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Viewpoint: Remembering the ones who won’t be home for the holidays

December 10th, 2017 Posted in Opinion Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

This season sparkles with joy. We open our homes to family and friends, greeting each other at wreath-decked doors under twinkling lights.

But a small moment often catches in our throat. We set one less place for Thanksgiving dinner. Or we cross a name off this year’s Christmas list. Read more »

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Decorating for Christmas on Christmas Eve? It’s the beginning, not end, of the season

December 1st, 2017 Posted in National News Tags: , ,

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — During the weeks before Christmas, Catholic churches stand out for what they are missing.

Unlike stores, malls, public buildings and homes that start gearing up for Christmas at least by Thanksgiving, churches appear almost stark save for Advent wreaths and maybe some greenery or white lights.

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Bishop Malooly’s 2017 Advent and Christmas schedule announced

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The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has announced Bishop W. Francis Malooly’s Advent and Christmas schedule.

  • On Thursday, December 7, Bishop Malooly will attend the annual Advent prayer service and dinner with the residents of Bayard House, Catholic Charities’ residential program for at-risk, homeless, pregnant and/or newly parenting young women, and their babies. The service and dinner will be held on the campus of St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware at 5 p.m.
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World scarred by war, greed must welcome prince of peace, pope says at Christmas

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The song of the angels that heralded the birth of Christ urges men and women to seek peace in a world divided by war, terrorism and greed, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” the pope said Dec. 25.

Migrants, refugees, children suffering due to hunger and war, victims of human trafficking as well as social and economic unrest were also remembered by the pope.

“Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery,” he said.

An estimated 40,000 people slowly made their way through security checkpoints into St. Peter’s Square to attend the pope’s solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). 

Heightened security following the Dec. 19 terrorist attack in Berlin, Germany was evident as police cordoned off streets and established multiple checkpoints throughout the area.

While police presence is standard for major events in St. Peter’s, the added security was a sign of the times where crowded areas have become a target for terrorists.

The pope prayed for “peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism that has sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.”

Countries ravaged by the scourge of war were also in the pope’s thoughts, particularly in “the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled,” especially in the city Aleppo. The pope called on the world to support the people of Syria with humanitarian assistance and to put an end to the conflict.

“It is time for weapons to be silenced forever and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country,” he said.

      The pope appealed for peace for the people of Ukraine, “who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict.”

The Vatican announced Dec. 23 that the first installment of 6 million euro ($6.3 million) would be distributed on Christmas Day to assist in relief efforts in Ukraine. Earlier this year, the pope called for a collection across churches in Europe to help the people of the war-torn country.  

Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism,” were in the pope’s prayers so that they may “be able to once again find unity and harmony.”

The pope also remembered Africa, especially Nigeria where fundamentalist terrorism “exploits children in order to perpetrate horror and death” as well as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling on their leaders to choose the path of dialogue rather than “the mindset of conflict.”

He also prayed for peace in the Holy Land and that Israelis and Palestinians turn away from hate and revenge while having “the courage and determination to write a new page of history.”

Praying for an end to current tensions, the pope also called for peace in Venezuela, Colombia, Myanmar and the Korean peninsula

Christ’s birth, he said, is a sign of joy and a call for the world to contemplate “the child Jesus who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth.”

“‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ He is the ‘prince of peace;’ let us welcome him.”

After his address, the bells of St. Peter’s rang loudly, pealing throughout the square as they did in the evening Dec. 24 following the proclamation of Jesus’ birth during Christmas Mass.  

The darkness of the night sky over St. Peter’s Basilica was broken by the bright lights emanating from the colonnade and the Christmas tree from the square.

Temperatures just above 40 degrees didn’t stop thousands of people unable to enter the packed basilica from participating in the Mass, sitting outside and watching the Mass on giant screens in St. Peter’s Square.

In his homily, the pope said the love of God is made visible at Christ’s birth on a night of glory, joy and light “which would illuminates those who walk in darkness.”

The shepherds are a witness to “the enduring sign” of finding Jesus when they discover him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; a sign that is given to all Christians today, the pope said.

“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” he said.

This sign of humility, he added, also reveals a paradox: God who chose not to reveal himself through power, but rather through the “poverty of a stable” and “in the simplicity of life.”

“In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small,” the pope said.

The image of the child in the manger, he continued, is a challenge for all Christians to “leave behind fleeting illusions” and “renounce insatiable claims.”

It is also a calling for the world to respond to the sufferings of children in this age who “suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants,” the pope said.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do not have toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he said.

Christmas is not only a mystery of hope but also of sadness where “love is not received and life discarded” as seen by the indifference felt by Mary and Joseph “who found the doors closed and placed Jesus in a manger.”

That same indifference, he said, exists today when commercialism overshadows the light of God and “when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.”

“This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed,” the pope said departing from his prepared remarks.

However, the hope of Christmas is the light that outshines this darkness and “draws us to himself” through his humble birth in Bethlehem,” he said.

      Noting that Bethlehem means “house of bread,” the pope said that Jesus was born to nourish us, creating a “direct thread joining the manger and the cross.”

“In this way, he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love. He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that like the shepherds, who although marginalized are chosen to witness the birth of Christ, Christians are reminded of God’s closeness and can enjoy the true spirit of Christmas: “the beauty of being loved by God.”

“Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me,” the pope said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope holds Christmas audience with Vatican employees, families

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity, his son, Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God's gift to humanity -- his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a child as he arrives to lead a special audience with Vatican workers Dec. 22 in Paul VI hall. While exchanging gifts for Christmas is a beautiful tradition, Pope Francis said, do not forget the one and only real gift people will ever receive is God’s gift to humanity — his son, Jesus Christ. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Also be sure to thank God for the gift of employment and pray for all those who are jobless or experience injustice and exploitation at work, he told Vatican employees during a special audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Dec. 22.

As Christmas carols in multiple languages played over the public announcement system, many children offered small gifts or notes to the pope, who celebrated his 80th birthday Dec. 17. Some people wore colorful Christmas sweaters, or others, including one small baby, had on red Santa Claus hats.

Multiple generations were present, with employees allowed to bring their parents, grandparents, children and newborns. Families whose members had special needs were seated in the front and were each greeted personally by the pope after the audience. The pope’s chief bodyguard, Domenico Giani, alternated between providing security and doing cellphone-camera duty when he obliged people’s requests to take their picture with the pope.

The pope continued a tradition he began in 2014 of inviting people who work at the Vatican, along with their family members and loved ones, to receive pre-Christmas greetings. The now-annual meeting follows a longer-held tradition of the pope meeting with members of the Roman Curia, the church’s central administrative offices, as well as cardinals living in Rome and members of the papal household.

Pope Francis thanked the Vatican employees, most of them laypeople, for their hard work and dedication, recognizing that the small size of Vatican City often made coordination and cooperation a lot easier.

“We always have to thank God” for the gift of employment, he said, which is important for an individual’s well-being and entire families, he said.

He then asked for prayers for all those around the world, “who do not have work, or else, who often do jobs that are inappropriate, poorly paid or harmful to one’s health.”

The pope requested that everyone, according to their responsibilities, make sure jobs respected people’s dignity and their families and followed the Catholic Church’s social teaching.

The Vatican, above all, he said, must follow these Gospel guidelines, which also meant doing nothing deceitful or illegal in its employment arrangements — “nothing under the table.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @carolglatz.

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Look It Up — A light shines in the darkness

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Catholic News Service

The first reading for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (Isaiah 9:1-6) is one of the prophet Isaiah’s most beautiful and consoling.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Read more »

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Living Our Faith — Christmas

December 19th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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The utterly charming story of Christmas is treasured by Christians for much more than its charm. It stirs thoughts of the incarnation of the Son of God and stimulates a conversation about incarnate faith.

A Nativity scene and Christmas tree decorate the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 15, 2014. The familiar scene of Jesus lying in a manger, tended by Mary and Joseph, points beyond itself to remind believers that this child is the Word of God, who "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14). (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A Nativity scene and Christmas tree decorate the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Dec. 15, 2014. The familiar scene of Jesus lying in a manger, tended by Mary and Joseph, points beyond itself to remind believers that this child is the Word of God, who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Part of the charm of Christmas is family holiday traditions. These traditions remind us of God’s loving hand in our lives. Included in the package are examples of Christmas family traditions.

Christmas celebration centers around Mass. The first reading for the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (Is 9:1-6) is one of the prophet Isaiah’s most beautiful and consoling.

Also included are capsule reviews of some holiday-themed films, a Christmas recipe for “plecionka” — polish potato braided bread — a reflection on the psalms, an explanation of the “The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ” from the Roman Martyrology and a reflection on St. Joseph.

 

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Christ’s birth can bring peace, hope to suffering world, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christmas is a reminder that through the birth of Christ, hope and peace are possible and that only through his grace can humanity find peaceful solutions to the world’s most difficult problems, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis uses incense as he visits the Nativity scene at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis uses incense as he visits the Nativity scene at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst,” the pope said Dec. 25. “Where God is born, hope is born. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war.”

Heightened security around St. Peter’s Square did little to dampen the spirits of an estimated 50,000 people attending the pope’s solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). Many in the crowd dressed festively and applauded the music of the Vatican’s marching band.

However, police and anti-terrorism task forces were a visible sign of a world shaken by violence and extremism; conflicts that have not even spared the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The pope prayed that Israelis and Palestinians would reach a peaceful agreement that would end the “conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.”

The pope also prayed that recently approved agreements would bring a quick end to the wars afflicting Syria and Libya, two countries ravaged by war for several years. He also prayed that the international community would find ways to end atrocities in Iraq, Yemen, Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Ukraine.

Victims of terrorism were also in the pope’s thoughts and prayers as he remembered the victims of the Russian airliner bombed in Egyptian airspace and terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris; Bamako, Mali and Tunis, Tunisia.

Christians persecuted for their faith were remembered as the pope prayed that “the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength” to those suffering.

Recalling the thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing poverty and war, Pope Francis compared the lack of respect for their dignity to the situation of Christ who was born into the world suffering “cold, poverty and rejection.”

“May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade,” he said.

As the church celebrates the Holy Year of Mercy, the pope said mercy is the “most precious gift which God gives us” and that Christians “are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us.”

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica pealed at midday, just as they did late Dec. 24 when thousands packed the church for Christmas Mass. Hundreds of people who could not find room in the basilica braved the cold weather and watched on giant screens from St. Peter’s Square.

With his voice noticeably hoarse from a bout of flu, the pope said in his homily that the prophetic words of Isaiah are those of a fulfilled promise of joy and gladness that are “a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God.”

Doubt and indifference, he stressed, should be left to skeptics who “by looking to reason alone, never find the truth.”

“There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something,” he said. “All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart.”

The birth of Jesus, he continued, is a call for all Christians to “put away all fear and dread” and to follow the path that leads to Christ “who has been born to us, he was given to us as the prophet Isaiah proclaims.”

The coming of Christ into the world, the pope said, shows what is truly essential in life. Despite his birth into the “nothingness” of poverty, Jesus shows men and women who are simple of heart the true path of “authentic liberation and perennial redemption” while giving them strength to reject “godless ways and the richness of the world.”

“In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is a essential,” he said.

Christians, the pope said, are called to cultivate a sense of justice, discernment and doing God’s will in a world that is often “merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin.”

As a choral rendition of “Silent Night” echoed through the basilica during the distribution of Communion, many attending the Mass were visibly moved.

“Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God. And in his presence may our hearts burst forth in prayer: ‘Show us, Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation,’” the pope said.

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Bishop Malooly’s 2015 Christmas Greeting

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“The Word became flesh and lived among us.” These words from the beginning of Saint John’s Gospel sum up the mystery we celebrate each Christmas: that Jesus, God’s eternal Word of love, entered into our human existence. God’s Word isn’t just an idea or thought, but it is a person — a person that could be seen and touched and heard. From the cave in Bethlehem to the cross, Jesus shared that word of God’s love with all he met, especially the least among us. Read more »

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It’s Christmas, but not just Christmas!

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For all those who have a birthday within a week of Christmas, I am sure you will appreciate the fine Christmas whine I am about to decant.

 

Christmas grift

You see, I was born on Dec. 19, six short days before Christmas. That might sound nice – being born so close to date upon which our Savior was born. But here’s the downside: You get rooked royally, when it comes to gifts. I recall, through most of my childhood and into adulthood, when my birthday would come around, I would get presents. But as those presents were handed to me, I’d be greeted with this phrase, “This is for your birthday … and for Christmas, too.” In the background, I was almost able to hear singer Barry Gordon intoning mockingly, “I’m gettin’ nothin’ for Christmas.” Read more »

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