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December 21, 2002



The Zambrano family, including its soon-to-be newest family member, sincerely wish all Trib Times readers a blessed and very merry Christmas and New Year.

May we all recognize that
He who is able to provide all that we need
and more will faithfully do so,
for His glory and our joy,
now and in eternity forever!


Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios on the Feast of the Nativity

My Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I greet you on the joyous occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a miraculous event which took place two millennia ago, imparting an indelible effect upon our human race and upon all creation. For on that holy and magnificent day in Bethlehem, God in His perfect love for us condescended to take on human flesh; the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Incarnate Logos; and the entry of salvation into our world was revealed in the fullness of time unto all humanity.

The birth of Christ, foretold for centuries by the prophets, was an event of cosmic significance, impacting peoples of all lands and civilizations and affecting the order and future of all things seen and unseen. Thus, this was no ordinary birth. The Creator of the Universe entered the visible world through the womb of the Virgin. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords took on flesh, beginning His life among us in an astonishingly humble way.

We must wonder at this humble beginning of our Lord. In all His power and glory, He entered the human race at the weakest and most vulnerable stage of life. He was born under inhospitable conditions, in a stable surrounded by animals, away from the comfort of a home and family. Further, early in His life He became a refugee, taken by His mother and Joseph to Egypt, a land of exile.

Indeed, the manner in which Christ became man reveals much to us about the tremendous power and love of God. He was not afraid to appear on earth under the most humiliating conditions being "despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity" (Isaiah 53:3). Into the midst of a threatening, chaotic world He came in full control of His divine plan for our salvation. He would be "wounded for  our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities" (Isaiah 53:5) but through the glorious power of His Resurrection He would lead us from death to life.

Our contemporary world is no less threatening. We may have the advantages of modern technology, high standards of living, and the benefits of a free society. However, as we continue to witness day after day, we live in a world tormented by terrorism and war, plagued by famine and disease, and infected with sin that destroys relationships and lives. But we can find strength in knowing that the one, who was in control of time and history as He entered this world as an infant, is the one who controls the destiny of our lives. In the worst of conditions, we do not have a God "who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). This is Jesus, the Son of God, who came to be with us, and in our frailty, struggles, and even in death itself, reveal to us the power from above that is offered to those who believe.

Through the celebration of this great and glorious Feast of our Church may God empower us in faith and hope to face the challenges of our world. In this season of the Nativity may our witness to the Incarnation of Christ offer the truth of life and salvation to all; and may the peace, joy, and presence of our Lord be with all of you, especially in the dawning New Year. Have a joyous Christmas and a blessed 2003.

MORE: Messages for Christmas from the Irish Bishops

DON'T MISS: Where did the Christmas tree come from? by Fr. William P. Saunders

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

10. God often hides from our eyes even those perfections that we have obtained. But he who praises us or, rather, misleads us, opens our eyes by his praise, and as soon as our eyes are opened, our treasure vanishes.

December 20, 2002

(Isa 65:25)  The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the LORD."


This season I've done my share of fighting people for parking spaces at the crowded malls and trying to get a good position in the check-out lines.  I've also fought valiantly in the Christmas traffic on the highways, as motorists have cut me off and I've cut them off.

Wouldn't it be reassuring, in the midst of all this struggling, if I could always hear a voice proclaim, "Don't worry. Someday all people, even the animals, will live together in peace."

Each morning in the newspaper, I read about war and the threat of war. Wouldn't it be reassuring, if I would always hear a proclamation, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks."

I have recently talked with fearful people about job loss, and sad people about lost relationships. Wouldn't it be reassuring, if I could always hear a voice proclaim, "Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes to save you!"

I believe that God does try to speak his voice to our hearts, but we tend to be hard of hearing. Too easily we let his voice be drowned out by noises and concerns of our world, and by our own fears and anxieties and ambitions. But God's voice, a voice that gives hope, courage and peace, will be heard when we open our ears to hear.

God's voice is powerfully heard through the miracle of Christmas. Upon the birth of Jesus, the first message recorded was the message of the angel to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

These shepherds were the most ordinary of people. Shepherds struggled with making a living, who lived in a politically volatile culture, and encountered pain and suffering and poverty. They were at the bottom of the social ladder; people who show us by their example, that if they could hear the words of the angel, so can we. "Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."

Some things we can do to open our ears to hear God's voice:

Pray. Tell God we want to hear the same message that was spoken to the shepherds more than 2000 years ago.

Truly decide that it is God's voice of peace that we want to listen to. It seems strange, but very likely if we look at ourselves, we will see that too often we choose to listen to voices of fear, jealousy, greed, lust and anger.

Commit ourselves to Jesus. There is a Scripture which I love, from the Gospel of Matthew: "Seek first his kingship, his way of holiness, and all else will be given you besides."(Mt. 6:33) Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed with too many things to do, I stop and remind myself that the only thing I need to do in this particular moment is to serve Jesus and do the one thing he wants of me right now.

Feed our hearts with images of God's love. Be attentive to signs of God's love in the Scriptures. The Scripture quotations in the opening lines, above, are from Isaiah 11:1-10; 2:1-5; 35:1-6. Feed ourselves with these Scriptures.

Discover God in others. Recognize the love of other people as images of God's love. Worship with the Christian community.

Serve others. The miracle of Christmas is that God chose to serve us, by taking on our flesh and placing himself at our service, even when that service led to the cross. We discover God when we imitate Christ by serving others. During this season, opportunities for service abound. Charities seek our assistance. We can serve those with whom we gather during the holidays, and especially those with whom we live and work day in and day out.

A special form of service is to share our faith with others. Pope John Paul II says, "All of us who believe in Christ should feel, as an integral part of our faith, a concern to pass on to others the light and joy of the Gospel." Those around us also long to hear God's voice, speaking in this uncertain world.

God does speak to us. We don't always listen, but his voice speaks loudly, if we have ears to hear. If you are struggling to find peace, look to God. Speak the words of the Hebrew Scriptures from the prophet Isaiah, speak the words of the angel to your heart. Tell God that you want to hear that same message from the angel that was spoken 2000 years ago. Train your heart to be able to know and listen to God's voice.

So, the next time you are fighting the Christmas crowds and the traffic, be quiet, and listen for God's voice.

The next time you are alarmed by the newspaper headlines, be quiet, and listen for God's voice.

And the next time you are frightened or anxious about anything at all, be quiet, and listen for God's voice.

My prayer is that each of us will hear the voice of the angel -- not just this Christmas, but throughout the year.

Deacon Bob Little, pastoral associate at St. Pius X Catholic Church,
Portland, Oregon

MORE: Life Is an Awaiting of Christmas, Says John Paul II

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

8. A vainglorious ascetic is cheated both ways: he exhausts his body, and he gets no reward.

December 19, 2002



The best witness to our Faith is how we live our lives. When people observe us as faithful Catholic Christians with genuine charity, they will say: "I want what he (or she) has," and then begin to open up and express interest in our Faith and start asking questions.

It is very true that we cannot badger people (whether stranger, acquaintance, friend, or family) with preaching on the Faith. That only puts up walls and shuts down further progress in their conversion. Above all, we must respect the liberty of others and use no coercion, whether financial, physical, spiritual, or psychological. For genuine faith only grows in the soil of liberty. Often Christians, in their attempts to convert others, perpetrate a subtle psychological violence on others (without consciously realizing it). This does great harm to the cause of the Faith.

We must develop a sixth sense as to what people are open to and are willing to welcome, and act upon that. It is a principle in the science of psychotherapy, that the therapist will only reveal a dark area of the client's psyche when he or she is ready to accept it. Psychotherapy is an organic process in which dark areas are revealed only in bits over weeks, months, and even years - with one insight that has been integrated into the understanding, forming the basis for the acceptance of a new one. This is how people grow in the Faith too, as their ignorances and imperfections are progressively purged, and one truth and one grace builds upon another truth and grace.

It is the same with evangelizing. Often much groundwork must be done before we even get to Jesus. It is often thought that, as Christians, we must have the courage to proclaim Jesus to all comers. This is supposed to prove our faithfulness and courage. But such a thing may be a mistake. Before they hear the doctrine of Jesus and His Church, many people may have to become experientially acquainted with the love and goodness of Jesus in our own lives (which may take some time). That way, Jesus and His doctrine become more than mere words but become a living reality that people want.

I find with myself, that I am inclined to say different things and different amounts of things to different people about the Faith. What I find that I can say to a particular person is never quite the same as the next. With some people, the words flow freely. With others, there is an inhibition. I don't think that this inhibition is cowardliness, but my intuition telling me that that person is not open to the truth at the moment. My intuition (perhaps guided by the Holy Spirit), tells me what a person is open to and what he is not open to, and I seem to act upon it accordingly.

Great patience is often required for us, for some people are closed for the longest time (perhaps most of their lives). Often our evangelization consists of simply *being.* The supernatural grace in our souls tends to radiate in and of itself to others, without us consciously saying or doing anything related to the Faith. This is a powerful form of witness that most Christians do not even know about. It is a most perfect form of witness because it is not us witnessing but God witnessing within us. This tends to open people up, so that in time they will express an interest in our Faith, and then we can begin to talk about it. This is why, as Catholics, we must use every means to grow in supernatural grace (with prayer, meditation, frequent confession, frequent communion, Eucharistic Adoration, mortification etc.). If we truly wish to convert the world, we must continually strive to grow in grace so that we supernaturally radiate more and more, to touch more and more people, more and more profoundly. It is true that we must witness, but we must use prudence in how we do it. We cannot go to the other extreme that many Catholic do, and think that our religion is private and evangelization is not appropriate at all. Where would we be today if the Apostles, Saints, and other great Christians thought that way?

SEE ALSO: Catholic artists work to evangelize our weary world

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

7. Every lover of self-display is vainglorious.  The fast of the vainglorious person is without reward and his prayer is futile, because he does both for the praise of men.

December 18, 2002


Pope John Paul on Tuesday called on world leaders to defuse the explosive situation in the Middle East, saying they would be held accountable for their actions.

The appeal, made in his peace message for 2003, came as the United States was preparing to deliver its final verdict on Iraq's weapons declaration and as Britain pushed for new negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Saying the world was in a state of "serious disorder", he called for "a new constitutional organisation of the human family" to make international leaders more accountable.

He stressed that he was not calling for the charter of a "global super-state" but a "deepening of processes already in place". But he said conflicts showed that international organisations sometimes seemed unable to sow lasting peace.

The pope painted the entire Middle East situation, particularly that in the Holy Land, as a study in tragedy made worse by political ineptitude.

"Perhaps nowhere today is there a more obvious need for the correct use of political authority than in the dramatic situation of the Middle East and the Holy Land," he said.

"The volatility of the situation is compounded by the clash of interests among the members of the international community. Until those in positions of responsibility undergo a veritable revolution in the way they use their power and go about securing their peoples' welfare, it is difficult to imagine how progress towards peace can be made," he said.

The pope made no specific reference in his message to the situation in Iraq but the Vatican has been following the situation closely and has stressed that any attack against the country must first have the approval of the United Nations.

COMMENTARY: Is Bush deaf to church doubts on Iraq war?


Opposition parties agree on new Iraq
Troops prepare for March Iraq attack
U.S. may use nukes in pre-emptive strikes
Poll: Bush hasn't made case for Iraq war
Peace activists on hunger strike

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

6. A vainglorious person is a believing idolater; he apparently honours God, but he wants to please not God but men.

December 17, 2002


The Vatican approved revised rules Monday to try to protect children and punish Roman Catholic clergy found guilty of sexual abuse. The measures promise a fair hearing for accused priests and tough penalties for the guilty.

Denouncing priestly pedophilia as "evil," the Vatican said the Church would have to throw all its energy into winning back the respect of U.S. Roman Catholics, whose faith in their religious leaders has been rocked to the core by the crisis.

Under the new rules, any priest accused of misconduct will receive a full, ecclesiastical trial, with legal representation, before facing expulsion from the Church.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops, said in a letter to the head of the U.S. Bishops Conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory, that the Vatican was determined to combat and prevent attacks on children.

"The essential norms in their present formulation are intended to give effective protection to minors and to establish a rigorous and precise procedure to punish in a just way those who are guilty of such abominable offences," Re wrote.

Cardinal Re emphasized that the Church's reputation did not deserve to be tarred by the crisis, adding that the "overwhelming majority" of priests were innocent and had been "unjustly slandered by association" with the scandal.


New Boston archdiocesan leader vows to work for healing
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New Law May Mean More Church Lawsuits

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

4. Observe and you will find unholy vainglory abounding till the very grave in clothes, oils, servants, perfumes and the like.

December 14, 2002



For the third time in 13 centuries, Islam is set to gain a major foothold in Europe. This time it comes peacefully with Turkey's attempt to join the ever-expanding European Union. It meets little resistance from Christianity, which has never been in a more feeble state on the continent whose civilization it shaped.

When Islam's previous attempts to conquer the Occident failed, this was due to Christian resolve. In 732 A.D., the Frankish ruler Charles Martel threw back the Saracens at the Loire. In the 1520s, at the height of the Reformation in Europe, the Turks overran Hungary but were stopped at Vienna. Catholics and Protestants, though divided theologically, nevertheless united to confront this common challenger.

Islam knocks at Europe's doors with velvet gloves at this point. Turkey is a secular state, though governed by an Islamic party. For geopolitical reasons, the United States wants it to be part of the European Union.

Jobst Schoene, bishop emeritus of Germany's Independent Lutherans and a renowned church historian, gave us pause when he told United Press International, "I fear we are approaching a situation resembling the tragic fate of Christianity in Northern Africa in Islam's early days."

In the 7th and 8th centuries, once-flourishing Christian civilizations in Africa vanished in a flash. Bat Ye'or, one of the world's foremost students of Islam's conquests reminds us that Christians were weak in those days because of sectarian squabbles. Some Christian groups actually welcomed the Muslims as "liberators" from other Christians.

Today's Christian frailty in Western Europe is different. It is a post-Enlightenment affliction, combining theological ignorance, indifference, indiscipline and, presumably, loss of faith.

Europe owes most of its culture, art, and way of life to Christianity. Yet France, once called the first daughter of the Church, insisted until the overthrow of its last socialist-led government that Christianity and God not be mentioned in the new European constitution.

Only now after the departure of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, a former Trotskyite, is there a chance that at least the "spiritual roots" of the continent's civilization might perhaps be noted in this document -- but not Christianity by name. That would not be politically correct.

In Germany, whose 1949 Basic Law (constitution) speaks in its preamble of a "responsibility before God and man," the current Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and five other Cabinet members refused to say the traditional words, "so help me God," when swearing their oath of office.

Add to this some other manifestations of Christianity's weakness, and Schoene's concerns seem very appropriate indeed. For example:

-- The number of Germany's Protestants, once a majority of the population, has shrunk from 47 million to 23 million in the last 50 years, and of those only about 3 percent attend Sunday services regularly.

-- Five of the 24 territorial Protestant churches in Germany have decided to bless same-sex unions and ordain practicing homosexuals.

-- In France, which has a population of 60 million, there are only 25,000 Roman Catholic priests left. Their average age is 68. Some look after 30 or more parishes. Laymen are in charge of most church functions, such as Christian funerals.

-- Anglicans are have become a minority in England.

-- Spain, once the most stalwart Catholic country in Europe, has turned into one of the most secularized in less than a generation. Curiously, more and more Spanish women, whose nation had been ruled by Muslims for centuries, are now converting to Islam.

Johannes Richter, the former regional bishop of Leipzig in Germany, compared the European environment into which Muslims are moving with a situation described in the Old Testament, a situation almost without prophecy: "And the word of the Lord was rare in those days." (1Samuel 3:1).

However, the text goes on: "The lamp of God had not yet gone out."

Said Schoene: "Perhaps God is using the Muslims to bang our Christian heads together."


A DESMOND BIRCH COMMENTARY: Catholic Prophecy Speaks of a Future Invasion of Europe

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

3. The spirit of despair rejoices at the sight of increasing vice, and the spirit of vainglory at the sight of increasing virtue. The door for the first is a multitude of wounds, and the door for the second is a wealth of labours.

December 13, 2002

CARDINAL AVERY DULLES: "The incarnation does not provide us with a ladder by which to escape the ambiguities of life and scale the heights of heaven. Rather it enables us to burrow deep into the heart of planet earth and find it shimmering with divinity."


Israel's president promised the pope during a meeting Thursday that the army will redeploy outside the pilgrim city of Bethlehem during Christmas if there are no warnings of terrorist attacks, the Israeli embassy said.

The Vatican, in talks with President Moshe Katsav, had urged Israel to allow "free access" during the holiday season in Bethlehem, where Israeli troops are patrolling Manger Square after occupying the town.

The frail 82-year pope received Katsav in his private library, telling him "God bless Israel."

Katsav, making the first visit by an Israeli head of state to the Vatican, met with Pope John Paul II and the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

The Vatican said it restated its support for both Israel and a Palestinian state and the need for a rapid conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The military occupation of Bethlehem, the town where tradition holds Christ was born, is Israel's third in recent months as troops hunt for Palestinian militants believed behind suicide bombings in Israel.

The Israeli statement said the pope condemned anti-Semitism and terrorism and indicated he intends he intends to speak out against both in the near future.


A ghost of Christmas past in Bethlehem
Bethlehem Faces Joyless Christmas

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 22- "On the many forms of vainglory"

2. With regard to its form, vainglory is a change of nature, a perversion of character, a note of blame. And with regard to its quality, it is a dissipation of labours, a waste of sweat, a betrayal of treasure, a child of unbelief, the precursor of pride, shipwreck in harbour, an ant on the threshing-floor which, though small, has designs upon all one's labour and fruit. The ant waits for the gathering of the wheat, and vainglory for the gathering of the riches of virtue; for the one loves to steal and the other to squander.

December 12, 2002

POPE JOHN PAUL II:  "May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life! This is our cry: life with dignity for all! The time has come to banish once and for all from the Continent every attack against life. Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace, save the nations and peoples of this Continent!"


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· The Friday Fax has a primary subscription list of 20,000 people · The Friday Fax is read by a secondary audience of more than 60,000 · The Friday Fax has created an international community of like-minded people who defend life, faith, family and national sovereignty · The Friday Fax readership must grow ever larger, and you can help DEAR COLLEAGUE, We have made great strides in fighting the pro-abortionists at the UN. The Friday Fax and its readers have played a key role in international decision-making. We can do more. But our numbers have to grow.

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Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

6. Although all cowardly people are vainglorious, yet not all who are unafraid are humble, since even robbers and grave-plunderers may be without fear.

December 11, 2002

(Psa 129:1-2) "Sorely have they afflicted me from my youth," let Israel now say--"Sorely have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.


There's no haven for Jews. Not within Israel and not without.

The earth is stained with their blood: From an El Al counter in Los Angeles to a beach resort in Mombasa.

Their children, their elderly, their scholars, their farmers, the diaspora of their tribe — all targets, at home and abroad. Shopping for food, riding a bus, strolling across a campus, dining as families in restaurants, dancing in clubs, worshipping in synagogues. Not a blessed place in all the world is safe.

The carnage in Kenya last Thursday is only the most recent atrocity but no doubt history will recall it as a defining moment in the modern-day Holocaust of Jews — a point where all buffers of presumed security were breached, when the war of attrition against Israelis went extra-territorial, crossing geographical borders and moral boundaries. Those shredded bodies of vacationers who believed themselves somehow beyond the reach of homicide bombers are sad testament to the reality of their predicament. And the poor victims who were not Jews, the Kenyan dancers welcoming new arrivals to a holiday hotel, they were but expendable bit-players, the collateral damage of Jew-hating terrorism.

Palestinians might revile Israelis as oppressors and occupiers, might bleat to the international community for redress of their political grievances. But Palestinians the world over aren't hunted down like dogs. Arabs the world over aren't targeted for extermination. Muslims the world over aren't murdered in packs. Humankind would not stand for it. The Pan-Arab alliance would not stand for it. Islamic countries would not stand for it.

Imagine, if Zionist terrorists armed with shoulder-held rockets had attempted to bring down a Saudi airplane, as unidentified militants had attempted to blast an El Al flight out of the sky over Kenya, simultaneous with the Mombasa bombing — a two-pronged attack suggesting sophisticated planning and a network of operatives, with the fingerprints of Al Qaeda all over it. The reverse scenario — Jew on Muslim — would be grounds for war, for a unified assault on Israel. And the West would be hard-pressed to interdict, to mollify.

Ah, but these are just dead Jews. And we are accustomed to their dying.

I have been waiting, in the days since Thursday's abominable attack, for just one word of sympathy, of pity, from the Muslim world. One note of commiseration to emanate from inside the thousands of mosques, one hint of regret and empathy from commentators ever ready to assail any Israeli misstep and aggression. But the silence has been deafening.

Israel, as it has learned from history, cannot depend on any other nation, any other alliance of nations, not even its great and steadfast friend America, to fight its battles, ensure its security or avenge its dead. In the same way Mossad tracked down and eliminated the freed perpetrators of the Munich Massacre in 1972, its counter-terrorist experts will likely, insofar as they are able, track down and eliminate those who committed Thursday's vile attacks. But this is a new generation of global terrorism and Israel's enemies — like the West's enemies — no longer stand out in a crowd. In many parts of the world, they are the crowd. Islamist pretenders, fomenting hatred in the masses, have made sure of that. And they are like cockroaches, scurrying out of the geopolitical cracks — in Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, in East Africa, in the Philippines, in Indonesia, even in America and Canada.

They kill Jews. They kill Americans. They kill Australians who had the temerity to push rampaging Indonesian paramilitaries out of East Timor, a predominantly Catholic fledgling state. They kill Kenyan dancers and civil employees. They kill French engineers. They blow up skyscrapers and bring down airplanes. They do all this with Allah's name on their lips.

And some day, I fear they'll come for you.


Is Islam an inherently violent religion?
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Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

5. Those who mourn and those who are insensitive are not subject to fear, but the cowardly often have become deranged. And this is natural. For the Lord rightly forsakes the proud that the resut of us may learn not to be puffed up.

December 10, 2002


During a traditional homage for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, John Paul II entrusted to Mary's hands the peace of the world.

"Pray, O Mother, for all of us. Pray for humanity that suffers poverty and injustice, violence and hatred, terror and war," the Pope said in a strong voice when he delivered the meditation he composed for today's occasion.

Before the 30-meter-high (100 foot) bronze statue of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, the Holy Father, wearing his red cape, continued praying to the Virgin: "Help us to contemplate with the holy rosary the mysteries of him who 'is our peace,' so that we will all feel involved, in a specific effort of service for peace."

The Pontiff then prayed for the Middle East. "Look with special attention upon the land in which you gave birth to Jesus, a land that you loved together and that is still so tried today."

"Pray for us, Mother of hope! Give us days of peace, watch over our way. Let us see your Son full of joy in heaven," he added.

OF INTEREST: La Purisima celebration carries an American flair


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SEPTEMBER 19, 1846

"If my people do wish to submit themselves, I am forced to let go of the hand of My Son. It is so heavy and weighs me down that I can no longer keep hold of it...I make an urgent appeal to the earth...The Church will be in eclipse, the world will be in dismay...Woe to the inhabitants of the earth!...The fire of Heaven will fall...All the universe will be struck with terror and many will let themselves be led astray because they have not worshipped the true Christ...he, the king of kings of darkness, will have plunged with all his followers into the everlasting chasms of hell. And then water and fire will purge the earth and consume all the works of mens' pride and all will be renewed. God will be served and glorified."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

4. A proud soul is a slave of cowardice; it vainly trusts in itself, and is afraid of any sound or shadow of creatures.

December 7, 2002


(Luke 1:46-49)  And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.


"I am the Immaculate Conception" was Mary's simple message to St. Bernadette Soubirous. The year was 1858 and the place was Lourdes, France. Some eleven years earlier, in 1847, Pope Pius IX also delivered a simple message when he named Mary under that title to be the patroness of the United States.

He had done so at the request of the American bishops. The bishops at the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1846 also chose the date of the Immaculate Conception as the America's patronal feast.

Pope Pius IX would go on to declare the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. This dogma was the declaration that Mary at the moment of her conception was free of original sin.

It seems the relationship of Mary and the America bishops did not wane over the years. In 1913 Bishop Thomas Shahan presented his plan of a national shrine to honor Mary to Pope Pius X for approval. Bishop Shahan's dream of an American sanctuary comparable to those in Europe became a reality with the first donation of 400 dollars from the Holy Father himself. Further financial support came and the cornerstone was laid in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 1920.

Since the Shrine's dedication in November 20, 1959, it has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for countless numbers of the faithful. Its sacred space is not only a litany in praise of Mary; but it is also is a confession of the faith of different nationalities that would help build the many chapels throughout the shrine. These chapels tell in art about those people who have enriched America with their presence.

The Shrine has become famous as a place of pilgrimage. Many pro-life and youth groups have made the shrine their destination in order to pray for those who have been affected by abortion. Countless individual pilgrims have journeyed to this holy place for their own intensely private reasons. There are also prayer warriors who visit the shrine daily for Mass, personal prayer, or share in the Miraculous Medal novena and other devotions that are offered on a regular basis. Sit for a while and you will see some who have come dressed in their ethnic attire yet all come clothed with the care of the world.

The Shrine has been a work in process since the cornerstone was laid in 1920. Like the universal Church herself, this house of God continues to grow and change. However, what is essential remains solid like the structure itself. Built without structural steel, the Shrine rises heavenward entirely of masonry. This, too, is a reminder that we are the Church, living stones and People of God.

The Shrine in its art and worship will continue to sing the praises of Mary for many years to come. But these praises are poured forth because she is the first disciple; she made the Incarnation possible. "Let it be done according to your word" was not just for one moment; it is our choice as well. For that choice all nations indeed call her blessed.

MORE: Virtual Tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


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The Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception of Mary

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

3. Fear is a rehearsing of danger beforehand; or again, fear is a trembling sensation of the heart, alarmed and troubled by unknown misfortunes. Fear is a loss of assurance.

December 6, 2002

(1John 3:17-18)  But if any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.


Six decades after she risked her life to shelter her Jewish neighbors from the Nazis, a Polish woman traveled on a plane for the first time in her life for a reunion with a member of the family she helped save.

"I love you, Anna," Holocaust survivor Sally Charsinsky said Tuesday as she hugged Anna Kopec at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Kopec, now 83, and her husband, Stanislaw, hid Charsinsky's father and brother in a room of their home in Sowina, Poland, and often kept the teenage Charsinsky there, too.

Once, when Nazi soldiers came door-to-door searching houses for Jews, Charsinsky didn't have time to hide. Kopec told her to grab a brush, go to the barn and groom the horses.

Kopec told the soldiers Charsinsky was a relative visiting from out of town and distracted them by preparing a large meal for them, Charsinsky recalled.

"I can't do enough for her. She sacrificed her life for my family," said Charsinsky, 79, who moved to the United States after World War II, married an American man and now lives in Longport, N.J.

Asked why she risked her life to help Charsinsky's family, Kopec - a Catholic who walks an hour each week from her farm to church - became so animated her translator could barely keep up.

"Whoever believes in God and whoever is religious will never turn away from another person. They will always help another human being," she said. "That's what I was taught."

SEE ALSO: How do you send an e-mail to heaven?


The relics of St. Theresa of Lisieux, which drew about 20,000 people to a Reno church two years ago, are now in Baghdad, Iraq, where some Catholics hope the presence of the revered nun’s bones will help avert war.

“When St. Theresa’s relics came to Reno, there was a wonderful response,” said Sister Ann Weber, Carmel of Reno prioress. “It was something that brought people together and we’ve seen that everywhere the relics have gone.

“I hope there is more than veneration of the relics in Baghdad. I pray that people come together in honor of a person who was so ordinary in one sense, so extraordinary in another.” The worldwide popularity of St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as The Little Flower, comes despite her life of anonymity. She died of tuberculosis in 1897 at age 24 after spending nine years of her life as a Carmelite nun. In her book, “Story of a Soul,” she wrote that devotion can be expressed by doing small things for Christ.

She wanted to travel to the five continents to preach the Gospel. Her chance to travel came only after her death. Since October 1999, her relics have visited nearly every nation on the globe.

The saint’s remains came to Reno in January 2000 and toured Asia and the Middle East before the Roman Catholic archbishop of Baghdad requested they visit Iraq. The nation has about 800,000 Christians, most of them Catholics of the Eastern Rite, according to a Vatican report.

The saint’s relics arrived in Baghdad Nov. 18 and are scheduled to stay until Dec. 28.

RELATED: Faith-based revolt rises against Iraq war

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

2. Cowardice is a childish disposition in an old, vainglorious soul. Cowardice is a falling away from the faith that comes of expecting the unexpected.

December 5, 2002


Newly ordained Catholic priest shares his special vision of faith

The priest celebrating mass yesterday afternoon at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in Kitchener appeared, in many respects, to be no different from any other cleric.

If the hundreds of people attending Rev. Tim Devine's first celebration watched closely, however, they would see he occasionally read parts of the service using his fingers to trace the Braille words in a book.

And, they might have learned that his chalice -- a gift from his parents John and Maureen for his recent ordination -- was specially weighted so it would not tip easily if he accidentally brushed it.

The 28-year-old Kitchener native is believed to be the first blind man to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Canada.

Devine said he knows there are other sightless priests who have been ordained in the U.S. but so far has been unable to locate them to exchange views about how they cope with their handicap while fulfilling their duties.

Yesterday, eight days after being ordained in Ottawa as a member of the Companions of the Cross religious order, Devine said mass in the Laurentian Drive parish. He was guided by Rev. George Summat of Ottawa, the pastor of the Ottawa church where he will be stationed until next July.

The music for the service was provided by his fellow musicians in Critical Mass, a spiritual rock group in which he plays piano and keyboard and his brother, Matt, a high school teacher in Brampton, plays guitar.

The group became even better known when they were chosen to play on the same stage with Pope John Paul during a World Youth Day celebration in Toronto last July.

Twenty years ago, Devine would not have been allowed to begin studies for the Catholic priesthood because church law before 1983 forbade ordination of blind candidates and those with other physical impediments such as missing fingers.

Devine was born with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease that has left him with only about three per cent vision and able to see shapes or blurred outlines if lighting conditions are correct.

He is, however, "thankful I was born at this time."


VIA Rose Mary Danforth: Last Monday, I had Our Father's Will Communications at my home to video tape me telling my son's story... this is a small part of it... and you can use it as you see fit... for the Glory of God.

I am Thomas' mother.... and I am the author of this true story.... which is only a part of the many incredible and miraculous things that God has allowed to happen..involving Thomas... against all odds. I gladly give you permission to publish this story.


VIA Richard: I invite you to visit my Rosary Stories page located at:


Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 21- "On unmanly and puerile cowardice"

1. If you pursue virtue in a monastery or coenobium, you are not likely to be attacked much by cowardice. But the man who spends his time in more solitary places should make every effort to avoid being overcome by that offspring of vainglory, that daughter of unbelief, cowardice.

December 4, 2002

POPE JOHN PAUL:  "Violence, terrorism and war only build new walls between people."


In an unprecedented show of unity, Chicago's top Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have drafted a joint letter urging President Bush to avoid war with Iraq.

It is the first public statement on any national issue by the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago since the group was founded in 1984.

The letter was to be released Sunday at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James. An advance copy obtained by the Chicago Tribune read, in part: "In the present situation, conditions justifying war have not been met. We still lack compelling evidence that Iraq is planning to launch an attack ... We believe that there is ample time and latitude for pursuing alternatives that could avoid warfare, saving untold thousands of lives."

Other religious groups also have voiced concerns about the possibility of war. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged in September that Iraq posed a threat, but said it would be difficult to justify a pre-emptive attack under Catholic teachings on warfare.

MORE: Catholics around country pray for peace, rally against war


President Bush said on Monday he was not encouraged by Iraq's reaction so far to U.N. disarmament demands and challenged Baghdad to provide a "credible and complete" list of its weapons by a Sunday deadline.

"Any act of delay, deception or defiance will prove that Saddam Hussein has not adopted the path of compliance, and has rejected the path of peace," Bush said in a speech to military leaders at the Pentagon.

The Sunday deadline for Saddam to give the United Nations a list of his weapons programs could well determine whether Bush marches on toward a possible military attack against Iraq. Iraq suspects the United States is looking for a pretext for unleashing a new Gulf War.

"On or before the 8th of December, Iraq must provide a full and accurate declaration of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs," Bush said.


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U.S.-Russian Rift Brewing Over Iraq


VIA Dan Lynch: Please join us from December 4 through 12 in praying the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the intention of a culture of life and civilization of love and not a culture of death and civilization of hate.

Link to the Novena prayers:

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 20- "On bodily vigil"

11. Long sleep is an unjust comrade; it robs the lazy of half their life, and even more.

December 3, 2002

POPE JOHN PAUL: God is the future of man and of the world. If the awareness of God is lost, humanity closes itself to the future and inevitably loses the perspective of its pilgrimage in time. Why be born, why die? Why sacrifice oneself, why suffer?

To these questions Christianity offers a complete response. For this reason, Christ is the hope of humanity. He is the real meaning of our present, because he is our sure future.


West Texas Bishop Michael Pfeifer joined the nation's bishops Sunday in prayers for HIV/AIDS patients during World Aids Day.

"We must keep them present in our consciousness, as individuals, and as a community, and embrace them with unconditional love," Pfeifer said.

"World AIDS day is a reminder of the sacredness of life of all people affected by the HIV/AIDS," Pfeifer explained. "People suffering with this affliction are not unfamiliar people, the objects of our mingled pity and aversion.

This year, World AIDS Day coincided with the observance of the first Sunday of Advent.

"This year, Catholics are encouraged during masses this weekend to pray for an end to this terrible epidemic, and for nonjudgmental acceptance of those already affected ," a press release from the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops states.

Pfeifer pointed to the devastating numbers of people in Africa who have died on that continent, where the disease has surpassed epidemic proportions.

The worst health calamity since the Middle Ages, estimated from UNAIDS, an umbrella group for several U.N. agencies and the World Health Organization, 34.3 million people in the world have AIDS and 24.5 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a CNN report. Of those, nearly 19 million have died and 3.8 million of them are children.

"My heart also goes out to all of the children afflicted, and those little ones who have been left orphans," Pfeifer said. "Our response to the needs of people with AIDS will be judged to be truly effective when we discover God in them, and when they, through their encounter with us, are able to say," In my pain, fear and alienation, I have felt your presence, a God of strength, love and solidarity."


Disease-Ravaged Africa Marks AIDS Day
Haiti sees no letup in 20-year HIV crisis
Funerals, Prayers and Hope Mark World AIDS Day
Living with HIV/AIDS

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 20- "On bodily vigil"

10. The farmer's wealth is gathered on the threshing floor and in the wine-press, but the wealth and knowledge of monks is gathered during the evenings and the night hours while standing at prayer and engaged in spiritual activity.

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