December 30, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Sylvester I, Pope

Pope Sylvester I and Constantine
Pope Sylvester I and Emperor Constantine

December 31st, is the optional memorial of Saint Sylvester I (??? - 335), the 4th century pontiff, who guided the Church during a period of violent persecution and challenges to doctrine at the hands of various heretics. According to legend, he baptized Emperor Constantine. Born in Rome, the son of devout parents Rufinus and Justa, he was instructed in Christian piety by his virtuous mother. Later, under the guidance of Carinus, a priest of great ability, Sylvester learned the truths and practice of religion in studying Sacred Scripture. Entering the Roman clergy, he was ordained a priest by Pope Marcellinus on the eve of widespread Christian persecution under Diocletian. Sylvester's papacy saw trial and triumph.

The feast day of St. Sylvester is one of the oldest in the Church’s calendar, so great was his witness in the minds of the laity. His exemplary piety and concern for others, particularly the poor, endeared him to the faithful. He is considered both a confessor and a martyr of the Faith. His staunch defense of orthodoxy and personal fortitude, amid the immense turmoil of doctrinal controversies proved to be a singular grace preserving the Church from error, discord and disunity.

Elected pope in 314, upon the death of Pope Miltiades, he was forced to contend with the Arian heresy and the Donatist schism which threatened to tear the Church apart. Although he did not attend the First Council of Nicaea in 325, Sylvester was represented by two legates, Vitus and Vincentius, and he approved the council's decision. During his Pontificate the great churches founded in Rome by Constantine were constructed — the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. Sylvester gave the Church a new discipline in the peace that followed the Diocletian persecution.

Moreover, Constantine confirmed the Pope as the prelate above all other bishops. Pope Sylvester, in return, offered the crown of his accord to Emperor Constantine, who abandoned Rome to the pope and took up residence in Constantinople. In this manner, Pope Sylvester established the Church's autonomy and secured the right of his successors to conduct the Church independent of the Roman Empire.

His twenty-one year tenure as Bishop of Rome was consequential for numerous reasons. In addition to protecting the orthodox Catholic Faith in the face of heresy and schism, Sylvester determined that bishops had the exclusive right to consecrate chrism, instructed priests, when baptizing, also were to anoint with chrism, established that bread was to be consecrated as Eucharist only on a linen corporal, established that those ordained should be stable in that order before taking a higher order, instructed that the laity should not sue the clergy, instructed the clergy should not sue one another in civil court, called the 1st and 7th days of the week the "Lord’s Day" and the "Sabbath", and helped to establish the Roman school of singing. Of equal importance, was his life of selfless humility

St. Sylvester died on December 31, 335, and was buried in the church he built on the Via Salaria over the Catacomb of St. Priscilla. Later, his remains were moved to the church of Saint Symmachus. His life and work were dramatized in stories about how he cured Constantine from leprosy by baptism, or how he slayed a fierce dragon that contaminated the air with its poisonous breath. Such legends were meant to show the power of Baptism and Christianity's victory over idolatry. Come, O Lord, to the help of your people, sustained by the intercession of Pope Saint Sylvester, so that, running the course of this present life under your most benevolent guidance, we may happily attain the life without end that is heaven.

New Year's Resolutions for Catholics 2017

Our Lady Perpetual Help

◗ Pray more

◗ Read Scripture

◗ Keep holy the Sabbath

◗ Sin less

◗ Eat less

◗ Honor your father and mother

◗ Spend less

◗ Spend more time with family

◗ Read a Psalm a day

◗ Live more simply

◗ Find a patron saint

◗ Find a good Catholic smartphone app [and use it]

◗ Add a new devotion to your prayer routine [Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Novenas, etc.]

December 29, 2016

Feast of the Holy Family

The Holy Family

December 30, 2016

Scripture tells us practically nothing about the first years and the boyhood of the Child Jesus. All we know are the facts of the sojourn in Egypt, the return to Nazareth, and the incidents that occurred when the twelve-year-old boy accompanied his parents to Jerusalem. In her liturgy the Church hurries over this period of Christ's life with equal brevity. The general breakdown of the family, however, at the end of the past century and at the beginning of our own, prompted the popes, especially the far-sighted Leo XIII, to promote the observance of this feast with the hope that it might instill into Christian families something of the faithful love and the devoted attachment that characterize the family of Nazareth. The primary purpose of the Church in instituting and promoting this feast is to present the Holy Family as the model and exemplar of all Christian families.

Excerpted from With Christ Through the Year, Fr. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B.

Almighty God, who was pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You, and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer of Dedication to the Holy Family 

Lord Jesus Christ, being subject to Mary and Joseph, You sanctified family life by Your virtues. Grant that we, with the help of Mary and Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your Holy Family, and may enjoy its everlasting companionship.

Most loving Savior, look upon my family in Your loving kindness, preserve us from danger, give us help in time of need, and grant us the grace to persevere to the end in imitation of Your Holy Family, so that having revered You and loved You faithfully in this life, we may praise You eternally with Joseph & Mary in the next.

Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your Holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother together with Saint Joseph may come to meet us, and we may be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of heaven. Christ our King, You live and reign forever. Amen.

Saint Thomas Becket on Salvation | From a Letter He Wrote Days Before His Martyrdom

St. Thomas Becket
Everyone knows that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. ...
Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.
A letter by St. Thomas Becket, written days before his martyrdom.

New Year's Day Plenary Indulgence

Holy Spirit

A plenary indulgence may be gained by reciting or singing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year. This hymn calls on the Holy Spirit's guidance, protection and blessing before endeavoring something new. In addition to its place in the Pentecost liturgy, the Veni Creator Spiritus has also been assigned as the official opening prayer for Church councils and synods. [Listen to it in Gregorian chant.]

Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on New Year's Day:

◗ Recite or sing the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus on the first day of the year.
◗ Say one "Our Father" and one "Hail Mary" for the Pope's intentions.
◗ Worthily receive Holy Communion [ideally on the same  day].
◗ Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of New Year's Day.
◗ For a plenary indulgence, be free from all attachment to sin, even  venial sin [or the indulgence is partial, not plenary].

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator Blest

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.


Veni, Creator Spiritus

Veni, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.

Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.

Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.

Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula. Amen.

Sources: Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis X. Weiser, S.J., Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1958 and the Enchiridion of Indulgences by the 1968 Decree of the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary.

December 28, 2016

Optional Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr

The Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

December 29th, is the optional memorial of Saint Thomas Becket (1119-1170), the 12th century English statesman, Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr. A close associate of King Henry II, in the year 1155, he was appointed Chancellor of England. Seven years later, Becket was named Archbishop of Canterbury, and his relationship with the monarchy deteriorated. Eventually, his refusal to submit to Henry’s jurisdiction resulted in Becket's six-year exile in France. Not long after his return to England, Thomas was murdered by four assassins inside Canterbury Cathedral, making him a martyr. Miracles occurred soon after his martyrdom, and Canterbury became a popular pilgrimage destination in Europe. He is venerated by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion as a saint and martyr.

Thomas Becket was born in London to Norman parents Gilbert and Matilda Beket. The Icelandic Saga provides this description of him as a young man: “To look upon he was slim of growth and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face. Blithe of countenance was he, winning and loveable in his conversation, frank of speech in his discourses, but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment... that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner.” During this period of life, Becket was not especially devout.

Although he studied briefly in Paris, when his family fell on hard times, Becket became a clerk. His father secured a position in the business of a relative. Later, Becket clerked for Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This marked Becket's entry into England's high society, soon after which, he attracted the attention of King Henry II. Theobald entrusted him with missions to Rome and sent him to Bologna and Auxerre to study canon law. In 1154, Theobald named Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury, with responsibilities over other ecclesiastical offices including the office of Provost of Beverley. His efficiency in dispensing these duties led to his appointment by King Henry II as Lord Chancellor, in 1155.

Almost immediately, Becket and King Henry II were at odds. Tensions between the men came to a head when Henry asserted the usurpation of Church rights in the Constitutions of Clarendon. The Constitutions were 16 articles attempting to deny ecclesiastical privileges, curb the power of Church courts and the reach of Papal authority in England. Initially, hoping for a reconciliation, Becket considered compromise. He momentarily approved, but ultimately rejected the Constitutions. Incurring the monarchy’s rage, Becket escaped to France, remaining there in exile for several years. After returning to England, he refused to lift censures he had placed upon bishops installed by the king, Henry II cried out in disgust, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!"

Formerly the Breviary included this summary of the saint's heroic martyrdom:

"Calumniators informed the king that the bishop was agitating against him and the peace of the realm; and the king retorted that with one such priest he could not live in peace. Hearing the royal displeasure, several godless courtiers agreed to do their sovereign a favor by assassinating Thomas. Secretly they traveled to Canterbury and fell upon the bishop while he was attending Vespers. His priests rushed to his aid and tried to bar the church door; Thomas opened it himself with these words: The house of God may not be defended like a fortress. I gladly face death for the Church of God. Then to the soldiers: I command it in the Name of God: No harm may be done to any of mine. Thereupon he cast himself on his knees, commended his flock and himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis and other holy patrons of his church, and with the same heroic courage with which he had withstood the king's laws, he bowed his holy head to the sacrilegious sword on December 29, 1170."

Saint Thomas Becket was canonized in 1173. King Henry II eventually repented, making public penance at Becket's tomb. Canterbury became the third greatest site of pilgrimage in Europe. His relics were thought to have been destroyed in 1538 during the Protestant rebellion of King Henry VIII (although some contend that a skeleton found in the crypt there in 1888 belongs to the martyr). He the patron of clergy and all those who struggle against governmental intrusions violating faith and religious freedom. O God, who gave the Martyr Saint Thomas Becket the courage to give up his life for justice, grant, through his intercession, that, renouncing our life for Christ in this world, we may find it in heaven.

December 27, 2016

December 28th: Feast of the Holy Innocents

Massacre of the Holy Innocents
Massacre of the Innocents, Giotto di Bondone, 1302-05.

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.

Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

"A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more."

— Matthew 2:13-18

O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking, but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer to the Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Holy Innocents, you were killed because one man was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.

Holy Innocents, you experienced a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.

Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.

Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.

Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God's love forever. Amen.

TOB Tuesday: Original Solitude

God creating Adam

Editor's note: Each Tuesday we will feature posts discussing Saint John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body; his reflection on our nature and life as persons made in the image and likeness of God, conjugal love, the meaning of celibacy, and the eternal beatitude to which every human being is called.

When Adam named all the animals in the garden he realized he was alone. In other words, he realizes that he is the only "person" in the visible world. He experiences what Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body refers to as "original solitude." This original solitude has two senses.

The first sense of original solitude has to do with Adam's relationship with God. In "the beginning," Adam quickly began to understand that he had a unique relationship with the creator. He alone could talk with God. He alone could have a personal relationship with God. No other creature in the garden could do this.

It naturally follows that only man has an interior life. Only man is capable of loving. Adam/man is the Hebrew word for "mankind" as mentioned previously. Adam and Eve together experience original solitude. This is key to understanding the Theology of the Body. Mankind experiences original solitude in all its senses, both male and female. Adam and Eve both experience original solitude, not just Adam the male.

The second sense of original solitude is perhaps the most obvious one. In naming all the animals Adam discovers he is alone. There is no other human person to love and to receive in love. Adam longs deep in his heart to love an other and to be loved by an other. This profound loneliness, the second sense of original unity, was felt by both Adam and Eve.

Through his experience of original solitude Adam (mankind) realizes he is alone. There is no "other" to give himself over to in love. Adam cannot perfect himself, he cannot fulfill himself, he cannot know himself except by making a gift of himself to another human person. Adam longs for another human person to love. It is in his spiritual DNA to give himself to an other. God acknowledges this when he says; "It is not good for the man to be alone."

God bringing the animals to Adam to see what he will name them is a kind of test. Through it Adam discovers that there is not a help mate fit for him. Genesis states; "The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man."

In ancient Hebrew tradition, to name something is to have responsibility for it. In this way, mankind is to be the caregiver of the garden, the steward of all creation. Furthermore, in the first chapter of Genesis God tells man;"Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth."

God is clearly enjoining man to be a responsible master over all creation. In the beginning, this responsible mastery came easily. After sin, it would prove difficult if not impossible to achieve.

God causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep "and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man." God then presents the woman to man who exclaims; "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of 'her man' this one has been taken." In that moment, original solitude gives way to the joy of original unity.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for January 2017

Pope Francis' coat of armsBeginning in 2017, the Pope will present one prepared prayer intention per month, rather than two. A second prayer intention related to current events will be added each month. The urgent prayer request will mobilize prayer and attention to an immediate situation. We will add the second intention as soon as it is available.

Christian Unity 

That all Christians may be faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity.

December 26, 2016

Top Ten Posts of 2016

Here for your consideration are the top ten articles that appeared on Big 'C' Catholics in 2016 [plus four honorable mentions]. They are listed in order of publication from first to latest.

Seven Archeological Discoveries that Validate the Bible

The Real Presence: A Defense of the Eucharist

Ten Things About Saint Thomas Aquinas That Every Catholic Should Know

The Most Consequential, Church Approved Apparitions in the 20th Century Testify to the Reality of Hell

The Facts of Crucifixion

Exorcism: Separating Fact from Fiction. Three Exorcists Discuss This Rite of the Church

The Virgin Mary is Prefigured by the Burning Bush

The Inner Life of the Most Holy Trinity is an Exchange of Persons

Rare Footage of Pope St. Pius X's Incorrupt Body

Answering Protestant Assertions That the Papacy is the Antichrist

Venerable Fulton Sheen on the Devil: "As Theologians Dropped the Demonic, Psychiatrists Picked it Up"

St. Padre Pio — His Wisdom in 25 Quotations

Pope Benedict XVI on Saint John’s Vision at Patmos

Christ and St. John the Apostle
Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders a Lamb that seemed to have been slain. He had seven horns and seven eyes; these are the [seven] spirits of God sent out into the whole world.
— Revelation 5:6 

The first and fundamental vision of John, in fact, concerns the figure of the Lamb who is slain yet standing (cf. Rv 5: 6), and is placed before the throne on which God himself is already seated.

By saying this, John wants first of all to tell us two things: the first is that although Jesus was killed with an act of violence, instead of falling heavily to the ground, he paradoxically stands very firmly on his own feet because, with the Resurrection, he overcame death once and for all.

The other thing is that Jesus himself, precisely because he died and was raised, henceforth fully shares in the kingship and saving power of the Father. This is the fundamental vision.

— Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, August 23, 2006

Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

St. John the Apostle
December 27th, is the feast of Saint John the Apostle, Evangelist and "beloved disciple". He wrote the Gospel bearing his name, three Epistles and the Book of Revelation. A fisherman by trade, he was born in Galilee, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and younger brother of Saint James the Great. Together with his brother and Saint Peter, he was singled out to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration and Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane. Standing at the foot of the cross, Jesus entrusts His Mother to John’s care. John is the only Apostle (besides Judas) spared from martyrdom, despite several attempts on his life.

James and John, whom Christ called the "sons of thunder" were mending nets with their father when the Savior asked them to follow Him. This epithet applies in a particular way to John, who courageously proclaimed the most sublime mysteries of Christ’s divinity. He was the youngest of all the Apostles, probably about 25, at the time of his calling. Portrayals of John at the Last Supper depict him with his head resting near Jesus’ heart. It is clear that our Lord was especially close to John. Hence the Evangelist referring to himself as "The disciple whom Jesus loved". Christ’s affection was due in part to John’s youth, innocence, personal piety and fervent love for God.

In addition to forming a sort of inner circle along with Peter and his brother, with Christ, and witnessing the aforementioned miraculous events, John distinguished himself in other ways. He was the only one of the twelve Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death. John's purity and unfailing devotion kept him close to Jesus and Mary for the remainder of his life.

Tradition tells us that John lived to be very old, and most scholars believe that the Gospel of John is the last of the four to be written. To John, the most important thing was to remind his readers that Jesus Christ was truly God Incarnate, the Word of God who existed with God from the beginning. John’s Gospel is probably intended for Jewish Christians since it is filled with illusions to Old Testament events and symbols that only a Jewish audience could understand. The Gospel of John is the most advanced theologically. Stressing Jesus' divinity, it has events, and highlights Christ’s ministry in ways, not found in the synoptics.

At some point, he was seized by an angry mob and thrown off a building of great height. This attempt to martyr him failed. On another occasion, he was brought to Rome and, according to popular piety, cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian, only to emerge miraculously unhurt. Toward the end of his life, he was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he composed the Book of Revelation. Afterward, he returned to Ephesus. In his old age, he continued to visit the churches of Asia. Saint Jerome relates that when weakness prevented him from preaching, he was carried to the assembled faithful by his disciples, telling those gathered: "My dear children, love one another." St. John the Apostle died peacefully at Ephesus around 100 AD. Almighty God, who through the blessed Apostle John has unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, that we may grasp with understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears.

December 25, 2016

The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen

Martyrdom of Saint Stephen

The Jews knew that Stephen was exceedingly well-informed in the laws of Moses; but as he preached, with great freedom, the Gospel of Christ, they ventured to dispute with him, to convict him of error by their subtle questions and assertions. At that period, there existed Various schools at Jerusalem, in which the Jews were instructed in the laws. Several disciples from each of these schools came to dispute with him; but, notwithstanding their cunning and malice, they were unable to contend with the wisdom with which he spoke. Seeing that he daily converted many to Christ, they became more and more embittered against him, and endeavored to do away with him. They suborned some wicked men to disseminate among the people that Stephen had blasphemed against Moses and God, and that they themselves had heard it. This stirred up not only the people, but also the Elders and Scribes. Full of rage, they laid hands on him and brought him to the Council, which had assembled on his account, and when the High priest, Caiphas, and other priests and Pharisees were present, the accusers brought forward their charges, and the suborned witnesses testified to them.

"This man," said they, "ceases not to speak words against the holy place and the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered to us." All present looked fixedly into the face of the accused to notice any change which fear or apprehension might work in it; but, contrary to their expectation, the countenance of the holy Arch-deacon was so illuminated by God, as a sign of his innocence, that they deemed it the face of an Angel, as is said in Holy Writ. And in truth, he might have been called an Angel, not only on account of his angelic purity, but also on account of his fearless zeal in defending the honor of God. Is it therefore, to be wondered at, that an angelic brightness shone in his countenance?" Because he was pure and chaste," writes St. Augustine, "therefore was his face that of an Angel." But notwithstanding this, the assembled judges desisted not from their wicked design. The High-priest asked, whether what his accusers had said and the witnesses testified, was true? The Saint answered in a long speech, full of learning and wisdom, which is to be found in the 7th chapter of the Acts. In it he said much in praise of Moses, and cited his prophecy in regard to the coming of Christ. In conclusion, he reproached them with their obstinacy, and the murder they had committed on the true Messiah. "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so also do you. Which of the prophets have your fathers not persecuted? And they have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One, of whom you are now the betrayers and murderers."

This reproach the assembled people could not bear. The wildest rage took possession of them, their hearts were torn with fury against St. Stephen. He failed not to perceive it, and knew well that they would sacrifice him to their rage. Hence, he turned his eyes to heaven, to receive thence strength for the approaching struggle. At that moment, he saw Jesus Christ, the Son of God, standing at the right hand of His heavenly Father, as if to assure His faithful servant that He would aid him in his fight. Stephen cried aloud: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." This caused a terrible outcry in the assembly, and they stopped their ears so as not to hear such blasphemy, and violently assailing him, they cast him from the Council and dragged him out of the city to stone him to death. The false witnesses who, according to the law, were to cast the first stones upon the accused, took off their garments, that they might be more free in the exercise of their cruelty, and gave them in charge of a youth, named Saul, who afterwards became the celebrated St. Paul. Hardly was St. Stephen out of the city, when they began to cast stones upon him. Every one was eager to take part in his death. The Christian hero stood looking unmoved to heaven, invoking Jesus, for whose honor he suffered martyrdom, and said: "Lord Jesus, receive my soul!" After this, kneeling down, to resemble his Saviour, who prayed for His murderers on the Cross, he said: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Having said this, he fell asleep in the Lord, amid a hail of stones.

Excerpted from "St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr", Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876.

Feast of Saint Stephen, Protomartyr

St. Stephen
December 26th, is the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr and archdeacon. He led the group of seven deacons who the Apostles appointed to help them minister to the poor and the marginalized in the early Church (having been ordained by Saint Peter himself). Stephen labored in imitation of Christ even unto the last measure of his life. The Church celebrates his heroic witness in making a comparison between the disciple and his Master.

His name is included in the Roman Canon and has long been invoked by Christians facing persecution. In addition to proclaiming the word at Liturgies, he distributed food and charitable aid to the widowed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen preached Christianity; spreading the Good News throughout Jerusalem and debating Jewish teachers of the Law, which caused enmity.

When, at the age of 30, the Jews accused him of blasphemy, Stephen put his trust in the Lord. Before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, he answered the charge. Stephen’s discourse recounts the history of the Jewish people who he upbraids for persecuting the prophets, including the Messiah: "Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as given by the angels, but you did not observe it."

The court sentenced Stephen to death. The Protomartyr was taken outside the city's walls to be stoned. Scripture testifies that the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul (the future Saint Paul) who fully consented to the execution. Before giving up his soul to Christ, Stephen prayed for his persecutors: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. O Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Acts says, "Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him."

According to tradition, Stephen's remains were interned at Beit Jimal. His relics were later removed to the Church of Hagia Sion on December 26, 415, marking the date of his feast day. In 439, his remains were translated to a church built in his honor. This church was destroyed in the 12th century, and Saint-Étienne, a 20th-century French Catholic church, was built in its place. Part of St. Stephen's right arm is enshrined at Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Russia. Grant, Lord, we pray, that we may imitate what we worship, and so in, learn to love even our enemies, as we celebrate the holy Protomartyr who prayed for his persecutors.

Homily for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, January 1, 2017, Year A

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

Vatican Basilica 

Sunday, 1st January 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the first day of the year, the liturgy resounds in the Church throughout the world with the ancient priestly blessing that we heard during today’s first reading: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). This blessing was entrusted by God, through Moses, to Aaron and his sons, that is, to the priests of the people of Israel. It is a triple blessing filled with light, radiating from the repetition of the name of God, the Lord, and from the image of his face. In fact, in order to be blessed, we have to stand in God’s presence, take his Name upon us and remain in the cone of light that issues from his Face, in a space lit up by his gaze, diffusing grace and peace.

This was the very experience that the shepherds of Bethlehem had, who reappear in today’s Gospel. They had the experience of standing in God’s presence, they received his blessing not in the hall of a majestic palace, in the presence of a great sovereign, but in a stable, before a “babe lying in a manger” (Lk 2:16). From this child, a new light issues forth, shining in the darkness of the night, as we can see in so many paintings depicting Christ’s Nativity. Henceforth, it is from him that blessing comes, from his name – Jesus, meaning “God saves” – and from his human face, in which God, the almighty Lord of heaven and earth, chose to become incarnate, concealing his glory under the veil of our flesh, so as to reveal fully to us his goodness (cf. Tit 3:4).

The first to be swept up by this blessing was Mary the virgin, the spouse of Joseph, chosen by God from the first moment of her existence to be the mother of his incarnate Son. She is the “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42) – in the words of Saint Elizabeth’s greeting. Her whole life was spent in the light of the Lord, within the radius of his name and of the face of God incarnate in Jesus, the “blessed fruit of her womb”. This is how Luke’s Gospel presents her to us: fully intent upon guarding and meditating in her heart upon everything concerning her son Jesus (cf. Lk 2:19, 51). The mystery of her divine motherhood that we celebrate today contains in superabundant measure the gift of grace that all human motherhood bears within it, so much so that the fruitfulness of the womb has always been associated with God’s blessing. The Mother of God is the first of the blessed, and it is she who bears the blessing; she is the woman who received Jesus into herself and brought him forth for the whole human family. In the words of the liturgy: “without losing the glory of virginity, [she] brought forth into the world the eternal light, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Preface I of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Mary is the mother and model of the Church, who receives the divine Word in faith and offers herself to God as the “good soil” in which he can continue to accomplish his mystery of salvation. The Church also participates in the mystery of divine motherhood, through preaching, which sows the seed of the Gospel throughout the world, and through the sacraments, which communicate grace and divine life to men. The Church exercises her motherhood especially in the sacrament of Baptism, when she generates God’s children from water and the Holy Spirit, who cries out in each of them: “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6). Like Mary, the Church is the mediator of God’s blessing for the world: she receives it in receiving Jesus and she transmits it in bearing Jesus. He is the mercy and the peace that the world, of itself, cannot give, and which it needs always, at least as much as bread.

Dear friends, peace, in the fullest and highest sense, is the sum and synthesis of all blessings. So when two friends meet, they greet one another, wishing each other peace. The Church too, on the first day of the year, invokes this supreme good in a special way; she does so, like the Virgin Mary, by revealing Jesus to all, for as Saint Paul says, “He is our peace” (Eph 2:14), and at the same time the “way” by which individuals and peoples can reach this goal to which we all aspire.

To read Pope Benedict XVI's homily in full see the Vatican Library Archive.

December 24, 2016

Christmas | 2016

Mary and Christ Child
"For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
 — Luke 2:11-14
O God, who marvelously created and yet more marvelously restored the dignity of human nature, grant that we may share the divinity of Him who humbled himself to share our humanity.
 — From the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity of the Lord

Dear Readers,
May the joy of Christmas be with you, now and always.
A blessed Christmas to all!

Homily | The Nativity of The Lord, (Christmas) December 25, 2016, Year A

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds, Flinck, 1639.

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

Homily originally delivered in 2010

While Christmas is delightful for children and it is nice that we get caught up in their joy, Christmas is something that we adults vitally need. We celebrate Christmas this difficult year with dark clouds of terrorism looming over our heads. The gloom of the recession darkens our spirits. Our broken governmental establishment in Washington spends our future incomes on earmarks attached to spending bills that stagger our comprehension. Joblessness and hunger are not confined to Third World countries, they stalk our own populace. Amidst all of this darkness let there be light. I give you the message of the angels.

There is also another darkness that afflicts many of us – an inner darkness of spirit, of heart, and of soul. Many folks have spoken to me about the pace of life in which they live, a pace that robs them of quiet time with their souls. Seemingly helpless they dash from one event to another, from one task to another, all the while harboring a sense that they no longer know who they are and what their life is all about.

Some feel that their lives are lived in a dark hole of meaninglessness. They know they should regularly attend Mass but they just don’t seem to have time for very many Sunday Masses in their lives, Masses in which for a few brief moments they hear the Word of God spoken to them. Hopefully some of them are here with us now and feel welcomed. Amidst the dark hole of meaningless let there be light. I give you the message of the angels.

Finally, there are a few people we hear from who tell us that they want nothing to do with God. Their darkness is so profound that they cannot even see that they live in darkness. A famous saying applies to them: “There are none so blind as those who think they see.” Jesus had His greatest difficulties with such people. Amidst that darkness let there be light. I give you the message of the angels.

The great joyful news of Christmas is that God has given us light, His Light, in which we can see reality as He sees it, a light in which we can see and love ourselves and others as He sees and loves us. That is something that is quite stupendous, a light so powerful that it cuts through all of the gloomy clouds of darkness looming over us. We are here to celebrate that light, the light of the coming of God to us in the loveliness of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger.

To be sure, I believe that it is good, even necessary, that we soak ourselves in all of the joyful aspects of celebrating Christmas. We need to hear the carols, the jingle bells, and the beautiful hymns of Christmas, especially this year. Our eyes should feast on the lights and decorations of our Christmas trees. We need to sit down with our children, our relatives, and our friends at our Christmas dinner tables listening to all of their stories while feeling the love and closeness of those who are dear to our hearts.

But I am equally sure that the heavenly light of Bethlehem’s star is a light from heaven bidding us to see and then receive the Gift that God our Father in heaven is offering to us in a Child lying in a manger surrounded by the miraculous love of God for us. St. John wrote his Gospel account to tell us who Jesus Christ really is. In order to accomplish that purpose John prefaced his gospel by introducing Jesus Christ to us. Said he:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We live our lives swimming in an ocean of words, words coming to us through TV, cell phones, ipads, computers, and in a wild array of other means. All of those things bid us to give them our attention. Allow me to gently suggest to you that God has a Word for you; He has something He wants to say to you. I know you and I need to listen to it and hear what God is offering us. To miss that opportunity is to miss what Christmas is really all about.

In biblical imagery God’s invitation, God’s gift to you, comes in a night that is silent and still, a night that is not darkness but rather is filled with a special light. God’s gift to you is not something that is merely sentimental, it is essential. The birth of the baby Jesus sanctifies every birth of every child. The life of Jesus sanctifies every life. Because of Christ’s birth your birth has eternal significance and meaning. Can we hear God’s word and recognize God’s gift with hearts and souls that are receptive?

To be receptive we need to see a reality and hear a message that is deeper than all that commercial Christmas dangles before our eyes and jingles in our ears. I want to read a letter to you now, a letter written to a noblewoman friend by a Renaissance priest named Fra Giovanni on Christmas Eve in the year 1513.
I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look! Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. 
Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts. Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home. And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.
May you have a very Merry Christmas. And may you be blessed this Christmas in a very special way by receiving all that God wants to give you in this Christmas and in all of the days that follow. God loves you. Receive God’s Son and open His gift to you.

Christmas Eve | 2016

Joseph & Mary travel to Bethlemhem
Mosaic of the Journey to Bethlehem c.1315-1320

I will put enmity between you and the woman; and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
 — Genesis 3:15
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel. 
— Isaiah 7:14
In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
— Luke 2:1-5
Come quickly, we pray, Lord Jesus, and do not delay, that those who trust in your compassion may find solace and relief in your coming. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Christmas Novena 2016 | Day 9

Mary and the Christ Child

December 24, 2016

Today, we continue to pray for an end to abortion and for a greater respect for all life as we celebrate the birth of our Lord.

The Christmas Novena - Day 9 – Life Eternal

O Lord, infant Jesus, bring us to live eternal with You! Jesus, your nativity was not without purpose. Your purpose was to bring us to You. We pray that you will bring us to Life Eternal with you this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Journey in Egypt

O most sweet infant Jesus, who dwelled as an exile
in Egypt for seven years, where spoke your first words,
and, first begin to walk upon this earth. Have mercy upon us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Ghost, you
took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a
servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.


O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

December 23, 2016

Pope Benedict XVI on the Incarnation of Christ

Pope Benedict XVI

With the Christmas liturgy the Church ushers us into the great Mystery of the Incarnation. Christmas, in fact, is not merely an anniversary of Jesus’ Birth; it is also this, but it is more, it is celebrating a mystery that has marked and continues to mark human history. God himself came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1:14), he made himself one of us. It is a mystery that concerns our faith and our life; a mystery that we actually experience in the liturgical celebrations, and, in particular, in Holy Mass. 
— Pope Benedict XVI

William Adolphe Bouguereau's Hauntingly Beautiful Madonna's and Christ Child

Virgin of the Angels
Detail, Virgin of the Angels, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1881.

William Adolphe Bouguereau was born in La Rochelle, France on November 30, 1825. He painted in the French academic style and was considered by most to be a traditionalist. His realistic genre paintings often utilized mythological or biblical themes, making modern interpretations of classical subjects. Here is a collection of his hauntingly beautiful paintings of the Madonna and Christ Child.

The Queen of the Angels
The Queen of the Angels, 1900
The Virgin of the Lilies
Detail, The Virgin of the Lilies, 1899
Virgin and Child
Detail,Virgin and Child, 1888
The Madonna of the Roses
Detail, The Madonna of the Roses, 1903
Virgin of the Angels
Detail, Virgin of the Angels, 1881

George Weigel: Christmas and the Divine Proximity

The Adoration of the Shepherds
The Adoration of the Shepherds, Mattia Preti, c. 1660.

George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in his weekly column The Catholic Difference on December 21, 2016 about a long conversation he had with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger weeks after 9/11. Ratzinger's observations about Christianity in Europe, moral relativism, and the dangers posed by radicalized Islamists have only grow more salient with time.

In concluding, Weigel brilliantly summarizes the state of Western culture as one of loneliness, despair and alienation. Fortunately, for the Christian, the way, the truth and the life is not some abstract or sentimental aspiration. It is a person, Jesus Christ, whose birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Weigel writes:

"Christmas reminds us what Christians have to say to this pervasive loneliness. We say 'God is with us,' as throughout the Christmas season we celebrate the divine answer to the Advent plea, 'O come, o come Emmanuel.' That plea did not go unrequited. We see the answer to it in the crèches in our homes. God is with us, not in awe and majesty, but in that most accessible of human forms, the baby who reaches out for our embrace.

God is Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the midst of our lives, not outside them. A few years ago I began collecting Fontanini crèche figures, and while the display is now as big as it’s going to get, there’s a reason why the manger in our crèche is surrounded by dozens of figures: Decoratively speaking, that’s the best way to express my conviction that the Lord of history came into history to redeem history in the midst of history.

He is Emmanuel. He is God-with-us. We are not alone."

Christmas Novena 2016 | Day 8

Mary and the Christ Child

December 23, 2016

Today, we pray for those who have participated in an abortion; that they may be reconciled with God and their hearts healed. We are all sinners and in need of God's mercy. Let us lift up in prayer those who have been directly affected by abortion in solidarity and love. 

The Christmas Novena - Day 8 – Holiness

O Lord, infant Jesus, inspire us to be repulsed by sin! You, Lord, are holy but we are not. We pray that you will make us holy and keep us from temptation this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Flight into Egypt

O most sweet infant Jesus, whom Herod tried to slay,
carried by St. Joseph with your Mother into Egypt, saved
from death by flight, and glorified by the blood of the
holy innocents. Have mercy on. us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Ghost, you
took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a
servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.


O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

December 22, 2016

Saint John Cantius, Priest, Scholar, Servant of the Poor

St. John of Kanty
December 23rd, the Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. John Cantius, (c. 1390 – 1473) otherwise called John of Kanty or John Kanty, the 15th century Polish priest and theologian whose intellectual brilliance was matched only by his personal piety and generosity toward the poor. A university professor of renown, he was sent to minister as a parish priest in a small rural Church.

His parishioners, like his students held him in high regard. He is known for his honesty and humility. Cantius made numerous trips to the Holy Land and Rome, journeying by foot. According to tradition, on one pilgrimage, he was robbed. The robbers asked if he had any additional possessions. The future saint answered "No." Later, Cantius realized he had gold coins sewn into his garment. Tracking down the robbers, he presented the coins with apologies. Ashamed of their theft and astonished at his honesty, the robbers returned all they had stolen to Cantius. So great was his witness, that countless souls followed in his footsteps, embracing the true Faith and altruism.

John Cantius was born in the Polish town of Kanty, (Cracow, Poland) to Stanisław and Anna Kanty. He studied at the Krakow Academy, where his academic aptitude was apparent. In 1418, he earned a Doctorate of Philosophy. He would spend the next three years lecturing in philosophy at the university, while preparing for the priesthood. Cantius's studied wisdom was greatly admired by Saint John Paul II.

After his ordination, Cantius became rector at the school of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Sepulcher. While there, he was offered a professorship of Sacred Scripture at the Krakow Academy, (now Jagiellonian University). He earned a doctorate in theology and eventually chaired that department. During his tenure in Krakow, his reputation for helping the needy and the marginalized grew. His existence was marked by selfless denial, consuming only what was necessary to sustain his life. He gave alms regularly to the poor, prayed incessantly, and made several pilgrimages to Jerusalem and four pilgrimages to Rome, all on foot.

Except for a brief, but successful period as a parish priest, the vast majority of St. John Cantius’ priesthood was dedicated to advancing the Church’s Scholastic treasury of philosophy, theology and science. When he died on December 24, 1473, the citizens of Krakow already considered him a saint. His remains are entombed in the Church of St. Anne, Krakow, Poland. The Divine Office distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor not a bishop to be so honored in the Roman Catholic liturgy. He was beatified by Pope Clement X on March 28, 1676. In 1737, Pope Clement XII named him patron of Poland and Lithuania. On July, 16 1767, he was canonized by Pope Clement XIII. Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by the example of St. John of Kanty we may advance in our knowledge of You and by showing compassion, gain forgiveness in Your sight.

G.K. Chesterton's The House of Christmas

The Birth of Christ

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Christmas Novena 2016 | Day 7

Mary and the Christ Child

December 22, 2016

Today, we pray for all parents and godparents. They have an essential role in bringing up a child who is brought into the world. Just as the Lord was presented in the temple, our children are presented in the Church for Baptism. There, parents and godparents take on the responsibility for bringing up a child in the faith. We pray also for those children who have no one to present them in the Church for Baptism. We ask that God bring them to His family to be loved. 

The Christmas Novena - Day 7 – Forgiveness

O Lord, infant Jesus, move us to forgive others as you forgive us! Your Divine Mercy is unending! We pray for Your Divine Mercy on us and that we may participate in Your mercy by forgiving others this Christmas.

(There are two versions of the novena prayer)

The Presentation

O most sweet infant Jesus, presented in the temple
by the Virgin Mary, embraced by Simeon, and revealed
to the Jews by Anna the prophetess. Have mercy on us.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

Hail Mary…

Virgin Mary, where, conceived by the Holy Ghost, you
took upon yourself, O Incarnate Word, the form of a
servant for our salvation. Have mercy on us.

Have mercy on us, O Lord. Have mercy on us.

Hail Mary…

O Lord, Word of God, You, whose glory is complete, came to us in perfect humility as a child in the womb. Your love for us and humility is unsurpassed and brings us to our knees in prayer and worship.

Your incarnation forever changed the world.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.


O Lord, infant Jesus, fill us with Joy! The birth of any child is a cause for joy and so much more is the birth of You our Savior. We pray in union with Mary, Your mother, for a greater joy this Christmas.

We pray also for these intentions… (State your intentions here)

May Your Holy Will be done in my life and with these intentions.

We pray that the work of salvation that Your first coming began will reach fulfillment in each of us.

All Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O God, who gladden us year by year as we wait in hope for our redemption grant that, just as we joyfully welcome your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer, we may also merit to face him confidently when he comes again as our Judge. Who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.