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 – 31 December – 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