daily Strength - Prayer

Prayer is what creates our relationship with God. Through this means of communion, God comes into our hearts and us into Him. Through prayer all impurities in us may be realized, given to Him and then transformed by His grace. To have quiet in the soul is to be filled with the presence of God. We must first be united as one with God, then through the unity of ourselves with Him, He will be able to work miracles through us.  

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Today’s saint was a disciple of the Apostle John and the spiritual father of St. Irenaeus, one of the great theologians in the early Church. When Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, St. Ignatius of Antioch passed through his city, a prisoner on his way to martyrdom in Rome. Polycarp went to meet him and kissed his chains. At the age of eighty-six Bishop Polycarp was himself martyred. As he was being led away to be burned at the stake, some of his non-Christian friends begged him to make a sacrificial offering to the idols, save himself from a violent death, and so die some day in peace. His response was: “For eighty-six years I have served Jesus Christ and he has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed King and Savior?” The account of his martyrdom has the following prayer of St. Polycarp, his last words. As we pray with St. Polycarp, let us renew our own daily offering to God.

Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise. I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Lenten Ideas

What are you doing for Lent?” is a common question among Catholics. Tired of reverting back to “I’m going to give up soda for Lent”? Here are some ideas to sacrifice, strengthen your relationship with Christ and foster a better prayer life. If you have more, please share in the comment section.
  1. Take 30 minutes to pray, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance, look over this list, and make a few practical Lenten resolutions. Be careful. If you try to do too much, you may not succeed in anything! If you need to get up early or stay up late to get the 30 minutes of quiet, do it. Turn off your phone and computer. Don’t put it off and don’t allow interruptions. 
  2. Get up earlier than anyone else in your house and spend your first 15 minutes of the day thanking God for the gift of life and offering your day to Him. 
  3. Get to daily Mass. 
  4. If you can’t do daily Mass, go to Mass on Fridays in addition to Sunday and thank Him for laying his life down for you. Maybe you can go another time or two as well. 
  5. Spend at least 30 minutes in Eucharistic adoration at least one time during the week. 
  6. Recover the Catholic tradition of making frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament throughout the week, even if it is only for 5 minutes. 
  7. Get to confession at least once during the Season of Lent after making a good examination of conscience. 
  8. In addition to the penance assigned by the priest, fulfill the conditions necessary for a plenary indulgence. You can learn about plenary indulgences from the official Handbook of Indulgences.
  9. Make a decision to read at least some Scripture every day. Starting with Today's!
  10. Even if you can’t get to daily Mass during the Lenten Season, get a Daily Roman Missal or visit a link to the Daily Mass readings. 
  11. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. You can get it day by day online at
  12. Get to know the Fathers of the Church and read selections from them along with Scripture. Short selections from the Fathers writing on Lenten themes can be downloaded from the Lenten Library at
  13. Make the Stations of the Cross each Friday of the Season of Lent either with a group or by yourself. If you have kids, bring them. 
  14. Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary often during Lent, especially on Friday and Wednesday. The glorious mysteries are especially appropriate on Sundays. Joyful and Luminous mysteries are great on other days. 
  15. If you’ve never done a family rosary, begin doing it. If starting with once a week, try Friday or Sunday. If it’s tough to start with a full five decades, try starting with one. Use the Scriptural Rosary and have a different person read each of the Scriptures between the Hail Marys. This gets everyone more involved. 
  16. Make it a habit to stop at least five times a day, raise your heart and mind to God, and say a short prayer such as “Jesus, I love you,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Lord, I offer it up for you.” 
  17. Incorporate the color purple into your home, office, and church. A simple purple candle or orchid or note card with a verse can remind you of the season and help keep you focused. 
  18. Pray each day for the intentions and health of the Holy Father. 
  19. Find a form of fasting that is appropriate for you, given your age, state of health, and state of life. 
  20. Plan a retreat this Lent. It could be simply a half day, out in nature, or in a Church. Or it could be a full day. Or an overnight. 
  21. Find a written biography of a Saint that particularly appeals to you, and read it during the Season of Lent. 
  22. Instead of secular videos for weekend entertainment, try some videos that will enrich your spiritual life. 
  23. While driving, turn off the secular radio for awhile and use commute time to listen to some teaching on audio-cassette or CD. 
  24. Unplug—TV, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. at least once a week during Lent. This is perhaps the single best way to carve out some extra time in your day for prayer and meditation. 
  25. Find a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, crisis pregnancy center, at a nursing home or in the hospital or sick at home and volunteer some time there throughout Lent. Serve the people there with the understanding that in so doing, you are serving Jesus. Try to see Jesus in each person there. 
  26. Spend some focused time with your spouse, strengthening your marriage. Start praying together, or make praying together a more frequent occurrence. 
  27. Spend some focused time together with each of your children. Listen. Pray. Maybe even have fun. 
  28. Call a relative with who you have been out of contact with. 
  29. Say a special Rosary for the unborn. 
  30. Control the media you watch and listen to. A diet of amoral and immoral programs can and will corrupt your values. 
  31. Invite a non-practicing friend to Mass with you. 
  32. Give a donation to charity. 
  33. Think of a person with whom you have a strained relationship and make some gesture toward improving that relationship. 
  34. Plant a seed or bulb and watch it develop through the spring. Pray for your own spiritual growth. 
  35. Pray a rosary for the conversion of all who are far from the Lord. 
  36. Do a 40-day purge of all your excess stuff and donate the best of it to Goodwill or a local thrift store that benefits your neighbors. 
  37. Write a handwritten note every day to encourage, thank or show someone your love and appreciation. 
  38. Be generous with your compliments during Lent, especially to those who appear to be "down". 
  39. Pray for RCIA Catechumens and Candidates. 
  40. When Easter comes, don’t drop the new practice you’ve begun during the Season Lent! Make a permanent feature of a deeper Christian life!

Finding God in Ash Wednesday

The black ash is wet and cold. A practiced thumb stamps us with two intersecting lines of burnt palms from last year. Those gathered at Mass walk back up the aisle to their places as we await the dismissal. Looking around, I see so many faces: young, old, teens, mothers, fathers, and single people. Some faces I recognize from Sunday Mass; some faces I don’t recognize. We join in singing the recessional hymn as Father progresses slowly toward the doors of the church.

Then we go out into the morning air to start our day, marked with the sign of Christ. School and work will begin now that this liturgy is over, and the black marks on our foreheads will be a cause for discussion, for double takes, and for witness.

So Lent begins.

Every year in the middle of a week we go to Church and have the ashes smudged upon our clean foreheads. Every year the churches are filled to overflowing with the regulars and the not-so-regulars. Why do we still undergo this ritual of ashes that is centuries old, as old as the prophets who pleaded with God’s people to turn back from sin and toward God? We go because we need to go, because at least once a year we need to be reminded that our deepest hunger is the hunger for God.

Lent is a gift that the Church in her wisdom celebrates every year. It is a gift of time, a gift of contemplation, and a gift of quiet so that we may listen to the Word,who whispers to us to come back to the God who created us. It encourages us to turn away from the noise and over-indulged appetites so that we may understand the hunger that can be filled—with the grace of God—only by prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor.

So we go to our parish churches once a year to have crosses signed upon our faces. It is in this same manner that, when the Gospel is proclaimed, we take our right thumbs, trace three crosses, and pray: may the word of God be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.The prayer of the whole Church, the Body of Christ, is that each year the sign of the cross penetrates a little deeper and moves us toward fuller conversion toward the light of Christ.

Ash Wednesday

Pope Benedict’s Lenten Message this year is a reflection on Hebrews 10: 24: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.” As we exercise concern for people without access to clean water and for health workers in poor countries, let us reflect on the Holy Father’s words about “Let us be concerned…”

This first aspect is an invitation to be “concerned”: the Greek verb used here is katanoein, which means to scrutinize, to be attentive, to observe carefully and take stock of something. We come across this word in the Gospel when Jesus invites the disciples to “think of” the ravens that, without striving, are at the centre of the solicitous and caring Divine Providence (cf. Lk 12:24), and to “observe” the plank in our own eye before looking at the splinter in that of our brother (cf. Lk 6:41). In another verse of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find the encouragement to “turn your minds to Jesus” (3:1), the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. So the verb which introduces our exhortation tells us to look at others, first of all at Jesus, to be concerned for one another, and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for “privacy”. Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be “guardians” of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” (On the Progress of Peoples, 66).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carnival and Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for it is from your goodness that we have this day to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.

Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat. Today we feast and celebrate. We thank you especially for one another. As we give you thanks, we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do. As we share these wonderful gifts together, we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those who need our support.

Prepare us for tomorrow. Tasting the fullness of what we have today, let us experience some hunger tomorrow. May our fasting make us more alert and may it heighten our consciousness so that we might be ready to hear your Word and respond to your call.

As our feasting and celebration fill us with gratitude, so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us a place for deeper desires and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor. May our self-denial turn our hearts to you and give us a new freedom for generous service to others.

We ask you these graces with our hearts full of delight and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead. We ask them with confidence in the name of Jesus the Lord.

Secret trips of John Paul II

One of the major revolutions of the pontificate of John Paul II was his openness to the media. His right arm was Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the pope's spokesman for 22 years. "I remember the first impression of Cardinal Wojtyla when he became Pope. That image of a young man, a smiling man who began to attract Public Opinion. That fondness was later confirmed throughout his pontificate," said him.

Navarro-Valls was a correspondent in the eastern Mediterranean for the Spanish newspaper ABC. One day, without warning, he was called by the Vatican. The Pope wanted to have lunch with him. 

Joaquin Navarro-Valls - Former Speaker of the Holy See

"Naturally I told my secretary,'call the Vatican because someone wants to tease me.' “She called and confirmed that it was true. I clearly remember that lunch with the Pope, who raised the issue of whether I had any idea of how to improve communication. He personally, didn't need any advice, but rather he wanted to communicate Christian values to the universe, which is what the Vatican had to do."

And so began a job that wasn't just about communicating information from the Vatican to the world media, but something much more profound and difficult.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls

"It wasn't just about promoting an image, it was about changing a mentality. The Pope was already very open in these matters, but it was a matter of changing the internal mindset of the Vatican Curia."

Perhaps, his fondest memories are his undercover trips. On many occasions, John Paul II left Rome in the strictest secrecy with his closest collaborators to rest in the mountains.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls

"Going out in an anonymous car. Certainly it wasn't a car that was registered to the Vatican. It passed through Rome, in the afternoon, with its horrible traffic. No one ever thought the Pope was inside that car. He would pass by one of the highways that are out of Rome that leads to a place, a small house that was near the mountains. He would sleep there and the next morning he would go skiing. For a few hours, it was a delight, and it was necessary."

Twenty two years of hard work, arm and arm, with John Paul II to open the Vatican to the media and the world.

St. Peter Damian

Today’s saint was born in Ravenna, Italy and was orphaned at an early age and raised by an older brother. He helped support his family by tending swine but another brother saw his intellectual potential and arranged for him to receive an education. He excelled in his studies, became a professor, and eventually joined the Camaldolese Benedictine Order. After serving his community as abbot, he was called upon to help reform the Church as a bishop and cardinal. Let us ask St. Peter Damian to join us today as we lift up the Holy Father and his monthly intentions. The following is from a letter that St. Peter wrote to one of his brothers and that appears in the Breviary today.

You asked me to write you some words of consolation, my brother. Embittered by so many tribulations, you are seeking some comfort for your soul. You asked me to offer you some soothing suggestions. But there is no need for me to write. Consolation is already within you reach, if your good sense has not been dulled. My son, come to the service of God. Stand in justice and fear. Prepare your soul; it is about to be tested. These words from Scripture show that you are a son of God and, as such, should take possession of your inheritance. …[F]or God’s chosen ones there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation. With hope in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again toward the glory of happiness in heaven. Craftsmen exemplify this same practice. By hammering gold, the smith beats out the dross. The potter’s furnace puts vessels to the test. And the fire of suffering tests the mettle of just men. The apostle James echose this thought: Think it a great joy, dear brothers and sisters, when you stumble onto the many kinds of trials and tribulations. …The Scriptures reassure us: let your understanding strengthen your patience. In serenity look forward to the joy that follows sadness. Hope leads you to that joy and love enkindles your zeal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A final fling before Lent

What is carnival?

It is an annual celebration of life found in many countries of the world. And in fact, by learning more about carnival we can learn more about ourselves and a lot about accepting and understanding other cultures.

Where did the word “carnival” come from?

Hundred and hundreds of years ago, the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.” 

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad's carnival is a beautiful example of how carnival can unite the world. For in this small nation, the beliefs and traditions of many cultures have come together; and for a brief five days each year, the whole country forgets their differences to celebrate life!

Like many other nations under colonial rule, the history of Native Americans and African people in Trinidad is a brutal, sad story. Spain and England at different times both claimed Trinidad as their colonies. Under British rule, the French settled in Trinidad, bringing with them their slaves, customs, and culture. By 1797, 14,000 French settlers came to live in Trinidad, consisting of about 2,000 whites and 12,000 slaves. Most of the native peoples (often called the Amerindians) who were the first people to live in Trinidad, died from forced labor and illness.

Carnival was introduced to Trinidad around 1785, as the French settlers began to arrive. The tradition caught on quickly, and fancy balls were held where the wealthy planters put on masks, wigs, and beautiful dresses and danced long into the night. The use of masks had special meaning for the slaves, because for many African peoples, masking is widely used in their rituals for the dead. Obviously banned from the masked balls of the French, the slaves would hold their own little carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating their masters’ behavior at the masked balls.

For African people, carnival became a way to express their power as individuals, as well as their rich cultural traditions. After 1838 (when slavery was abolished), the freed Africans began to host their own carnival celebrations in the streets that grew more and more elaborate, and soon became more popular than the balls.

Today, carnival in Trinidad is like a mirror that reflects the faces the many immigrants who have come to this island nation from Europe, Africa, India, and China. African, Asian, and American Indian influences have been particularly strong.

Carnival is such an important aspect of life in Trinidad that many schools believe that sponsoring a carnival band is a way to teach young people about their roots and culture. In Trinidad’s Kiddies Carnival, hundreds of schools and community organizations participate! In this way, communities work together to develop stronger friendships and greater respect for the many cultures that make up Trinidad.

In carnival today however, there seems to be no shame or embarrassment by those who are improperly dressed or who engage in lewd dancing. We adults must model modesty so that our youths will be inspired to follow our lead.

'As we enter into these two days of Carnival, we recognize the right of children, young people and adults to have a ‘good time’. As adult Catholics we all have a responsibility to ensure by example and correction that a ‘good time’ does not have to diminish our dignity as persons or lead others along paths that are self-destructive. Let us all strive to enjoy ourselves in a manner that is harmonious with our dignity as people of God. '- Archbishop Joseph Harris

Blessed Francisco and Jacinto Marto

Today's saints are Blessed Francisco and Jacinto Marto, the visionaries at Fatima.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, are the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church. The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920.

Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel from Mark 2: 1-12 is a wonderful story about intercession. It concerns a paralyzed man whose four friends take him to see Jesus and be healed. The house in which Jesus is teaching is so packed with people that the four men hoist their friend on his stretcher up to the roof, take off part of the roof, and lower him down right in front of Jesus. The Gospel says that when Jesus “saw their faith” he forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and then healed him. It’s not clear that the paralyzed man had any faith, but his friends who persevered in spite of obstacles definitely did. In fact, according to the Gospel of Luke, it seems the paralyzed man did not have faith; it was the faith of his friends that Jesus saw. Luke’s version of the story (5: 20) goes like this: “When he saw their faith, he said, ‘As for you, your sins are forgiven.’” The implication is that Jesus saw the faith of the four friends and then turned to the paralyzed man, saying “As for you….”

There is a great lesson here for us. As Apostles of Prayer we join the Holy Father in praying together for many desperate people and situations. This month those include people with no access to water or the other necessities of life, and health care workers in the poorest parts of the world. Such global intentions for hopeless people in terrible situations may seem impossible. We, like the four friends of the paralyzed man, are called to persevere. The Lord sees our faith and will act.

Moreover, many people for whom we pray may be paralyzed not only physically but spiritually. They may not know the Lord or may have given up. Just like the paralyzed man in the Gospel, they may have no faith. But the Lord sees our prayers for them. And so we persevere in prayer, knowing that we are not helpless, for we have opened ourselves up to the Lord’s help, and no situation is hopeless, for the Lord, who will not act without human cooperation, is simply waiting for our faith and our prayers.

Pope holds first Sunday Mass with new cardinals

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a morning Mass this Sunday with the college of cardinals. Among them were the 22 newest cardinals who were appointed in yesterday's consistory. The pope concentrated the Mass on the role of the “elders” of the Church to be “zealous pastors, attentive to the flock of Christ”.

Read Full Homily here

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pope calls 22 new cardinals to love and service

The Catholic Church officially has 22 new cardinals (see full list here), including three from the United States and Canada: Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York; Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and former archbishop of Baltimore, Md.; and Thomas C. Collins of Toronto.

Pope Benedict XVI created the new cardinals, who come from 13 countries, during a consistory this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. He placed red hats — a three-cornered biretta — on their heads and placed a cardinal’s ring on their fingers.

The basilica was packed and several thousand people had to watch from large video screens set up in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope told the new cardinals that love and service, not an air of greatness, are to mark their lives as cardinals. (Pope: Allocution to new cardinals)

“Dominion and service, egoism and altruism, possession and gift, self-interest and gratuitousness: these profoundly contrasting approaches confront each other in every age and place,” he said, but the cardinals must model their lives on that of Jesus, loving others to the point of giving up his life for them.

“He is servant inasmuch as he welcomes within himself the fate of the suffering and sin of all humanity. His service is realized in total faithfulness and complete responsibility toward mankind,” the pope said.

In all things, Pope Benedict said, “the new cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary,” a fact underlined by the red color of the biretta — a three-cornered hat — and the red cardinal’s robes.

St. Simeon

A blood relative of Christ, he was martyred in early apostolic times. Succeeding the apostle James, Simeon, the son of Cleophas, was, it may be said, the first bishop of Jerusalem. Under the Emperor Trajan he was arraigned before Atticus, the governor, on charges of being a Christian and a relative of Jesus. For at a certain period, all descendants of David were apprehended. After enduring all types of torture, he was affixed to a cross, even as His Savior. Those present marveled how a man of such advanced age (he was 120 years old) could so steadfastly and joyously bear the excruciating pains of crucifixion. He died on the 18th of February, 106 A.D.
The siege and the destruction of Jerusalem took place during his episcopacy. He accompanied the Christian community to Pella.
— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Friday, February 17, 2012

Optional Memorial of Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

In the thirteenth century, seven prominent businessmen in Florence, Italy became appalled at the excessive materialism and immorality of the city. They decided to take a counter-cultural stand against the excesses of their culture. After receiving a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary who told them to leave the city, they left all behind and dedicated themselves to a life of poverty, prayer, and penance, calling themselves the Servants of Mary. From the beginning these seven and the men and women who followed their lead as the Servite Order, were an example of how God forms communities in order to better witness to charity in a world that often places possessions before people. As our hearts reach out in charity to our brothers and sisters, especially those without access to water and to health workers in poor countries, let us reflect on the Servite Prior General’s letter to his order in 2004, the seventh centenary of their foundation.

Nowadays, we are convinced that the quality of our community life has to be improved. … How sad it is to have to listen to the complaints of communities that are unhappy and full of tittle-tattle, or comfortably resigned and settled in their ways. We could say they have lost their reason to exist, their prophetic life force, their real Marian dimension that is based on a "yes", a fiat that is, above all, openness and docility to the will of God.

There are obstacles in the path of community life, and they have to be fought against. For example, that sort of "gossip" that creates bewilderment and prejudices, that extinguishes trust, that does not "speak well" (bene dicere) about others. Before speaking or criticizing, we must ask ourselves about the basis, the usefulness and worth of our words. All murmuring, all harmful speech must be avoided. We have to insist on what unites us, on the work of our group, on our aims, on mutual trust. …The glory of the Lord is not just the man who is alive, but the community that is alive, the community faithfully loved in times of joy and in times of sorrow. It is in community that we live united, of one heart and mind, in prayer, in listening to the Word of God, in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist and the bread earned by our work.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

St. Juliana

St. Juliana suffered martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution. Both the Latin and Greek Churches mention a holy martyr Juliana in their lists of saints. The oldest historical notice of her is found in the "Martryologium Hieronymianum" for 16 February, the place of birth being given as Cumae in Campania (In Campania Cumbas, natale Julianae). It is true that the notice is contained only in the one chief manuscript of the above-named martyrology (the Codex Epternacensis), but that this notice is certainly authentic is clear from a letter of St. Gregory the Great, which testifies to the special veneration of St. Juliana in the neighbourhood of Naples. A pious matron named Januaria built a church on one of her estates, for the consecration of which she desired relics (sanctuaria, that is to say, objects which had been brought into contact with the graves) of Sts. Severinus and Juliana. Gregory wrote to Fortunatus, Bishop of Naples, telling him to accede to the wishes of Januaria ("Gregorii Magni epist.", lib. IX, ep. xxxv, in Migne P.L., LXXXVII, 1015).
The Acts of St. Juliana used by Bede in his "Martyrologium" are purely legendary. According to the account given in this legend, St. Juliana lived in Nicomedia and was betrothed to the Senator Eleusius. Her father Africanus was a pagan and hostile to the Christians. In the persecution of Maximianus, Juliana was beheaded after suffering frightful torturers. Soon after a noble lady, named Sephonia, came through Nicomedia and took the saint's body with her to Italy, and had it buried in Campania. Evidently it was this alleged translation that caused the martyred Juliana, honoured in Nicomedia, to be identified with St. Juliana of Cumae, although they are quite distinct persons. The veneration of St. Juliana of Cumae became very widespread, especially in the Netherlands. At the beginning of the thirteenth century her remains were transferred to Naples. The description of this translation by a contemporary writer is still extant. The feast of the saint is celebrated in the Latin Church on 16 February, in the Greek on 21 December. Her Acts describe the conflicts which she is said to have with the devil; she is represented in pictures with a winged devil whom she leads by a chain.
— Excerpted from The Catholic Encyclopedia

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Website for Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Mexico

The official website for the upcoming apostolic trip of Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico has been launched. The Holy Father will visit the country from March 23-26, before continuing on to Cuba, where he will stay until March 28. The is presenting the schedule for the Pope’s visit, and will be updated frequently with information for pilgrims. The website will also allow journalists to register for accreditation. It is currenly only available in Spanish.

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference is expecting at least 200 bishops from Mexico and the rest of the Americas to be in Guanajuato, as well as 3000 priests, 1000 Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, 100 000 youth volunteers. Three-hundred thousand (300,000) are expected to attend the Sunday Mass on March 25 at Leon’s Bicentennial Park.


St. Claude was the Jesuit confessor and spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary to whom Jesus appeared and revealed his Sacred Heart. When she struggled with anguishing uncertainty about the authenticity of her experience, Jesus promised to send her, in his words, “my faithful servant and perfect friend.” As such, St. Claude is an example for all Apostles of Prayer who strive to be faithful servants and perfect friends of Jesus. Our mission of prayer and service in union with Jesus’ perfect sacrifice made on Calvary and renewed in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is nourished by the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we renew our daily offering and pray for Pope Benedict’s monthly intentions today, let us make our own the words of St. Claude’s Retreat Notes of 1674.

The love of Our Lord’s Heart was in no way diminished by the treason of Judas, the flight of the apostles, and the persecution of his enemies. Jesus was only grieved at the harm they did themselves; his sufferings helped to assuage his grief because he saw in them a remedy for the sins committed by his enemies. The Sacred Heart was full of most tender love: there was no bitterness in it; no cruelty and injustice that he received moved it to feelings other than those of compassion and affection.

I turned to Mary and asked her to obtain for me the grace to imitate Our Lord’s Heart. I saw how perfectly her heart copied his: she loved those who put her Son to death and offered him to God the Father for them. This enkindled a very great love of virtue in my heart.

O sacred Hearts of Jesus and of Mary, truly worthy of possessing all hearts and of reigning over men and angels, you shall be my models; I will try to copy you. May my heart live always in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and may their hearts live in mine, so that I may never do anything that is not in accordance with them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Daily Strength - Love

" We know that even the smallest force of Love is greater than the greatest destructive force and can transform the world." 

Pope Benedict XVI

Looking for ways to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Few people know that Valentine's Day is actually linked to an Italian saint who was born in Terni, Italy back in the 3rd century. He's known as the protector of love and his story is fascinating.

According to tradition, there was a time when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, so that young men could devote themselves entirely to the army. But a priest named Valentine considered this law unfair, so he decided to marry couples, even though it was illegal.

To honor his legacy, the Church also has a few initiatives to celebrate Valentine's Day. On its website, the Episcopal Conference of Australia published a so called 'Kit for Valentine's Day,' with includes tips on how to respect, love and build a happy marriage.

In the U.S a website called “National Marriage Week,” is also listing tips on ways to improve one's marriage and even instructions on how to write a love letter.

There's also a so called “virtual retirement marriage” site that gives a few tips for each day of the week.

On their Facebook profile, even bishops launched a new catechesis on marriage and building a strong connection between husband and wife.

Meanwhile, a blog named 'Catholic Cuisine' believes that love and food go hand in hand. Its website includes several recipes for unique Valentine Day desserts.

So when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day, these website make it even easier to say 'I love you' every day of the year.

St. Valentine

Legend states that Valentine, along with St. Marius, aided the Christian martyrs during the Claudian persecution. In addition to his other edicts against helping Christians, Claudius had also issued a decree forbidding marriage. In order to increase troops for his army, he forbade young men to marry, believing that single men made better soldiers than married men.
Valentine defied this decree and urged young lovers to come to him in secret so that he could join them in the sacrament of matrimony. Eventually he was discovered by the Emperor, who promptly had Valentine arrested and brought before him. Because he was so impressed with the young priest, Claudius attempted to convert him to Roman paganism rather than execute him. However, Valentine held steadfast and in turn attempted to convert Claudius to Christianity, at which point the Emperor condemned him to death.
While in prison, Valentine was tended by the jailer, Asterius, and his blind daughter. Asterius' daughter was very kind to Valentine and brought him food and messages. They developed a friendship and toward the end of his imprisonment Valentine was able to convert both father and daughter to Christianity. Legend has it that he also miraculously restored the sight of the jailer's daughter.
The night before his execution, the priest wrote a farewell message to the girl and signed it affectionately "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lives on even to today. He was executed on February 14th, 273 AD in Rome. The Martyrology says, "At Rome, on the Flaminian Way, the heavenly birthday of the blessed martyr Valentine, a priest. After performing many miraculous cures and giving much wise counsel he was beaten and beheaded under Claudius Caesar."
The church in which he is buried existed already in the fourth century and was the first sanctuary Roman pilgrims visited upon entering the Eternal City.
The valentine has become the universal symbol of friendship and affection shared each anniversary of the priest's execution -- St. Valentine's Day. Valentine has also become the patron of engaged couples.
Patron: Affianced couples; against fainting; bee keepers; betrothed couples; engaged couples; epilepsy; fainting; greeting card manufacturers; greetings; happy marriages; love; lovers; plague; travellers; young people.
Symbols: Birds; roses; bishop with a crippled or epileptic child at his feet; bishop with a rooster nearby; bishop refusing to adore an idol; bishop being beheaded; priest bearing a sword; priest holding a sun; priest giving sight to a blind girl.

Monday, February 13, 2012

St. Catherine de Ricci

Today we commemorate the great Dominican mystic and stigmatist, St. Catherine de' Ricci (1522-1590), who was a Dominican nun, of the Third Order, enclosed in a convent at that time. 

Alessandrina Lucrezia Romola de' Ricci was born in Florence, Italy on April 23, 1522 to a pious and well-respected family. Her mother died when she was an infant and she was raised by her devoted stepmother, who encouraged her to live a holy life. When she has about 71/2 years old, her father placed her in the Convent of Monticelli, in Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun. Her aunt and the other sisters watched over her and taught her catechism there.

Alessandrina was fourteen years old when she entered the Dominican Community of Prat, taking the religious name Catherine. Initially and for the first four-fve years after her profession, Catherine experienced many trials and humiliations within the order. She received visions and had ecstasies, which caused some concern among her peers, who didn't understand her mystical experiences.

Eight years after joining the order, Catherine had her first spiritual ecstasy of the Passion of Christ. In addition to receiving the stigmata of the wound in the side and of the crown of thorns on the brow, for the next twelve years, she experienced all the stages of Christ's suffering. This happened every Thursday at noon and lasted until 4:00 pm on Friday. She offered up all this suffering for the release of the poor souls in purgatory.

Along with her rich mystical life, Catherine lived out her faith in a practical way, caring for the sick, especially the poor of the countryside. Having become the prioress of her convent at the age of twenty-five, Catherine gave spiritual counsel to three future popes.

As Catherine's reputation for holiness spread, lay people and religious alike came to see her for prayers and spiritual guidance. As a result of her prayers, penance, and counsel, many grew in personal holiness, discovering great hope, comfort, and peace in their faith and in the power of prayer.

Catherine died on February 2, 1590 at the age of 68, was beatified in 1732 by Clement XII, and was canonized by Benedict XIV in 1746.

St. Catherine de'Rici is the patron of sick people.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Cross Society's Children's Carnival 2012 - In Pictures

Vibrant colour and multiple dimensions of local creativity captivated eager spectators at yesterday’s 2012 Red Cross Kiddies Carnival Parade, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain. 

The day was a good one for the toddlers and teens as they ramajayed on the stage to Iwer George’s Jab Molassie and Machel Montano’s Revelling, all decked in fine iridescent three-dimensional figures, mounted feathers and colourful tie-dye, checkered and painted cloth that glistened in the sun.

via REUTERS PICTURES - Masqueraders display their costumes at the annual Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society's children's carnival competition at Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain February 11, 2012.

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to the leper: "Be made clean!". According to the ancient Jewish law (cf. Lv 13-14), leprosy was not only considered a disease but also the most serious form of ritual "impurity".

It was the priests' duty to diagnose it and to declare unclean the sick person who had to be isolated from the community and live outside the populated area until his eventual and well-certified recovery. Thus, leprosy constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing a kind of resurrection. It is possible to see leprosy as a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart that can distance us from God. 

It is not in fact the physical disease of leprosy that separates us from God as the ancient norms supposed but sin, spiritual and moral evil. This is why the Psalmist exclaims: "Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, / whose sin is covered", and then says, addressing God: "I acknowledged my sin to you, / my guilt I covered not. / I said, "I confess my faults to the Lord' / and you took away the guilt of my sin" (32[31]: 1, 5). 

The sins that we commit distance us from God and, if we do not humbly confess them, trusting in divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has a strong symbolic value. Jesus, as Isaiah had prophesied, is the Servant of the Lord who "has borne our griefs / and carried our sorrows" (Is 53: 4). 

In his Passion he will become as a leper, made impure by our sins, separated from God: he will do all this out of love, to obtain for us reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Crucified and Risen Christ purifies us through his ministers with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and makes us a gift of his love, his joy and his peace.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our Lady of Lourdes

From February 11 to July 16 in the year 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette who lived in Lourdes, France. She revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception and showed the young girl a spring of water which has been a source of healing for the sick ever since. As we pray for health workers, that they may be sustained in their efforts to assist the sick and elderly in the world’s poorest regions, let us reflect on part of Pope Benedict’s homily for this feast in 2010.

In their concise descriptions of Jesus' brief but intense public life, the Gospels testify that he proclaimed the word and healed the sick, a sign par excellence of the closeness of the Kingdom of Heaven. For example, Matthew wrote: "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Mt 4: 23; cf. 9: 35). The Church, entrusted with the task of extending Christ's mission in time and space, cannot neglect these two essential tasks: evangelization and the care of the sick in body and in mind. Indeed, God wants to heal the whole of man and in the Gospel the healing of the body is a sign of the deeper recovery that is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mk 2: 1-12). It is therefore not surprising that Mary, Mother and model of the Church, is invoked and venerated as "Salus infirmorum Health of the sick". As the first and perfect disciple of her Son, in guiding the Church on her journey she has always shown special solicitude for the suffering. Witness to this are the thousands of people who go to Marian shrines to invoke the Mother of Christ and find in her strength and relief. The Gospel account of the Visitation (cf. Lk 1: 39-56) shows us how, after the announcement of the Angel, the Virgin did not keep the gift she had received to herself but immediately set out to go and help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John. In the support that Mary offered this relative who was experiencing a delicate condition such as pregnancy at an advanced age, we see prefigured the whole of the Church's action in support of life that is in need of care.