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December 29, 2001



VIA [email protected]: The Daily E-Pistle is a spiritual message for Catholics sent to you each day by e-mail with a short and faith-affirming message. It may include any or all of the following:

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VIA Debbie Nelson: The message you are about to read was taken from the September edition of the "Magnificat." This is the daily meditation for September 12, 2001, the day after the attack on the World Trade Center.

The Meaning of Blessedness

How easy it is, in time of ease, for us to become dependent on our routines, on the established order of our day-to-day existence, to carry us along.  We begin to take things for granted, to rely on ourselves and on our own resources, to "settle in" in this world and look to it for our support.  We all too easily come to equate being comfortable with a sense of well-being, to seek our comfort solely in the sense of being comfortable.  Friends and possessions surround us, one day is followed by the next, good health and happiness for the most part are ours.  We don't have to desire much of the things of this world - to be enamored of riches, for example, or greedy or avaricious - in order to have gained this sense of comfort and well-being, to trust in them as our support - and to, take God for granted.  It is the status quo that we rely on, that carries us from day to day, and somehow we begin to lose sight of the fact that under all these things and behind all these things it is God who supports and sustains us.  We go along, taking for granted that tomorrow will be very much like today, comfortable in the world we have created for ourselves, secure in the established order we have learned to live with, however imperfect it may be, and give little thought to God at all.

Somehow, then, God must contrive to break through those routines of ours and remind us once again, like Israel, that we are ultimately dependent only upon him, that he has made us and destined us for life with him, through all eternity, that the things of this world and this world itself are not our lasting city, that his we are and that we must look to him and turn to him in everything.  Then it is perhaps, that he must allow our whole world to be turned upside down in order to remind us it is not our permanent abode or final destiny, to bring us to our senses and restore our sense of values, to turn our thoughts once more to him - even if at first our thoughts are questioning and full of reproaches.  Then it is that he must remind us again, with terrible clarity, that he meant exactly what he said in those seemingly simple words of the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not be anxious about what you shall eat, or what you shall wear, or where you shall sleep, but seek first the kingdom of God and his justice."

Father Walter J.  Ciszek, S.J.

Father Ciszek was convicted of being a "Vatican spy" in World War II and spent twenty- three years in Soviet prisons.  (Died 1984)

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

14. Some build bricks upon stones. Others set pillars on the bare ground. And there are some who go a short distance and, having got their muscles and joints warm, go faster. Whoever can understand, let him understand this allegorical word.

December 28, 2001

(James 4:7)  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking Roman Catholics to pray for peace on New Year's Day in response to Sept. 11.

The Vatican traditionally designates Jan. 1 as the World Day of Peace.  The U.S. bishops at their November meeting issued a special request for prayer on that day, in light of the war on terrorism.

The bishops approved a document acknowledging the United States' moral right to a military defense against terrorism.  But church leaders also said the response must be part of a broader foreign policy that battles poverty, human rights abuses and violence.

On Dec. 19, 68 Catholic leaders of missionary, political, peace and other organizations, issued a statement making the opposite argument -- that the U.S. war on terrorism was not morally justifiable according to church teachings.

The group said too many innocent civilians had been harmed in the air strikes on Afghanistan and the U.S. government had failed to explore all diplomatic options.

The group also called on the United States to set up a commission to study the roots of injustice that terrorists exploit to justify their acts.

A Rosary for Peace for the National Day of Prayer January 1, 2002
Liturgical Resources for National Day of Prayer for Peace


VIA Society for the Protection of Unborn Children: The Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have declared next Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family, a special day of witness to the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life.  Parish priests are being urged to incorporate the theme of respect for human life in their homily and prayers during Mass, and special pro-life prayer cards have been sent to all 2,800 parishes.  Congregations have been urged to pray for a number of particular causes, including expectant mothers, those in chronic pain or nearing death, and scientists involved in medical research.  A statement issued by the English and Welsh bishops' conference read: "We recall our own failures and the failures of our society to protect human life, to uphold human dignity, and to act with mercy and compassion to all.  We turn to God in gratitude for his treasured gift of life, and pray especially for those in situations of stress, fear and difficulty."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

13. The man who renounces the world from fear is like burning incense, that begins with fragrance but ends in smoke. He who leaves the world through hope of reward is like a millstone, that always moves in the same way. But he who withdraws from the world out of love for God has obtained fire at the very outset; and, like fire set to fuel, it soon kindles a larger fire.

December 27, 2001

POPE JOHN PAUL II: "If we listen to the relentless news headlines, these words of light and hope (the Gospel) may seem like words from a dream," he said. "But that is precisely the challenge of faith, which makes this proclamation at once comforting and demanding."


In his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" message (Latin for "to the city and to the world"), the pope said: "Day after day, I bear in my heart the tragic problems of the Holy Land; every day I think with anxiety of all those who are dying of cold and hunger.

"Every day there reaches me the desperate cry of those who, in so many parts of the world, call for a fairer distribution of resources and for gainful employment for all."

"Today my thoughts go to all the children of the world: so many, too many, are the children condemned from birth to suffer through no fault of their own the effects of cruel conflicts," John Paul said, his voice trembling. "Let us save the children, in order to save the hope of humanity."

In the baby Jesus, the pope said, there is "the face of every little child who is born, of whatever race or nation: the little Palestinian and the little Israeli; the little American and the little Afghan; the child of the Hutu and the child of the Tutsi," in Rwanda and Burundi, African nations bloodied by ethnic fighting.

John Paul made no direct reference to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or to the U.S. bombings in Afghanistan. But he said the new millennium began with much hope "but is now threatened by dark clouds of violence and war."

He also prayed that God "come where the fate of humanity is most in peril. Come and do not delay."

The pope made a prayerful appeal that "God's holy name never be used as a justification for hatred! Let it never be used as an excuse for intolerance and violence."

MORE: Text of Pope's Christmas day message to the world

RELATED: In Nazareth, the town of Jesus' youth, Christmas dims amid religious division

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

12. When the soul betrays itself and loses the blessed and longed-for fervour, let it carefully investigate the reason for losing it. And let it arm itself with all its longing and zeal against whatever has caused this. For the former fervour can return only through the same door through which it was lost.

December 22, 2001



(Mat 18:19-20)  "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."


Within one week of the Pope's call for universal prayer and fasting for world peace we have the following headlines:

Afghanistan readies for new era
Hamas suspends suicide attacks in Israel
Islamic Jihad to Halt Suicide Attacks


The Gift that Returned

It was the first Sunday in December and we were in our Sunday School to learn about a family that had been referred from social services that was in real need of clothes and food. Our director began to describe what he saw when he and the social worker had paid the family a visit earlier in the week. The mother was working two jobs trying to feed and clothe three children. He told how the mother said that she had tried all year to save money for Christmas presents but it was just not there. All her money was going to just buy food and she could not remember when she had bought clothes for her children last.

As he continued to describe what he saw, my mind began to remember all the Christmas's that I had as a child. I could still smell all the mixtures of different things drifting from the kitchen where my mom was cooking. The sight of a big Christmas tree with presents piled all around and the looks on each of the faces of my family as we opened Christmas presents. I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to have a Christmas that was being described to us. What-no food, no presents, no family gatherings and no Christmas tree? The director said he would like to take up an offering and anything that was received would be used to help make this the best Christmas ever.

As the plate began to make its way around, I opened my wallet only to find one dollar. I wanted to give more but I just did not have it. I passed the plate on by without putting anything in. As I started to put my wallet back up, I suddenly remember that the week before Thanksgiving my wife and I had gone on a trip with some friends. When I go on trips, I always try to hide some reserve money in my wallet, just in case we need something. I opened my wallet and sure enough, the money was still there. Folded behind a picture was one $100 bill. I thought for a second and then realized that they needed it far worse than I did. As we were going to our classes I stopped the director and put the money in the plate. He looked shocked and said are you sure you don't want any change? I told him that they need it more than I did and that he had better take it before I changed my mind.

Well, as that Sunday went on I soon forgot what had happened that morning. At lunch that day, my family and I had gone to the local restaurant to eat. My in-laws were already there and soon were finished eating before we were. As they were leaving, they stopped by our table to say hi and just chat. Just then my mother-in-law turned, reached out her hand as to give me something and said "We had a yard sale yesterday and I sold some things that I realized belonged to you." She then stuck some money in my hand. I thanked her and as she walked away, I opened my hand. Chills ran up and down my spine as I stared at exactly the same amount and exactly the same denomination bill that I had given earlier... one $100 bill!

How the power of God was so real, I will never forget that Christmas.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

11. To lag in the fight at the very outset of the struggle and thereby to furnish a token of our coming slaughter is a very hateful and dangerous thing. A firm beginning will certainly  be useful for us when we later grow slack. A soul that is strong at first, but then relaxes, is spurred on by the memory of its former zeal. And in this way new wings are often obtained.

December 21, 2001



In his annual Christmas message, the top Roman Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land criticized Israeli and Palestinian leaders Thursday for not stopping violence that has raged for the past 15 months.

Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah took Israel to task for its treatment of the Palestinians, including a stifling blockade of Palestinian communities, and spoke out against Palestinian suicide bomb attacks in Israel.

"What we need today in the Holy Land is not leaders who teach us to make war and ask their people to accept sacrifices, including their lives, but leaders who have visions of justice and peace," Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah told a news conference, a blinking Christmas tree in his office providing the backdrop.

Sabbah, a Palestinian, said both sides need leaders who believe in God so they can "believe in human values."

Asked to comment on the more than 30 Islamic militant suicide bombers who have blown themselves up in the past 15 months, killing scores of Israelis, Sabbah said: "God is a God of love.  He is not a God who tells you to kill your brother, whether your brother is Israeli or Palestinian.  When you kill in the name of God, you're killing the name of your self."

Addressing Israeli practices, Sabbah said: "The continuous injustice in this Holy Land, the occupation of the land, the humiliation of the people, their massacre, the siege that is imposed on them, the deprivation of the liberty that God gave them, all this will have an end one day."

The fighting has claimed the lives of 839 people on the Palestinian side and 242 people on the Israeli side.

MORE: "We see Godís love even amidst death, destruction, injustice"
Christmas message from Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

(Psa 122:6)  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

10. Those who enter this contest must renounce all things, despise all things, deride all things, and shake off all things, that they may lay a firm foundation. A good foundation of three layers and three pillars is innocence, fasting, and temperance. Let all babes in Christ begin with these virtues, taking as their model the natural babes. For you never find them in anything sly or deceitful. They have no insatiate appetite, no insatiable stomach, no body on fire, or raging like a beast; but perhaps as they grow, in proportion as they take more food, their natural passions also increase.

December 20, 2001


"Peace between the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians will only be established if there is respect for law and equity on fundamental questions: security for the state of Israel, the establishment of a State for the Palestinian People, Israelís evacuation from the Occupied Territories, a guaranteed international Special Status for the Holy Places in Jerusalem, a just solution for Palestinian refugees."

This was part of a declaration made by Dr Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office, after Pope John Paul IIís meeting with the Bishops of the Holy Land, on the theme "The future of Christians in the Holy land".

EDITOR'S COMMENTARY: The Pope, as leader of the Catholic Church, is obligated to look after the welfare of Palestinian Christians.  In addition he must be assured that all Christians, particularly Catholics, have access to the holy sites located throughout Israel but especially in Jerusalem.

There are some who would argue that the land of Israel has been given specifically by God to the Jewish people as their inheritance.  They argue that any efforts by the Pope to allocate land to the Palestinian people within the outlines of this territory is an attempt to subvert the purposes of God.  However do the Palestinian Christians not have an equal claim to these promises of God?  Are they not just as entitled to inhabit these lands as the Jewish people?

(Rom 8:17)  Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

(Rom 11:24)  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

These verses written by the Apostle Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, describe how the Lord in His great kindness has grafted believing Gentiles (Christians) into His family as co-heirs of His promises. Though it is true that believing Gentiles have not replaced the Jewish people with regards to God's promises, it is equally true that the Jews are no longer the sole beneficiaries of them.

(Gal 3:28-29)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

(Eph 3:6)  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

The Vatican is soon to release a new document on the Christian-Jewish relationship that will further explore this.

Thus in insuring that the rights of Palestinian Chrisitians to live, work and worship in peace are respected, the Pope is acting in accordance with Scripture and in the spirit of Christianity. The terrible sufferings in the daily life of Palestinians are well illustrated in the following article:

It is tragic that Palestinian Muslim extremists are continually working towards "pushing the Jews into the sea".  Unfortunately, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is the elected representative of the Palestinian people. Given a choice I am certain that the Pope would rather not negotiate with Arafat, whose history of terrorism is reprehensible. Witness the following quote of Palestinian president Arafat from earlier this week:

In Ramallah, Arafat said Tuesday, two days after publicly banning suicide attacks: ďI would sacrifice 70 martyrs to kill one Israeli.Ē
But since there is no separate president of Palestinian Christians, the Pope has no choice but to meet with Arafat, their elected representative, in his attempts to ensure a continued Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Likewise the Pope's representatives continually must negotiate with the government of Israel to ensure that access to holy sites is never denied to Christian pilgrims and that Palestinian Christians are treated with equity. Otherwise, as recently described by the Franciscan Custody, "the continued violence will turn holy places into museum stones."

(Psa 122:6)  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

9. All who enter upon the good fight, which is hard and close, but also easy, must realize that they must leap into the fire, if they really expect the celestial fire to dwell in them. But let everyone examine himself, and so let him eat the bread of it with its bitter herbs, and let him drink the cup of it with its tears, lest his service lead to his own judgment.

December 19, 2001

(John 21:15)  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."


At the beginning of his papacy 23 years ago, he expressed the wish as bishop of Rome to get to know his diocese and to visit as many parish churches as possible. His first visit came Dec. 3, 1978, and he has now been to all but 34 parishes.

"I am filled with joy to have been able in these years to visit the beloved churches of Rome," the pope said.  "These visits have given me the opportunity to give courage and receive it, too," the pope, dressed in pink vestments for the third Sunday of Advent, said during Sunday's homily.

At the end of the two-hour visit as the parishioners waved goodbye, John Paul wished a "Merry Christmas" to all and promised to resume his parish visits after New Year's.


Cuba's Roman Catholic bishops on Monday said they were saddened that many of the island's families are separated by divorce and exile and called for family unity this holiday season.

"There are so many families divided, separated by divorce," the message said. "It is a minority of children and adolescents who can sit down with mama and papa on the night of the 24th, Christmas Eve, to eat Christmas dinner."

The bishops said they hoped Cuban children would learn the true meaning of Christmas, "which is not just a day off from work or school, but a feast day, the feast of the birth of Jesus."

The message was distributed to the news media on Monday and will be read in Roman Catholic churches during Mass on Sunday.

Cuba's communist government declared Christmas an official holiday once again in 1998, fulfilling a request by Pope John Paul II, who made a historic visit to the island in January of that year.  For many years under Fidel Castro's government, Dec. 25 was just another day on the calendar.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Prior to the visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba there was a great outcry by many condemning the Pope's action.  But, thanks be to God, the fruits of the visit persist.  May all who criticize the Pope when he reaches out towards others, regardless of their beliefs, see this as an example of the limitless power of the Holy Spirit to change hearts.

(Luke 19:10)  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

8 (cont.). But let us who are weak and passionate have the courage to offer our infirmity and natural weakness to Christ with unhesitating faith, and confess it to Him; and we shall be certain to obtain His help, even beyond our worth, if only we continually plunge to the depth of humility.

December 18, 2001

(Eph 6:18)  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

(Jude 1:20)  But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.


VIA Pegeen, moderator, Prayer Request Line: This week marks our six month anniversary as a prayer line, and how special it is that today (12/14) is also a call to fast and pray for peace by our blessed Pope, HH John Paul II. May the dark clouds on the horizon which he saw be kept away, and may the come home to the Father in Heaven.

Our numbers continue to blossom as the 21 prayer groups and our extended members grow. Our updated number of members is now 2519+. Our number of prayer requests is 13,511 within a total of 3867 posts. So many of these have been praise reports as of the last few weeks, all praise to Jesus.

This week, I received an email from a friend who is a retired priest. Father John Kramer wrote to tell me that what we are doing with our prayer line is the best gift to Jesus that we can give Him. Father John said that the basket within which we place our prayer requests sits at the feet of Jesus, and that each request within the basket is a tiny wooden cross. Christ takes each cross and plants it, and as prayers are answered, the crosses turn into a rose. It may be the hand of God that turns the crosses into roses, but it is our faith that they are planted in. Our gift to Jesus is our faith, and His gift to us is an answered prayer.

The Angel Novena continues for all of you, as does the Divine Mercy Chaplet said daily for you. May miracles be yours during this special time of Grace.

May we truly find ourselves embraced by the Holy Spirit during this Holy and Blessed time. And may many more souls come forward with their crosses so that there can be more roses at the feet of Christ.

We do our part, the Holy Spirit does the rest.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have a prayer request please don't hesitate to submit it at [email protected].  Trib Times subscribers will find a link to the Prayer Request Line at the bottom of each daily edition, or online at

Likewise if you would like to be a member of the prayer team please contact Pegeen at this same email address.

(2 Th 1:11-12)  With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

8. Those who aim at ascending with the body to Heaven, indeed need violence and constant suffering, especially in the early stages of their renunciation, until our pleasure-loving dispositions and unfeeling hearts attain to love of God and chastity by manifest sorrow. This is a great toil, very great indeed, with much unseen suffering, especially for those who live carelessly, until by simplicity, deep angerlessness and diligence, we make our mind, which is a greedy kitchen dog addicted to barking, a lover of chastity and watchfulness.

December 15, 2001



READER: With all due respect to your faith and sincerity, as well as the time and effort that you take in preparing Tribulation Times (you know I'm a fan from previous e-mails), your newsletter of late has become SO DEPRESSING that I now routinely scan the "headlines" (only), then discard them immediately. They've simply become much too depressing (especially at a time of year when we are all trying - temporarily at least - to share in the joy of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, yet knowing full well the state of the world and the dangers that lie ahead. (I think we all read the newspapers and listen to news broadcasts).

All Jesus really asks us to do is believe in Him and try to live our lives as best we can in a way that reflects His teachings - including NOT WORRYING about tomorrow since today's worries are "sufficient for today." We can certainly pray daily as to the events that are happening in our world - both global and personal, but then surrender our worries to the Lord and go about the business of our daily lives - hopefully, with a sense of JOY that we would not otherwise have were it not for His coming. If we are, in fact, in the End Times, then certain events will continue to unfold REGARDLESS OF HOW MUCH WE WORRY OR OBSESS OVER THEM. (Trying to pinpoint the exact time of the Lord's return is equal folly since He himself said that it was not for our knowing and could come at any time). Your newsletter should inform, as it currently does, but much more, it should bring a message of HOPE and JOY - especially NOW. WE all have more than enough GLOOM and DOOM in our lives right now.

Please re-think what you have been asked to do in your ministry and help us to "see the light at the end of the tunnel."

EDITOR'S RESPONSE:  I couldn't agree with you more! I have been scouring the news, looking for positive and hopeful items to post. But it seems that we are in such a tremendous time of spiritual struggle that the negative is overwhelming the positive.

If you review this month's posts at ( you will be struck that of the eleven posts thus far this month seven are centered around statements made by the Pope! I have been posting on the Trib Times for over four years and I don't recall any short period in which the Pope has been so vocal. Yet there can be no doubt that his statements, though never "depressing", are clearly very somber in tone. Thus in posting these items the Trib Times has been reflecting the seriousness that is emanating from the Vatican.

I have also been tremendously impacted by the spiritual struggles that I am hearing from among fellow believers. Most devout Christians with whom I interact are suffering great spiritual trials. I think this itself both reflects and intensifies the struggles going on in society as a whole.

I promise to continue to be vigilant while making an effort to emphasize the glorious hope that we have as Christians. If you come across any articles that you feel would be inspirational for readers of the Trib Times please do not hesitate to share them with me.

(Luke 21:28)  "When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

7 (cont.). The former are like those who are healed of the passions of the soul by the care of physicians; these are they who come out of Egypt. The latter are like those who long to put off the uncleanness of the wretched body. That is why they need a helper, an angel, so to speak, or rather, one equal to an angel. For in accordance with the corruption of our wounds, we need a director who is indeed an expert and a physician.

December 14, 2001

(Joel 2:12-15)  'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing-- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.


The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has declared December 14th to be a day of fasting, prayer, and charity throughout the world, begging for peace, as he indicated in his Angelus message of November 18, 2001: "Each of us who goes without by fasting will be taking on the disposition of the poor, especially those who suffer at present the consequences of terrorism and war."

The Pope wished to reach out, as a symbolic embrace, to every person in need, and therefore asked all believers to offer a concrete gesture of charity in order to bring hope and daily bread to those who live in distress and need.

MORE: Indications for fasting and prayer: peace is built in the heart of every person


VIA Andrew: Remember this Friday, December 14, 2001, the Holy Father has requested as the international day of prayer and fasting for peace. I am going to treat it as a day of fast and abstinence, and pray the Miserere (Psalm 51) in front of the Blessed Sacrament. This is what Cardinal Sin asked contemplative nuns to do just prior to the Phillipine Revolution in '86. Civil war was averted.

MORE FROM THE PHILIPINES: Prayer and fasting to atone for our sins against peace


In a rare lineup of celestial wonders this week, a colorful meteor shower will peak the night before an annular solar eclipse.

The Geminids, known for their graceful, slow, bright and yellow trails across the sky, have gradually built up in intensity in recent days. When the annual meteor shower puts on its greatest display late Thursday and early Friday, the complete absence of moonlight will offer sky watchers ideal viewing conditions.

On Friday, another celestial spectacle will take place over most of the Americas -- a solar eclipse. The eclipse will be annular, meaning the disk of the moon will seem slightly smaller than the sun. The moon will pass directly in front of the sun but a bright ring of sunlight will remain visible to those directly underneath the annular eclipse path.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

7. Those of us who wish to go out of Egypt, and to fly from Pharaoh, certainly need some Moses as a mediator with God and from God, who, standing between action and divine vision, will raise hands of prayer for us to God, so that guided by him we may cross the sea of sin and rout the Amalek of the passions. That is why those who have surrendered themselves to God deceive themselves if they suppose that they have no need of a director. Those who came out of Egypt had Moses as their guide, and those who fled from Sodom had an angel.

December 13, 2001

Pope John Paul II: "Respect for a person's conscience, where the image of God himself is reflected (cf. Gen 1:26-27), means that we can only propose the truth to others, who are then responsible for accepting it. To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against human dignity, and ultimately an offence against God whose image that person bears."


Iran's hard-line judiciary said it ordered the closure of more than 50 newspapers "for the sake of God," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday.

Abbas-Ali Alizadeh, head of the judiciary administration in the capital, Tehran, said the closures were a service to the nation.

"One of our greatest glories is closure of offending newspapers. Based on our assessments, by doing this, we have done the greatest service to the people," IRNA quoted him as saying.

"When you do a job for the sake of God, defeat is meaningless," the agency quoted Alizadeh as saying in a speech in Damavand in the suburbs of Tehran Tuesday evening.

The newspaper closures began after hard-liners lost control of the Majlis, or parliament, in elections last year. The hard-liners are locked in a power struggle with liberal supporters of President Mohammad Khatami.

Khatami's allies also continue to be jailed and harassed by the hard-liners, who control unelected key institutions, including the judiciary and police.

Deputy Culture Minister Shaban Shahidi was quoted Monday as saying that the closure of 56 newspapers and magazines over the past 20 months was a "disaster."

Nearly all of the publications closed down by the hard-liners backed a pro-democracy initiative began by Khatami in 1997.


In Sulawesi Laskar Jihad plans Christmas bloodshed
Govt to keep an eye on visitors in conflict-torn Poso
Religious violence continues on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island
Senators Calls for Justice  on 10th Anniversary of Massacre



Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

6. The man who has withdrawn from the world in order to shake off his own burden of sins should imitate those who sit outside the city among the tombs, and should not cease from his hot and fiery streams of tears and voiceless heartfelt groanings until he, too, sees that Jesus has come to him and rolled away the stone of hardness from his heart, and loosed Lazarus, that is to say, our mind, from the bands of sin, and ordered His attendant angels: Loose him from passions, and let him go to blessed dispassion. Otherwise he will have gained nothing.

December 12, 2001

(Rev 6:5-6)  When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"


Retail sales at U.S. chain stores fell last week as Americans spent cautiously despite the upcoming holidays, dimming hopes that consumer spending could quickly lift the economy out of recession, two reports showed on Tuesday.

While economists had expected sales to slow during the two weeks following Thanksgiving, this week's drop exceeded expectations and suggests the holiday shopping season is unlikely to be a jolly one for retailers.

U.S. chain store sales slipped 0.4 percent during the week ended Dec. 8, following a 1.7 percent drop one week earlier, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg reported in their Weekly Chain Store Sales Snapshot.

Separately, Instinet's Redbook Retail Sales Average tumbled 4.5 percent in the week ended Dec. 8 compared with the same period in November. Month-over-month sales rose 2.4 percent in the previous weekly report.

"I think this confirms that the consumer is not going to lead the economy out of recession just yet,'' said Frank Badillo, senior economist at Retail Forward, in Columbus, Ohio.



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Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

5. All who have willingly left the things of the world, have certainly done so for the sake of the future of the Kingdom, or because of the multitude of their sins, or for love of God. If they were not moved by any of these reasons, their withdrawal from the world was unreasonable. But God who sets our contests waits to see what the end of our course will be.

December 11, 2001


Pope John Paul II will preside over a summit of Catholic leaders Thursday to discuss the future of Christians in the Holy Land and ways to encourage reconciliation among other groups in the region, the Vatican said.

The pontiff hopes to express his "spiritual closeness" to Christians in the region and the concern of the entire church for their suffering in such difficult times, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement today.

Christian influence has waned across the Middle East, especially in areas of turmoil. A majority 15 centuries ago, Christians today make up only 2 percent of the population in the Holy Land.

Catholic leaders in the Holy Land and heads of various bishops' conferences from throughout the region will attend the Vatican meeting, which Navarro-Valls said would help show the Church's commitment to a continued presence of Christians in the Holy Land "and offer its own contribution for justice and reconciliation" for those of other faiths.

RELATED: Day of fast: renounce the "job" of war and let hope live


Muslims Blast Israel, Call for Urgent U.S. Action
Bomber wounds 40 near Haifa
Two Palestinian children killed in IAF attack

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

4 (cont.).  A monk is he who keeps his body in chastity, his mouth pure and his mind illumined. A monk is a mourning soul that both asleep and awake is unceasingly occupied with the remembrance of death. Withdrawal from the world is voluntary hatred of vaunted material things and denial of nature for the attainment of what is above nature.

December 10, 2001

(Jude 1:20-25)  But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy--  to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.


Pope John Paul, indicating he believed the United States should not expand its war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan, urged people on Sunday to push for peace and not pursue vendettas.

"In the current complex international situation, humanity is being called on to mobilize its greatest energies so that love triumphs over hate, peace over war, truth over lies, forgiveness over vendettas," the Pope said in a regular weekly address.

His comment came the day after he had urged the world in apocalyptic terms to pull back from the brink of further conflict, apparently signaling his anxiety that once the Afghan war was over the United States would strike elsewhere.

"Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon. Humanity, which greeted the dawning of the third millennium with hope, now feels weighed down by the threat of new shocking conflicts. World peace is at risk," the Pope said in a speech on Saturday.

"John Paul has felt like a lion in a cage since the start of the bombardment on Afghanistan and the escalation of the latest Middle East crisis," Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper said on Sunday.

The 81-year old Pontiff appealed on Sunday for Christians and Muslims to pray together and renewed his call for Roman Catholics to fast for peace along with Muslims on Friday, the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"Believers have always adopted the weapons of fasting and prayer, coupled with works of genuine charity, when confronted by the most serious dangers," Pope John Paul told pilgrims gathered outside St. Peter's Basilica in bright sunshine.

RELATED: Nobel Peace Prize laureates look back on a century of awards amid turmoil

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

4 (cont.). The lover of God is he who lives in communion with all that is natural and sinless, and as far as he is able neglects nothing good. The continent man is one who lives in the midst of temptations, snares and turmoil, and who is eager to imitate with all his might those who are free from turmoil. Monasticism is an angelic order and state achieved in an earthly and soiled body. A monk is one who holds only to the  commands of God in every time and place and matter. A monk is one who constantly constains his nature and unceasingly watches over his senses.

December 8, 2001 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception)



Pope John Paul II had tears in his eyes at the end of a Warsaw Philharmonic concert in his honor Friday night.  So did many of the 3,000 people who joined him in the Vatican for the performance of "Missa pro Pace," Latin for "Peace Mass," by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar.

"The 20th century, marked by war and bloodshed, closed with much hope for justice and peace. However, the tragic events of Sept. 11 have sharply broken those hopeful expectations. But we must not resign ourselves. Peace is a gift of God and, at the same time, the fruit of the daily efforts of people of goodwill," the pope said.

The pope was seated in a gilded chair for the hour-long performance directed by Polish conductor Kazimierz Kord. But he stood for the encore, "Grant us Peace," his eyes glistening.

"Through the universal language of music and singing, the invitation to be builders of hope and peace has rung out once again," the pope said.


A new survey of American Roman Catholics has found strong support for Pope John Paul II and U.S. bishops, but disagreement over church positions such as whether priests should marry.

In the study released Nov. 16 by LeMoyne College, in Syracuse, and the research firm Zogby International, nearly all the respondents felt the pope was doing a good job leading the worldwide church. U.S. bishops and local clergy were given high marks as well.

However, more than half of Catholics disagreed with the church position barring priests from marrying and preventing women from serving as pastors. More than 60 percent disagreed with church teaching that artificial birth control was morally wrong. Still, most agreed with the church's opposition to abortion and practices.

About 54 percent of Catholics said they attended Mass at least once a week. About 24 percent said they increased their observance in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Nearly all the respondents said they believed God has the power to answer every prayer and the Bible is the inspired word of God, but 68 percent said they seldom or never read the Bible.

The poll of 1,508 Catholics was conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 and has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

4. The irreligious man is a mortal being with a rational nature, who of his own free will truns his back on life and thinks of his own Maker, the ever-existent, as non-existent. The transgressor is one who holds the law of God after his own depraved fashion, and thinks to combine faith in God with heresy that is directly opposed to Him. The Christian is one who imitates Christ in thought, word and deed, as far as is possible for human beings, believing rightly and blamelessly in the Holy Trinity.

December 7, 2001

(Mat 6:16-18)  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


The Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff issued a communique today entitled "Liturgical-pastoral guidelines for fasting and prayer for peace" in preparation for the inter-religious meeting which is to be held in Assisi, Italy, on January 24, 2002.

The communique states that "following the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, the Holy Father has repeatedly expressed his condemnation of those terrorist acts and his concern over the consequences of the military action taking place in Afghanistan." Two months on, "the situation is serious, tension is high and many consciences are troubled." For this reason, on November 18, John Paul II called for December 14 to be a "day of fasting" and invited "leaders of the world's religions to come to Assisi on January 24, 2002, to pray that opposing positions be overcome and that an authentic peace be promoted."

The communique analyzes the "essence of Christian fasting," recalling biblical precedents, the fasting of Jesus and the tradition of the Fathers of the Church; it also highlights that fasting is "inseparable from prayer and justice, it is oriented above all to the conversion of hearts without which ... it would have no meaning."

The final part of the communique is dedicated to the significance of pilgrimage and prayer.  If the former is "a sign of the tiring journey that each disciple of Christ is called to undertake in order to reach conversion," the latter is "a fundamental moment that fills the 'vacuum' created within us by the purifying fast and the silent pilgrimage with listening to God."

Leaving 'Normal' Behind-
Life before September 11 seemed more secure, but do we really want it back?

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Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

3. God belongs to all free beings. He is the life of all, the salvation of all- faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust, pious and impious, passionate and dispassionate, monks and laymen, wise and simple, healthy and sick, young and old- just as the effusion of light, the sight of the sun, and the changes of the seasons are for all alike; 'for there is no respect of persons with God.'

December 6, 2001


A key international aid agency appealed for $163 million next year, urging donors to do more for the world's "forgotten" humanitarian crises.

"While their attention is rightly focused on Afghanistan, we would still ask donors not to ignore the other crises," said Peter Rees-Gildea, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "Regions like Africa have been forgotten."

The organization's secretary-general, Didier Cherpitel, said top priority would go to Africa, with $44 million needed for programs such as health care and support for AIDS sufferers and their families.

An estimated 40 million people worldwide are now HIV positive 28.1 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa.  HIV is a precursor to AIDS. "AIDS will kill more people this decade than all the wars and other disasters that have occurred over the past 50 years," said Cherpitel.

RELATED: Pope Sends World AIDS Day Message to Sufferers
MORE: Holy See Observer tells UN forgotten Africa needs development and peace


Pope John Paul II Wednesday urged the international community to step in and help Israelis and Palestinians break "this useless spiral of death."

"Violence never resolves conflicts, but only increases the dramatic consequences," the pope told his general audience.

He said he was appealing to the international community "so that with ever greater determination and courage" it helps the two sides to end the violence and resume peace negotiations.

RELATED: Jerusalem suicide bomber targeted government ministers

(Luke 21:10-11)  Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1- "On Renunciation of the World"

2. Each of the classes mentioned above might well have a special treatise devoted to it. But for simple folk like us it would not be profitable at this point to enter into such lengthy investigations. Come then, in unquestioning obedience let us stretch out our unworthy hand to the true servants of God, who devoutly compel us and in their faith constrain us by their commands. Let us write this treatise with a pen taken from their knowledge and dipped in the ink of humility which is both dark yet radiant. Then let us apply it to the smooth white paper of their hearts, or rather rest it on the tablets of the spirit, and let us inscribe the divine words (or rather sow the seeds). And let us begin like this.

December 5, 2001


The head of the bio-technology firm that reported recent breakthroughs in human cloning said his team was making swift progress toward achieving new human therapies within six months and urged Congress not to interfere.

Michael West, president of the Massachusetts company Advanced Cell Technologies which last month said it had cloned a human embryo, told a Senate panel he would be "disappointed'' if his team could not make major scientific advances within six months -- creating longer-lived embryos and extracting stem cells and turning them into human tissue such as heart muscle or neurons.

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said that instead of seeking to slow down research that he called "exhilarating,'' the Senate should "promote and support it as much as we can.''

Led by Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, lawmakers opposed to all cloning have been pushing for at least a six-month moratorium on the research while Congress considers a permanent ban. Brownback and his allies over the past week have made several attempts to get a ban or moratorium through the Senate, but Senate leaders say they don't plan to take up the issue until February or March.


Japanese Government OK's human-animal embryo cloning
Swedish Council Calls for Human Embryo Cloning
Send in the Clones

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1: "On Renunciation of the World"

1 (cont.). By friends of God, dear and holy father, we simple people mean, properly speaking, those noetic and incorporeal beings which surround God. By true servants of God we mean all those who tirelessly and unremittingly do and have done His will. By worthless servants we mean those who think of themselves as having been granted baptism, but have not faithfully kept the vows they made to God. By those estranged from God and alienated from Him, we mean those who are unbelievers or heretics. Finally, the enemies of God are those who have not only evaded and rejected the Lord's commandment themselves, but who also wage bitter war on those who are fulfilling it.

December 4, 2001


An Israeli helicopter gunship attack Monday on Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's heliport and guard barracks has left at least 10 people wounded and at least two of Arafat's helicopters destroyed, Palestinian officials said.

Senior Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin said the airstrike was designed "to send a very clear signal."

"I want to emphasize, this attack was not an attack on the home or the compound of Mr. Arafat, but on the helicopter and the helicopter landing pad of his," Gissin said. "And it was intended to send a very clear signal -- either Arafat brings justice to [the suicide bombing victims] and fights terrorism, or we will have to do it ourselves."


Jerusalem terrorist attacks claim at least 12 dead
Bus blast kills at least 16 in Haifa, Israel
Arabs Blame Sharon, Blast U.S. Over Israel Bombings
Palestinians Rally for Suicide Attacks Despite Ban
Jordan, Egypt Leaders Meet Amid Mideast Violence

JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL: The Taliban-like ultimatum


Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 1: "On Renunciation of the World"

1. Our God and King is good, transcendently good and all-good (it is best to begin with God in writing to the servants of God). Of the rational beings created by Him and honoured with the dignity of free-will, some are His friends, others are His true servants, some are worthless, some are completely estranged from God, and others, though feeble creatures, are His opponents.

December 1, 2001


(2 Pet 3:13-14)  But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.


Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.

With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. During this time the faithful are admonished


Advent Prayer by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"


Message of November 25, 2001

"Dear children! In this time of grace, I call you anew to prayer. Little children, pray and prepare your hearts for the coming of the King of Peace, that with His blessing He may give peace to the whole world. Peacelessness has begun to reign in hearts and hatred reigns in the world. That is why, you who live my messages be the light and extended hands to this faithless world that all may come to know the God of Love. Do not forget, little children, I am with you and bless you all. Thank you for having responded to my call."

RELATED: The Position of the Church Regarding Marian Apparitions and Messages

The Philokalia excerpt: St. John of Karpathos "One Hundred Texts"

100. If, as St John says, 'God is love', then 'he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him' (1 John 4:16). But he who hates his neighbour, through this hatred, is separated from love. He, then, who hates his brother is separated from God, since 'God is love , and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.' To Him be glory and power through all the ages. Amen.

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Jubilee 2000: Bringing the World to Jesus

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