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What are Dec. 18, 20 and 21? — Deep in December we still can remember the fast days called ‘ember’



There are a lot of special days we know from music:  Andy Williams sang of “Days of Wine and Roses,” Wang Chung sang of “Dance Hall Days,” and Don McLean, in “American Pie” lamented “the day the music died.”  Likewise there was “Happy Days,” “New Year’s Day,” “Manic Monday,” “Saturday in the Park,” and “A Day in the Life.” Wow, that’s a lot of songs from the old days. “Those Were the Days My Friend”! Now, some of those songs are well known still; however, others, even though gems, have gotten lost in the passing of time.

The church has some days like these, too. Some days like Christmas, First Fridays, and holy days of obligation are well known. However, there are other sacred times, which, even though commended by the church, have gotten lost in modern times. These days are tucked away in church’s vault of spiritual treasures. In this regard, there is a special set of days (coming up this week) that I would like to commend to you; they are called Ember Days.

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The sound of music is the gift Ursuline senior brings to nursing care center

December 12th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized, Youth Tags: , , ,


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – When it comes to senior citizens and students interacting, it’s usually the older people sharing their expertise with the youngsters. But in Emma Field’s case, the roles are reversed.

The Ursuline Academy senior is the one leading her elders, —residents at Kentmere Nursing Care Center — where Field is the volunteer director of the handbell choir.

When she started, she was not familiar with the bells, but she could read music, which was good enough. Read more »

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Pope tells theologians ‘sense of the faithful’ is not popular opinion

December 6th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said the church must pay attention to the ‘sense of the faithful’ (‘sensus fidelium’) when exercising its teaching authority, but never confuse that sense with popular opinion on matters of faith.

The pope made his comments Dec. 6, in an address to members of the International Theological Commission, a Vatican advisory body.

A cameraman with the Vatican’s television operation, CTV, records Pope Francis as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the members of the church possess the ‘sense of the faith,’” he said. “It is a question of a kind of ‘spiritual instinct,’ which permits us to ‘think with the church’ and discern what is consistent with the apostolic faith and the spirit of the Gospel.”

The pope said the magisterium, the church’s teaching authority, has the “duty to pay attention to what the Spirit tells the church through authentic manifestations of the ‘sense of the faithful.’”

But he told the theologians this sense “must not be confused with the sociological reality of majority opinion. That is something else. It is therefore important, and it is your task, to elaborate the criteria that permit discernment of authentic expressions of the ‘sense of the faithful.’”

Citing his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said theologians “must always listen to the faith as lived by the humble and little ones, to whom it has pleased the father to reveal what he has hidden from the learned and the wise.”

Joking that he was not trying to give “publicity to the Jesuits,” the pope recalled that even his order’s founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, used to teach the catechism to children.


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Vatican ‘ever greens’: Christmas tree comes early to St. Peter’s Square

December 6th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — If Germans are known for being punctual, it turns out even their trees show up early.

This year’s Christmas tree from Bavaria’s Bohemian Forest was scheduled to arrive on the feast of St. Nicholas, Dec. 6.

The Vatican Christmas tree is positioned in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 5. The 82-foot-tall tree is a gift from people in the town of Waldmunchen in Germany’s Bavarian region near the Czech border. It arrived a day earlier than expected in order to beat the threat of bad weather in Germany. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Instead, cameramen and photographers had to scramble Dec. 5, when images starting showing up on the Vatican’s 24-hour live video feed of a giant crane hoisting an 82-foot-tall evergreen in St. Peter’s Square.

Bavarian television was the only crew there for the tree’s dawn debut. They had been tipped off in the middle of the night by the German company trucking the precious cargo to Rome.

“We got here early because the weather was good, the Alps were clear (of snow on the roads) and there was no traffic,” Alois Frank, the trucking company manager, told Catholic News Service.

Holding his lemon-yellow hardhat, Frank said he and his team had left the town of Waldmunchen at 7 a.m. on Dec. 2 and got to Rome exactly 72 hours later. They had left earlier than planned to beat bad weather expected in the North, he said.

This despite an earlier bit of trouble, when a mechanical defect grounded the helicopter with which they had intended to lift the cut tree from its forest home. They ended up using a crane to transfer the conifer onto the open semi that took it to Rome.

Though not the tallest tree ever to grace the square, it was perhaps one of the fattest. Vatican workmen struggled for nearly an hour to cut and fit the three-foot-wide trunk into the metal stand’s two-foot-diameter hole.

The seemingly endless paring and pruning prompted one Italian onlooker to joke that the seven-ton majestic evergreen would end up as a toothpick.

Using ropes and a large metal pipe as a lever, the men eventually managed to twist, turn and lodge the spruce snuggly into the stand. Other trucks from Waldmunchen had brought another 60 smaller trees, destined for the Paul VI audience hall and other areas around the Vatican.

It was Blessed John Paul II who started the tradition of mounting a large Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square, and beneath it a Nativity scene, which is not unveiled until Christmas Eve.

Every year since 1982, a different country or Alpine region has donated the tree. And every year, after admiring it from his window in the Apostolic Palace, the pope has highlighted the Christian significance of the tree bedecked with lights.

Blessed John Paul often recalled how the evergreen symbolizes “life that does not die,” and teaches that people’s lives can remain “ever green” if they offer the gift of themselves in service to others.

Pope Benedict XVI called the Christmas tree a sign of the shining presence of Jesus, who “shattered the darkness of error and sin and has brought humanity the joy of his blazing divine light.”

Yet sometimes, the Vatican evergreen has also taken on other shades of meaning.

In 2002, the president of Croatia called the tree it donated a stark reminder of Serbian aggression during his country’s struggle for independence.

Then-President Stipe Mesic, in Rome to present the tree to the pope, told Vatican Radio the tree came from a farm owned by a man who had been run off his land by Serb soldiers.

An 82-foot-tall tree from the forests of Transylvania became a symbol for another former-communist country, this time, of Romania’s “hope for the unity of Europe” and of the “deep roots of our Christian faith,” then-President Ion Iliescu said in 2001, noting the tree was also the first to come to the Vatican from a predominantly Orthodox country.

The 1999 tree, from the Czech Republic, reminded U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka of the Czech people’s resistance under communism.

“This tree has weathered strong winds and many storms, but it survived,” the cardinal told a delegation from the country. “It reminds me of the long winter of dictatorship that your people had to overcome.”

Czech seminarians from the donating diocese saw the tree in a still different light and jokingly described it as an innocent victim of a “serious environmental crime.” After putting their bishop on a mock trial, they sentenced him to plant a new tree in its place.

The seminarians expressed their ecological concerns with a friendly jest, but the following year, protesters at the dedication of the Vatican tree made their point by throwing smoke bombs and bottles, to which Italian police responded with canisters of tear gas.

The demonstration, about three blocks from St. Peter’s Square, was aimed at Jorg Haider, governor of the Austrian province that had donated the tree. Haider, who briefly met Blessed John Paul when the pope greeted the delegation of donors, had drawn criticism throughout Europe for past comments opposing immigration and expressing sympathy with some Nazi policies.

More than 50 people were injured that day, and in the end, even the tree didn’t make it unscathed.

After its removal from the square in early February, the 89-foot tree was planted in southern Italy, where two days later vandals doused its base with a flammable liquid and set it aflame.

The blackened and charred tree lost not only its boughs of green, but also the Christmas spirit it had been meant to symbolize.

A related video with commentary from a Jesuit priest about the Christmas tree tradition will be available on the CNS YouTube channel, at youtube.com/catholicnewsservice.


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The rituals of Advent create memories of the season

December 6th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized


The Advent season is upon us and, for me, all the memories of childhood come rushing back. Most of us treasure our childhood times when life seemed simple, and we remember everything was perfect. One of the things that led to these perfect memories is that they are part of the rituals of the season.

When I became a young mother, I reflected on these memories and decided to bring these rituals to my children so they could treasure their own memories. One of the customs that we began was drawing names for their Christmas Pollyanna after Thanksgiving dinner. On the first day of Advent, we set up the Nativity stable, minus straw and the Baby Jesus. During Advent, the children were to be extra kind and do favors for their Pollyanna sister. Each special deed allowed them to place a piece of straw in the manger so that by Christmas Eve, there was a comfortable bed for the newborn infant.

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Pope prays for Mandela’s example to inspire future generations

December 6th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,


Pope Francis joined church and government leaders from around the world in crediting Nelson Mandela for a steadfast commitment to promoting human rights and upholding the dignity of all people in response to the death Dec. 5 of the former president of South Africa.

People sing and dance during a Dec. 6 gathering of mourners in Soweto, where former South African President Nelson Mandela once resided. Mandela, who led the struggle to replace the country’s apartheid regime with a multiracial democracy, died Dec. 5 at age 95 at his home in Johannesburg. (CNS photo/Ihsaan Haffejee, Reuters) 

In a message to South Africa President Jacob Zuma, Pope Francis said he offered a prayer to assure that Mandela’s efforts to forge a new nation based on nonviolence, reconciliation and truth after the apartheid era “will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”

The pontiff also asked God to “console and strengthen all who mourn (Mandela’s) loss.”

Mandela, who had been battling complications from a lung infection, died at his home in Johannesburg. He was 95.

Others commended Mandela for leading a peaceful transition to democratic rule after he was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years and his election in 1994 as South Africa’s first black president.

President Barack Obama praised Mandela for striving to achieve a “democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said during a press briefing Dec. 5. “So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set, to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, the never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”

Obama later in the day directed that flags be lowered to half-staff through sunset Dec. 9.

Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement said that Mandela “was a stranger to hate.”

“He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past,” Kerry said. “He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible.”

The Catholic Church in Southern Africa said the death of Mandela brought great sadness and expressed its gratitude “for the sacrifice he made for all peoples of South Africa and for the leadership and inspiration he gave in leading us on the path of reconciliation.”

“The greatest way we can acknowledge the life of Nelson Mandela is to strive for the ideals he cherished: freedom, equality and democracy, and to defend these ideals from those who would corrupt them,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement signed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town.

Mandela “never compromised on his principles and vision for a democratic and just South Africa where all have equal opportunities, even at great cost to his own freedom,” the statement said.

When Mandela was released from prison, “the country was in turmoil and blood was being spilt almost daily,” the bishops said.

“Through his leadership at that time, reinforced when he became president in 1994, he led the country on the path of reconciliation and peace, calling on South Africans to throw all arms of destruction into the sea. For this we shall always be indebted to him,” they said.

In a personal statement, Archbishop Brislin said Mandela inspired the world. To honor Mandela’s memory and continue the struggle for justice in South Africa and elsewhere, people must continue to seek a just order that includes all people, end discrimination, eradicate poverty, ensure that people live in dignity, have honest government untainted by corruption and care for the poorest and most vulnerable people in society, he said.

In a telephone interview Dec. 6, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, said Mandela “lived the values that make life truly meaningful” and explained that the former president’s “memory invites us to reflect on our call to be human beings with each other and for each other.”

Bishop Dowling, vice chairman of the Southern African bishops’ conference justice and peace department, helped establish the conference’s parliamentary liaison office in Cape Town soon after Mandela was elected president.

The bishop recalled one day in November 1995 in which he met Mandela twice: once at the funeral of a king of the Bafokeng people and later in Oukasie, a tumbledown township that was the site of significant struggle during apartheid, for a gathering of the international Young Christian Workers.

In Oukasie, Mandela “headed straight for the kids who were there and there was such mutual joy at seeing each other,” Bishop Dowling said, noting that Mandela “always had such smiling eyes and an exceptional love for children.”

Then Mandela “asked me if the people at the meeting were all from different countries and when I confirmed this, he said, ‘then I must greet them all personally.’”

“So there was this old man, who had had a very long day, shaking hands with every person there, asking them what country they were from. And the look on those young people’s faces as he did that …,” Bishop Dowling said.

The values Mandela portrayed – “understanding, compassion, reaching out to others — are values I aspire to, and I think every one of us feels the same. He was what we yearn to be ourselves: profoundly human,” he said.

Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, a South African priest who served in Mandela’s cabinet, said the former president “was such a servant of the people that I sometimes thought, ‘This man should have been a priest, not me.’”

The priest, who now heads South Africa’s Moral Regeneration Movement, said that as deputy minister of education he once opened a new school in a poor rural area of South Africa in Mandela’s presence.

“I felt so small and wondered why he didn’t take over and officiate. But he put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Smangaliso, this is your day. I am here to stand next to you and give you support.’ That was the kind of man he was,” Father Mkhatshwa said in a Dec. 6 telephone interview from Johannesburg.

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu lauded his fellow Nobel laureate as a man who showed a deeply divided nation how to come together. He downplayed rumors that South Africa would “go up in flames” in the wake of Mandela’s death, saying such talk discredits South Africans’ and Mandela’s legacy.

“The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next. … It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on,” he said.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also mourned Mandela’s passing, calling him an icon.

“In his struggle against apartheid rule, Nelson Mandela was a light for peace and equality in his country and for the whole world,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky. “His years of imprisonment exemplified the suffering experienced by so many who seek justice. As president of South Africa, Mandela sought to undo the structures that marginalized and impoverished people – work Pope Francis is now challenging the entire world to imitate.”

Archbishop Kurtz added that the prayers of the U.S. bishops were with the Mandela family and the people and church of South Africa.

“We thank God for his brave witness and for all men and women who work against injustice and seek, in the words of Pope John XXIII, ‘to make the human sojourn on earth less sad.’”


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New Diocese of Wilmington Directory now available

December 5th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized


Cover photo by Don Blake, www.donblakephotography.com. Photo illustration by Virginia O’Shea.

The 2013-14 Diocese of Wilmington Catholic Directory is now available for purchase. The Directory is a handy resource with up-to-date information on parishes, diocesan offices, priests, religious men and women, schools, and organizations. You’ll find phone numbers,  e-mail addresses, web sites, Mass schedules, a list of parishes by location, a history of the diocese, and more.

This year’s cover features a photo illustration of one of the many bronze statues that can be seen at All Saints Cemetery in Wilmington.

The cost of the Directory is $30 per book. To order, send a check (made payable to The Dialog) to cover the cost of each book ordered, to:

The Dialog

Attention: Directory Orders

P.O. Box 2208

Wilmington, DE 19899-2208

For  credit card orders, call:

(302) 573-3109.

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Francis’ remarks on ‘economy of exclusion and inequality’ stir controversy


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In enunciating the principles of Catholic social teaching, popes have long stressed the church’s special concern for the poor and the need for state intervention to promote economic justice.

Pope Francis
(CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Benedict XVI, for instance, blamed the “logic of profit” for widespread hunger and pollution, called for a “true world political authority” to ensure peace and environmental protection, and, when still a cardinal serving as a high Vatican official, wrote that, “in many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.”

Yet the international response to Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), published Nov. 26, has seemed to suggest the current pope wrote something shockingly new. The document has excited ardent praise and criticism from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, especially for its words condemning an “economy of exclusion and inequality” based on the “idolatry of money.”

An editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper praised the pope for giving “form to the emotion and injustice of post-financial-crisis outrage in a way that has been rare since Occupy Wall Street disbanded,” while the radio show host Rush Limbaugh denounced what he called “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”

Much of the particular impact of Pope Francis’ words is doubtless due, on this subject as others, to his characteristically blunt and passionate style of expression. As he writes in an oft-quoted passage: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Father Seamus Finn, director of the U.S. Missionary Oblates’ office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said the pope’s exhortation is distinguished by its special focus on economic inequality’s impact on the poor and by its call on Christians to have “actual living contact with people who are poor or unemployed or struggling.”

Where the document has proven especially controversial is in its description and explanation of present-day economic realities.

Pope Francis writes of an exponentially growing gap between rich and poor, which he blames for environmental degradation and rising violence, among other evils. He attributes this gap to the influence of bad economic ideas.

“This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control,” the pope writes.

He rejects “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

Catholics who support free-market economic policies have disputed the factual assertions behind the pope’s analysis.

“There’s plenty of evidence out there, from the World Bank for example, suggesting that the number of people in absolute poverty over the past 30 years has shrunk dramatically, that in parts of the world, such as East Asia, we’ve seen a lot of people get out of poverty, and we’ve seen the emergence of large middle classes in countries like China and India,” said Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute and author of “Tea Party Catholic.”

Gregg also argues that the financial sector and the economy in general are already highly regulated, at both the national and international levels, and that, “aside from one or two anarcho-capitalists who spend most of their time talking to each other and have no influence on the conduct of public policy,” no economists today seriously argue that markets should be absolutely autonomous.

But Father Finn said the last two decades in the United States have witnessed a “growth in wealth in assets for the top 1 percent and stagnation of wages and assets for the middle class,” resulting in “widening gaps between a very, very small number of people at the top, a middle class that’s holding its own, and an impoverished sector that is barely hanging on and very dependent on the charity of others.”

Father Finn said Pope Francis’ portrayal of the ideological struggle over state intervention in the economy is realistic, as exemplified by current debates in the U.S.

“We have a whole number of folks who are saying, let’s shrink the size of government, let’s let the market and the private sector come up with and propose solutions,” particularly in the education and health care sectors, he said. “And we’ve got lots of other people saying, that’s leaving a lot of collateral damage out there. Who’s responsible for it?”

Beyond encouraging a larger role for the state, Pope Francis does not propose specific remedies for the problems he identifies, in the economy or other areas, writing that papal teaching should not “offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the church and the world.”

Father Finn said the frequency with which the pope cites documents by various national bishops’ conferences is a sign he expects local churches to find different solutions appropriate to their circumstances. The Oblate also said Pope Francis’ praise of business as a “noble vocation” and his appeal to financial leaders to seek divine guidance for their plans exemplify the pontiff’s wider call for social dialogue.

“That’s got to be one of the key conversations for the Vatican, for bishops’ conferences and for the church, a realistic conversation with people in business,” he said. “They’re the people on the front line of this Wall Street-Main Street tension.”


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Morning homily: A life built on Christ is guarantee against hypocrisy, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — People can say things that sound Christian and call themselves Christian as they tell others what to do, but if they don’t pray often and live the Gospel, they harm others and the church, Pope Francis said.

Concelebrating his morning Mass Dec. 5 with the eight members of the Council of Cardinals advising him on the reform of the Roman Curia and church governance, Pope Francis prayed that God would give all Christians “the grace of humility” to build their lives on the rock that is Christ.

The statue of Christ outside the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. (CNS file)

According to Vatican Radio, the pope’s homily focused on the Gospel story of Jesus scolding the Pharisees who knew all of the commandments, but did not live them.

Modern-day Pharisees know the right words, he said, but by not putting them into practice, “they do harm; they trick us and make us believe that we have a beautiful home, but it is without a foundation” because it is not built on rock.

“The rock is Jesus Christ. The rock is the Lord,” he said. “A word is strong, it gives life, it carries on, it withstands attacks if the word has its roots in Jesus Christ.”

Christian preaching and admonitions, he said, “trick and do harm” if they are not built on Christ and rooted in a life lived for him.

Paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton, Pope Francis said, “A heresy is a truth, a word, gone mad. When Christian words are without Christ they begin to journey toward madness.”

The madness of the hypocrite leads to haughtiness, he said. “A Christian word without Christ moves you toward vanity, self-confidence, pride and power for power’s sake.”

“The Lord will bring those people down,” Pope Francis said. “That’s a constant in the history of salvation. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, said it and Mary said it in the Magnificat: The Lord takes down the vain, the pride of those who think they are the rock.”

Pope Francis told those at the Mass that it is important for Christians to make an examination of conscience about their words and attitudes when speaking about Christ and the faith and whether what they say is reflected in the way they live their lives.

When words and lives don’t match, he said, “this creates divisions between us, divisions in the church.”


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Health leaders, governor see bright future for St. Francis

December 1st, 2013 Posted in Our Diocese, Uncategorized Tags:


The only Catholic hospital in the Diocese of Wilmington is well-prepared to meet the needs of an aging population in Delaware and provide quality care to all ages with its professional staff and leading-edge technology.

That was the message that executives from St. Francis Healthcare and CHE Trinity Health delivered Nov. 12 with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell to approximately 200 physicians and business partners on the future of healthcare at Saint Francis Healthcare in Wilmington.

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