Christmas Novena to the Christ Child – Day Six – 21 December
Day Six God’s Mercy Revealed In His Coming Down From Heaven To Save Us.
Reflection: Saint Paul says, “The goodness and kindness of God, our Saviour, has appeared.” When the Son of God made Man appearedon earth, then was it seen how great is God’s goodness towards us. Saint Bernard says that first of God’s power was manifested in the creation of the world and His wisdom in its conservation but His merciful goodness was especially manifested later in His taking human nature on Himself, in order to save fallen mankind by His sufferings and death. For what greater proof of His kindness towards us could the Son of God show us, than in taking on Himself the punishment we had deserved?
See Him as a weak, newborn infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Unable to move or feed Himself, He has need of Mary to give Him a little milk to sustain His life. Or see Him again in Pilate’s courtyard, tied with fast bonds to a column and there scourged from head to foot. Behold Him on the way to Calvary, falling down from weakness under weight of the cross that He must carry. Finally behold Him nailed to this tree of shame, on which He breathes His last amid pain and anguish. Because Jesus Christ wished that His love for us should win all the love of our hearts for Himself, He would not send an angel to redeem us but chose to come Himself, to save us by His Passion and death. Had an angel been our redeemer, men would have had to divide their hearts in loving God as their Creator and an angel as their redeemer; but God, who desires men’s whole hearts, as He was already their Creator, wished also to be their Redeemer.
Prayer: O my Dear Redeemer! Where should I be now, if You had not borne with me so patiently but had called me from life while I was in the state of sin? Since You have waited for me till now, forgive me quickly, O my Jesus, before death finds me still guilty of so many offences that I have committed against You. I am so sorry for having vilely despised You, my sovereign Good, that I could die of grief. But You can not abandon a soul that seeks You. If hitherto, I have forsaken You, I now seek You and love You. Yes, my God, I love You above all else; I love You more than myself. Help me, Lord, to love You always during the rest of my life. Nothing else do I seek of You. But this I beg of You, this I hope to receive from You. Mary, my hope, do you pray for me. If you pray for me, I am sure of grace. Amen
Thought for the day – 21 December – The Memorial of St Peter Canisius S.J. (1521-1597) Doctor of the Church
St Peter Canisius and the Hail Mary
“Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”
On today’s feast of St Peter Canisius S. J., Catholics may wish to thank this Doctor of the Church for giving us the second half of the Hail Mary prayer.
This 16th-century saint, known as the second Apostle of Germany, followed in the giant footsteps of St Boniface, who evangelised Germany a thousand years earlier. He was also quite active at the Council of Trent and wrote much on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first half of the Hail Mary, of course, comes from Scripture. What many Catholics don’t know is that the second half of this Catholic prayer is due to the intervention of St Peter Canisius at the Council of Trent. St Peter began adding on to the scriptural part of the Hail Mary the second half of this familiar prayer, “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death.” It was Trent that officially accepted the prayer and included it in their famous Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1566.
This learned saint was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He was a holy and learned Jesuit, who wrote catechisms based on Trent’s Roman Catechism, which he helped generate. He also wrote a breviary and many works on Mary.
Saint Peter’s main mission was to counter the Protestant revolt in Germany. He was providentially born just four years after Martin Luther penned his 95 theses. To withstand the errors of the Protestant deformers, St Peter wrote his catechism in 1555, which was called a Summary of Christian Doctrine. This catechism basically enshrined what came to be known as the Counter-Reformation.
Quote/s of the Day – 21 December – The Memorial of St Peter Canisius (1521-1597) Doctor of the Church
“While remaining the Mother of our Judge, Mary is a mother to us, full of mercy. She constitutes our protection. She keeps us close to Christ and she faithfully takes the matter of our salvation into her charge.”
“Never was a whimpering bit of humanity so powerful that, while lying on His bed of straw, He could command the very stars to direct whom He wished to visit Him. Never a child so wise or so rich as this little Infant who was full of grace and incarnate truth. Never anyone so marvellous as to be at once so small and so great, true God and true Man, the Uncreated Word and weak human flesh, mighty King and a lowly slave. Never had any child so emptied Himself of all that He really was, in order to become a tiny, speechless, naked, unknown babe.”
St Peter Canisius (1521-1397) Doctor of the Church
Advent and Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787))
Jesus is a prisoner in the womb of Mary
“Consider the painful life that Jesus Christ led in the womb of His mother and the long-confined and dark imprisonment that He suffered there for nine months. He had His senses but He could not use them. A tongue but He could not speak. Eyes but he could not see. Hands but He could not stretch them out. Feet but He could not walk. For nine months, He had to remain the womb of Mary, a voluntary prison but also a prison of love. He was innocent but He had offered Himself to make payment for our debts and our crimes.
What gratitude and love we should demonstrate for our Lord in return for the love and goodness that He has given us. He has put Himself into chains, in order to deliver us from the chains of evil.
O my Jesus, You are the innocent one. I implore You to bind my poor soul to Your feet by Your holy love, so that it may never again be separated from You.”
“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
O Radiant Dawn,
splendour of eternal light, sun of justice!
Come and shine on those
who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
Dawn never happens quickly. Long before dawn, while it is quite dark, the birds start their sounds of joy. Slowly the night changes from dark, to charcoal, to haze, to light. Today’s Scripture presents to us the image of waiting. In the Gospel, Mary and Elizabeth, wait and wonder together and the Lord waits, St John the Baptist waits. Oftentimes, we are called to wait. We must believe that in our waiting, the dawning also exists. We know that the Lord will always draw us from darkness into His cleansing light. Patience is a virture – displayed so wonderfully and painfully by the Lord. How can we give into our impatience? Rest in Me, remember me in the womb of My mother Mary and learn patience!
Our Morning Offering – 21 December – Pope Benedict’s Favourite Prayer – The Memorial of St Peter Canisius (1521-1397) Doctor of the Church
The Universal Prayer By Saint Peter Canisius
Almighty, eternal God, Lord, heavenly Father,
look with Your eyes of undeserved compassion
on our sorrow, misery and need.
Have mercy on all the Christian faithful,
for whom Your only-begotten Son,
our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was content to give Himself
into the hand of sinners
and shed His precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross.
For the sake of the Lord Jesus, most gracious Father,
avert our well-deserved punishments,
present danger and future threats, harm and outrage,
arms and warfare, dearth and misfortune,
sickness and sorrowful, miserable times.
Enlighten and strengthen in all goodness our spiritual leaders
and earthly rulers, that they may do everything
to further Your honour as God, our salvation,
the common peace and the welfare of all Your people.
Grant us, O God of peace, a true unity in faith,
free of all division and separation.
Convert our hearts to true repentance and amendment of life.
Kindle in us the fire of Your love; give us hunger and zeal
for justice in all things, so that we, as obedient children
through life unto death, may be pleasing to You
and find favour in Your sight.
We also pray, O God, as You willed that we should pray,
for our friends and enemies, for the healthy and the sick,
for all Christians in sadness and distress,
for the living and the dead.
To You, O Lord, be entrusted whatever we do,
whatever our path, our work and our dealings,
our living and dying.
Let us delight in Your grace here in this world
and attain the next with all Your chosen ones,
to praise, honour and extol You in unending joy and blessedness.
Grant us this, O Lord, heavenly Father,
through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
“The [prayer] I like most…the ‘General Prayer’ by Peter Canisius from the sixteenth century. It remains unchangingly pertinent and beautiful.” From Pope Benedict, Last Testament, New York, Bloomsbury, 2016, 8.
Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ. (1521-1397) The “Second Apostle of Germany” – Doctor of the Church
Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI – 9 February 2011
He was born on 8 May 1521 in Wijmegen, Holland. His father was Burgomaster of the town. While he was a student at the University of Cologne he regularly visited the Carthusian monks of St Barbara, a driving force of Catholic life and other devout men who cultivated the spirituality of the so-called devotio moderna [modern devotion].
He entered the Society of Jesus on 8 May 1543 in Mainz (Rhineland — Palatinate), after taking a course of spiritual exercises under the guidance of Bl (now Saint) Pierre Favre, Petrus [Peter] Faber, one of St Ignatius of Loyola’s first companions. He was ordained a priest in Cologne. Already the following year, in June 1546, he attended the Council of Trent, as the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsberg, where he worked with two confreres, Diego Laínez and Alfonso Salmerón. In 1548, St Ignatius had him complete his spiritual formation in Rome and then sent him to the College of Messina to carry out humble domestic duties.
He earned a doctorate in theology at Bologna on 4 October 1549 and St Ignatius assigned him to carry out the apostolate in Germany. On 2 September of that same year he visited Pope Paul III at Castel Gandolfo and then went to St Peter’s Basilica to pray. Here he implored the great Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for help to make the Apostolic Blessing permanently effective for the future of his important new mission. He noted several words of this prayer in his spiritual journal.
He said: “There I felt that a great consolation and the presence of grace had been granted to me through these intercessors [Peter and Paul]. They confirmed my mission in Germany and seemed to transmit to me, as an apostle of Germany, the support of their benevolence. You know, Lord, in how many ways and how often on that same day you entrusted Germany to me, which I was later to continue to be concerned about and for which I would have liked to live and die”.
We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the time of the Lutheran Reformation, at the moment when the Catholic faith in the German-speaking countries seemed to be dying out in the face of the fascination of the Reformation. The task of Canisius — charged with revitalising or renewing the Catholic faith in the Germanic countries — was almost impossible. It was possible only by virtue of prayer. It was possible only from the centre, namely, a profound personal friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship with Christ in His Body, the Church, which must be nourished by the Eucharist, His Real Presence.
In obedience to the mission received from Ignatius and from Pope Paul III, Canisius left for Germany. He went first to the Duchy of Bavaria, which for several years was the place where he exercised his ministry. As dean, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, he supervised the academic life of the Institute and the religious and moral reform of the people. In Vienna, where for a brief time he was diocesan administrator, he carried out his pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons, both in the city and in the countryside and prepared the publication of his Catechism. In 1556 he founded the College of Prague and, until 1569, was the first superior of the Jesuit Province of Upper Germany. In this office he established a dense network of communities of his Order in the Germanic countries, especially colleges, that were starting points for the Catholic Reformation, for the renewal of the Catholic faith.
At that time he also took part in the Colloquy of Worms with Protestant divines, including Philip Melanchthon (1557); He served as Papal Nuncio in Poland (1558); he took part in the two Diets of Augsberg (1559 and 1565); he accompanied Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, Legate of Pope Pius IV, to Emperor Ferdinand (1560); and he took part in the last session of the Council of Trent where he spoke on the issue of Communion under both Species and on the Index of Prohibited Books (1562).
In 1580 he withdrew to Fribourg, Switzerland, where he devoted himself entirely to preaching and writing. He died there on 21 December 1597. Bl Pius IX Beatified him in 1864 and in 1897 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the “Second Apostle of Germany”. Pope Pius XI Canonised him and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1925.
St Peter Canisius spent a large part of his life in touch with the most important people of his time and exercised a special influence with his writings. He edited the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St Leo the Great, the Letters of St Jerome and the Orations of St Nicholas of Flüe. He published devotional books in various languages, biographies of several Swiss Saints and numerous homiletic texts.
However, his most widely disseminated writings were the three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558. The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology; the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction; the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels. He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.
There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone! And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century. So it was, that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”. He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries. This was a characteristic of St Peter Canisius – his ability to combine harmoniously fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect that is due to every person. St Canisius distinguished between a conscious, blameworthy apostosy from faith and a blameless loss of faith through circumstances.
Moreover, he declared to Rome that the majority of Germans who switched to Protestantism were blameless. In a historical period of strong confessional differences, Canisius avoided — and this is something quite extraordinary — the harshness and rhetoric of anger — something rare, as I said, in the discussions between Christians in those times — and aimed only at presenting the spiritual roots and at reviving the faith in the Church. His vast and penetrating knowledge of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church served this cause, the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from the Devotio Moderna and Rhenish mysticism.
Characteristic of St Canisius’ spirituality was his profound personal friendship with Jesus. For example, on 4 September 1549 he wrote in his journal, speaking with the Lord: “In the end, as if You were opening to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, You commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, as it were, to draw the waters of my salvation from Your founts, O my Saviour”.
Then he saw that the Saviour was giving him a garment with three pieces that were called peace, love and perseverance. And with this garment, made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewing Catholicism. His friendship with Jesus — which was the core of his personality — nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Blessed Sacrament and by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united with the awareness of being a perpetuator of the Apostles’ mission in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangeliser is always an instrument united with Jesus and with His Church and is fruitful for this very reason.
Friendship with Jesus had been inculcated in St Peter Canisius in the spiritual environment of the Charterhouse of Cologne, in which he had been in close contact with two Carthusian mystics – Johannes Lansperger, whose name has been Latinized as “Lanspergius” and Nikolaus van Esche, Latinized as “Eschius”.
He subsequently deepened the experience of this friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, through contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life, which form a large part of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. This is the foundation of his intense devotion to the Heart of the Lord, which culminated in his consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica.
The Christocentric spirituality of St Peter Canisius is rooted in a profound conviction – no soul anxious for perfection fails to practice prayer daily, mental prayer, an ordinary means that enables the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Teacher.
For this reason in his writings for the spiritual education of the people, our Saint insists on the importance of the Liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on Feasts, on the Rite of Holy Mass and on the sacraments; yet, at the same time, he is careful to show the faithful the need for and beauty of personal daily prayer, which should accompany and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church. This exhortation and method have kept their value intact, especially after being authoritatively proposed anew by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, Christian life does not develop unless it is nourished by participation in the Liturgy — particularly at Sunday Mass — and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God.
Among the thousands of activities and multiple distractions that surround us, we must find moments for recollection before the Lord every day, in order to listen to Him and speak with Him.
At the same time, the example that St Peter Canisius has bequeathed to us, not only in his works but especially with his life, is ever timely and of lasting value. He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and an instrument at His disposal, bound to Him closely by faith in His Gospel and in His Church, by a morally consistent life and by prayer as ceaseless as love. And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity.
Bl Adrian of Dalmatia
St Anastasius II of Antioch
St Anrê Tran An Dung
St Baudacarius of Bobbio
St Beornwald of Bampton
Bl Bezela of Göda
Bl Daniel of the Annunciation
St Festus of Tuscany
St Glycerius of Nicomedia
St James of Valencia
St John of Tuscany
St John Vincent
St Micah the Prophet
St Phêrô Truong Van Thi
St Severinus of Trèves
Bl Sibrand of Marigård
St Themistocles of Lycia
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