I hope we don’t have indigestion with such a big cake!”
Pope Francis joked Sunday as he celebrated his 82nd birthday (December 17) with health care providers and families assisted at the Santa Marta Dispensary. The children presented the Holy Father with a huge cake.
In words of thanks to those gathered, the Holy Father said that if Our Lady had lived in Rome she would have surely taken Jesus to this dispensary.
He noted that “working with children is not easy but it teaches us a lot.”
“It teaches me, that in order to understand the reality of life, you have to lower yourself, as we lower ourselves to kiss a child. They teach us this. The proud, the proud cannot understand life, because they are not able to lower themselves.”
“All of us,” Pope Francis continued, “professionals, organisers, nuns, all – give many things to children but they give us this announcement, this teaching: to lower oneself. Lower yourself, be humble and in this way you will learn to understand life and people. And all of you have this ability to lower yourselves. Thank you so much for this, thank you so much!”
Christmas Novena to the Christ Child – Day Three – 18 December
Day Three The Life Of Poverty Which Jesus Led From His Birth.
Reflection: God so ordained that, at the time when His Son was to be born on this earth, the Roman emperor should issue a decree ordering everyone to go to the place of his origin and there be registered in the census. Thus it came about that, in obedience to this decree, Joseph went to Bethlehem together with his virgin wife when she was soon to have her Child. Finding no lodging either in the poor inn or in the other houses of the town, they were forced to spend the night in a cave that was used as a stable for animals and it was here that Mary gave birth to the King of heaven. If Jesus had been born in Nazareth, He would also, it is true, have been born in poverty but there He would at least have had a dry room, a little fire, warm clothes and a more comfortable cradle. Yet He chose to be born in this cold, damp cave and to have a manger for a cradle, with prickly straw for a mattress, in order that He might suffer for us.
Let us enter in spirit into this cave of Bethlehem but let us enter in a spirit of lively faith. If we go there without faith, we shall see nothing but a poor infant and the sight of this lovely child shivering and crying on his rough bed of straw may indeed move us to pity. But if we enter with faith and consider that this Babe is the very Son, God, who for love of us has come down on earth and suffers so much to pay the penalty for our sins, how can we help thanking and loving Him in return?
Prayer: O Dear Infant Jesus, how could I be so ungrateful and offend You so often, if I realised how much You have suffered for me? But these tears which You shed, this poverty which you embraced for love of me, make me hope for the pardon of all the offences I have committed against You. My Jesus, I am sorry for having so often turned my back on You. But now I love You above all else. “My God and my all!” From now on You, O my God, shall be my only treasure and my only good. With Saint Ignatius of Loyola I will say to You, “Give me the grace to love You; that is enough for me.” I long for nothing else; I want nothing else. You alone are enough for me, my Jesus, my life, my love. O Mary, my Mother, obtain for me the grace that I may always love Jesus and always be loved by Him. Amen
Thought for the Day – 18 December – The Memorial of Our Lady of Expectation
The Gospel message on this feast relates the story of the Annunciation. God asks a woman, His creature for a favour to be Mother of His Son and at the same time, He respects her freedom. She is free to say “yes” or “no.” There is a moment of waiting in heaven and on earth – God waits for her answer, the heavenly messenger waits for her answer, the first parents Adam and Eve wait for her answer, all confined in hell wait for her answer. With grateful heart, we thank Mary, the Wise and Prudent Virgin, for saying “yes” to God on our behalf. Her simple words: “Let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:38) brought down to us the Saviour and has changed the world forever . She obeyed the Angel, not the Devil and thus she pleased God – “Blessed are you because of your belief that the promise made to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45).
At the offertory, the Church blesses “Our Lady of Expectation” with the Angel’s greeting “Rejoice, so highly favoured. The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:29); “Of all women you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Lk 1:42). Mary is doubly blessed – in her virginity and motherhood and thus stands as an ideal and inspiration for every woman single or married. Her virginal womb is blessed with the Divine Life. She is the Mother of every child ever conceived under the mother’s heart. What an example she offers to all expectant mothers to welcome, to nurture life and to bring it to the full maturity of Christ’s humanity. At the same time, we must pray for the end of abortion, the greatest evil in our days and to promote the civilisation of love and family life.
The Holy Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of Expectation”, is a great educator of the Christian family. Christmas is a family celebration. We all want to be home for Christmas. She teaches us how to love and enjoy our own humanity and the humanity of her Son, we celebrate on Christmas Day.
Advent and Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787))
Jesus made Himself a child to gain our confidence and our love.
“Consider that the Son of God has made Himself little in order to make us great. He has given Himself to us, that we might give ourselves to Him. He has come to show us His love, that we may respond to it by giving Him ours. Let us, therefore, receive Him with affection, let us love Him and call upon Him with all our needs.
“A child gives easily” says St Bernard. Children readily give whatever is asked of them. Jesus came into the world as a child to demonstrate that He was ready and willing to give all. If we wish for light, Jesus has come to enlighten us. If we desire strength, He will strengthen us. If we wish for pardon, He has come to pardon us. In short, He has come to give us all that we need.
O my Jesus, You have descended from heaven to give Yourself entirely to us. How can we turn our backs on You? I have been loved by You and I have also been ungrateful. O my Redeemer, forgive the injuries that I have committed against You.”
“It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep….Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.”
O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arms.
Are we in the core group of Christians who embody and live the purest form of the Gospel? Or do we find ourselves among the masses that acknowledge Jesus, enjoy being Christian but don’t pursue it at any deep level? The two requirements in the Gospel are that we repent and believe. If we repent, we do no wrong and speak no lies. If we believe with all our hearts, we follow the Star to the Manger. Let these last few days be a time when we begin the journey to the Christmas core – to the Christ Child. “Let us make ourselves ready to celebrate Christmas by contemplating Mary and Joseph- Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself totally to the Word of God; Joseph, the faithful and just man who chose to believe the Lord rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride. With them, let us walk together toward Bethlehem.” ...Pope Francis – Angelus, 22 December 2013
Our Morning Offering – 18 December – The Feast of Our Lady of Expectation
Maiden yet a Mother By Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Tr Msgr Ronald A Knox (1888-1957)
Maiden yet a mother,
daughter of thy Son,
high beyond all other,
lowlier is none;
thou the consummation
planned by God’s decree,
when our lost creation
nobler rose in thee!
Thus His place prepared,
he who all things made
‘mid his creatures tarried,
in thy bosom laid;
there His love He nourished,
warmth that gave increase
to the root whence flourished
our eternal peace.
Nor alone thou hearest
When thy name we hail;
Often thou art nearest
When our voices fail;
Mirrored in thy fashion
All creation’s gird,
Mercy, might compassion
Grace thy womanhood.
Lady, let our vision
Striving heavenward, fail,
Still let thy petition
With thy Son prevail,
Unto whom all merit,
prayer and majesty,
With the Holy Spirit
And the Father be.
Maiden Yet A Mother is a translation of a poem by Durante (Dante) degli Alighieri (c 1265–1321). It is based upon the opening verses of Canto 33 of the Paradiso from his Divine Comedy in which St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153) praises and prays to the Virgin Mother on behalf of Dante. It was translated from the original Italian into English by the Catholic convert, Monsignior Ronald A Knox (1888-1957).
The Feast of Our Lady of Expectation – 18 December
Like a secret told by angels, getting known upon the earth, is the Mother’s expectation of Messiah’s speedy birth.
Fr F W Faber (1814-1863) “Our Lady’s Expectations”
One of the most inspiring days preceding Christmas is the feast of “Our Lady of Expectation,” unknown to many today but still kept alive in many countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland as well as in a few religious orders. In older editions of missals, this feast is still listed as a votive Mass. The feast is celebrated on the 18 December, a week before Christmas Day.
Our Blessed Lady, well advanced in pregnancy, is portrayed in the highest dignity of her Divine Motherhood. Dressed in royal apparel as daughter of David the King, she awaits with joy the arrival of her divine Son, the Prince of Peace. Her whole posture suggests how she remains wholly consumed in contemplation of her Son under her heart. Her immaculate womb has become a living portable sanctuary of divinity. There are special prayers and novenas to “Our Lady of Expectation” available for women who cannot conceive or bear a child.
We can try to imagine what those nine months were like for The Blessed Virgin, knowing that the Lord grew within her, was one with her. We can only begin to understand the patience she had to possess, looking forward to both the glory and joy of the divine birth. We experience these same feelings—albeit to a lesser extent, no doubt—during this Advent season of preparation. We examine our lives and look forward to the saving grace of our Lord, as mediated by Our Blessed Mother. While the Lord’s plan was first enacted at the moment Mary was conceived without sin and made manifest to the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation, it was made evident to the world at the moment of the Nativity. Prior to that, Mary had seen and heard what others had not and she had only one more week to anticipate the arrival of her son, Our Lord, the Redeemer of the World!
Our Blessed Mother was the original tabernacle, in which the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Saint Augustine wrote that Mary conceived the Word in her heart before she conceived the Word in her flesh—that as she anticipated the birth of Jesus, her faith grew simultaneously. The second Vatican Council declared that during the time of her pregnancy, the heart of the Incarnate Word beat gently below her immaculate heart – two immaculate hearts, beating silently and prayerfully as one.
We can imagine Mary’s nine-month journey as one of wonder and anticipation but given the circumstances she found herself in, we also know of her difficult journey, the doubts of Saint Joseph, the anxiety that she must have experienced during that time. But Our Blessed Mother demonstrated not only patience but also forbearance and deep trust in the Lord. She knew the road would not be easy—in fact, that her joy would almost certainly be linked to suffering throughout her life—but in hope and confidence placed her life in the Lord’s hands. As she prepared for the birth of Jesus, Mary emptied herself, allowing her body and soul to be filled with the grace and spirit of the Lord. During Advent, we pray for a similar experience, that we might approach the birth of Our Saviour with hope and confidence.
The votive Mass of “Our Lady of Expectation” is theologically enlightening and spiritually enriching for the time of Advent and Christmas. With the entrance antiphon, the Church prays with the prophet for the coming of the Just One from heaven that the earth may be ready to welcome the Saviour: “Send victory like a dew, you heavens, and let the clouds rain down the just. Let the earth open for salvation to spring up” (Is 45:8).
In the opening prayer, the Church offers the prayer to God through Mary’s intercession: “O God who wished that your Word would take the flesh from the womb of the Virgin as announced by the Angel and whom we confess to be the true Mother of God, may we be helped by her intercession.”
Our Lady of the Expectation – This Feast originated in Spain. When the feast of the Annunciation (25 March) was transferred to 18 December because of the regulation forbidding feasts in Lent, it remained on this date after the Annunciation was again celebrated on its original date. It impressed on the faithful the sentiments of the Blessed Virgin as the time of her delivery approached.
St Malachi the Prophet
St Mawnan of Cornwall
Bl Miguel San Román Fernández
St Phaolô Nguyen Van My
St Phêrô Truong Van Ðuong
St Phêrô Vu Van Truat
Bl Philip of Ratzeburg
St Rufus of Philippi
St Samthann of Clonbroney
St Theotimus of Laodicea
St Winebald of Heidenheim
St Zosimus of Philippi
Martyrs of Northwest Africa – 42 saints:
Mercedarian Redeemers – 6 beati – These are a group of Mercedarian friars who worked together, under the leadership of Saint Peter de Amer, to ransom (e.g., redeem) prisoners and minister to them after.