One of the great blessings we have as Catholics is that Christmas is not just one day and the Liturgical Calendar shows us that the Season of Christmas continues until the Baptism of the Lord (inclusive) – roughly 15-20 days after 25 December.
… a gift of love wrapped in human flesh and
tied securely with the strong promises of God.
… angelic music in the form of a carol
and oratorio with a celestial descant.
… “glory to God,” “good will to man,”
and “joy to the world.”
… “peace on earth” for those who accept it
and live in unity with God’s will.
… a man on duty tending sheep, or machine,
who senses the upward call and stops to worship.
… a tall green tree which serves as festive altar
for any household which discovers the true meaning behind it all.
… a ringing bell calling a distraught humanity
to gladness and hope.
… a glowing hearth gently placed
in the winter of man’s loneliness.
… an altar to which man can bring his heartache for comfort,
his lostness for guidance and his sin for forgiveness.
… the sparkle of anticipation and the steady light of faith
in the eyes of a little child as he hears the old, old story.
… the shining star of hope in the sky of all mankind.
… more than words can tell,
for it is a matter for the heart to receive, believe and understand
Thought for the Day – 31 December – Remembering St Pope Sylvester I (Died 335)
The Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, recognising Christianity, ending persecutions and tolerating all religions. Constantine considered it his duty to oversee the Church. He heard the complaints of bishops, summoned councils, settled Church disputes and looked upon the pope sympathetically.
It took a wise man to work with such a powerful ruler. St Pope Sylvester I held office during this crucial period. He had to keep the Church independent of the state and at the same time, keep peace with Emperor Constantine. Pope Sylvester faced the added challenge of advanced age, which prevented him from travel. To deal with the error of the Donatists, he had to send delegates to a council at Arles. Then, when Emperor Constantine called the first ecumenical council—the Council of Nicaea—in 325, the pope asked others to attend the council in his place. This council of bishops was to discuss the Arian heresy and correct the Arians for falsely teaching that Christ was not God. It was at this council that the Nicene Creed was formed.
The people of Rome had a high regard for Pope Sylvester. He was a saintly pope who understood the conflicts his bishops suffered in being loyal to Rome and to Constantine. It takes deep humility and courage in the face of criticism for a leader to stand aside and let events take their course, when asserting one’s authority would only lead to useless tension and strife. He humbly accepted the limitations of age and illness and he persevered in his pastoral care of the Church and charity to all in need. Sylvester teaches a valuable lesson for Church leaders, politicians, parentand others in authority.
Quote of the Day – 31 December – The Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave
Rejoice! For Jesus Christ is Born
Let the just rejoice,
for their Justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
for their Saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
for their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
for their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
for Jesus Christ is born.
St Augustine (354-430) – Father & Doctor of the Church
Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
31 December – The Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave
“Consider the tears of the Infant Jesus. The tears of newborn babies are often tears of pain. Jesus did not weep because of pain but rather, because of compassion and love. “They weep because of suffering, Christ because of compassion” says St Bernard. Tears are a great sign of love and behold how our God loves us, since for the love of humanity, we see Jesus made flesh, become an infant and shed tears. “These tears” teaches St Ambrose, “washed away our sins” because by His cries and tears He implored mercy for us who were condemned to eternal death. Oh, how eloquently did the tears of this Divine Little One plead in our behalf. How precious were His tears to God. It was then that the Father caused the angels to proclaim that He had made peace with humanity and received them again into His favour. And on earth peace to all people of goodwill.
My beloved Infant Jesus, while You were weeping in the stable at Bethlehem, You were thinking of me! Eternal Father, I offer You the tears of the Infant Jesus, for the sake of His tears, please forgive me.”
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One”
1 John 2:20
O Mighty God!
O God of love!
it is too much!
it broke the heart of Your sweet Son Jesus
to see the misery of man spread out before His eyes.
He died by it as well as for it.
And we, too, in our measure,
our eyes ache
and our hearts sicken and our heads reel,
when we but feebly contemplate it.
O most tender heart of Jesus,
why do You not end,
when will You end,
this ever-growing load of sin and woe?
When will You chase away the devil into his own hell
and close the pit’s mouth,
that Your chosen may rejoice in You,
quitting the thought of those who perish
in their wilfulness?
Amen (Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
Our Morning Offering – 31 December – Seventh Day of the Octave
Daily Prayer to the Holy Family (a good prayer to pray at the Breakfast or Supper Table)
JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary,
bless our family.
Graciously inspire in us the unity,
peace and mutual love
that you found in your own family,
in the little town of Nazareth. MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother,
nourish our family with your faith and your love.
Keep us close to your Son, Jesus,
in all our sorrows and joys. JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus,
guardian and spouse of Mary,
keep our family safe from harm.
Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety. HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH,
make our family one with you.
Help us to be instruments of peace.
Grant that love, strengthened by grace,
may prove mightier
than all the weaknesses and trials
through which our families sometimes pass.
May we always have God
at the centre of our hearts and homes,
until we are all one family,
happy and at peace in our true home with you.
And there’s no need to wait until next February to repeat the consecration, it’s a good prayer for your family to pray every month.
Grant unto us, Lord Jesus,
ever to follow the example of Your holy Family,
that in the hour of our death
Your glorious Virgin Mother
together with blessed Joseph
may come to meet us
and we may be worthily received by You
into everlasting dwellings
who lives and reigns, world without end.
Saint of the Day – St Pope Sylvester I (Died 335) Bishop of Rome, Confessor, Protector, Apostle of Charity – born as a Roman – died on 31 December 335 at Rome, Italy – Papal Ascension 314. Patronage – animals, for good harvests, stone masons, Order of Saint Sylvester, Feroleto Antico, Italy, Poggio Catino, Italy. He led the Church for 21 years until his death in 335, making him one of the longest-serving popes in history.
St Pope Sylvester I was born in Rome around the year 250. At a young age, his mother put him under the care of a priest to be taught literature and theology. He was ordained a priest by St Pope Marcellinus (died 304).
Sylvester enjoyed providing shelter to Christians passing through the city. He would take them with him, wash their feet, serve them at table and care for them, all in the name of Christ. One of the Christians whom Sylvester hosted was St Timothy of Antioch, an illustrious confessor of the faith. When Timothy arrived in Rome, no one dared to receive him but Sylvester considered it an honour. For a year, Timothy preached the Gospel in Rome with great zeal, while Sylvester selflessly shared his own home.
After Timothy was martyred, Sylvester buried his remains. He was quickly accused of having hidden the martyr’s treasures and the Roman governor had him imprisoned. In reply, Sylvester said, “Timothy left to me only the heritage of his faith and courage.”
After the governor choked on a fish bone and died, the guards’ hearts were softened and they set him free. Sylvester’s courageous acts became known to Pope Miltiades (also called Melchiades), who elevated him to the diaconate.
Under the tyranny of the Roman emperor Diocletian, while Sylvester was still a young priest, the persecution of Christians grew worse, starting in 303. Diocletian murdered Christians, burned churches, searched homes to destroy sacred texts and ordered everyone to worship idols placed throughout every Roman town or risk being killed. During this difficult time, Sylvester strengthened the faithful in Rome.
In 312 a new era set in. Constantine, having triumphed in battle under the “standard of the Cross,” declared himself the protector of the Christians and established close ties with the Church. When Pope Miltiades died, Sylvester became pope on 31 January 314 – making him the first of the Roman pontiffs to rule the flock of Christ in security and peace. He led the Church for 21 years until his death in 335, making him one of the longest-serving popes in history.
He is remembered in particular for his leadership through two heretical controversies in the Church – Donatism and Arianism – as well as the baptism of Constantine and the triumph of the Church over its former persecutors.
Donatists, led by the bishop Donatus, were extremist separatists in northern Africa who took a hardline view against Christians who had lapsed from the faith in order to save their lives during the brutal empire-wide persecution under Diocletian. In some cases, they beat Christians who had capitulated during Roman soldiers’ searches of their houses; they took money in return for ordaining priests and deacons and they “baptised” fallen Christians, sometimes by force. A council convened by Constantine in 313 and the Council of Arles convened by Pope Sylvester in 314 both condemned the Donatists’ actions.
Arianism, led by the Alexandrian Christian priest Arius, denied Jesus’ divinity and equality with God. It taught that Jesus was not equal with God the Father and not eternal. In 325, Pope Sylvester convened the First Council of Nicaea, the first general Council of the Church, which reiterated Jesus’ divinity and reaffirmed that Jesus was consubstantial with the Father – truly God and truly man.
A memorable but doubtful legend from his pontificate involved Constantine, who was attacked by leprosy while he was still a pagan. One night St Peter and St Paul appeared to Constantine and commanded him to call for Pope Sylvester, who would cure him by giving him the sacrament of baptism. According to the legend, the pope baptised him and Constantine was converted. (Actually, Constantine was baptised on his deathbed by someone else years later.)
During his pontificate were built the great churches founded in Rome by Constantine, including St Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and the Basilica of St John Lateran.
Pope Sylvester died on 31 December 335 and was buried in the church he built over the Priscilla Catacombs. Interestingly, he is one of the earliest saints who was not a martyr.
St Pope Sylvester I (Died 335) (Optional Memorial)
Bl Alan de Solminihac
St Anton Zogaj
St Barbatian of Ravenna
St Columba of Sens
Bl Dominic de Cubells
St Festus of Valencia
St Gelasius of Palestine
Bl Giuseppina Nicoli
St Hermes the Exorcist
St Marius Aventicus
St Melania the Younger
St Offa of Benevento
Bl Peter of Subiaco
St Potentian of Sens
St Sabinian of Sens
St Theophylact of Ohrid
Bl Walembert of Cambrai
Bl Wisinto of Kremsmünster
St Zoticus of Constantinople
Martyrs of Catania – 10 saints: A group of early Christians martyred together, date unknown. The only other information to survive are ten of their names – Attalus, Cornelius, Fabian, Flos, Minervinus, Pontian, Quintian, Sextus, Simplician and Stephen. They were martyred in Catania, Sicily, Italy.
Martyrs of Rome – 10 saints: A group of Roman women martyred in an early persecution, date unknown. We known the names of ten of them – Dominanda, Donata, Hilaria, Nominanda, Paolina, Paulina, Rogata, Rustica, Saturnina and Serotina.
Their relics were enshrined in the catacombs of Via Salaria, Rome, Italy.
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
• Blessed Leandro Gómez Gil
• Blessed Luis Vidaurrázaga González
Sunday Reflection – 30 December – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
“Actually, the experience of the family is called to become a daily offertory, as a holy offering to God, a gift of pleasing fragrance.
The Gospel of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, suggests us this same idea.
Jesus, the light of the world but also “a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk 2:32.34), desires to receive this offering of each family as He receives the bread and wine in the Eucharist.
He wants to join to the bread and wine destined to transubstantiation,
these human hopes and joys but also the inevitable sufferings and preoccupations of each family,
by incorporating them to the mystery of His Body and his Blood.
He then in turn gives them back – the same Body and Blood – in the communion,
as a source of spiritual energy,
not only for each single person but also for each family.”
Thought for the Day – 30 December – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Saint Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) Bishop of Rome
An excerpt from Nazareth (Homily)
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Nazareth is a kind of school where we may begin to discover what Christ’s life was like and even to understand His Gospel. Here we can observe and ponder, the simple appeal of the way God’s Son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually, we may even learn to imitate Him.
Here we can learn to realise who Christ really is. And here we can sense and take account, of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected His life on earth – the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs, in brief, everything which Jesus used to make Himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual discipline for all who wish to follow Christ and to live by the teachings of His Gospel.
How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God’s truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the Gospel, for that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing, some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.
First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value. We need this wonderful state of mind, beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us, how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual and to be open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of His true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life and of silent prayer that is known only to God.
Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplify its basic function in society – a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings, in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.
Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman’s son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognise its value—demanding yet redeeming—and to give it proper respect . I would remind everyone, that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say but rather from the purpose it serves.
In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, Christ their brother, our Lord and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well-being.
Quote/s of the Day – 30 December – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
“How important it is, therefore, that every child coming into the world be welcomed by the warmth of a family! External comforts do not matter, Jesus was born in a stable and had a manger as His first cradle but the love of Mary and of Joseph made Him feel the tenderness and beauty of being loved. Children need this, the love of their father and mother. It is this that gives them security and, as they grow, enables them to discover the meaning of life. The Holy Family of Nazareth went through many trials …. Yet, trusting in divine Providence, they found their stability and guaranteed Jesus a serene childhood and a sound upbringing.”
Pope Benedict XVI (Feast of the Holy Family 2010)
“Waste time with your children, so that they can realise, that love is always free.”
Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
30 December – The Fifth Day of the Christmas Octave
“Consider that the manger served as Jesus’ cradle, straw was His bed and straw His pillow, so that He was constantly interrupted in His sleep by the hardness and roughness of this little bed. Notwithstanding all of this, the sweet babe, from time to time, slept despite His sufferings. But the sleep of Jesus, differed from other children. The slumbers of other children are useful for the preservation of life but not for the operations of the soul, because, the soul, being buried in sleep along with the senses, cannot work but such was not the sleep of Jesus Christ. Let us ask Him, by the merit of His blessed slumbers, to deliver us from the deadly slumber of sinners, who unhappily sleep in the death of sin, forgetful of God and of His love. Instead we ask for the sleep of the holy spouse, when the soul forgets all earthly things, to attend only to God and to the things that concern the glory of God. My beloved and holy Infant, in humans sleep is the emblem of death but in You, it is the sign of eternal life because while You are sleeping You merit for me eternal salvation. Make me always love You in this life so that I may breathe forth my soul in Your arms, united to You, sleeping with You forever, without fear of losing You again.”
All who keep his commandments abide in him and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
1 John 3:24
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Lord Jesus Christ,
meek and humble of heart,
You offer to those who follow You,
a yoke that is good to bear,
a burden that is light.
Accept, we beg You, our prayer and work of the day
and grant us the rest, we need,
that we may be ever more willing to serve only You.
Save us Lord,
while we are awake,
protect us while we sleep,
that we may keep watch with Christ
and rest with Him in peace,
Our Morning Offering – 30 December – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This is a very appropriate prayer as the Church focuses on Family Life.
Nazareth Prayer for the Family By St Mother Teresa(1910-1997)
You have given us the model of life
in the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Help us, O Loving Father,
to make our family another Nazareth
where love, peace and joy reign.
May it be deeply contemplative,
intensely eucharistic, received with joy.
Help us to stay together in joy
and sorrow in family prayer.
Teach us to see Jesus
in the members of our families,
especially in their distressing disguise.
May the Eucharistic heart of Jesus
make our hearts humble like His
and help us to carry out our family duties
in a holy way.
May we love one another
as God loves each one of us,
more and more each day,
and forgive each others faults
as You forgive our sins.
Help us, O Loving Father,
to take whatever You give
and give whatever You take with a big smile.
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
cause of our joy, pray for us.
St Joseph, pray for us.
Holy Guardian Angels,
be always with us,
guide and protect us.
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – 30 December
The Feast of the Holy Family is dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, commemorating their life together in Nazareth and calling us to focus on Catholic family life. The feast is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas since it was placed on the general calendar in 1921 by Pope Benedict XV.
The Church presents the Holy Family to us as a model for our own family life. Joseph was the head of the Holy Family and provided for Mary and Jesus with the work of his hands. He was obedient to the angel who told him to take Mary as his wife, what to name the new child and again when told to flee with them to Egypt. He taught Jesus the carpentry trade and what it was to be a man in the society in which they lived.
Mary took care of her family in the home. It was she who would have taught Jesus the Scriptures and prayers of their people when he was very young. It was through her example of managing the home, that Jesus would formulate many of the examples he would later use in his teaching. Jesus saw work sanctified through the example of his earthly parents, who did all things well in the ordinary circumstances of daily life.
As far back as St John Chrysostom (347-407), Christians were urged to make of their home a family church in which the family members would find their sanctification. That was to be accomplished by putting Christ at the centre of all individual and family life, by working and praying together, reading the Scriptures and worshipping as a unit.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, (60) St Pope John Paul said: “Do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young – Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them, when they are sick, to think of Christ suffering, to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family Rosary together…? Do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life and an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church.”
In 2002, St Pope John Paul II stated in his Angelus homily of 29 December “Every Christian family is called to show “convincingly that it is possible to live marriage fully in keeping with God’s plan and with the true good of the human person – of the spouses, and of the children who are more fragile” (Novo Millennio ineunte).
“A united family that follows these principles will more easily overcome the trials and difficulties it encounters on its way. In the faithful love of the parents, a gift ceaselessly to foster and safeguard, children can find the best conditions for their growth, helped by Jesus who “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52).”
Catholics are encouraged to learn what the Church teaches about marriage and family life and to avoid those things which run counter to God’s plan. Catholic family life, then, would exclude such acts as artificial contraception, abortion, pre-marital sex, homosexual activity, reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization and divorce.
It is within the family that human life in all its stages is nurtured and protected, where concern for others is learned and where the virtues are developed for the good of the individual, the family, and the society.
The Holy Family feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. We also may take this feast to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do? Finally, we can use this feast to ask ourselves what are we doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighbourhoods and communities. (In Conversation with God Vol 1).
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (2018)
Last year’s post: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/31-december-feast-of-the-holy-family-and-the-seventh-day-of-the-octave/
St Anysia of Thessalonica
St Anysius of Thessalonica
St Egwin of Worcester
St Elias of Conques
St Eugene of Milan
Bl Eugenia Ravasco
St Pope Felix I
Bl Giovanni Maria Boccardo
St Hermes of Moesia
St Jucundus of Aosta
St Liberius of Ravenna
Bl Margaret Colonna
St Perpetuus of Tours
Bl Raoul of Vaucelles
St Raynerius of Aquila
Bl Richard of Wedinghausen
St Ruggero of Canne
St Sebastian of Esztergom
Martyrs of Alexandria – (5 saints): A group of Christians martyred in the unrest caused by Monophysite heretics. We know the names for five of them – Appian, Donatus, Honorius, Mansuetus and Severus. They were martyred in c 483 at Alexandria, Egypt.
Martyrs of Oia – (6 saints): A group of Christians martyred together, date unknown. The only details to have survived are the names – Cletus, Florentius, Papinianus, Paul, Serenusa and Stephen. They were martyred in Oia, Greece.
Martyrs of Spoleto – (4 saints): A group of Christians martyred in the persecutions of Diocletian – Exuperantius, Marcellus, Sabinus and Venustian. They were martyred in 303 in Spoleto, Italy.
Thought for the Day – 29 December – St Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury
No one becomes a saint without struggle, especially with himself. Thomas knew he must stand firm in defense of truth and right, even at the cost of his life. We also must take a stand in the face of pressures—against dishonesty, deceit, destruction of life—at the cost of popularity, convenience, promotion and even greater goods.
Quote/s of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. From now on a merited crown awaits me
2 Timothy 4:7
“Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained, by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth, that without real effort no-one wins the crown.”
“I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood, the Church may obtain liberty and peace.”
“Better are the blows of a friend, than the false kisses of an enemy.”
“Who shall resist Anti-Christ when he comes if we show such patience towards the vices and crimes of his precursors? By such leniency, we encourage kings to become tyrants and tempt them to withdraw every privilege and all jurisdiction from the Churches.”
It is dangerous for men in power, if no-one dares to tell them, when they go wrong.” (St Thomas to a friend on his ordination)
Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
29 December – The Fifth Day of the Christmas Octave
Jesus lies on the straw
“Consider that the Mother of Jesus has neither wool or down to make a bed for the tender infant. What does she do? She gathers together a small handful of straw into the manger. How hard and how painful is this bed for an infant that has just been born. The limbs of a baby are so delicate and especially the limbs of Jesus, which were formed by the Holy Spirit with special care and delicacy. Straw is a bed fit only for beasts and yet the Son of God had no other bed on which lie, than a bed of miserable straw. St Francis of Assisi, while sitting at table one day, reflected on this fact and immediately rose from his place at table, threw himself on the ground and finished his meal. “What” he said, “My Lord was laid on straw and I continue to sit?”
My beloved Jesus, I do not desire to leave You alone to cry and to suffer. Your tears both afflict and console me. They afflict me because You are so innocent but they console me, because they assure me of the gift of salvation. I, too, will weep, because it is my sins that are the cause of Your sufferings.”
“…he who says he abides in him, ought to walk in the same way, in which he walked.”
1 John 2:6
Prayer (St Alphonsus)
O Most merciful Infant Jesus,
I give You thanks
for all that You suffered for me.
O my sweetest Love,
I am sorry that I have offended You.
I desire to be always faithful in Your service.
Fill my heart with Your love.
O Mary, grant that I may belong
entirely to you and your Son, Jesus.
Our Morning Offering – 29 December – St Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury
Please Lord, Make me Worthy Prayer of St Thomas a Becket
I find it difficult to talk to You.
What can I say?
I, who have turned away from You
so often with indifference.
I have been a stranger to prayer,
undeserving of Your friendship and love.
I’ve been without honour
and feel unworthy.
I am a weak and shallow creature,
clever only in the second-rate
and worldly arts,
seeking my comfort and pleasure.
I gave my love,
such as it was, elsewhere,
putting service to my earthly king,
before my duty to You.
teach me how to serve You
with all my heart,
to know at last,
what it really is,
So that I may worthily administer
Your kingdom here on earth
and find my true honour,
in observing Your divine will.
Please Lord, make me worthy.
Saint of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury
A strong man who wavered for a moment but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil and so became a strong churchman, a martyr and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on 29 December 1170.
His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning – he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship and reformed his whole way of life!
Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death.
Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favoured by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral.
Henry did penance at the grave of Thomas, seeking forgiveness for the actions of his knights and the tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.
Thomas Becket remains a hero-saint down to our own times.
Richard Burton played St Thomas in the film “Becket” with Peter O”Toole as King Henry II – here is a snip from “the Best Scenes”
St Aileran of Clonard
St Albert of Gambron
St Aproniano de Felipe González
St David the King
St Ebrulf of Ouche
St Enrique Juan Requena
St Florent of Bourges
Bl Francis Ruiz
St Girald of Fontenelle
St Jacinto Gutiérrez Terciado
Bl José Aparicio Sanz
Bl José Perpiñá Nácher
St Juan Bautista Ferreres Boluda
St Libosus of Vaga
St Marcellus the Righteous
St Martinian of Milan
Bl Paul Mary
Bl Peter the Venerable
St Quartillosa of Carthage
St Thaddeus of Scythia
St Trophimus of Arles
St Trophimus of Ephesus
Bl William Howard (1614–1680) Martyr
Martyrs of North Africa – (8 saints): A group of Christians executed together for their faith. The only details to survive are eight names – Crescentius, Dominic, Honoratus, Lybosus, Primian, Saturninus, Secundus and Victor.
Martyrs of Rome – (3 saints): A group of Christians executed together for their faith. The only details to survive are three names – Boniface, Callistus and Felix.
Martyrs of Seoul – (7 saints): Additional Memorial – 20 September as part of the Martyrs of Korea.
A group of seven lay woman in the apostolic vicariate of Korea who were martyred together.
• Barbara Cho Chung-I
• Barbara Ko Sun-I
• Benedicta Hyong Kyong-Nyon
• Elisabeth Chong Chong-Hye
• Magdalena Han Yong-I
• Magdalena Yi Yong-Dok
• Petrus Ch’oe Ch’ang-Hub
They were born in South Korea and were martyred by beheading on 29 December 1839 at the Small West Gate, Seoul, South Korea. They were Canonised on 6 May 1984 by St Pope John Paul II.
Martyred in the Spanish Civil War:
Thousands of people were murdered in the anti-Catholic persecutions of the Spanish Civil War from 1934 to 1939.
• Blessed Aproniano de Felipe González
• Blessed Enrique Juan Requena
• Blessed Jacinto Gutiérrez Terciado
• Blessed Juan Bautista Ferreres Boluda
Thought for the Day – 28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents – 4th Day of the Christmas Octave
A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life Himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace—so small, yet so great—who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out His own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those, as yet unable to speak, fit witnesses to Himself. See the kind of kingdom that is His, coming as He did in order to be this kind of King. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.
But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying Him homage and do not know it.
How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own, do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.
St Quodvultdeus (died 450) Bishop, Father of the Church, Spiritual child of St Augustine
“And while he thus persecutes Christ, he furnished an army of martyrs, clothed in white robes, of the same age as the Lord.”
St Augustine (354-430) Father & Doctor of the Church
Quote/s of the Day – 28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents – 4th Day of the Christmas Octave
“We praise you, O God, we acclaim you as Lord; the white-robed army of martyrs praise you.”
From the Te Deum
“These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.”
”The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already, at the beginning of their lives, they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory.”
St Augustine (354-430) Father & Doctor of the Church
“The star of Bethlehem shines forth in the dark night of sin. Upon the radiance that goes forth from the manger, there falls the shadow of the cross. In the dark of Good Friday, the light is extinguished but it rises more brightly, as the sun of grace. on the morning of the resurrection. The road of the incarnate Son of God, is through the cross and suffering. to the splendour of the resurrection. To arrive with the Son of Man, through suffering and death, at this splendour of the resurrection, is the road for each one of us, for all mankind.”
Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
28 December – The Fourth Day of the Christmas Octave
Jesus is nourished at His Mother’s breast
“Consider that Jesus, as soon as He was swathed, looked for and took milk from the breast of Mary. What a spectacle it must have been to those in Paradise to witness the divine Word, who had become an infant, sucking milk from a virgin who was His own creature! Sister Paula, the Camaldolese, in contemplating a little image of Jesus taking milk, felt herself immediately inflamed with a tender love for God, with great wonder and awe at His humility. O my Jesus, permit me to join my voice with the voice of the women in the gospel who proclaimed, “blessed to the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you.”
“…In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. …And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Prayer (St Alphonsus)
“My beloved Jesus,
You are the bread of angels
and my bread of eternal life.
Grant me a tender devotion
to Your holy Infancy,
so that I may forget everything else
for love of this tender Child
and think of nothing but You.
Our Morning Offering – 28 December – Feast of the Holy Innocents – 4th Day of the Christmas Octave
Prayer for the Unborn Pope Benedict XVI
You who faithfully visit and fulfil with Your Presence
the Church and the history of men;
You who in the miraculous Sacrament of your Body and Blood
render us participants in divine Life
and allow us a foretaste of the joy of eternal Life;
We adore and bless You.
Prostrated before You, source and lover of Life,
truly present and alive among us, we beg You.
Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life,
make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb
the miraculous work of the Creator,
open our hearts to generously welcoming every child
that comes into life.
Bless all families,
sanctify the union of spouses,
render fruitful their love.
Accompany the choices of legislative assemblies
with the light of Your Spirit,
so that peoples and nations may recognise and respect
the sacred nature of life, of every human life.
Guide the work of scientists and doctors,
so that all progress contributes
to the integral well-being of the person,
and no one endures suppression or injustice.
Give creative charity to administrators and economists,
so they may realise and promote sufficient conditions,
so that young families can serenely embrace
the birth of new children.
Console the married couples who suffer,
because they are unable to have children
and in Your goodness provide for them.
Teach us all to care for orphaned or abandoned children,
so they may experience the warmth of Your Charity,
the consolation of Your divine Heart.
Together with Mary, Your Mother, the great believer,
in whose womb You took on our human nature,
we wait to receive from You, our Only True Good and Saviour,
the strength to love and serve life,
in anticipation of living forever in You,
in communion with the Blessed Trinity.
Composed by Pope Benedict at the Prayer Vigil for the Unborn on 27 November 2010
Saints of the Day – Feast of the Holy Innocents: Martyrs – 28 December – 4th Day of the Christmas Octave
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
During this octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the memory of the small children of the neighbourhood of Bethlehem put to death by Herod.
Sacrificed by a wicked monarch, these innocent lives bear witness to Christ who was persecuted from the time of His birth by a world which would not receive Him. It is Christ Himself who is at stake in this mass-murder of the children, already the choice, for or against Him, is put clearly before men. But the persecutors are powerless, for Christ came to perform a work of salvation that nothing can prevent, when He fell into the hands of His enemies at the time chosen by God, it was to redeem the world by His own Blood.
Our Christmas joy is tempered today by a feeling of sadness. But the Church looks principally to the glory of the children, of these innocent victims, whom she shows us in heaven following the Lamb wherever He goes.
One of the most cherished carols of the Christmas season is often presented as a melody without lyrics. For this reason, the tune is familiar but the words of the carol are not. The carol of which I am referring to is known as the Coventry Carol, which originates in a 16th century “mystery play” called the Pageant of the Shearman and Tailors. The play and the song concern the massacre of the young children of Bethlehem at the command of King Herod, a story that is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. The Coventry Carol is a lament that is imagined in the play to have been sung by the mothers whose children have been murdered by Herod’s cruelty, it combines the sound of their weeping with the gentle cadences of a lullaby:
Lullay thou little tiny child, By, by lully lullay.
O sisters, too how may we do, For to preserve this day; This poor youngling for whom we sing, By by lully lullay.
Herod the king, in his raging Charged he hath this day; His men of might in his own sight All young children to slay.
Then woe is me, poor child for thee And ever mourn and say; For thy parting, no say nor sing By by lully lullay
The Holy Innocents saved the Child Jesus from death by King Herod, by the shedding of their own blood. The Holy Innocents are the special patrons of small children, who can please the Christ Child by being obedient and helpful to parents and by sharing their toys and loving their siblings and playmates.
The feast of the Holy Innocents is an excellent time for parents to inaugurate the custom of blessing their children. From the Ritual comes the form which we use on solemn occasions, such as First Communion. But parents can simply sign a cross on the child’s forehead with the right thumb dipped in holy water and say: “May God bless you and may He be the Guardian of your heart and mind—the Father, + Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
St Anthony of Lérins
St Caesarius of Armenia
BL Claudia Weinhardt
St Domitian the Deacon
St Domnio of Rome
St Gowan of Wales
Bl Gregory of Cahors
Bl Hryhorii Khomyshyn
St Iolande of Rome
Bl Johannes Riedgasser
Bl Nicolas Mello
Bl Otto of Heidelberg
St Simon the Myroblite
St Theonas of Alexandria
St Theodore of Tabenna
St Troadius of Pontus
20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia: 20,000 Christians who were murdered during in 303 in Nicomedia, Bithynia (modern Izmit, Turkey) during the persecutions of Diocletian. Many of them were killed en masse when they were ordered, during Christmas Mass, to sacrifice to idols; when they refused, they were locked in the churches and the buildings burned around them. We know some details of a few of them, but most are known only to God. The names we have are – Agape, Anthimos, Domna, Domna, Dorotheus, Esmaragdus, Eugene, Euthymius, Glykerios, Gorgonius, Hilary, Indes, Mardonius, Mardonius, Maximus, Migdonius, Migdonus, Peter, Peter, Theophila, Theophilus and Zeno. 303 in Nicomedia, Bithynia (modern Izmit, Turkey).
Martyrs of Africa – (3 saints): Three Christians murdered together in Africa for their faith. The only details to survive are their names – Castor, Rogatian and Victor.
Second Thoughts for the Day – 27 December – The Memorial of Blessed Sára Salkaházi S.S.S. (1899–1944) Martyr
From the Homily of Bishop László Biró Preached in Kosice, Slovakia, at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of Sr Sára, 24 November 2006.
“A saint, – according to a wisdom saying – is an ordinary person. But her ordinary life is formed by much harder reality than the ordinary. Thus became Sára Salkaházi , a native of Kosice, a saint; on such a path can we, ordinary persons, also become saints.
In conclusion I quote from the homily of Cardinal Erdő, preached at the beatification Mass. “We need the example of Sister Sára in a particular way during this year of jubilee. We are praying for the renewal of our nation with atonement and reconciliation. We pray for a renewal which is possible only in the light of truth, of justice and love. We pray for a spirituality which recognises in the weakest and in the poorest the human being, who, after all is the greatest treasure in all societies and at all times. There is a burning need for such renewal and reconciliation within our society; among the nations in the Carpathian basin and in the whole world.” Amen.
Prayer for the Intercession of Blessed Sára Salkaházi
All powerful God, my loving Father,
You created me out of Your everlasting love
and in Your mercy You adopted me as Your child;
Lord Jesus Christ,
You saved me by Your precious blood
and You called me to be Your disciple;
O Holy Spirit, You showered
an abundance of grace upon me.
Glory be to You forever!
O Most Holy Trinity,
the life-offering of Blessed Sára Salkaházi ,
virgin and martyr, for her sisters;
through her intercession grant me
the grace of …………….,
and help me to join her in crying out
from the depth of my heart:
“O God of Love, enkindle love in me!
Come, my Christ and make my heart
Your own that You may love,
Thought for the Day – 27 December – the Feast of St John the Apostle and Evangelist “The Disciple whom Jesus Loved” and the 3rd Octave Day – “The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made”
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter then came out, with the other disciple and they went toward the tomb. They both ran but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb, he saw the linen cloths lying and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in and he saw and believed...John 20:2–8
Tucked away in a central Parisian museum that was once a railway station, there hangs an Easter painting quite unlike any Gospel masterpiece created before or after it. It is not painted by a Rembrandt or a Rubens or the patron saint of artists, Fra Angelico. The painting is the work of a little-known Swiss painter. For those who make a trip to see it, viewing the canvas is a special spiritual experience in their lives.
The work does not even show the risen Jesus. It merely portrays two witnesses, Jesus’ oldest and youngest apostle. The youngest who was the only man brave enough to stay by Jesus’ cross and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death as a result of it. The oldest apostle, who first denied Jesus in fear, yet ultimately chose to be crucified upside down by the Roman authorities, rather than deny Christ’s resurrection.
In “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” by Eugène Burnand, John clasps his hand in prayer while Peter holds his hand over his heart. The viewer feels the rush as their hair and cloaks fly back with the wind. They are sprinting towards discovery of the moment that forever altered heaven and earth. As you look at it, engage for a moment in what the Catholic blogger Bill Donaghy calls “the visual equivalent of Lectio Divina.” As Donaghy notes, “This Resurrection scene does not put us before still figures near a stagnant stone, or figures standing with stony faces in a contrived, plastic posture, pointing to an empty tomb. This scene is dynamic; we are in motion.”
During his time, Burnand was fascinated by the possibilities of the emerging art of photography. Ironically, he would later be dismissed in the twentieth century as too “bourgeois” and anti-modernist when in fact he was merging his love of tradition with his interest in new technological ways of capturing the human person. His painting feels cinematic long before cinema existed as a major art form.
Through the movement and immediacy of the scene, the preceding minutes with Mary Magdalene are palpable. In a sense, she is in the painting too. “You can almost hear her voice in the background, can you not, a few minutes earlier, as she burst into their house…” writes the Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell in an Easter sermon meditating on the painting.
Apart from Jesus’ mother, no other three participants capture the closeness of Jesus’ encounter with humankind quite like John, Peter and Mary of Magdala. Their interactions with Christ embody a relationship to God previously unimaginable to mankind. Jesus turning to Peter as they sit by the fire and asking three times, “Do you love me?”, thereby washing away the sin of the three denials past; Christ turning to John in the midst of his suffering and saying, “Behold, your mother,” giving her to the Church entire. And, of course, the beautiful moment about to transpire in which Jesus’ merely says Mary’s name and she recognises Him with a cry of “Rabbouni!” They are the moments which cause one to wonder, how those who truly hate Christianity (not merely disbelief it) can remain so hostile to its narrative beauty.
Look into Peter’s wide open eyes and John’s intense gaze. Their eyes contain a mix of anxiousness and hope, the way a parent or grandparent’s eyes look at the news of an impending birth. A new life is about to emerge but there is still uncertainty because it is a mystery beyond full human comprehension or control. Peter and John’s faces capture the same sense of anticipation.
Burnand created a sparse, simple painting capturing two of the most important players in the greatest story ever told. Meditate upon their faces, as Burnand intended you to do and through them, discover the empty tomb.
Quote/s of the Day – 27 December – the Feast of St John the Apostle and Evangelist “The Disciple whom Jesus Loved” and the 3rd Octave Day and the Memorial of Blessed Sára Salkaházi (1899–1944) Martyr
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life (for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us.…
1 John 1:1-2
“Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone, could become visible also to the eye and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us, by which we could see the Word…”
St Augustine (354-430) – Father & Doctor of the Church
“It is right and just, that someone, who was loved by Christ more than any other, should be the object of a very special love, by Christ’s friends, all the more so, since John has shown such love for us that… he has shared with us, the riches of eternal life, that he himself received. Indeed, God gave him, the keys to wisdom and knowledge (cf Lk 11:52)…
John’s God-illumined mind, conceived the incomparable height of divine wisdom, when he reclined on the Redeemer’s breast, during the holy Last Supper meal (Jn 13:25). And because “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) are within the heart of Jesus, it is from there, that he drew and from there, that he greatly enriched our wretchedness, as people who are poor and generously distributed these goods, taken from their source, for the salvation of the whole world. And because this blessed John speaks about God in a marvellous way, that cannot be compared to that of anyone else, it is only right that the Greeks as well as the Latins have given him the name of “Theologian”. Mary is “Theotokos” because she has truly given birth to God; John is “Theologos” because he saw in an indescribable way, that the Word of God, was with the Father before the beginning of time and was God (Jn 1:1) and because, too, he spoke about this, with extraordinary depth.”
St Peter Damian (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church
“To love, even when it is difficult, even when my heart has complaints, when, I feel rejected! Yes, this is what God wants! I will try; I want to start – even if I would fail – until I will be able to love. The Lord God gives me grace and I have to work with that grace!”
“I want to follow You wherever You take me, freely, willingly, joyfully. Break my will! Let Your will reign in me! I do not want to make my own plans. Let Your will be done in me and through me. No matter how hard it might be, I want to love Your will! I want to be one with You, my Beloved, my Spouse.”
Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
27 December – The Third Day of the Christmas Octave
Jesus in swaddling clothes
“Consider the Blessed Mother, having given birth to her Son, now takes Him with reverence in her arms, adoring Him as God and then wrapping Him in swaddling clothes. Behold the infant Jesus, who obediently offers His little hands and feet and allows Himself to be swaddled. Consider, that every time the holy Infant allowed Himself to be swathed, He thought of the cords with which He would one day be bound and led captive from the Garden of Gethsamene. Also, consider the cords which secured Him to the column on which He was whipped and the nails which would secure Him to His Cross. All of this He permitted, in order to deliver our souls from the chains of hell. Bound in these swaddling clothes, Jesus turns to us and invites us to unite ourselves with Him, with the holy bonds of love.”
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Prayer (St Alphonsus)
“My beloved Jesus,
You have imprisoned Yourself
in swaddling clothes
because of Your love for me.
I will become a prisoner
of Your infinite love.
Bind me tight,
so that I may never be able
to disengage myself
from Your love!