In the latest Apostolic Letter from Pope Francis he turns his attention to the Nativity Scene. Admirabile Signum is on the meaning and importance of the Nativity scene. The Nativity/Creche is a way to draw us into the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, where we are invited to start a spiritual journey as Francis points out “We come to realize that so great is his love for us that he became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with him.” His Holiness encourages us all to put up a Nativity scene in our homes and workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares. This tradition come from our parents and grandparents, and Francis hopes that this tradition never gets lost.
We next go through the History of the Creche, from the Gospel and early Church Fathers we can see that the emphasis on Christ as food was there from the start with Jesus being laid in a manger. The Creche we know comes from Francis of Assisi who in late November of 1288 was in the town of Greccio, near Rieti in Italy coming back from getting his Rule approved by Pope Honorius III, which reminded Francis of the Bethlehem countryside. Francis asked a local man to help Francis see what it might have looked like a manger, an ox and a donkey. On Christmas of that year the friars came to the Caves in Greccio where they experienced, a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene, and they celebrated the Eucharist over the manger echoing the Early Church Fathers. From this event everyone went home filled with joy.
This turns to the different aspects of the Nativity scene where there are some standards but if we add more to it why not as it shows that the whole world has come to embrace Jesus. The Creche is one of the important parts of the season but it also is an example of the passing down of our faith. If you have some time during this Christmas seasons to read this whole letter why not go for it. Just a reminder that the season begin today and we’ve got at least 11 more days of Christmas to go
This week we finish up going through Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The focus this week is the conclusion of the document.
The conclusion starts with Benedict directing us to the Saints. He starts with one of that everyone should know Martin of Tours who illustrates the irreplaceable value of the individual testimony to charity when he offered his cloak to a poor man. Then he moves on to Anthony the Abbot and the whole monastic community and loads of others, like Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis who founded the Camillians or Clerics Regular, Minsters to Sick which was basically the Red Cross before it existed, Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac who were the co-founders of the Daughters of Charity, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo who formed many orders which still work together in activities focused on communicating God’s love for the poorest, John Bosco who founded orders which focused on poor children, Luigi Orione a student of Don Bosco and founder of the Son of Divine Providence who are dedicated in helping the poor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta to name but a few—stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will. All of these people have done wonders and provided care to the less fortunate, we need to follow their example. Benedict picks out the example par excellence Mary, the mother of Jesus and mirror of holiness. Mary is great because she wants to magnify the Lord this can be seen in the Magnificat. As we can pray or sing during Vespers “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Benedict traces this throughout the life of Mary from the Visitation to Pentecost.
His Holiness make note that the lives of the Saints don’t end when they die but continue in heaven with God. One thing is clear that as we draw closer to God we cannot withdraw from society, but become closer to it. At his Passion Jesus turned to his beloved disciple saying “Behold, your mother!” This is Mary and we are all the beloved disciple, Mary is our mother and she shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. This is what love is, let us all have to courage of Mary to say Yes to God’s call in our lives. As well as being open to the world although it seems like a horrible place currently.
In the first part we looked at the first half of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris. In the first part things were defined and questions asked and answered. Here is the rest
As we pick up this Apostolic Letter as we ended the last section with a look at one of the Song of Suffering Servant from Isaiah. It’s the fourth one and it is a Messianic prophecy about Jesus John Paul II notes that it is through the Cross that Redemption is accomplished through suffering more over that human suffering is what has been redeemed For Christ, without any fault of his own took on himself “the total evil of sin”. He then looks into the New Testament and eloquently explains “If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and new meaning.” This continues with his Kingdom where we share in the suffering but it is redemption which can only be accomplished through satisfactory love. Which remains open to all love expressed in human suffering.
The sixth section looks at the Gospel of Suffering. This Gospel has been written by Mary and the Apostles through their experience of the Passion and Resurrection. Jesus was never shy that suffering would have to happen even saying that to follow you’d have to take up your cross and follow. This is the first chapter of the Gospel of Suffering and it is written on Jesus as when he is Resurrected he still bore the marks, which Thomas wanted to see. The Gospel is continually being written by those who suffer with Christ for it is in suffering where we are drawn closer to Christ, just look at anyone of the Saints and they all seem to have some suffering like Francis of Assisi who said “If we endure all things patiently and with gladness, thinking on the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, and bearing all for the love of Him: herein is perfect joy.”, or Ignatius of Loyola who said “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint” and others who point to suffering into making them better people. The suffering become a joy through the salvific mission of Jesus. This is why Paul can write “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake” as it is only through our suffering that we unite ourselves with Christ to complete his suffering.
Pope John Paul II notes that the Parable of the Good Samaritan is surely a part of the Gospel of Suffering. As is show us how to approach things not to pass by but to stop and help out those in need even. Everyone who stops beside a person in need is a Good Samaritan, once again this is as it is uniquely put to unleash love in the human person. With so much hate in the world it would be wonderful if more people took some time to care about the other. Sure we’ve been given so many guidelines that society is crafted around the general idea that we need to do with the works of mercy. As Jesus says “what you did for the least of my brothers and sisters you have done for me.” It’s all about compassion and our redemption is rooted to suffering. The letter is nicely concluded saying “Together with Mary, who stood beneath the Cross,we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man. We invoke all the Saints, who down the centuries in a special way shared in the suffering of Christ. We ask them to support us. And we ask all you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil, revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your suffering in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious!”
Let us take this Lenten season to take to heart the words of Pope John Paul II about how Suffering is linked to love. I hope that we all take this message to heart and try to bring it into a world were we continually see discord.
This week the readings come from Exodus 32:7-11,13-14; Psalm 51; Paul’s first letter to Timothy 1:12-17; and Luke’s Gospel 15:1-32. These reading deal with the mercy and forgiveness.
We begin with Moses going back down from the mountain top and seeing the people who have just come from Egypt worshiping a golden calf since that’s all they known. Moses intercedes for the Israelites and the Lord relents. Paul introduces himself in the letter as a sinner and tells Timothy that Jesus came to save all sinners. In the gospel we get a bunch of parables (lost sheep, lost coin, lost son) each tell the same story something gets lost and when it is found there is much rejoicing. The Shepherd has 100 sheep and loses one, then leaves the other 99 to go look for the lost one. The woman has 10 coins and loses one who wouldn’t go into search mode to find it turning her house upside down to find it. This is told again with the father and his two sons. The younger son wants his inheritance now so his father gives it to him and the son leaves. He loses all his money and resorts to working as a hired hand for some guy but the son isn’t happy. He comes to the realization that his Father’s hired hand were well fed and treated well. So the son leaves to return home and when he is a ways off the father spies him. His father comes running toward the Son and calls they have a celebration. The older son is not a fan of this as the younger son has wasted all his money and hasn’t done a thing, but the father say they are celebrating because his son that was dead is now alive again. This is how it is with the other parables as well after the thing is found (sheep, coin) there is much rejoicing an celebration.
It seems all to often in the world today we are the thing that is lost, with all the violence and hate in the world today we can forget that it is our mission to bring love and mercy to the world. This can be difficult for us all as we remember that 15 years ago a horrible act took place in the United States with crashes in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville. This is compounded by the culture of hate that pervades the world today. Let us ask to be made into instruments of peace just like in the Prayer of St. Francis.
This week the readings come from Sirach 3:17-18,20,28-29; Psalm 68; the Letter to the Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24a; and Luke’s gospel 14:1, 7-14. As you can notice we skip around a lot in the readings today.
The focus of the readings this week is Humility. We hear in Sirach that when we humble ourselves we will find ourselves in the favor of God. Jesus illustrates this in the Gospel by saying that when you are invited to a party don’t recline at the head table for there might be a more important guest coming and you don’t want to be embarrassed by assuming that you are the most important person at the party. Jesus suggests sitting at the lowest position where the host can raise you up to a higher position at the table. Although I don’t really understand the ancient dining customs, but it sort of sound like don’t think too highly of yourself. Like if someone invited you over bring something with you, don’t go empty handed. Humility is a thing we could you a whole bunch of in the world today where it seems like half the population cares more about themselves then there own neighbor. As CS Lewis said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Jesus himself in Matthew’s gospel tells us to become like little children as they are simple and humble. Let us all remember this and try to be simple and humble in this upcoming week, following in the steps of Francis of Assisi who was the most humble Saint of them all.
The Fruit of the Mystery of The Nativity is Poverty (poor in spirit), Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor.
This fruit is sort of crazy to look at as we near Christmas and people are shopping left and right trying to find the perfect gifts for that special someone, our family members and even those office gift swaps. We all tend to go overboard with the gift giving but we should try to remember that when Jesus came into the world he didn’t come as the child of the rich and famous but to a poor family that of a lowly carpenter and a maiden and he was born in a “stable”. There are about 700 million people in the world living in extreme poverty today. This is a huge problem in the world and it doesn’t help with the income disparities in the world. It really doesn’t help that the 1% control about half of the money in the world. Let us be willing to share the treasures that we receive this Christmas with those less well off then us, for as we learn from the great Dr. Seuss where the Grinch comes to realize that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.” Saint Francis of Assisi is a wonderful example of living this fruit as are most religious.
This week we hear about taking up our crosses and following Jesus. We begin in Isaiah once again this time hearing from the Third Servant Song. It begins by asking the Lord to open our ears so that we may hear and continues saying that “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheek to those who pluck my beard, my face I do not shield from buffets and spitting.”Several times in this reading Isaiah say that The Lord is my help. It is because of this ridicule that the Lord is our help, we as Christians experience the same abuse as Jesus did before the cross but we are given strength knowing that Christ endured and so can we. Making our way back to the letter of James we skip a few verses from last week and continue with James asking us “What good is faith without works?” This is basically the classic fake St. Francis quote “Preach the Gospel at all time, use words sparingly”, it boils down to the idea that if you are a person with good faith, you are more apt to do some good deeds as well, James uses the idea of someone who has nothing to wear and no food to eat, and we aren’t going to say to them “keep warm” or “eat well” people of faith are going to need to do something here.
Turning to the Gospel of Mark we hear a connected story. Jesus asks his disciple “Who do the people say that I am?” they reply that “Some say John the Baptist, other Elijah, and still other one of the other prophets.” They Jesus turn the question of them asking “Who do you say that I am” Peter answers “You are the Christ”. The Jesus tells them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, die and on the third day rise again. Peter isn’t to happy about this and he rebukes Jesus, Jesus then spins around and rebukes Peter saying “Get behind me Satan”. Then they gather a crowd and Jesus tells everyone whoever wants to follow me must deny themselves take up their cross and follow. It’s rather simple to get into heaven it will take some work since you are going to have to face some struggles people will scorn and mock you for what you do but as long as you continue doing good deeds you’ll have a good shot.
August 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb upon Hiroshima and on the 9th the dropping on Nagasaki. This is marked with A-Bomb day and with a peace festival in Hiroshima. It is held at the Peace Memorial Park and at the ceremony victims are consoled and they pray for the realization of lasting world peace. I’m not sure if there are any victims of the bombings still alive today but in 1986 there was a documentary about the Hibakusha, those exposed to the either of the atomic bombs.If you have some time over this week it is an interesting subject and it’s a part that we typically forget about.
Porziuncola: This feast is celebrated August 2, and might as well be considered the high feast in the Franciscian year at it marks the first building that St. Francis rebuilt after he heard a voice telling him to rebuild my church.
Sithney: This is a great story not much is really known about Sithbey but was in Brittany(Brenton). According to one legend God asked Sithney what he wanted to be Patron Saint of and the Lord suggested being patron saint of girls seeking husbands, but Sithney said he would rather be the patron saint of mad dogs and get some rest. So it came to pass.
The second encyclical by Pope Francis comes out today. It’s bound to be front page of the Vatican website. Laudato si or “Blessed are you” comes from the Canticle of Sun by Francis of Assisi. The encyclical is expected to put the environment as a moral issue and will call all nations to try and stop climate change or something. I will be reading it and breaking it down here in a matter of days I did Lumen Fidei in 10 days hopefully that will work again. Will there be a large contingent of non catholic who read this as well? I’m not real sure who all reads the encyclicals as they are often really long and deep texts. There is hope that this document ushers in a new age of Eco-conscienceness as we all share this planet and we are called from the days in the Garden to be stewards of the planet. This is something that we have forgotten about in our never ending quest to subdue to planet and make it in our image. If you have some time this weekend try sitting down as perusing it if you don’t have a bunch of time at least take some time a skim the encyclical. So you will have a general sense as to what the document is all about.
So I will be presenting one saint and a little bit of other events that are happening this upcoming week.
The big thing that happens this week is Earth Day, Arbor Day and John Muir’s Birthday. Earth Day and John Muir’s birth coincide on the same day. John Muir was an individual who was a major force in the development of the National Parks in America by conserving land instead of developing it. Muir also founded the Sierra Club. As he saw that nature is what revealed the mind of God. Earth Day began as a relatively small event when it started in 1970 with 20 million in the United States talking about environmental causes and has ballooned from that. Earth Day to me seems to have grown from Arbor day, when we are encouraged to plant some trees and learn about the importance of trees. These events are important for all of us around the globe, all the clear cutting of old growth is a big problem and if we want a future we need trees, just read The Lorax.
The other really historic event is that a hundred years ago the Armenian Genocide began on April 24. Pope Francis recently called this the first genocide of the 20th century. The Turks were not to happy about this as they continue to say that it was an effect of World War I and not the Ottoman Empire that is responsible for the events.
Shimun Bar Sabbae (d. Good Friday 345)
Shemon was the head of the Church of the East called the Nestorian Church (Syria/Persia). He ruled while the King of Persia was persecuting Christians for not worshiping the sun. Shemon and a whole mess of other priests, bishops and other faithful were beheaded. He is remembered in six different churches each having their own feast day.