Two Days till CHRIST@mas. I pray all have a blessed and specially unique day of joy and celebration.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice, sometimes known as “Yule”, occurs on or very close to this date. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around this time.
Today in Catholic History:
† 401 – St Innocent I begins his reign as Catholic Pope
† 795 – Leo III succeeds pope Adrianus I
† 1216 – Pope Honorius III delegates degree “Religiosam vitam eligentibus” announcing the Fifth Crusade.
† 1642 – Pope Urbanus VIII publishes degree “In eminente”
† 1419 – Death of John XXIII, [Baldassare Cossa], Italian Antipope (1410-15)
† 1815 – Spaniards execute Mexican revolutionary priest Jose Maria Morelos at San Cristóbal Ecatepec, State of México
† 1885 – Pope Leo XIII proclaims extraordinary jubilee
† 1945 – Utrecht (Netherlands): Catholic People’s party (KVP) established
† 1917 – Death of Mother Cabrini, first American citizen canonized by the Catholic Church (b. 1850)
† 1917 – Death Francesca Saveria Cabrini, US saint/patron of immigrant, at 67 years of age
† 1997 – Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.
† Feasts/Memorials: commemoration of Frances Xavier Cabrini; O Rex; Anastasia of Sirmium
(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
“Today in Catholic History”
Franciscan Formation Reflection:
The Franciscan vision is transformational, demanding change and conversion in its adherents, following the example of Saints Francis and Clare.
“A favorite saying of St. Francis was, ‘Let us begin for up till now we have done nothing.’ Francis saw his entire life as a continuing conversion into the vision of God, whom he saw as a loving parent. Francis saw his life as a continuous conversion from sin to a life lived in gratitude for God’s love. Many described the conversion of Clare from ‘the good to the better.’ The Franciscan life today remains one of on-going conversion. There is always an unfinished quality to this conversion until we enter into the Reign of God.”
“He gleamed like a shining star in the darkness of night and like the morning spread over the darkness. Thus, in a short time, the appearance of the entire region was changed and, once rid of its earlier ugliness; it revealed a happier expression everywhere.” – Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis, 37
(From the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) website:
Quote or Joke of the Day:
A little boy was listening to a long and excessively boring sermon in church. Suddenly, the red sanctuary lamp caught his eye. Tugging his father’s sleeve, he said, “Daddy, when the light turns green can we go?”
Today’s reflection is about the “Canticle of Mary”.
46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (NAB Luke 1:46-56)
Today’s reading reveals the presence and powers of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s, Elizabeth’s, John the Baptist’s, and even Hannah’s lives. The circumstances leading to the birth of Jesus Christ miraculously unfurls before us during this and every Advent/Christmas Season. We discover the prophecies, promises, hopes, songs, and prayers of the Old Testament truly being fulfilled in the “New” simply because:
“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (John 3:16).
Filled with the Holy Spirit, when Elizabeth and Mary greeted one another they were also filled with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise. They are filled with the Holy Spirit bringing forth a “Messiah” through the virginal conception of Mary, in order to bring forth a “Savior” for all mankind!
Yet to be born himself, John the Baptist pointed to the revelation of the “Messiah’s” coming by “leaping for joy” in the womb of his mother Elizabeth (A true kick of faith). The Holy Spirit revealed to John (while still in the womb himself) the presence of the Savior Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.
Mary is admired, honored, and praised by Christians throughout the world for being the mother of the Lord (the Theotokos: the God-Bearer) in addition to her profound, unrelenting and uncompromising faith, obedience, and belief in our almighty God. She acted with unwavering focus, trust, and faith because she believed and trusted that God would fulfill the word he had spoken.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mary responds as the servant in this psalm of praise directed from her – to the world, and universally titled – “the Magnificat”. The Magnificat is said every day during the evening prayers of the Divine Office by priests, consecrated religious, and other faithful Catholics.
Mary “dedicated” her Son to the service of God, which ultimately would lead Jesus to the “Holy Tree” of salvation for all of us.
There is actually no proof, no specific correlation of this canticle – (a song, chant, or hymn containing words derived from the Bible, used in the Christian liturgy) – to the circumstance of Mary’s pregnancy and her visit to Elizabeth other than in Luke’s Gospel. In reality, the Magnificat (excluding verse 48: “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”) may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn or poem that Luke found appropriate for this part in his infancy narrative.
However, even if it was not composed by Luke, it definitely fits in with his other themes found throughout his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and prophesies.
Several “barren” women in Holy Scripture – – including Elizabeth, Hannah, (and the teenage Mary) – – became pregnant and gave birth to healthy children via God’s intervention. They all rejoiced that God had chosen them – the humble and austere as a source of new life.
Mary’s great canticle of praise repeats – in essence and fact – the “Song of Hannah” from the Old Testament (and the “Hannah” of today’s first reading at Mass):
“And as she worshiped the LORD, she said: “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God. “Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds. The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering girds on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. “The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them. He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness. For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered. The Most High in heaven thunders; the LORD Judges the ends of the earth, now may he gives strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
The “Song of Hannah” strongly proclaims and extols the goodwill of the Lord. God pays tribute to the lowly, fills the hungry, and guards the faithful. Like Mary and Elizabeth, Hannah was without child. God gave her the grace of bearing a son she named Samuel. Hannah also “dedicated” Samuel to the service of the Lord at any early age:
God can never be outdone in gratitude and generosity. For her piety, reverence, and trust, He rewarded the “once-barren” Hannah with five (5) more children: three (3) more sons, and two (2) daughters. (1 Samuel 2:21)
As mentioned already, Mary also “dedicated” her son – – Jesus Christ – – to the service of God! Just as Mary, Elizabeth, and Hannah had the honor of giving birth and dedicating their sons to God’s service, we have the honor of bearing Jesus (along with John and Samuel as part of the celestial court) in our hearts, minds, and souls. In these last days of Advent, and still in the process of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ, open your eyes, hearts, and souls to each other. Let the light of Christ shine on each of us.
Like these great and beautiful women of the Bible, we should offer back to God the greatest gift He could ever give us. Offer to Him the first fruits of our lives in and through the Holy Spirit by our words, deeds, and thoughts. At Mass, bring your “best” to the Lord. Bring your FULL attention, your love, and even your worries and concerns. Offer it all to Him during the Offertory part of the Mass (along with your envelope). As Vinny Flynn so elegantly writes in his book, “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” (and as I am paraphrasing here), see God and the entire celestial court receiving your gifts and concerns with open arms, and even a warm smile and hug. By doing this, you will receive even more blessings at communion.
A gift to all mankind, the Holy Spirit is God’s grace (in the third person of the Godhead) making possible for us to experience and know the infusing (and emanating) presence of God – – and the awesome power of His kingdom in heaven AND on earth. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God lives eternally in and through each of us.
“Prayer to the Holy Trinity”
“Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.
Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.
Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.
Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever. Amen”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day: Blessed Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306)
His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life.
He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or “Crazy Jim,” by his former associates. The name became dear to him.
After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor) (First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular.
Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping “because Love is not loved.” During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, Stabat Mater.
On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed “Sister Death” with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.
“Crazy Jim,” his contemporaries called Jacopone. We might well echo their taunt, for what else can you say about a man who broke into song in the midst of all his troubles? We still sing Jacopone’s saddest song, the Stabat Mater, but we Christians claim another song as our own, even when the daily headlines resound with discordant notes. Jacopone’s whole life rang our song out: “Alleluia!” May he inspire us to keep singing.
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 22 & 23 of 26:
22. The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.
23. Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.
Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.
Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.
Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.