Keep your eyes open!...


December 20, 2003


LINK: Praying Advent- The Third Week of Advent

LINK: Praying Advent- The Fourth Week of Advent


The key to unlocking the spirituality of Christmas lies in recognizing that this feast is a liturgical tradition in Roman Catholicism (and, indeed, for the Eastern and Orthodox churches, as well).  As a liturgical celebration, Christmas reveals and invites us in a particular way into the paschal mystery, Godís ongoing redemption of humanity and all creation through the birth, life, death, and glorification of Christ.  Sunday, the Day of the Resurrection, is the original Christian feast.  For well more than a century it was the only feast of the Church, celebrated weekly with the Word of God and the eucharistic body and blood of Christ, the liturgical means Christ gave for his followers to share in the very reality of his risen life and mission.  Only in the later second and then third centuries did churches expand their liturgy into annual cycles, first and widely with the development of Easter, but also in scattered places with an anniversary-commemoration of Jesusí birth, coinciding with the winter solstice festivals of the Mediterranean world.

The celebrations of Christmas (the anniversary of Jesusí birth) and Epiphany (the appearance of Godís Son) spread across the churches, East and West, in the fourth century.  In Rome the December 25th celebration of Jesusí birth included recollection of the shepherdsí adoration, while the "epiphany" (manifestation) commemorated on January 6th was that of Christ to the nations, as represented by the adoring wise men.  Other churches, however, including those in Gaul, Spain, North Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean, associated Epiphany with the manifestation of Jesus as Godís Beloved Son at his baptism in the Jordan.  Not surprisingly, these churches baptized people on this feast and, not surprisingly again, a period of baptismal preparation, marked by prayer, ascetical practices, and more frequent (even daily) liturgy developed.  By the turn of the fifth century in Spain and Gaul the start of this period of preparing for Christmas and Epiphany was set at December 17th, exactly three weeks before January 6th, the day on which the baptisms would take place.  Only in the sixth century did the church in Rome begin to celebrate Advent as a period of preparation for Christmas and Epiphany, gradually arriving at a four week period.  In the seventh century, the primary meaning of the season emerged as the preparation for the coming of the Lord, but in a twofold sense: remembering his Nativity so as to contemplate his glorious second coming at the end of time.

How might Adventís forward view toward the Lordís second coming and reflection back on his birth long ago shape the way we practice the gift of our faith today?  During the first phase of Advent the liturgy invites us to embrace and proclaim our troubled worldís longing for the final, definitive inbreaking of the kingdom of God, Christís creation of a new heavens and a new earth whereon the Sun of Justice will never set.  We join our hearts and voices, our bodies and spirits, with all of creation-so riddled by war, poverty, disease, and pollution-in the groaning appeal for salvation.  But therein lies the gift of the season.  If we enter into the liturgical tradition the groan becomes an expectant cry, a confident assurance that the Lord who will one day make all things new renews our strength and grants us peace as we join in his mission of compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  The second and final phase of Advent grounds this confidence in the quiet joy of remembering the Lordís humble birth, the awesome mystery of Godís very love emptied out in the life of a child, Emmanuel, God is with us now.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

20. As tempered iron can sharpen untempered, so a fervent brother has often saved an indolent one.

December 18, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Third Week of Advent

POPE JOHN PAUL II: "In the face of doubts and divisions in our world, let the light and warmth of our Christian hope be at Christmas time a sure sign of Christ's covenant with all humanity."

VIA [email protected]


From the dogmatic constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, n. 48)

The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus and in which we acquire holiness through the grace of God, will reach its perfection only in the glory of heaven, when the time comes for the renewal of all things, and the whole world, which is intimately bound up with man and reaches its perfection through him, will, along with the human race, be perfectly restored in Christ.

Lifted above the earth, Christ drew all things to himself.  Rising from the dead, he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his disciples, and through the Spirit established his Body, which is the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation.  Seated at the right hand of the Father, he works unceasingly in the world, to draw men into the Church and through it to join them more closely to himself, nourishing them with his own body and blood, and so making them share in his life of glory.

The promised renewal that we look for has already begun in Christ.  It is continued in the mission of the Holy Spirit.  Through the Spirit it goes on developing in the Church: there we are taught by faith about the meaning also of our life on earth as we bring to fulfillment - with hope in the blessings that are to come - the work that has been entrusted to us in the world by the Father, and so work out our salvation.

The end of the ages is already with us.  The renewal of the world has been established, and cannot be revoked.  In our era it is in a true sense anticipated: the Church on earth is already sealed by genuine, if imperfect, holiness.  Yet, until a new heaven and a new earth are built as the dwelling place of justice, the pilgrim Church, in its sacraments and institutions belonging to this world of time, bears the likeness of this passing world.  It lives in the midst of a creation still groaning and in travail as it waits for the sons of God to be revealed in glory.


Catholic Prophets Encyclopedia
End Time Prophecy: A Catholic Perspective

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

19. As a blind man is an unskilled archer, so a contradictory disciple is lost.

December 17, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Third Week of Advent

(Mat 28:19-20)  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."


In a ceremony as exuberant as any Christmas party, filled with spontaneous singing and dancing in the aisles, 22 laypeople were blessed and sent forth yesterday as Catholic missioners to the developing world.

The Maryknoll missionary movement has been sending priests and nuns overseas since 1911 and lay missioners since 1975.  But each new class is seen as a recommitment to Maryknoll's goals of justice and equality, especially at a time of war and new global uncertainties.

"We welcome each into the Maryknoll family and we send them off with tears of joy," the Rev.  Michael Snyder, director of admissions for priests and brothers, told some 400 relatives and friends who came to say farewell to the new missioners.  "Indeed, God is at work in all of us."

The 22 laypeople, joined by two Maryknoll nuns and two priests from outside New York, spent four months in an orientation program to prepare them for working with the poor, oppressed and sometimes dispirited in Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Latin America.

Before saying a joint prayer of commitment, they heard from veteran missioners ó Maryknoll's preferred term for "missionaries" ó about lands of great natural beauty and great suffering, of steady hope and broken hearts.

But the new class projected only joy as its members came forward to have mission crosses placed around their necks.  Some came with spouses who will join them, some with small babies and skipping children who will spend formative years far away from the hottest Christmas toys.  "It is a special calling, I guess, out of a desire to do something for the world, for the poor," said Kevin Mestrich, 35, a Minneapolis native who returned in July from 10 years in Kenya and is now living in Ossining, helping to oversee the lay mission program.  "Even as a layperson, I see this as my life's work, as my vocation."

There were several jokes and asides during the mostly reflective ceremony about the radical change the missioners are facing.  But the Rev.  Kevin Burke, a professor at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., and a veteran missionary in El Salvador, told the class that the momentous choice to leave everything behind and serve the poor was not theirs.

"It's God's choice," he said.  "It is God who has chosen, made an election, made an option.  It is God who has chosen you and asked you to come forward.  It is overwhelming to take that in."

RELATED: Papal Household Preacher on How Holiness Begins

HOMILY BY Bishop Paul S. Loverde: Saying 'Yes' to God's Will

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

18. As too many sticks often choke a fire and put it out, while making a lot of smoke, so excessive sorrow often makes the soul smoky and dark, and dries the stream of tears.

December 16, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Third Week of Advent

(Psa 94:8-11)  Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who chastens the nations, does he not chastise? He who teaches men knowledge, the LORD, knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.


The only researchers to publicly show that they have cloned a human embryo said on Tuesday that they had successfully repeated the experiment, growing an embryo to the 16-cell stage.  Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts, have also repeatedly created embryos using a process called parthenogenesis -- using only a human egg cell and no sperm, and without cloning.

ACT medical director Dr.  Robert Lanza said the researchers had managed to replicate experiments reported in late 2001, in which they used cloning technology to create a human embryo that grew to the six-cell stage.  They also created more advanced embryos, called blastocysts, using parthenogenesis.

Scientists hope the cells may one day allow custom-made tissue transplants to heal damaged hearts or cure diabetes by replacing dead pancreatic cells.

Opponents raise moral objections, saying that cloning technology involved in making embryonic stem cells creates a living human being.

MORE: Seven Days of Creation- The inside story of a human cloning experiment


The maker of a morning-after pill and the nation's largest gynecologists' group asked the government Tuesday to allow emergency contraception to sell without a prescription, saying easier access could slash unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

If FDA ultimately lifts the prescription requirement, the question would become whether morning-after pills would sit next to the aspirin, or would pharmacists have to hand them over upon request.  That option would make advice available if desired.

Already, five states allow women to buy emergency contraception directly from certain pharmacists without prescriptions, so-called behind-the-counter sales.  The programs are in Washington, California, Alaska, Hawaii and New Mexico.

"Without medical advice, use of Plan B by teens will be disastrous," said Dr.  John Bruchalski of the Catholic Medical Association.  "We are passing up the opportunity to educate our teens about the hazards of sexual intercourse."

Proponents argue there's no evidence that access to emergency contraception makes women more careless about regular birth control.

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

17. Dried up mire offers no attraction for swine, and in exhausted flesh demons no longer find anywhere to rest.

December 12, 2003


LINK: Praying Advent- The Second Week of Advent


Friday marks the final day the peasant Juan Diego saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill in 1531 near modern-day Mexico City.

According to church records from the era, the Virgin Mary appeared to Diego in the form of an Aztec maiden. Speaking Nahuatl, a language native to what was then New Spain, a woman spoke to Diego several times, each time asking him to tell the local Catholic bishop to build a church there. The skeptical bishop told the peasant man to ask the woman to perform a miracle.

Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe ó Our Lady of Guadalupe ó then sent Diego to a remote area to pick Castilian roses, which didnít grow in the New World. Diego brought the flowers to the woman, and she carefully arranged them in his tilma, a cactus-fiber cloth he wore tied around his neck. The peasant carried the roses in his primitive cloak, with two ends tied around his neck and the other ends held in his hands to make a secure bundle. When Diego opened his tilma in the presence of the bishop, the roses spilled out, and an image of a brown-skinned Virgin Mary was miraculously imprinted on the cloth.

Nearly 500 years later, the cloth, whose indelible image is inexplicable to scientists, has not deteriorated and is framed and displayed at the Basilica near Mexico City. Each year on Dec. 12, millions of pilgrims journey to Mexico City ó with many entering the Basilica on their knees ó for the feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe. The Catholic Church has named the Virgin of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas and protector of the unborn.


Mexico's Mary
Faithful bring Mexican traditions surrounding Virgin to streets of Dallas
Faith burns deep in torch runners

LINK: Our Lady Of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

15. As a snake cannot strip itself of its old skin unless it crawls into a tight hole, neither can we shed our old predispositions, our oldness of soul and the garment of the old man unless we go by the strait and narrow way of fasting and dishonour.

December 11, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Second Week of Advent

(2Jo 1:9-11)  Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.


Responding to the Holy Father's clear teaching on the grave evil of so-called pro-abortion Catholic politicians, the Diocese of Rockford this week has said that they are implementing a new policy that bans pro-abortion speakers from all Catholic institutions.

Responding to inquiries from Sen. Patrick O'Malley, Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge, M.A., of the Rockford Diocese Respect Life Office provided the following policy, which was developed this week.

ďIn the Diocese of Rockford permission to speak at or use diocesan, parish, or institutional property shall not be granted to individuals who hold any view that is contrary to the Catholic Magisteriumís moral teaching and practice.Ē Ms. Bainbridge went on to say, "My hope is that all other Dioceses in the state will also adopt the same or similar statement and in my position as Chairman of the Department for Life/Catholic Conference of Illinois, I will continue to encourage this action."

MORE: Bishops to pressure Catholic politicians


As the nation's Roman Catholic bishops seek ways to persuade Catholic lawmakers to adopt church views on issues such as abortion, a Wisconsin prelate on the rise has warned two state legislators and a congressman they risk their spiritual well-being if they do not.

La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke sent letters to the lawmakers as the first step in efforts to get them to change their pattern of voting, which Burke said contradicts the church's teachings on abortion and other issues related to human life. On Tuesday, Pope John Paul II appointed Burke to serve as the archbishop of St. Louis.

"If they were to continue to do that, I would simply have to ask them not to present themselves to receive the sacraments because they would not be Catholics in good standing," Burke said in an interview.

He said he sent the letters to make it clear to the lawmakers that as practicing Catholics they cannot support legislation that is "anti-life," which he noted includes abortion and assisted suicide. He did not mention the death penalty, which the pope has urged the United States to eliminate.

"They can't promote any legislation, which would either continue or worsen the anti-life practices," Burke said.

MORE: Archbishop-elect Raymond L. Burke faces the heat

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

14. By means of things in the natural order, we can be trained to a clear perception of all spiritual truths.

December 10, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Second Week of Advent


A deeply divided U.N. General Assembly agreed Tuesday to delay for one year any discussion of a global treaty banning human cloning overturning a vote by its legal committee calling for a two-year delay. The decision, reached without a vote, means the issue of banning human cloning will be included in the assembly's next session.

There is almost universal support among the 191 U.N. member states to ban the cloning of human beings. But Costa Rica, the United States and about 50 other mainly developing countries want a ban on all forms of cloning that use human embryos a position supported by the Roman Catholic Church.

Britain, Russia, China, Japan, Belgium, France and Germany support a ban on cloning babies, but want individual countries to decide whether to allow human cloning for research and medical experiments.

Britain was one of the first countries to ban reproductive cloning, but its deputy U.N. ambassador, Adam Thomson, said his country believes "all types of stem cell research including therapeutic cloning should be encouraged."

Stem cells can divide and turn into any kind of cell in the body raising the possibility of "growing" replacement organs for sick people. The Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups say stem cell research is tantamount to murder because it starts with the destruction of a human embryo to recover the cells.

MORE: French Official Supports Embryo Research

STEM CELL ALTERNATIVE? Blood could generate body repair kit

REVIEW ARTICLE: Scientists Seek Efficient Cloning Process

MORE MAD SCIENCE: Stem Cells Used to Create Fertile Sperm in Mice

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

13. The deer is a destroyer of all visible snakes, but humility destroys spiritual ones.

December 9, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The Second Week of Advent


Bundled in a red cloak against a blustery evening chill, Pope John Paul II on Monday kept his annual appointment to start the holiday season despite concerns about his health.

The ailing 83-year-old pontiff greeted storekeepers on Via Condotti, a chic shopping street in the heart of downtown Rome, and led thousands of Romans and tourists in prayer at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

Dec.  8 is a Catholic holiday marking the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  For Italians, the holiday kicks off the Christmas shopping season.

The crowd showed its appreciation with shouts of "Viva il papa!" or "long live the pope."

"This pope has entered into the hearts of Romans," said Marinella Baldoni, who comes every year to see him at the Spanish Steps, where a towering column is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The pope said he came to the square as a sign of his "sincere devotion" to Mary. "It is a gesture in which countless Romans, whose affection has always accompanied me in all the years of my service ...  are united with me in this square," the pope said.

Saying current times "are marked by not a few uncertainties and fears for the present and future fate of our planet," the pope prayed that Mary would "listen to the cry of sorrow from the victims of wars and of so many forms of violence, which bloody the Earth."

RELATED: Concerns on pope's health create an air of uncertainty

MORE: In Holy Land, Christmas Is a Low-Key Affair

OF INTEREST: Shopping ethically- Bucking the holiday commercialization trend

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

12. Visible pride is cured by grim conditions, but invisible pride can be healed only by Him who before the ages is invisible.

December 6, 2003


LINK: Praying Advent- The First Week of Advent

(Phi 4:6-7)  Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Three times doctors recommended that Olympia McGill terminate her pregnancy.  Three times she said no.

"God is a God of miracles," McGill said.  "I believe in God and I believe in miracles.  I just thought, 'Lord, you've got a lot of work to do with my baby.'"

VIA Michael Coppi: A young soldier found himself in a terrible battle.  The enemy was soundly defeating this young man's platoon.  He and his comrades found themselves hastily retreating from the battlefield in defeat, running away in fear of their very lives.

The enemy gave chase.  This young man ran hard and fast, full of fear and desperation, and soon found himself cut off from his comrades in arms.

He eventually came upon a rocky ledge containing a cave.  Knowing the enemy was close behind, and that he was exhausted from the chase, he chose to hide there.  After he crawled in, he fell to his face in the darkness, desperately crying to God to save him and protect him from his enemies.  He also made a bargain with God, He promised that if God saved him, he would serve Him for the remainder of his days.

When he looked up from his despairing plea for help, he saw a spider beginning to weave its web at the entrance to the cave.  As he watched the delicate threads being slowly drawn across the mouth of the cave, the young soldier pondered its irony.  He thought, "I asked God for protection and deliverance, and He sent me a spider instead.  How can a spider save me?"

His heart was hardened, knowing the enemy would soon discover his hiding place and kill him.  And soon he did hear the sound of his enemies, who were now scouring the area looking for those in hiding.  One soldier with a gun slowly walked up to the cave's entrance.  As the young man crouched in the darkness, hoping to surprise the enemy in a last-minute desperate attempt to save his own life, he felt his heart pounding wildly out of control.

As the enemy cautiously moved forward to enter the cave, he came upon the spider's web, which by now was completely strung across the opening.  He backed away and called out to a comrade, "There can't be anyone in here. They would have had to break this spider's web to enter the cave.  Let's move on."

Years later, this young man, who made good on his promise to God, wrote about that ordeal.  What he observed stands by me in times of trouble, especially during those times when everything seems impossible.  He wrote: "Where God is, a spider's web is as a stone wall.  Where God is not, a stone wall is as a spider's web."

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

11. Silence and stillness are the foes of vainglory. And if you are amongst people, seek dishonor.

December 4, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The First Week of Advent


The real St. Nicholas devoted a sizeable inheritance to charitable efforts and grew up to become a bishop in what is now Turkey.  He died on Dec. 6, sometime during the fourth century.

He is a patron saint of many places and people: Russia, Greece, Sicily, judges, pawn brokers, scholars, sailors, bakers, maidens and poor children are among them.  Thousands of Catholic churches are named after him.

Dec. 6 continues to be a deliberate day of devotion to the saint in Germany and the Netherlands.

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Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

10. Detachment from things of the senses is divine vision of spiritual things.

December 3, 2003

LINK: Praying Advent- The First Week of Advent

(John 17:20-21)  "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.


On Dec.  4, 1963, the Second Vatican Council issued "The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy," a document outlining far-reaching reforms for Catholic liturgical life.  It allowed for the vernacular rather than only Latin to be used at Mass and, among other directives, urged an immediate revision of the lectionary.

"The treasures of the Bible are to be opened up more lavishly so that a richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word," it declared.

A committee of scholars set to work.

Forty years later, the three-year Sunday lectionary -- the biblical texts read during worship -- they devised remains "the most successful of all the innovations after Vatican II," according to Dr.  Regina A.  Boisclair, Cardinal Newman Chair of Catholic Theology at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage.

"It has created an enormous amount of Scripture (use) among Catholics," said Boisclair, a New Testament scholar whose work has focused on lectionary hermeneutics.  "That, in fact, is still bearing fruit."

Although the Catholic committee drew partly upon Protestant scholarship, they could not have foreseen the hefty ecumenical impact of their work.

Soon after it appeared, Protestants began adopting the Catholic Sunday lectionary, sometimes leading to a liturgical renewal of their own.

Some have since called the lectionary "Catholicism's greatest gift to Protestant preaching."


Contacts With Orthodox Seen as "Very Positive"
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Catholic confession has evolved over time
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Church sought on Jesus' baptism site

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

9. Love of indignity is a cure for anger. Hymnody, compassion and poverty are the suffocation of sorrow.

December 2, 2003

(Isa 2:4)  He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: "Christ is coming, the Prince of peace!" the Holy Father said, underlining the season of Advent as the preparation for Christmas.  "To prepare for his Nativity means to reawaken in ourselves and in the world the hope for peace."

LINK: Praying Advent- The First Week of Advent

VIA MTMelvin: This morning I heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children.  After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable.  And after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year.  Overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car.  She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff.  When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot." From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry we already crucified him."

For the rest of the trip down, the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word.  If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.

RELATED: Tips on balancing sacredness of season with holiday chaos

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 26- "Brief Summary on Discernment"

8. Unflagging prayer is the ruin of despondency. Remembrance of the judgment is a means of fervour.

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