Filed under: Religion
While I live in southern California, yesterday I was in Phoenix, AZ and so on the second Sunday of Easter I went to St. Mary’s Basilica to 9:00 a.m. Mass. During this Mass they baptized three little babies; two boys and a girl. The baptism fount was located in the center of this old beautiful church, and after the three little babies had been baptized the priest led the families in a procession back down to the front of the church. Here’s what really struck me. The three fathers lifted the little babies up in the air, in front of them and elevated above their heads. The babies, in their little white baptismal gowns looked like royalty of some type – all that was missing was a little pillow for them to be seated on as they processed majestically down the center aisle of the church. One father was particularly tall and his baby was raised higher than everyone else in the church, all eyes were on this little one as the child seemed to bob up and down floating through the air towards the front of the church.
The church was honoring these children, newly received into the church, like royalty. It reminded me of St. Peter’s words about the Church: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (I Pet 2:9). There they were, three tiny ambassadors for Christ and His Kingdom! The church broke into jubilant applause!!!
We have a son who participated in debate in high school and college. Sometimes in the ordinary routine of college life he was called upon to defend the Catholic faith. I asked him if being in debate helped him. He told me that he found defending the faith a lot easier and more fun than debate because as he put it, it is always easy to defend the truth. I think when we are defending the rights of the unborn – we should remember this. Something that Pope Benedict said in a speech given to the Pontifical Academy for Life on February 22, 2007 made me remember what my son had said:
“It is a right that must be sustained by all, because it is the first fundamental right of all human rights. The Encyclical Evangelium Vitae strongly affirms this: “Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness can, by the light of reason and the hidden action of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart (cf. Rom 2: 14-15) the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree. Upon the recognition of this right, every human community and the political community itself are founded” (n. 2).
The same Encyclical recalls that “believers in Christ must defend and promote this right, aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: “By his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being’ (Gaudium et Spes, n. 22). This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3: 16), but also the incomparable value of every human person” (ibid.).
Therefore, the Christian is continually called to be ever alert in order to face the multiple attacks to which the right to life is exposed. In this he knows that he can count on motives that are deeply rooted in the natural law and that can therefore be shared by every person of upright conscience. ”
After saying this Pope Benedict went on to elaborate in detail all of the difficulties we encounter when defending life in our society. Still, when I think about turth being the natural impulse of the human soul it helps me defend the unborn with confidence.
Filed under: Evangelium Vitae
The above cartoon from April 22, 1990 makes the point that democracy can sometimes have tragic consequences. John Paul II in section 70 of his Encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae makes some similar and startling statements about Democracy.
“Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a “system” and as such is a means and not an end. Its “moral” value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behavior, must be subject…”
“But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the “common good” as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored.”
“If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations…”
Father Faber once said of the Annunciation:
“The Annunciation is the hardest feast in the year to keep as it should be kept.” Fr. F.W. Faber, The Blessed Sacrament
One website called the Day of the Unborn Child is trying to encourage Christians to celebrate this feast day in a more profound and significant way. Here is how they describe what they are about:
“This site was developed to advance the movement toward international recognition of March 25th as the “Day of The Unborn Child,” and equally to promote among Christians the observance of this traditional feast day of the Incarnation honoring Christ’s conception which is currently named ‘The Feast of the Annunciation.’ “
This website is really informative – Some of the topics that you will find are:
Ideas for celebrating the feast
Fascinating facts about this feast
Historical Background on the feast
Further Reading and Instructional Materials
They also will send you free prayer cards. They are really beautiful cards – I requested them about a year ago.
To see these and more topics click here.
This website also calls our attention to the fact that over the past 15 years there has been a movement to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25 as the Day of the Unborn.
Quite a few countries especially in Central and South America have had this day officially recognized as the Day of the Unborn or are working towards this goal. Here is a partial list of these countries:
El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Paraguay and The Philippines
Click here to see an article on the Hawaii Right to Life website which provides other details about this movement. The Knights of Columbus also encourage the celebration of Day of the Unborn Child on the feast of the Annunciation. Because March 25th falls on Easter Tuesday – the Annunciation will be celebrated on March 31 this year.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections
You read about it on the first page of your New Testament: “We have seen his star in the east” (Mt 2:2).
You read about it on the last page of your New Testament: “I am…the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16).
You read about it in the first Pope’s letter in the New Testament: “…until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19).
Christ’s entry into the world was made known by a star. It was shining in His Father’s heaven while He was growing in His mother’s womb. It was a star of prophecy and Good News, it’s brilliance rivaled only by “the glory of the Lord” which shone around the Angel of the Lord with that “multitude of the heavenly host” announcing the birth of God’s only begotten Son (Lk 2:9-14).
In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible Jesus calls Himself “the bright morning star”. The morning star represents Christ in His glory, but also the Life of Christ – as did the Bethlehem star. The Christian tries to follow the morning star too, as did the three wise men. The Christian Pilgrim follows the star of Christ from Nazareth (where He was conceived), to Bethlehem (where He was born), through all of the events of His life, and especially to that Eastern morn!
There is a daily challenge to the Christian life, but every once in awhile, when we glimpse the loving Heart of Christ (Mt 11:29), or feel His love being poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5), or witness His loving presence reflected in another (Jn 13:34), or are struck by the brilliant light of His truth (Jn 8:12, 12:46) we experience His morning star rising in our hearts – and we recall the power of the Risen Lord – and a call to follow wherever this bright Morning Star might lead us…
You read about it in the last (current) Pope’s last Encyclical letter On Hope: “…what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise?” (#48)
“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired
but a body hast thou prepared for me…‘” Heb 10:5
We have mentioned previously (Hebrews 10: 5-7) that Christ spoke these and other words (verses 6-7) immediately upon entering the world – that is, at the one cell stage of His life. So that first cell of His existence was that body prepared for Him. And during the first nine months in the womb, in a special way, His body was being formed for that one acceptable sacrifice that would occur more than thirty years hence.
We invite you now to consider, in a most unique way, the offering of Jesus Christ – beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and continuing on until His death upon the cross – but considered from the perspective of His body being formed and prepared within the womb for those events which would occur more than 30 years later.
Consider the crucifixion in this light. The blood which will be shed in this sacrifice began to course through His body about eight months before His birth and would continue to run freely until that final offering. Likewise, every physical feature of our Lord’s body, while forming in the womb, took on its own predestined sacrificial character, a character that would be eternally stamped upon it during His Passion and death:
First His Heart begins a spiritual bleeding in the
Garden of Gethsemane and he is “sorrowful, even
to death”. (Mk.14.34)
He gets on His knees in a prayer agony. (Lk.22.41)
He falls upon His face, in the dark, in the dirt, alone.
Now sweat as great drops of blood fell from His face
and head. His Heart’s spiritual bleeding is too
intense for this Body, so the Body begins to bleed itself.
He now receives a kiss upon His cheek and a feigned
embrace from His onetime friend Judas. (Mt.26.49)
He is forcefully seized. (Mt.26.50)
His hands are tied and He is led like a lamb to slaughter.
Now His face is struck because of the response He gave
to Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas the High Priest.
Wrists still bound, He is led to the home of Caiaphas.
They spit in His face as the interrogation begins, perhaps
because He is standing erect, head still held high.
They cover His face (Mk.14.65) to blindfold His eyes.
His face is slapped and struck and He is now the subject
of a game. “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that
struck you?” (Mt.26.67) His very Identity is mocked.
He is received with blows by Caiaphas’ guards, perhaps
as He walks past them. (Mk.14.65)
The next morning He is led to the Council, perhaps
like an animal with a cord around His waist or neck.
From the Council He is led to Pilate and then sent to
Herod. Herod’s soldiers ridicule Jesus and clothe Him
in a costume. (Lk.23.11)
Our Lord’s back is scourged by order of Pilate.
He is stripped of the costume and a robe is again
put on Him. (Mt.27.28,Jn.19.2)
On His head a crown of thorns is placed, causing rivulets
of blood to trickle from His scalp down His forehead
and down the back of His neck. (Jn.19.2)
In His hands they mockingly place a reed to represent
a royal scepter. (Mt.27.29)
Now the soldiers spit on Him and take the reed back and
hit Him with it. (Mt.27.30)
And they continue to strike Him with their hands as well.
He is given the large wooden cross to carry. (Jn.19.17)
Its rough abrasive weight upon His recently scourged
He has trouble carrying the cross (Simon of Cyrene is
therefore forced to help; Lk.23.26) Tradition tells us
that Jesus fell three times as He carried the cross.
(Reference: the Stations of the Cross)
At Golgotha they strip Him and nail His
hands and feet to the cross. (Lk.23.33 34)
Aching, exhausted, bruised, bleeding, weary of dying,
Christ hangs on the cross, resembling more a slaughtered
animal than a man in the final stage of dying.
He is offered sour vinegar to drink, probably extended
on a saturated sponge on a stick and placed against His
lips; all in jest. (Lk.23.36)
Finally, a spear is thrown into His side. (Jn.19.34)
Probably penetrating His Heart, causing the issuance
of “blood and water“.
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Incarnation, Quotes from Great Christians
Here is an interesting quote from Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson on the Last Supper and the Incarnation.
“Thus, in that last emphatic act of the life of His Humiliation He took Bread, and cried, not Here is my Essential Self, but ‘This is my Body which is given for you,’ since that Body was the instrument of Redemption.
And, if the Christian claim is to be believed, this act was but a continuation (though in another sense) of that first act known as the Incarnation. He who leaned over the Bread at that “last sad Supper with His own” had, in another but similar manner, leaned over Mary herself with similar words upon His lips.“
From Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, Christ In The Church (published 1913).