Friday, December 30, 2011

VATICAN : POPE : MESSAGE FOR WORLD DAY OF PEACE

RADIO VATICANA REPORT: Pope Benedict XVI has chosen the theme "Educating Young People in Justice and Peace” for the celebration of the 45th World Day of Peace on January 1, 2012. The theme focuses on an urgent need in the world today: to listen to and enhance the important role of new generations in the realization of the common good, and in the affirmation of a just and peaceful social order where fundamental human rights can be fully expressed and realized.

The Message is addressed especially to parents, families and all those involved in the area of education and formation, as well as to leaders in the various spheres of religious, social, political, economic and cultural life and in the media. The Message begins with an introductory paragraph (1) and is organized into 4 subsequent paragraphs (2-6), each of which has its own heading: (2) Educators; (3) Educating in truth and freedom; (4) Educating in justice; (5) Educating in peace; (6) Lifting one’s eyes to God. As the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Peace, we republish the complete text of the Pope's Message below:

EDUCATING YOUNG PEOPLE IN JUSTICE AND PEACE
1. The beginning of a new year, God’s gift to humanity, prompts me to extend to all, with great confidence and affection, my heartfelt good wishes that this time now before us may be marked concretely by justice and peace.
With what attitude should we look to the New Year? We find a very beautiful image in Psalm 130. The Psalmist says that people of faith wait for the Lord “more than those who watch for the morning” (v. 6); they wait for him with firm hope because they know that he will bring light, mercy, salvation. This waiting was born of the experience of the Chosen People, who realized that God taught them to look at the world in its truth and not to be overwhelmed by tribulation. I invite you to look to 2012 with this attitude of confident trust. It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labour and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological. It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day.
In this shadow, however, human hearts continue to wait for the dawn of which the Psalmist speaks. Because this expectation is particularly powerful and evident in young people, my thoughts turn to them and to the contribution which they can and must make to society. I would like therefore to devote this message for the XLV World Day of Peace to the theme of education: “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace”, in the conviction that the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world.
My Message is also addressed to parents, families and all those involved in the area of education and formation, as well as to leaders in the various spheres of religious, social, political, economic and cultural life and in the media. Attentiveness to young people and their concerns, the ability to listen to them and appreciate them, is not merely something expedient; it represents a primary duty for society as a whole, for the sake of building a future of justice and peace.
It is a matter of communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life and of awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good. This is a task which engages each of us personally.
The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope. At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face.
It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society. The Church looks to young people with hope and confidence; she encourages them to seek truth, to defend the common good, to be open to the world around them and willing to see “new things” (Is 42:9; 48:6).
Educators
2. Education is the most interesting and difficult adventure in life. Educating – from the Latin educere – means leading young people to move beyond themselves and introducing them to reality, towards a fullness that leads to growth. This process is fostered by the encounter of two freedoms, that of adults and that of the young. It calls for responsibility on the part of the learners, who must be open to being led to the knowledge of reality, and on the part of educators, who must be ready to give of themselves. For this reason, today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader. A witness is someone who fi rst lives the life that he proposes to others.
Where does true education in peace and justice take place? First of all, in the family, since parents are the first educators. The family is the primary cell of society; “it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others.” (1) The family is the first school in which we are trained in justice and peace.
We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival – all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents. This presence makes it possible to share more deeply in the journey of life and thus to pass on experiences and convictions gained with the passing of the years, experiences and convictions which can only be communicated by spending time together. I would urge parents not to grow disheartened! May they encourage children by the example of their lives to put their hope before all else in God, the one source of authentic justice and peace.
I would also like to address a word to those in charge of educational institutions: with a great sense of responsibility may they ensure that the dignity of each person is always respected and appreciated. Let them be concerned that every young person be able to discover his or her own vocation and helped to develop his or her God-given gifts. May they reassure families that their children can receive an education that does not conflict with their consciences and their religious principles.
Every educational setting can be a place of openness to the transcendent and to others; a place of dialogue, cohesiveness and attentive listening, where young people feel appreciated for their personal abilities and inner riches, and can learn to esteem their brothers and sisters. May young people be taught to savour the joy which comes from the daily exercise of charity and compassion towards others and from taking an active part in the building of a more humane and fraternal society.
I ask political leaders to offer concrete assistance to families and educational institutions in the exercise of their right and duty to educate. Adequate support should never be lacking to parents in their task. Let them ensure that no one is ever denied access to education and that families are able freely to choose the educational structures they consider most suitable for their children. Let them be committed to reuniting families separated by the need to earn a living. Let them give young people a transparent image of politics as a genuine service to the good of all.
I cannot fail also to appeal to the world of the media to offer its own contribution to education. In today’s society the mass media have a particular role: they not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people. It is important never to forget that the connection between education and communication is extremely close: education takes place through communication, which influences, for better or worse, the formation of the person.
Young people too need to have the courage to live by the same high standards that they set for others. Theirs is a great responsibility: may they find the strength to make good and wise use of their freedom. They too are responsible for their education, including their education in justice and peace!
Educating in truth and freedom
3. Saint Augustine once asked: “Quid enim fortius desiderat anima quam veritatem? – What does man desire more deeply than truth?”(2) The human face of a society depends very much on the contribution of education to keep this irrepressible question alive. Education, indeed, is concerned with the integral formation of the person, including the moral and spiritual dimension, focused upon man’s final end and the good of the society to which he belongs. Therefore, in order to educate in truth, it is necessary first and foremost to know who the human person is, to know human nature. Contemplating the world around him, the Psalmist reflects: “When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:4-5). This is the fundamental question that must be asked: who is man? Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth – a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life’s meaning – since he was created in the image and likeness of God. The grateful recognition that life is an inestimable gift, then, leads to the discovery of one’s own profound dignity and the inviolability of every single person. Hence the first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator’s image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life consonant with this supreme dignity. We must never forget that “authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension”(3), including the transcendent dimension, and that the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective.
Only in relation to God does man come to understand also the meaning of human freedom. It is the task of education to form people in authentic freedom. This is not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom. On the contrary, man is a relational being, who lives in relationship with others and especially with God. Authentic freedom can never be attained independently of God.
Freedom is a precious value, but a fragile one; it can be misunderstood and misused. “Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common”(4).
In order to exercise his freedom, then, man must move beyond the relativistic horizon and come to know the truth about himself and the truth about good and evil. Deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey. Its voice calls him to love and to do what is good, to avoid evil and to take responsibility for the good he does and the evil he commits(5). Thus, the exercise of freedom is intimately linked to the natural moral law, which is universal in character, expresses the dignity of every person and forms the basis of fundamental human rights and duties: consequently, in the final analysis, it forms the basis for just and peaceful coexistence.
The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others, including those whose way of being and living differs greatly from one’s own. This attitude engenders the elements without which peace and justice remain merely words without content: mutual trust, the capacity to hold constructive dialogue, the possibility of forgiveness, which one constantly wishes to receive but finds hard to bestow, mutual charity, compassion towards the weakest, as well as readiness to make sacrifices.
Educating in justice
4. In this world of ours, in which, despite the profession of good intentions, the value of the person, of human dignity and human rights is seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit and material possessions, it is important not to detach the concept of justice from its transcendent roots. Justice, indeed, is not simply a human convention, since what is just is ultimately determined not by positive law, but by the profound identity of the human being. It is the integral vision of man that saves us from falling into a contractual conception of justice and enables us to locate justice within the horizon of solidarity and love(6).
We cannot ignore the fact that some currents of modern culture, built upon rationalist and individualist economic principles, have cut off the concept of justice from its transcendent roots, detaching it from charity and solidarity: “The ‘earthly city’ is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God’s love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world”(7).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6). They shall be satisfied because they hunger and thirst for right relations with God, with themselves, with their brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation.
Educating in peace
5. “Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity.”8 We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in him, by his Cross, God has reconciled the world to himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in him, there is but one family, reconciled in love.
Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:9).
Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.
Raising one’s eyes to God
6. Before the difficult challenge of walking the paths of justice and peace, we may be tempted to ask, in the words of the Psalmist: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help?” (Ps 121:1).
To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: “It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true … an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?”(9) Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).
Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.
Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centred but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace.
All you men and women throughout the world, who take to heart the cause of peace: peace is not a blessing already attained, but rather a goal to which each and all of us must aspire. Let us look with greater hope to the future; let us encourage one another on our journey; let us work together to give our world a more humane and fraternal face; and let us feel a common responsibility towards present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace. With these thoughts I offer my reflections and I appeal to everyone: let us pool our spiritual, moral and material resources for the great goal of “educating young people in justice and peace”.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2011
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA

EUROPE : COMECE CONFERENCE ON SOLIDARITY

 

COMECE and the Permanent Representation of the Republic
of Poland to the EU


Invite to a Conference on
 Thursday 12 January 2012
A EUROPEAN COMMUNITY OF SOLIDARITY & RESPONSIBILITY
Presentation of the Statement of the COMECE Bishop on the EU Treaty Objective of a Competitive Social Market Economy


12:30-13:30 followed by a reception

Venue:
Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland
to the EU
Rue Stevin 139, 1000 Brussels
Presentation by
Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Archbishop of Munich and Freising
Vice-President of COMECE
Chairman of the COMECE Social Affairs Commission
Discussion with
a Representative of the Republic of Poland (tbc)
a Member of the European Parliament (tbc)
 Moderator:
Sébastien Maillard
La Croix
 Please register online before 10 January:

Conference on Social Market Economy
12.01.2012, Polish Representation, Rue Stevin 139, 1000 Brussels

AMERICA : CANADA : NEW BISHOP OF VALLEYFIELD QUEBEC


CCCB REPORT: His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today, appointed the Most Reverend Noël Simard as Bishop of Valleyfield, Québec, succeeding the Most Reverend Luc Cyr, who was appointed Archbishop of Sherbrooke on July 26, 2011.
Bishop Simard was born on November 25, 1947, in the village of St-Aimé-des-Lacs, in the Charlevoix region of Québec, ordained to the Priesthood on May 28, 1972 and to the Episcopate on October 3, 2008, when he became Auxiliary Bishop of Sault Sainte-Marie. Until then, he had been a Professor of Moral Theology and Bioethics at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Prior to that, he taught at l’Université Laval in Québec and on a part-time basis at the University of Toronto in the field of Moral Theology. He is the current President of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (an organization founded by the CCCB) and State Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.
The Diocese of Valleyfield has a Catholic population of 199,390 and is served by 65 diocesan priests, 11 religious order priests and 17 permanent deacons. It has 25 parishes and missions.
http://www.cccb.ca/site/eng/media-room/3257-new-bishop-of-valleyfield

AUSTRALIA : CHRISTMAS FROM THE NEW DOMUS

REPORT OF Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
23 Dec 2011


Lots of decorations, last minute shopping and Christmas blessings shared around the world.
Domus Australia, a "Casa per ferie" or centre for Australian tourists and Catholic pilgrims to Rome, is about to celebrate its first Christmas.
Established by the Archdiocese of Sydney together with a number of other Australian dioceses, Domus Australia was officially opened by Pope Benedict XV1 in October.

Although the days are now cooler in Rome many tourists like to visit the Eternal City during Christmas to see the giant Christmas Tree in St Peter's Square and attend Midnight Mass at the Basilica.
And the Domus staff are also making a special effort in providing a Christmas welcome.

The General Manager, Gabriel Griffa, and his staff have been decorating Christmas Trees while Fr Anthony Denton has overseen the placement of a beautiful hand-crafted Nativity scene for the centre's chapel.
While Sydneysiders experience warmer - and hopefully drier - weather, Rome temperatures are falling and people are rugging up for the Holy Season but the message of the Birth of Christ is universal.
And in Rome at noon on Christmas Day the Holy Father is delivering his Christmas message from the window of his apartment overlooking St Peter's Square while hee in Sydney at noon on Christmas Day many families are preparing to sit down to lunch together.
Some will enjoy the traditional "hot turkey" dinner while others opt for the "prawns on the beach".
Wherever we are and whomever we are with we are encouraged to give thanks for the blessings we have, to think about those doing it tough, the homeless and less fortunate and in the new year consolidate the gains and remedy the defects.


http://www.sydneycatholic.org/news/latest_news/2011/20111223_1323.shtml

ASIA : INDIA : 4 ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS INJURES PEOPLE

ASIA NEWS REPORT: by Nirmala Carvalho
Three occurred on December 28 in different areas of the state, the fourth in the evening of the 25. With these number of attacks in Karnataka in 2011 rises to 49. Sajan George, "The Hindu radicals violate the human dignity of the Christian population."

Mangalore (AsiaNews) - Four new attacks by Hindu fundamentalists have disrupted the Christmas season for Christians in Karnataka. Sajan K George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), calls them "a shame and a blot on the secular and democratic India", because "even if the fundamentalists do not respect the holy period of Christmas, they are proof that government and authorities are complicit in the persecution against Christians. " The first occurred on December 25 last, while the other three all occurred on the 28 in different areas of Karnataka. The number of accidents in the State has thus risen to 49 in 2011.

On Christmas Eve, about 20 activists of a local group, the Jagaran Vedike, attacked a family gathered at dinner. The Hindus have attacked men, women and children with sticks and stones, injuring them seriously and threatening their lives. Many of them were later hospitalized for fractures of the limbs and nose. The minister's wife suffered a serious chest wound. The activists fled immediately after the violence, while the police made a report but did not initiate investigations on the attackers.

On December 28 there were three separate incidents. In Maripalla, in Mangalore district, Hindu extremists set fire to the village crib. Christians immediately condemned the fire to the Bantwal police, who arrested two Hindu radicals. The men defended themselves saying that the Christians during the Christmas celebrations practiced forced conversions.

In Mulky (Mangalore), about 20 Hindu extremists wearing masks stopped the prayer service of the Pentecostal Church of God of Hebron. Armed with stones and sticks, the attackers destroyed windows, rooms and vehicles parked outside the building. The pastor I.D. Sanna was at home with his wife Sarah, children Abhishek and Prerna and five other people, but they were not harmed.

In the district of Davanagere some activists of Sriram Sene (local Hindu nationalist movement) entered the house of a member of the Pentecostal Church Divyadarsana Ministry. There they physically beat Pastor Raju Doddamani and those present, accusing them of practicing forced conversions. Then, the attackers called the Vidyanagar police, which brought out the Christians for questioning.

"The worst thing - Sajan K George said - is that Hindu extremists have perpetrated these heinous human rights violations against Christians. Above all, they violated their dignity as human beings invading the privacy of their homes, attacking women and children, desecrating the sanctity of the family, with physical and verbal abuse. "

The president of the GCIC concludes: "By granting these Hindu extremists impunity, the persecution of religious minorities will become an ordinary event. The Indian Constitution provides that 'all people have equal right to freedom of conscience and to profess, practice and propagate their religion'. Yet the violence shows the status of second class citizens granted to the Christian population. "

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Karnataka,-four-new-anti-Christian-attacks-23574.html

AFRICA : NIGERIA : 200 VICTIMS OF ATTACKS - DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE

Agenzia Fides REPORT - There are 200 victims, among people who died or are missing, due to the attacks directed at some Christian churches at Christmas in Nigeria. This is what said is read in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides signed by His Exc. Mgr. Ade Job, Archbishop of Ibadan and President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria.
"We the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria are deeply saddened by the Christmas day bombings directed at some Christian churches, which include St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Minna diocese", the statement said.
"The death toll of people considered either dead or missing from the very unfortunate tragedy, is today feared to be about 200 people. Many of the wounded have now been hospitalized, while the Church edifice and other buildings around are in ruins", the statement continues.
The Nigerian Bishops also launch an appeal to the country's Islamic leadership: "Members of the Boko Haram sect (see Fides 29/12/2011) have claimed responsibility for this shameful crime against God and humanity. We use this opportunity to call on our peace loving Muslims especially their leaders from the political, economic, social and religious spectrums not only to publicly denounce these acts, but for their own good and good of Nigeria to be pro actives; and to do everything positive to end this movement".
"This group has apparently declared war on Nigeria and at times of war, nations are calling on their reserves. It is apparent that, if we depend only on our available active security agents, we shall not make much progress, I therefore, call on Mr. President to recall the retired experts in criminology and employ foreign experts in this field to assist the active security agents to put an immediate end to threat Boko Haram menace" writes Archbishop Job.
"Forgiveness is what the Lord Jesus has taught us that we might forgive this heinous crime against humanity, I call for a day of prayer, that all the faithful in Nigeria will pray and fast on December 31st, 2011. Pray for Nigeria in distress and pray for peace in our nation and pray for good Governance", concludes Mgr. Job. (L.M.)
http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=30677&lan=eng

TODAY'S SAINT : THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY



CHURCHYEAR REPORT: The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the family unit and the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The feast usually falls on the Sunday after Christmas. If Christmas is a Sunday, then the feast is celebrated on December 30th. In 2011, the feast falls on December 30th. Feast of the Holy Family Prayers: Prayers for Families and for the Feast of the Holy Family.

Basic Facts

Liturgical Color(s): White
Type of Holiday: Feast Day; Holy Day of Obligation (if on a Sunday)
Time of Year: The Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day; If both are Sundays, the feast is celebrated on December 30
Duration: One Day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Alternate Names: Holy Family Sunday
Scriptural References: Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 2:1-24, Psalm 128, Colossians 3:12-21.

Introduction

The Holy Family is the name given to the family unit of Jesus: The Divine Son of God Jesus, his mother Mary, and his foster-father Joseph. We know very little about the life of the Holy Family through the Canonical Scriptures. They speak of the early years of the Holy Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, and the finding of Jesus in the temple. Various non-canonical works, including the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, try to fill in the blanks. However, even though these apocryphal works may contain some truth from oral tradition, they have been deemed unworthy of canonical status because of the way they present Jesus. While the exact details of the day-to-day life of the Holy Family may be unknown, we can still learn a lot from the stories we do have.
Devotion to the Holy Family is a recent development, but one that naturally grows out of a love for Jesus and his family. The cult of the Holy Family grew in popularity in the 17th century, and several religious congregations have been founded under this title. The Holy Family also became portrayed in popular art of the period. On October 26, 1921 the Congregation of Rites (under Pope Benedict XV) inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the Latin Rite general calendar. Until then it had been celebrated regionally (see History below). Popes before and including Benedict XV (especially Leo XIII) promoted the feast as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit. Today the Church celebrates the Feast on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day (Known as the Feast of Mary Mother of God in the Catholic Church). If both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Sundays, no Sunday exists between the two dates, so the Church celebrates the Holy Family Feast on December 30th. If the feast falls on the 30th, attendance is not obligatory. Up until 1969, the Holy Family feast was kept on the first Sunday after the Epiphany. It was transferred to its current date in 1969.

The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the Feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. Our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the "domestic church" or the "church in miniature." St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a "family church," and in doing so, we sanctify the family unit. Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include: reading scripture regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the actions of the Holy Family, going to confession frequently, and so forth, all done together as a family unit. In addition to cultivating positive actions, the Church understands that various actions and behaviors are contrary to God's Divine plan for the family, and these should be avoided. These include abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, polygamy, embryonic stem-cell research, divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, and co-habitation. Catholic Teaching is that a marriage must be open to children. Anything artificial that prevents this is contrary to divine law, although spacing births for a just reason is permitted (and may be licitly accomplished through "natural family planning"). Also, poverty, lack of health care, rights violations, government intrusion in the life of communities and families, and other justice concerns must be addressed by faithful Christians because of the negative effect these conditions have on the family unit. St. Paul gives us some advice on family life in Colossians 3:12-21:
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (RSV).
The Holy Family feast is a good time to remember the family unit and pray for our human and spiritual families. We also may take this feast to reflect on the value and sanctity of the family unit, and to evaluate our own family life. What ways may it be improved? What would Jesus, Mary, and Joseph do? Finally, we can use this feast to ask ourselves what are we doing to promote the family within our own cultures, neighborhoods, and communities.

History

In 1643 Louis and Barbe d'Ailleboust came to Canada in order to devote their lives to the welfare of the natives there. After her husband had passed away, Barbe, with the assistance of the Jesuit Father Chaumonot, founded the Confraternity of the Holy Family. The confraternity and devotion to the Holy Family spread all over Canada and had the effect of promoting good morals. Monsignor François de Laval invited her to Quebec, and gave her the general management if the confraternity, which still exists today. In 1675, the now Bishop de Laval had a little book printed in Paris instructing the members of the confraternity as to virtuous practices. Bishop de Laval also established the feast of the Holy Family, and had a mass and office drawn up which are proper to the Diocese of Québec. The feast was later added in 1921 to the General calendar of the Western Rite as a way to counteract the breakdown of the family. http://www.churchyear.net/holyfamily.html

 

TODAY'S GOSPEL AND MASS ONLINE : FRI. DEC. 30, 2011


Luke 2: 22 - 40
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;
34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan'u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity,
37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

VATICAN : POPE : REVIEW OF 2011 ACTIVITIES

VIS REPORTS: FR. LOMBARDI REVIEWS POPE'S ACTIVITIES IN 2011

VATICAN  CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - In a recent interview on Vatican Radio, Holy See  Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. reviewed the activities of  the Holy Father over the course of 2011. A summary of his remarks is given  below. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)

   Fr. Lombardi first turned his attention to the Pope's trips, noting that the  visit to Germany in September had reflected the Holy Father's concern to  speak to modern secularised society, especially in Europe, about God and His  primacy. By contrast, his visit to Spain for World Youth Day was "a  great experience of the vitality of the faith, of its future". In Benin,  Benedict XVI had signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africa  munus" in which he examines the problems facing Africa and  "identifies reasons for realistic hope with which to face the future,  recognising the dignity of the African people", Fr. Lombardi said.

   Another key moment of 2011 was the inter-religious meeting at Assisi in  October, which had focused on "the search for truth". The event had  been attended not just by representatives of different religious confessions,  but also by "people who, though they do not recognise a God, sincerely  seek after the truth".

   Among the documents published during 2011, Fr. Lombardi mentioned the Motu  Proprio "Porta Fidei" with which Benedict XVI proclaims a  "Year of Faith" to begin in October 2012. This, he noted, is  associated with one of the great themes of the pontificate: new evangelisation.  The Holy See Press Office Director also recalled the recent Mass to mark the  independence of various Latin American countries, during which the Pope had  announced his forthcoming trip to Mexico and Cuba.

   At Christmas every year the Holy Father makes special visits of solidarity,  and this year's took him to the Roman prison of Rebbibia where he gave  spontaneous answers to questions put to him by the inmates. That meeting,  said Fr. Lombardi, shows "how the Church, though recognising that civil  society has legislative responsibility for dramatic issues such as justice  and prisons, ... can send out a strong message ... about reconciliation, hope  and reintegration into society".

   Also during 2011 the Pope was able to speak with astronauts orbiting the  earth on the international space station, "thus underlining with great  willingness and joy the Church's benevolence towards scientific research and  technology, when they serve the good of humanity". The beatification of  John Paul II was another key moment of the past year, which "mobilised  the entire Church" and was experienced "with immense delight".

   The year also saw the publication of part two of Joseph Ratzinger's book  "Jesus of Nazareth", focusing on the death and resurrection of  Christ. "We continue to hope", Fr. Lombardi concluded, "that  he will write a third volume, on the infancy, in order to complete this  extraordinarily vivid and profound presentation of Jesus for us today".
OP/                                                                            VIS  20111229 (480)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN  CITY, 29 DEC 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:

 -  Appointed Bishop Waclaw Depo of Zamosc-Lubaczow, Poland, as archbishop of  Czestochowa (area 6,925, population 824,993, Catholics 819,921, priests 901,  religious 1,165), Poland. He succeeds Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak, whose resignation  from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon  having reached the age limit.

 -  Appointed Bishop Jan Kopiec, auxiliary of Opole, Poland, as bishop of Gliwice  (area 2,250, population 725,500, Catholics 660,900, priests 473, religious  357), Poland. He succeeds Bishop Jan Walenty Wieczorek, whose resignation  from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon  having reached the age limit.

 -  Appointed as members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications:  Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb, Croatia; Cardinal Oswald  Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India; Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of  Nairobi, Kenya; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa,  Democratic Republic of Congo; Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York,  U.S.A.; Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn,  Australia; Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical  Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation; Bishop Manuel Jose Macario do  Nascimento Clemente of Porto, Portugal; Bishop Joseph Befe Ateba of Kribi,  Cameroon, and Bishop Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical  Council for Culture.

 -  Appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications:  Fr. Antonino Spadaro S.J., director of the magazine "Civilta  Cattolica"; Fr. Eric Salobir O.P., general assistant for social  communications of the Order of Friars Preachers, France; Fr. Augustine  Savarimuthu S.J., director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social  Communications of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; Sr. Dominica  Dipio O.P. associate professor of literature at the Makerere University in  Kampala, Uganda; Antonio Preziosi, director of "Giornale Radio Rai"  and of "Rai Radio Uno"; Erminio Fragassa, president and managing  director of "MicroMegas Comunicazione S.p.A."; Marco Tarquinio,  director of the "Avvenire" newspaper; Paul Wuthe, secretary of the  media commission of the Austrian Bishops' Conference; Greg Erlandson, president  of the Catholic Press Association, U.S.A.; Gian Maria Vian, director of the  "Osservatore Romano" newspaper, and Susana Nuin Nunez of the  Focolari Movement, executive secretary of the commission for social  communications media of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

EUROPE : GERMANY 3000 CHILDREN SINGERS RAISE MONEY FOR POOR

Die Eröffnung der diesjährigen Sternsinger-Aktion in Mainz.
KNA REPORT:
The opening of this year's Carol action in Mainz.

Almost 3,000 Carolers open up the action of three King singing in Mainz

Mainz - golden crowns, richly embroidered robes, long and flowing coats: almost 3,000 Carololers moved in on Wednesday in the Mainz Cathedral. In the Romanesque Basilica, where in the middle ages Kings of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned, were given as Epiphany costumed children and young people's blessing for an Honorable task: to draw around the January 6 from House to House and to collect money for their non-performing peers around the world.
They had come to Mainz from twelve dioceses: from Cologne, Speyer, Munich and Freising, Trier, Bamberg, Würzburg, Freiburg, Paderborn, Hamburg, Münster, Essen and Fulda. For the second time since 1989, the nationwide release of Sternsinger took place in Mainz.
The job of a King is not always easy
"The Carolers enter the name of Jesus for a new humanity", said of the Mainz Cardinal Karl Lehmann at the opening of the 54th action three King singing. He praised the "great solidarity" of the Carolers and encouraged it in reference to this year's motto "knocks on doors, insists on rights!", not kehrtzumachen against closed doors. His listeners know: the job of a King is not always easy. Finally, the Carolers in rain and snow, cold and wind are on the road. Not always with success: "Some pop to simply the door or make up not even", tells the twelve-year Silvana from Merzig in Saarland, Germany.
Nevertheless, the Carolers bring their message to the man. "Children have the right to education and the right to play and leisure", is on the poster of a group of Gorxheimertal in southern Hesse, Germany. The eleven year old Constantine explains "it goes well here in Germany - children in Nicaragua need to fight is everything,". "We employ ourselves for the rights of the child there."

Nicaragua is sample country of this year's Sternsinger action. In the Central American State more than half of minors suffering from violence in the family. Above all, girls are often sexually abused. Child labor is also widespread. More than 600,000 children, about 23 percent of all girls and boys under 15 years, have worked in 2008. About one million children not in school.
Refuge in a boarding
"With the money we collect will help children in Nicaragua", the twelve-year Judith from the District of Mainz knows. Children and young people as the same age Yasmin from Granada. They took refuge in a boarding. The children who live, there have been through bad times in their families. Some have been violated, beaten or sexually abused. Yasmin was brought by the public authorities in the boarding as the age of four. There she found girlfriends and now grows up in a sheltered environment.
It is above all such projects in Nicaragua, who supported the two organizers, the children's mission programme "The Carol" and the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), with the collected donations. There are projects for street children and self defence courses for girls. Or a radio show which is broadcast in all over Nicaragua, enlighten the audience on the rights of boys and girls in the children.

In Mainz, the Carolers in workshops have dealt with children's rights. "The boys and girls learn that not all will respect the rights of children", full-time President Simon explains Rapp. "And that we must sometimes fight for their rights." It is clear not only to Cardinal Lehmann: "Children are the future of our world." The world's largest aid initiative by children for children in need this once again leads in mind - for over 50 years.

By Bettina Noeth (KNA)

AMERICA : USA : CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT - PHILADELPHIA

ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA RELASE; Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is celebrating his first Christmas as Archbishop of Philadelphia.
Our new Archbishop will celebrate Masses at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul beginning with Midnight Mass tonight. The schedule is attached.
All are welcome at this Mass or any Masses in the parishes throughout the region as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. (visit www.masstimes.org for parish information).

Archbishop Chaput also delivers a Christmas blessing on YouTube and at www.archphilaonline.org or
(Spanish Version) http://youtu.be/mOqu-IMfjUw and (English Version) http://youtu.be/G8jkLnetmrg.

Find his Christmas card at www.archphila.org.

In his video message, Archbishop Chaput tells us, "May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus reign always in your hearts this Christmas and throughout the New Year."


Contact
Donna Farrell
Director of Communications
215-587-3747
SOURCE: ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA

AUSTRALIA : BISHOP FISHER RECEIVES HONORARY DEGREE

Go to Notre Dame Honorary Degree News Story
Bishop Anthony with Professor Hayden Ramsay and Professor Celia Hammond.
ARCHDIOCESE OF PARRAMATTA RELEASE: The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus, has conferred upon Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP the honorary degree, Doctor of Laws.


Professor Celia Hammond, Vice Chancellor of the University of Notre Dame Australia, said Bishop Anthony’s contribution to the Church and to society has been vast.
"We are deeply honoured that the Bishop has chosen Notre Dame as a focus for his teaching and involvement with students," Professor Hammond said.
Read full story
Read Bishop Anthony's Address on receiving the honorary degree

ASIA : VIETNAM : YOUNG CHRISTIAN ARRESTED WITHOUT WARRANT

ASIA NEWS REPORT\; Pierre Nguyên Dinh Cuong was taken by men in plain clothes, without an arrest warrant. The sixteenth since end of July to undergo such treatment. People involved in groups like the John Paul II Center for the defence of life or as the Movement of Catholic entrepreneurs and intellectuals on the rise in northern Vietnam. For weeks, the families left with no knowledge of their whereabouts.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The campaign of arrests of young Catholics continues in the north of Vietnam, a campaign carried out with kidnapping techniques, without any charges and leaving families without any news for weeks. Since the end of July, sixteen young people have suffered this fate.

The most recent case concerns Pierre Nguyên Dinh Cuong,, a young man of a parish of Vinh, who on Christmas Eve, December 24, was abducted on his way home from the home of a doctor, his friend. As reported by Eglises d'Asie, three men in plain clothes handcuffed him and loaded into a taxi that drove away.

The next day, one of the brothers of the victim recognized the cab and its occupants, chased them and forced them on a moped to stop. He wanted news about what had happened to his brother, but the three grabbed him by the throat, refused to respond and fled. Other friends of Pierre Cuong, however, succeeded in following the taxi and saw him enter the Provincial Public Security headquarters.

No doubt, among the friends of the young man kidnapped, who charge that the Public security officials are using these abduction methods. The arrest, in fact, took place without a warrant, nor have Pierre’s relatives been informed of the place where the young man is being detained.

In the opinion of friends and neighbours, the kidnapping is linked to the young man’s commitment in the ecclesial movements and charitable and social activities, in particular with John Paul II Center for the defence of life.

The case of Pierre Cuong is similar to that of another 15 kidnapped, nine of whom from the diocese of Vinh, as told by Bishop Nguyen Thai Hop. The last was Paul Tran Minh Nhat, who studied at the faculty of foreign languages and computer science in Hanoi. He too is a native of the diocese and weeks have passed before his family could find out something about him.

Several of those arrested belonged to John Paul II Center for the defense of life or the Movement of Catholic entrepreneurs and intellectuals, both of which are flourishing in northern Vietnam. Some had spoken out in support of Cu Huy Ha Vu, the 53 year old lawyer, the son of one of the leaders of the revolution, committed to human rights.

On December 22, another four young Catholics were arrested, Nguyên Xuân Anh, Nguyên Oai, Nguyên Duyêt and Thai Van Dung, interned in B14 they were allowed receive a representative of their families. While the physical conditions of the four are not of concern, the moral seems to leave something to be desired, but one wonders why only four prisoners were allowed to receive visits.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Young-Vinh-Catholic-kidnapped-by-police-on-Christmas-Eve-23555.html

AFRICA : NIGERIA : SECT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WEST

Agenzia Fides report - The Boko Haram sect, author of numerous attacks that have recently caused deaths and injuries in Nigeria, has its origins in the colonial and post-colonial history of the North African nation.
"Boko Haram" is translated as "Western education is prohibited". However, it is interesting to note that even within the Muslim community itself, there are conflicting notions as to what the word "Boko" means. Boko in fact was often used in relation to a second noun, Ilimi, meaning education. Thus, the full expression Ilimin Boko, was used to derogatorily refer to Western education as distinct from what the Muslim community, understood as the only form of education, namely, Ilimin Islamiyya, that is, Islamic education. Ilimin Islamiyya is a form of catechesis focused on the teachings of the Holy Quran, its recitation and memory, and is the entry point for children into the faith of Islam. Courses are taught in Arabic.
With the arrival of British colonization and the introduction of a Western educational system, a contrast between Ilimin Islamiyya and Ilimin Boko was created. The latter was considered inferior and suspect, because it did not teach about the Koran or Islam. Its teachers, alphabets and language of instruction was English. For the local Muslim elites therefore white people and their seemingly incomprehensible ways were often associated with witchcraft, Boka.
When the missionaries and the colonial state started a programme of education in northern Nigeria, the Muslim ruling classes remained restrained and suspicious of the intentions. For this reason they decided to experiment sending the children of the slaves and lower classes within their communities. It took a while before the ruling classes of the north began to appreciate the values of education as a tool of modernization and began to send their children to school. But the children of the first generation of Muslim elites who attended Western school, were often the object of derision by their own mates and friends.
This prejudice has persisted and for this is why Western education is categorized as Haram (forbidden). The suspicion of Western education is shown by the miserably low and embarrassing statistics of school enrolment all over the Northern states. Today, well over 80% of Muslim parents in the rural areas but also urban Northern states, still refuse to send their children to school to acquire western education. The situation of the girls is worse, perhaps, registering less than 10% of children of school age. Hordes of Muslim children who today roam the streets of Nigeria are graduates of the Islamiyya schools, under the tutlage of an itinerant teacher, Mallam.
These children, with no job, are the lifeblood that feeds sects like the Boko Haram and other similar millenarian movements, occasionally popping in northern Nigeria.
Today, ordinary Muslims feel overwhelmed by the tornado of changes around them. Unable to access the tools of modernization, they have remained largely outside the loop of power. In the major cities of their states, almost all forms of activities are conducted by people they consider foreigners, almost all southern traders are almost all Christians. Their habits of alcohol intake, Christian festivals and adoption of a life style, has made ordinary Muslims nervous for the future of their families and their faith. The leader of Boko Haram took advantage of this situation by arguing that turning inwards away from external "contamination", and that we must return to a fully Islamic society, in order to face the weaknesses of the Nigerian state. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 29/12/2011

TODAY'S GOSPEL : THURS. DEC. 29, 2011

Luke 2: 22 - 35
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord
23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")
24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27 And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
31 which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;
34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against
35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

TODAY'S SAINT : DEC. 29 : ST. THOMAS BECKET

St. Thomas Becket
ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AND MARTYR
Feast: December 29


Information:
Feast Day:December 29
Born: 21 December 1118 at London, England
Died:29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England
Canonized: 21 February 1173 by Pope Alexander III
Patron of:clergy
There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.
Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry announced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier.

According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge—and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment.

Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers.

Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid.

Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.
At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door.

Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me.

Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily.

Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead. The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.


SOURCE: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/T/stthomasbecket.asp#ixzz1hvx5xacP