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Traditions associated with Epiphany vary based on location


For The Dialog

Father Stanislao Esposito didn’t anxiously await Christmas morning to see what Santa had left him while growing up in Italy. Instead, he awaited a Jan. 6 visit by La Befana, a good witch, who brought gifts for boys and girls.

“The idea was that since Jesus got his gifts on the Epiphany, so did we,” said the pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea-Holy Savior in Ocean City, Md. Read more »

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Cardinal Tobin installed as Newark, N.J., archbishop


Catholic News Service

NEWARK, N.J. — The chasm between faith and life is the greatest challenge facing the Catholic Church today, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin said at his installation Mass, and he urged the church to be salt for the earth so that the presence of Christ does not become “a comforting, nostalgic memory.”

Delivering the homily during the liturgy Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany, Cardinal Tobin said he wanted to head off “a growing trend that seems to isolate us, convincing us to neatly compartmentalize our lives” as people attend Mass on Sunday and then doing “whatever we think we need to do to get by” the rest of the week.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin smiles as he greets a clergyman before his Jan. 6 installation Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin smiles as he greets a clergyman before his Jan. 6 installation Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Tobin said his appointment reminded him “that stakes are incredibly high” as he assumes leadership of the richly diverse Archdiocese of Newark.

“If we permit the chasm between faith and life to continue to expand, we risk losing Christ, reducing him simply to an interesting idea of a comforting, nostalgic memory. And if we lose Christ, the world has lost the salt, light and leaven that could have transformed it,” he said.

He recalled how the church is “the place where believers speak and listen to each other, and it is the community of faith that speaks with and listens to the world. The church senses a responsibility for the world, not simply as yet another institutional presence or a benevolent NGO, but as a movement of salt, light and leaven for the world’s transformation. For this reason, our kindness must be known to all.”

The installation took place before more than 2,000 people at Newark’s towering Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Tobin concelebrated the Mass with six other cardinals and more than 60 archbishops and bishops. Five hundred priests and deacons also participated.

After a 30-minute processional, Archbishop John J. Myers, retired archbishop of Newark, welcomed participants and took special note of members of Cardinal Tobin’s religious community, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, his mother, Marie Terese Tobin, and his extended family. Cardinal Tobin, 64, is the eldest of 13 children.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, recalled when St. John Paul visited Newark in 1995, he described the nearby Statue of Liberty as a symbol of “the nation America aspires to be.” Archbishop Pierre told Cardinal Tobin, “We are confident that in imitation of the Good Shepherd, your episcopal ministry will be both hospitable and welcoming.”

The nuncio read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis to the College of Consultors to authorize Cardinal Tobin as the new archbishop of Newark.

Carrying the unfurled scroll with the mandate raised high in front of him, Cardinal Tobin walked down the main aisle and was greeted with sustained applause.

The cathedral was filled to capacity with the cardinal’s family and well-wishers from Newark and Indianapolis. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, as well as Sen. Robert Menendez were among the civic representatives.

The installation took place on the feast of the Epiphany and the choice of music reflected the liturgical season, as well as the special occasion. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” was the opening hymn.

Ethnic diversity in the archdiocese was represented by prayers of intercession in Spanish, English, Korean, Polish, Creole, Ibo, Portuguese, Tagalog and Italian.

At the end of Mass, Cardinal Tobin thanked “all those families to which I belong, beginning with the one that’s put up with me for 64 years,” specifically his mother, 12 brothers and sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles who were present. He said his family taught him how to love and share while growing up in a one-bathroom house with eight sisters.

The cardinal extended thanks to his Redemptorist family and “bishops in episcopal service in Indiana and New Jersey.” When he thanked Archbishop Meyers for his welcome and “the care you’ve given to this archdiocese for 15 years,” the congregation offered sustained applause.

Thanking the people in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for all they taught him and now mean to him, Cardinal Tobin said, “I showed up there unexpectedly four years ago and I was a little embarrassed to be parachuted in on top of these unsuspecting Hoosiers.”

Of his newest family in Newark, Cardinal Tobin said, “These past couple of months have been an interesting roller coaster of emotions, a time of preparation, anticipation and change for all of us.” He expressed heartfelt thanks to the army of people who worked since his appointment was announced Nov. 7 to plan multiple services and celebratory events.

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Seeking the light of Jesus

December 29th, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: ,


Catholic News Service

As a community of faith, we are a people who not only seek light, but who crave and welcome light — the light of hope, joy and love present in our risen Lord who declares, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Read more »

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God created all people, desires to save them, pope says on Epiphany


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In every age and in every culture, people seek God just as the Three Kings did and, in every age, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they find him in the surprising humility of a baby born in a manger, Pope Francis said.

“Led by the Spirit, they come to realize that God’s criteria are quite different from those of men, that God does not manifest himself in the power of this world, but speaks to us in the humbleness of his love,” the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini pool via Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates Mass on the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Andrew Medichini pool via Reuters)

Before beginning the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis and two families, each with two small children, paid homage to the newborn Lord by kissing a statue of Baby Jesus that had been placed in front of the main altar on Christmas Eve.

The journey of the Magi from the East and their discovery of the babe, the pope said in his homily, is a sign that Jesus came to save all peoples, not just his fellow Jews.

“According to tradition, the wise men were sages, watchers of the constellations, observers of the heavens in a cultural and religious context which saw the stars as having significance and power over human affairs,” the pope told the congregation. “The wise men represent men and woman who seek God in the world’s religions and philosophies: an unending quest.”

The Holy Spirit prompted them to follow the star, kept them strong when their quest proved difficult and filled them with the grace they needed “to have a personal encounter with the true God,” he said.

While it would have been understandable to not believe that the baby was the Messiah, the Holy Spirit helped them “enter into the mystery,” the pope said. “The wise men are thus model of conversion to the true faith, since they believed more in the goodness of God than in the apparent splendor of power.”

The feast of the Epiphany, he said, is a time for all Christians to ask themselves where God can be found in their lives and whether they resist the temptation to put their faith in people or things that demonstrate worldly power.

“The crib points us to a different path from the one cherished by the thinking of this world,” Pope Francis said. “It is the path of God’s self-abasement, his glory concealed in the manger of Bethlehem, on the cross upon Calvary, in each of our suffering brothers and sisters.”

While Pope Francis and thousands of people were at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, thousands more lined the main boulevard leading to St. Peter’s Square for the traditional, folkloric Epiphany celebration. Marching bands, baton twirlers and more than 1,500 people in Renaissance costumes paraded up the street ahead of the Three Kings on horseback.

Vatican police said there were 50,000 people were in the square to recite the Angelus at midday with the pope.

The revelation of Jesus to the Three Kings, the pope said at the Angelus, was the “manifestation of God’s love and universal salvation. He does not reserve his love to a privileged few, but offers it to all.”

Just as all human beings have one creator, the pope said, God willed that they would have one savior, Jesus Christ.

“For this reason, we are called always to nourish great trust and hope for every person and his or her salvation,” he said. “Even those who seem far from the Lord are followed, or better, pursued, by his passionate and faithful love.”

Like the Wise Men, he said, Christians must continue to journey closer and closer to the Lord, attentive to the signs of God’s presence, untiring and courageous.

“Attentive, untiring and courageous — but one thing is missing,” he said. “Walk in the light! And what is the light? The Gospel of Jesus. Always have a Gospel in your purse or pocket to read.”


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Avoid temptation with ‘spiritual shrewdness,’ says pope on feast of Epiphany


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians should go out into the world to follow God but use “holy cunning” to guard against the snares of temptation, Pope Francis said.

The pope made the remarks at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6 on the feast of the Epiphany, which marks the manifestation of Jesus as savior to the world.

A woman dressed as royalty walks under a canopy as period enactors participate in an Epiphany parade in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In his homily, the pope said that life is a journey, and like the three Wise Men, or Magi, people are looking for the “fullness of truth and of love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the light of the world.”

Jesus is found by reading the world of God’s creation and the sacred Scripture, which nourishes the soul and “enables us to encounter the living Jesus, to experience him and his love,” the pope said.

On life’s journey, we need to be “attentive, alert and listen to God who speaks to us,” and be prepared when we encounter “darkness, suspicion, fear and jealousy.”

This happened to the Magi when they briefly lost sight of the star to Bethlehem and passed through Jerusalem where they encountered King Herod, who was “distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail child whom he thought of as a rival,” the pope said.

Jesus wasn’t interested in usurping the king, “a wretched puppet,” the pope said, but in overthrowing the devil.

Nonetheless, the king and his counselors felt threatened and feared “a whole world built on power, on success, on possession, on corruption was being thrown into crisis by a child,” the pope said.

“The Magi were able to overcome that dangerous moment of darkness before Herod, because they believed in the Scriptures,” and believed the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, he said.

They were able to flee the darkness and resume their journey toward God because of a “holy cunning, that is, a spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and to avoid it.”

Pope Francis said Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” means Christians must welcome God into their hearts and “cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity with astuteness.”

The Magi “teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which seek to envelop our life,” the pope said.

Like the Magi, we need to “safeguard the faith with holy cunning, guard it from that darkness which, many times, is also disguised as light,” he said.

“Shield it from the song of the Sirens,” who seek to distract us from taking the right path, guarding one’s faith “with prayer, with love, with charity.”

The Magi also teach us “not to be content with a life of mediocrity, of playing it safe, but to let ourselves be attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful, by God,” he said.

Look to the heavens as they did, aim high and “follow the great desires of our heart” while also being wise to the deception of appearances, by what the “world considers great, wise and powerful.”

“We must not be content with appearances,” but press on, past the darkness and worldly temptations, to the periphery, to Bethlehem, to find the true light and king of the universe, the pope said.

After the Mass, tens of thousands of people streamed to St. Peter’s Square to listen to the pope’s noon prayer and to visit the Vatican’s Nativity scene.

Like the star that appeared in the night sky over Bethlehem, God is the first to appear and signal to the world his presence, the pope said.

God is always the first to take the initiative; he is the one who invites and then patiently waits.

“The Lord calls you, the Lord looks for you, the Lord waits for you,” the pope said. “The Lord doesn’t proselytize. He gives love and this love looks for you and waits for you, you! Even if right now you don’t believe or you are far” from God.

The pope noted Jan. 6 marked World Day of Missionary Childhood, and he praised the efforts by Christian children to spread the Gospel and reach out to the less fortunate.

The pope also extended a Christmas greeting to Eastern Christians who follow the Julian calendar and were preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ Jan. 7.

He asked that Jesus “strengthen in everyone their faith, hope and love, and give comfort to the Christian communities experiencing ordeals.”


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Epiphany: The Word made flesh made known to the world


“We three kings of Orient are bearing gifts we traverse afar.”

It’s in the beautiful hymn “We Three Kings” that most people glean their understanding of the holy day we call “Epiphany.” However, if our only understanding of Epiphany is from that hymn, we are left with an incomplete knowledge of the significance of Epiphany.

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