31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Adoration of the Shepherds, Caravaggio, (1609)

And the shepherds went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb (Lk 2:16-21 RSVCE).


1 JANUARY 2010


1. At the beginning of this New Year, I wish to offer heartfelt greetings of peace to all Christian communities, international leaders, and people of good will throughout the world. For this XLIII World Day of Peace I have chosen the theme: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because “creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works”,[1] and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development – wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.[2]

2. In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I noted that integral human development is closely linked to the obligations which flow from man’s relationship with the natural environment. The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations. I also observed that whenever nature, and human beings in particular, are seen merely as products of chance or an evolutionary determinism, our overall sense of responsibility wanes.[3] On the other hand, seeing creation as God’s gift to humanity helps us understand our vocation and worth as human beings. With the Psalmist, we can exclaim with wonder: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:4-5). Contemplating the beauty of creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator, that Love which “moves the sun and the other stars”.[4]

3. Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Message for the World Day of Peace to the theme: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation. He emphasized our relationship, as God’s creatures, with the universe all around us. “In our day”, he wrote, “there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature”. He added that “ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programmes and initiatives”.[5] Previous Popes had spoken of the relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1971, for example, on the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum, Paul VI pointed out that “by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (man) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation”. He added that “not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illnesses and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under man’s control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family”.[6]

4. Without entering into the merit of specific technical solutions, the Church is nonetheless concerned, as an “expert in humanity”, to call attention to the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the “urgent moral need for a new solidarity”.[7] His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

5. It should be evident that the ecological crisis cannot be viewed in isolation from other related questions, since it is closely linked to the notion of development itself and our understanding of man in his relationship to others and to the rest of creation. Prudence would thus dictate a profound, long-term review of our model of development, one which would take into consideration the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications. The ecological health of the planet calls for this, but it is also demanded by the cultural and moral crisis of humanity whose symptoms have for some time been evident in every part of the world.[8] Humanity needs a profound cultural renewal; it needs to rediscover those values which can serve as the solid basis for building a brighter future for all. Our present crises – be they economic, food-related, environmental or social – are ultimately also moral crises, and all of them are interrelated. They require us to rethink the path which we are travelling together. Specifically, they call for a lifestyle marked by sobriety and solidarity, with new rules and forms of engagement, one which focuses confidently and courageously on strategies that actually work, while decisively rejecting those that have failed. Only in this way can the current crisis become an opportunity for discernment and new strategic planning.

6. Is it not true that what we call “nature” in a cosmic sense has its origin in “a plan of love and truth”? The world “is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance… The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness”.[9] The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God’s mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion over” it as “stewards” of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28). The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures. As a result, the work of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it”, was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17-19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it. But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility. The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as “a heap of scattered refuse”.[10] Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to “till it and keep it” (cf. Gen. 2:15).[11] Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him”.[12] Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it.[13]

7. Sad to say, it is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reminded us that “God has destined the earth and everything it contains for all peoples and nations”.[14] The goods of creation belong to humanity as a whole. Yet the current pace of environmental exploitation is seriously endangering the supply of certain natural resources not only for the present generation, but above all for generations yet to come.[15] It is not hard to see that environmental degradation is often due to the lack of far-sighted official policies or to the pursuit of myopic economic interests, which then, tragically, become a serious threat to creation. To combat this phenomenon, economic activity needs to consider the fact that “every economic decision has a moral consequence” [16] and thus show increased respect for the environment. When making use of natural resources, we should be concerned for their protection and consider the cost entailed – environmentally and socially – as an essential part of the overall expenses incurred. The international community and national governments are responsible for sending the right signals in order to combat effectively the misuse of the environment. To protect the environment, and to safeguard natural resources and the climate, there is a need to act in accordance with clearly-defined rules, also from the juridical and economic standpoint, while at the same time taking into due account the solidarity we owe to those living in the poorer areas of our world and to future generations.

8. A greater sense of intergenerational solidarity is urgently needed. Future generations cannot be saddled with the cost of our use of common environmental resources. “We have inherited from past generations, and we have benefited from the work of our contemporaries; for this reason we have obligations towards all, and we cannot refuse to interest ourselves in those who will come after us, to enlarge the human family. Universal solidarity represents a benefit as well as a duty. This is a responsibility that present generations have towards those of the future, a responsibility that also concerns individual States and the international community”.[17] Natural resources should be used in such a way that immediate benefits do not have a negative impact on living creatures, human and not, present and future; that the protection of private property does not conflict with the universal destination of goods;[18] that human activity does not compromise the fruitfulness of the earth, for the benefit of people now and in the future. In addition to a fairer sense of intergenerational solidarity there is also an urgent moral need for a renewed sense of intragenerational solidarity, especially in relationships between developing countries and highly industrialized countries: “the international community has an urgent duty to find institutional means of regulating the exploitation of non-renewable resources, involving poor countries in the process, in order to plan together for the future”.[19] The ecological crisis shows the urgency of a solidarity which embraces time and space. It is important to acknowledge that among the causes of the present ecological crisis is the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries. Yet the less developed countries, and emerging countries in particular, are not exempt from their own responsibilities with regard to creation, for the duty of gradually adopting effective environmental measures and policies is incumbent upon all. This would be accomplished more easily if self-interest played a lesser role in the granting of aid and the sharing of knowledge and cleaner technologies.

9. To be sure, among the basic problems which the international community has to address is that of energy resources and the development of joint and sustainable strategies to satisfy the energy needs of the present and future generations. This means that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency. At the same time there is a need to encourage research into, and utilization of, forms of energy with lower impact on the environment and “a world-wide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them”.[20] The ecological crisis offers an historic opportunity to develop a common plan of action aimed at orienting the model of global development towards greater respect for creation and for an integral human development inspired by the values proper to charity in truth. I would advocate the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed life-style, and on prudence, the virtue which tells us what needs to be done today in view of what might happen tomorrow.[21]

10. A sustainable comprehensive management of the environment and the resources of the planet demands that human intelligence be directed to technological and scientific research and its practical applications. The “new solidarity” for which John Paul II called in his Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace [22] and the “global solidarity” for which I myself appealed in my Message for the 2009 World Day of Peace [23] are essential attitudes in shaping our efforts to protect creation through a better internationally-coordinated management of the earth’s resources, particularly today, when there is an increasingly clear link between combatting environmental degradation and promoting an integral human development. These two realities are inseparable, since “the integral development of individuals necessarily entails a joint effort for the development of humanity as a whole”.[24] At present there are a number of scientific developments and innovative approaches which promise to provide satisfactory and balanced solutions to the problem of our relationship to the environment. Encouragement needs to be given, for example, to research into effective ways of exploiting the immense potential of solar energy. Similar attention also needs to be paid to the world-wide problem of water and to the global water cycle system, which is of prime importance for life on earth and whose stability could be seriously jeopardized by climate change. Suitable strategies for rural development centred on small farmers and their families should be explored, as well as the implementation of appropriate policies for the management of forests, for waste disposal and for strengthening the linkage between combatting climate change and overcoming poverty. Ambitious national policies are required, together with a necessary international commitment which will offer important benefits especially in the medium and long term. There is a need, in effect, to move beyond a purely consumerist mentality in order to promote forms of agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and satisfying the primary needs of all. The ecological problem must be dealt with not only because of the chilling prospects of environmental degradation on the horizon; the real motivation must be the quest for authentic world-wide solidarity inspired by the values of charity, justice and the common good. For that matter, as I have stated elsewhere, “technology is never merely technology. It reveals man and his aspirations towards development; it expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome material limitations. Technology in this sense is a response to God’s command to till and keep the land (cf. Gen 2:15) that he has entrusted to humanity, and it must serve to reinforce the covenant between human beings and the environment, a covenant that should mirror God’s creative love”.[25]

11. It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view. We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles, “in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments”.[26] Education for peace must increasingly begin with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states. We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests. A special role in raising awareness and in formation belongs to the different groups present in civil society and to the non-governmental organizations which work with determination and generosity for the spread of ecological responsibility, responsibility which should be ever more deeply anchored in respect for “human ecology”. The media also have a responsibility in this regard to offer positive and inspiring models. In a word, concern for the environment calls for a broad global vision of the world; a responsible common effort to move beyond approaches based on selfish nationalistic interests towards a vision constantly open to the needs of all peoples. We cannot remain indifferent to what is happening around us, for the deterioration of any one part of the planet affects us all. Relationships between individuals, social groups and states, like those between human beings and the environment, must be marked by respect and “charity in truth”. In this broader context one can only encourage the efforts of the international community to ensure progressive disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons, whose presence alone threatens the life of the planet and the ongoing integral development of the present generation and of generations yet to come.

12. The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction. The degradation of nature is closely linked to the cultural models shaping human coexistence: consequently, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits”.[27] Young people cannot be asked to respect the environment if they are not helped, within families and society as a whole, to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible; it includes not only the environment but also individual, family and social ethics.[28] Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others.

Hence I readily encourage efforts to promote a greater sense of ecological responsibility which, as I indicated in my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, would safeguard an authentic “human ecology” and thus forcefully reaffirm the inviolability of human life at every stage and in every condition, the dignity of the person and the unique mission of the family, where one is trained in love of neighbour and respect for nature.[29] There is a need to safeguard the human patrimony of society. This patrimony of values originates in and is part of the natural moral law, which is the foundation of respect for the human person and creation.

13. Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us. On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms. The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the “grammar” which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate. In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself.[30]

14. If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation. The quest for peace by people of good will surely would become easier if all acknowledge the indivisible relationship between God, human beings and the whole of creation. In the light of divine Revelation and in fidelity to the Church’s Tradition, Christians have their own contribution to make. They contemplate the cosmos and its marvels in light of the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of Christ, who by his death and resurrection has reconciled with God “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20). Christ, crucified and risen, has bestowed his Spirit of holiness upon mankind, to guide the course of history in anticipation of that day when, with the glorious return of the Saviour, there will be “new heavens and a new earth” (2 Pet 3:13), in which justice and peace will dwell for ever. Protecting the natural environment in order to build a world of peace is thus a duty incumbent upon each and all. It is an urgent challenge, one to be faced with renewed and concerted commitment; it is also a providential opportunity to hand down to coming generations the prospect of a better future for all. May this be clear to world leaders and to those at every level who are concerned for the future of humanity: the protection of creation and peacemaking are profoundly linked! For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2009


More on St Mels' Cathedral, burned on Christmas Day

St Mel's Cathedral, Longford, Ireland, Christmas morning

The blog of Saint Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association carries a report not only about the fire that destroyed St Mel's Cathedral on Christmas morning but about the history of the cathedral. It is also quite critical of changes in the interior of the church after Vatican II and includes some 'before' and 'after' photos to illustrate this.

The introduction to the blog states:

St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association aims at safeguarding the rich liturgical heritage of the Catholic Church and promoting its use in the sacramental life of the Church in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. In effect, this means that we seek the full implementation of Summorum Pontificum throughout the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, wherever there is a genuine pastoral need.This blog will keep you informed of the activities of St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association, and of progress made in implementing Summorum Pontificum, particularly throughout the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

Posts will be made on the first weekend of the month.

The Diocese of Leighlin (pronounced 'LOCKlin') was established in 1130 and united in 1678 with that of Kildare. St Conleth was appointed first bishop of Kildare around 490. Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin announced on 23 December that he was offering his resignation to Pope Benedict. This followed on the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray, accepted on 17 December. On the evening of 24 December Bishops Eamon Walsh and Raymond Field, auxiliaries of the Archdiocese of Dublin, announced that they were offering their resignations.
These were all in the aftermath of the Murphy Report on the abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

29 December 2009

Catholic Church in Ireland 'burning down'

The photo of St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, Ireland, which burned in the early hours of Christmas Day, is an apt image of the Catholic Church in Ireland at the moment. Four bishops have resigned in the last few weeks in the aftermath of the Dublin (Murphy) Report published on 26 November. It was produced by a commission set up by the Irish government to look into the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

The four bishops were auxiliaries in the archdiocese during some of the period under examination, 1975 to 2004. The Report concluded that the Dublin Archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.

Bishop Donal Murray

Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick on 17 December . Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin announced his resignation on 23 December while auxiliary bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond field of Dublin informed Archbishop Diarmuid Martin late on Christmas Eve that they were submitting their resignations to Pope Benedict.

Bishop James Moriarty

Many welcomed what Bishop Moriarty said in his statement: However, with the benefit of hindsight, I accept that, from the time I became an Auxiliary Bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture.

Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field

Bishop Martin Drennan

There is pressure on Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway to resign. He was an auxiliary bishop in Dublin from 1997 to 2005. I can find only one reference to actions by him in the Report. It had to do with a priest who was behaving inappropriately with teenage boys. The Report is in no way critical of Bishop Drennan. However, those demanding his resignation say that all the bishops in Dublin at the time shared responsibility for what happened.

A telling postscript to all of this is that just before Christmas a judge in Tuam, County Galway, seat of the Archbishop of Tuam, a diocese where almost 99 percent of the people describe themselves as Catholics, refused a character reference from a parish priest for a man charged with driving while drunk. 'I don’t want a reference from a parish priest. I have not time for that,' said Judge Browne. He accepted letters from a neighbour of the defendant and from his niece.

The same report added, 'Earlier this month Judge Donagh McDonagh was highly critical of a character reference given by Fr Sean Sheehy at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee when security man Danny Foley was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually assaulting a woman.
Fr Sheehy later stepped down from duties as Castlegregory parish priest'. (Fr Sheehy is a retired priest from the USA who was holding down the parish while the parish priest was recovering from a serious illness. Bishop William Murphy of Kerry dissociated himself and the diocese from Father Sheehy's act. The priest was also one of about 50 men who shook hands with the convicted man, in the presence of the woman he had assaulted.)

I have read at least one letter in an Irish paper from a parent who sees the very presence of a priest in a Catholic school as a danger to children. For some, the priest in Ireland is now the very opposite of a person who can be trusted.

While preparing this I received two letters from friends in Dublin, where I’m from, both of them faithful Catholics. One wrote, I think you are living in a much better country than being here in Dublin. Life is very difficult here, with no jobs, and you know what is ongoing with the Church. The other wrote, Pope Benedict is due to get a horrible Christmas present from our Archbishop and Cardinal in the coming week. The whole thing is just awful. (Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Cardinal Seán Brady of Armagh met with Pope Benedict on 11 December).

Fr Michael Sinnott

But both letters from my Dublin friends had a note of hope, one saying, As I am writing, Fr Sinnott (the Columban priest who was kidnapped in the Philippines in October and held for just over a month) is being interviewed on the radio. He is a very courageous and brave man. We are all very proud of him. It was a terrible time for him. The other had this to say, The wonderful and joyous event was the home-coming of Fr Sinnott. We were all praying for his safe release and it must have been a very worrying time for you all. He sure is a great man and we couldn’t believe that his wish was to get back to the Philippines.

To some of us, Fr Michael Sinnott and others like him are an expression of the hope contained in the words of Isaiah read at the Midnight Mass on Christmas night: The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen (Is 9:2).

24 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

Adoration of the Shepherds, Caravaggio, 1609

And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.

And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. (Lk 2:1-14, Gospel for Christmas - Mass at Midnight, Douai-Rheims version).

Happy 60th (or 70th) Birthday, Rudolph!

I've never had any difficulty integrating the non-religious aspects of Christmas with the proper meaning of the celebration of the birth of our Saviour. Santa Claus for me as a child was someone who brought gifts because we were thanking God for the birth of Jesus Christ, God who became Man.

The Christmas before I made my First Holy Communion on 20 May 1950 was the first when Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer made his appearance in song. It was also the last Christmas of my Auntie Madge, a younger sister of my mother who died the following 3 February aged only 26, still single. Mark Steyn gives the whole history of Rudolph here. He tells us how the origin of the story in 1939 is linked with a personal tragedy in the life of Bob May, the creator of Rudolph, in trying to explain to his little daughter Barbara why her mommy was 'different' from other mommies. Evelyn, Bob May's wife and Barbara's mother, was dying from cancer.

The video has the original recording by Gene Autry.

May Rudolph be around 100 years from now!

21 December 2009

I met St Joseph in Manila

The Holy Family with a bird, Murillo, 1650

The names in the story below, published in the November-December 2003 issue of Misyon, which I edit on behal of the Columbans in the Philippines, have been changed. I met 'Mang Pepe' and 'Ligaya' in Baclaran Church on 7 December 2002 when Columba Chang, a Columban lay missionary from Korea, introduced me to them. Baclaran Church belongs to the Redemptorists and is packed all day every Wednesday as people from all over Metro Manila come for the Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

'Ligaya' is the Tagalog word for 'joy' and is a not uncommon name for girls here in the Philippines. I kept in touch with 'Ligaya' through Columba, though I didn't meet her again. I spoke to her from time to time on Columba's cell phone. Sadly, she died about a year later aged 12, as I recall. Her real baptismal names, which I think I can mention now, were even more beautiful than 'Ligaya' - Mary Grace. As a good friend of mine in Ireland would put it, 'The light of heaven on Mary Grace and on her mother, "Aling Maria"'.

I met St Joseph in Manila
by Columba Chang

Columba Chang (insert)

There may be as many as 7 million Filipino overseas workers spread all over the world. They greatly help our country’s economy by the money they send home. However sometimes we seem to take them for granted, thinking that they have an easy life abroad. Read Aling Maria’s story below and find out the dangers our OFWs face and the abuses they experience. We thank ‘Mang Pepe’ for his help in writing this article in which we’ve changed the names.

I met Mang Pepe and his daughter Ligaya through my work with Caritas Manila. I visit the family regularly. They live in a poor part of the city and Mang Pepe makes a living by doing odd jobs. My work takes me to families affected by HIV/AIDS. I knew Mang Pepe’s story before he shared it with the congregation at the Saturday evening Mass in Baclaran Church on 7 December 2002 at the end of a celebration organized by Caritas Manila for World AIDS Day.

A Greener Pasture
Mang Pepe and his wife Aling Maria were having difficulties putting their five children through school. This sometimes led to arguments. Eventually Aling Maria decided to work in the Middle East. She felt happy when accepted as a nursing aide with a two-year contract in the UAE. She prepared her documents. She and Pepe sold their house and lot for her fare and placement fee. She flew out on 5 February 1989, full of hope for her family’s future financial stability.

Aling Maria soon discovered that her contract as a nursing aid was terminated just a few months after she arrived, without any hope of renewal. But she didn’t want to go back to the Philippines with an empty pocket. She decided to take the ‘TNT’ route. ('TNT', 'tago ng tago', from the Tagalog word for 'hiding', is the term Filipinos use for those who stay in another country illegally). She managed to find a series of jobs as a saleslady, cashier and office worker.

Hope turns into a nightmare
As an illegal worker, she was often subjected to different abuses like underpayment, long hours of working without a day off and so on. But the worst thing was when one of Aling Maria’s employers took advantage of her and made her pregnant. When she came home to the Philippines in October 1993 Mang Pepe and the family were very shocked to learn that Aling Maria carried a child in her womb. She hadn’t mentioned anything about this before. However, despite this they still welcomed her and the child with joy . . . but deep in their hearts there was a shadow of sadness, fear and uncertainty.

After a few days the tabloids reported that three Filipino overseas workers had been sent home because of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS – and that one of them was Aling Maria. These stories, and the rumors they spawned, continued for a month. Some relatives, neighbors and friends rejected Aling Maria. The children of Mang Pepe and Aling Maria were torn apart. Some wanted to quit school and leave the area. The family suffered greatly because of the stigma.

Confirmed HIV
Aling Maria and Mang Pepe went to the Department of Health (DOH) for a series of blood tests. The tests confirmed what Aling Maria knew already, that she and her ‘little mercy child,’ as Mang Pepe called his wife’s daughter, had HIV. The doctor gave them counseling and advice and information about HIV/AIDS.

Ligaya is born
Aling Maria decided not to stay in hospital and continued to work as a pension plan insurance agent. In time she gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Ligaya. Gradually, however, Mang Pepe saw his dear wife turning into a picture of misery as she suffered from constant headaches and flu. Aling Maria was hoping for a miracle that would ease her agony. It was not to be. The HIV developed into full-blown AIDS. Her appetite disappeared until she couldn’t eat anymore. Mang Pepe and the children saw Aling Maria slowly dying. He prepared the family to accept her death as the will of God. She died on 15 December 1997, aged 46.

Like everyone else in Baclaran Church, I was deeply touched by Mang Pepe’s story, even though he had told it to me many times. I was touched by the great love of this simple man who accepted as his own a daughter who was the fruit of the brutal violation of his wife. Mang Pepe is ‘Tatay’ to Ligaya. Her schoolmates sometimes tease her because her features clearly show her Middle Eastern origins. But her Tatay stands by her, as do her brothers and sisters.

Proud to be her Tatay
Tatay Pepe is proud of Ligaya’s singing ability and smiled as she sang at the celebration in Baclaran. Ligaya is very proud of her Tatay and knows the depth of his love as a father. She has very uncertain health and is often in hospital. The shadow of AIDS hangs over her.

St Joseph named Jesus, the Son of Mary, and thereby became his legal father. He loved Mary, his wife, and raised Jesus as his own son. Mang Pepe has gone through the agony of knowing that his wife was violated overseas, after dishonest employers had taken advantage of her in other ways. When she brought home a child who was not his, he made her his own. This latter-day St Joseph in Manila has given much joy to his daughter Ligaya as she has given much joy to him and others, like myself, who have come to know and love her.

The Dream of St Joseph, Giordano Luca, c.1700

Matthew 1:18-25 (RSVCE)

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

20 December 2009

A saint-in-the-making who failed in mathematics

For two or three years I've been intending to write an article for Misyon, which I edit on behalf of the Columbans in the Philippines, about a young Italian woman who died just short of her 19th birthday in 1990. Her name was Chiara 'Luce' Badano. Recently I asked someone else to use the material I had gathered to write the article. One of the things that had attracted me was that Chiara failed mathematics in high school. Though I had no difficulty with mathematics until my last two years in school I never liked the subject and sympathise with those who finds it difficult. The terms 'trigonometry' and 'applied mathematics' are simply words to me now. I have a vague recollection of trigonometry being a cross between algebra and geometry. One of the happiest moments in my life was when I finished my exams in mathematics and science in my Leaving Certificate in Ireland in 1961. I have never opened a book in either subject since.

I have a young friend in first year high school here in Bacolod who is struggling with mathematics (in Ireland we shorten that to 'maths' but here in the Philippines it's 'math') and when we meet I usually ask her 'How is "Mattie"?' (At the moment 'Mattie' is not too well!)

I really will have to make sure the article is written very soon for Misyon because yesterday Pope Benedict gave the 'green light' for Chiara to be beatified. The Pope also declared both Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II as 'Venerable', meaning that they may be venerated. The next step, if a miracle through their intercession is officially declared by the Church, then they may be beatified.

Chiara was a member of Focolare, whose foundress, Chiara Lubich, who died earlier this year, gave her the name 'Luce', the Italian for 'light'. 'Chiara' is the Italian form of 'Claire'.

Chiara was her parents' only child and she arrived more than 11 years after they were married. Coincidentally, the Vatican announcement was made yesterday when the readings at Mass dealt with that very same theme - childless parents who longed for a son or daughter. God heard the prayers of Manoah and his wife and gifted them with a son named Samson. God equally heard the prayers of St Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. The son of their old age was St John the Baptist.

Chiara's mother is quoted as saying after her birth, 'Even though we were so immensely happy, we understood straightaway that this child wasn’t ours alone. She belonged to God first of all.'

Though the commentary in the video above is in Italian you can see many photos of Chiara.

You can read more about Chiara here.

Chiara as an infant with her parents, Ruggero, a truck-driver, and Maria Teresa Caviglia

This video features a song in Chiara's honour, also in Italian, with the words on the screen.

18 December 2009

Fr Michael Sinnott interviewed on Irish radio

Popular Irish broadcaster Marian Finucane interviewed Columban Father Michael Sinnott on her programme on Saturday 5 December (Programme 95). The interview begins seven minutes into the broadcast and lasts 40 minutes.

RTÉ broadcaster Marian Finucane

17 December 2009


Fr Michael Sinnott after arriving at Dublin Airport on 3 December

I would like to wish my Columban confrere, who recently spent a month in captivity after being kindapped in Pagadian City, Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, a

Very Happy 80th Birthday!

I congratulate him too on the 55th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, which he will celebrate on the 21st.

He was our rector in St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, when my classmates and I were ordained on 20 December 1967. I thank him for his example, his integrity, his prayerfulness and his total dedication as a priest. I see in him a man who is truly 'configured to Christ', the term Pope John Paul II highlighted in Pastores Dabo Vobis.

He is a light in these dark times for the Church in Ireland.

Ad multos annos!

Resignation statement of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, Ireland

Pope Benedict today accepted the resignation of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, Ireland. The Dublin (Murphy) Report described the way the bishop had dealt with allegations of the abuse of children by a priest in the Archdiocese of Dublin as 'inexcusable'. Bishop Murray was an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese at the time.

Statement by Bishop Donal Murray on his resignation as Bishop of Limerick

17 December 2009

Bishop Donal Murray has today, 17th December 2009, confirmed that the Pope has accepted his resignation with immediate effect as Bishop of the Diocese of Limerick. Bishop Murray’s resignation has been announced by the Holy See today at 11 a.m.

Announcing his decision to a congregation, including priests of the Diocese, people working in the Diocesan Office and the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, at 11 a.m. in St. John’s Cathedral, Bishop Murray said: “I met the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops on Monday 7th December. I asked him to bring my resignation as Bishop of Limerick to Pope Benedict. The Holy Father has accepted my resignation which takes effect from this morning at 11 a.m. Irish time.

“I have heard the views of many survivors, especially in the days following the publication of the Murphy Report. Some expressed the wish that I should resign; others asked me not to do so. I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day. I humbly apologise once again to all who were abused as little children. To all survivors of abuse I repeat that my primary concern is to assist in every way that I can, on their journey towards finding closure and serenity.

“A bishop is meant to be a person who seeks to lead and inspire all the people of the diocese in living as a community united in the truth and love of Christ. I asked the Holy Father to allow me to resign and to appoint a new bishop to the Diocese because I believe that my presence will create difficulties for some of the survivors who must have first place in our thoughts and prayers.

“Let my last words as Bishop of Limerick be those I spoke in St. Joseph's on 29th November last: ‘We are people who believe that God’s mercy and God’s healing are without limit. We are meant to be bearers of that hope to one another and especially to people whose trust was betrayed when they were just little children and who endured the terror, helplessness and suffering inflicted by a frightening and dominant adult. They should always have a special place in our prayers’."

Donal Murray

16 December 2009

Irish President hosts reception for Fr Michael Sinnott

President Mary McAleese of Ireland

Yesterday afternoon President Mary McAleese held a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin, her official residence in Dublin, for Columban Father Michael Sinnott, who recently returned to Ireland on a visit after having been kidnapped for just over a month in Mindanao, southern Philippines. President McAleese has been close to the Columbans since her schooldays when she used to sell our magazine, Far East. She and her family were also very close to the late Fr John Joe McGreevy who taught many of us in the seminary for many years before going to Peru.

During the reception Mrs McAleese paid tribute to Fr Jeremiah (Jerry) Roche of St Patrick's Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers) who was brutally murdered in Kenya last week. The Columban Fathers and the Kiltegan Fathers were both founded in Ireland in the last century and are societies of secular priests - not religious. I know that many, including myself, narrowed our choice down to these two societies of apostolic life - our official designation - before entering the seminary. Fr Roche was ordained in 1968 and I was reflecting that if I had opted for Kiltegan instead of the Columbans, I would have been his classmate. Columbans used to be ordained just before Christmas in the middle of the Irish academic year and my class will celebrate our 42nd ordination anniversary on 20 December.

Fr Michael Sinnott with his sisters, Mrs Aine Kenny (left) and Mrs Kathleen O'Neill on his arrival at Dublin Airport

The ordeals of Father Sinnott and Father Roche highlight what is truly best in the life of the priest who is called to be 'configured to Christ' as Pope John Paul II so emphasised in Pastores Dabo Vobis. The image of the priest in Ireland has been deeply tarnished by the revelations of the abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin in the recent Dublin (Murphy) Report.

Father Roche's niece, Anne Cunningham, was quoted as saying 'Everyone looked up to him and when you think of what’s going on in the Church at the moment, he was a real role model figure.'

May Father Jerry's soul rest in peace.

Kiltegan Father Jeremiah Roche, murdered in Kenya on 11 December

Reception held for Fr Sinnott


President Mary McAleese praised the "quiet and modest work" of Irish religious missionaries at a reception to honour Columban priest Fr Michael Sinnott, this afternoon.

Speaking at the reception for Fr Sinnott - who spent one month in capitivity in the Philippines - in Áras an Uachtaráin Mrs McAleese said some of the stories of 2009 had brought triumph in the face of adversity, Fr Sinnott's was a glowing example of that.

The President told Fr Sinnott the story of his captivity "started out very badly; It did not start out a good story".

"It was a very bad story, the kidnapping of a priest of almost 80 who was not in the full of his health. It had the potential to be a real tragedy, with at times it seemed, small chance of a happy ending."

Yet, she said, he had come home fresh and well and was with his family in the Áras just days before the celebration of his 80th birthday. "It really is a privilege for this house to welcome a man of such courage, faith and grace under fire" she remarked.

The President also used the occasion to pay tribute to Fr Jeremiah Roche, the Irish Kiltegan priest murdered during a violent robbery in Kenya, last week.

Even as Fr Sinnott and his family were celebrating, Mrs McAleese said she knew they would wish her to send to Fr Roche's family and his Kiltegan colleagues "our deepest condolences. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis (may his faithful soul be at the right hand of God) ".

The President said it was ironic that Fr Sinnott's kidnapping provided a chance to learn about the work which Irish priests "do so quietly and modestly".

It was, she said, "wonderful work which brings huge benefit to the people you help and it also, brings rightly high regard for the Columbans".

"But it also brings, importantly, very high regard for Ireland. You are the hands of very important work and you are the heart of that work".

The President said she particularly wanted to recognise Ireland's "indefatigable ambassador Dick O'Brien" and everyone from the Irish, European and Philippine governments who she said had worked so hard to secure Fr Sinnott's release.

"They have had more experience than they would have wished in bringing the kidnapped Irish safely home . . . as you know [charity worker] Sharon Cummins came home safely after a very very long ordeal."

President McAleese wished Fr Sinnott "the happiest of birthdays" when he turns 80-years old on Thursday.

15 December 2009

Misa de Gallo: Pre-dawn Novena of Masses in the Philippines

I haven't posted for a few days, partly because of the heaviness I feel in the aftermath of the Dublin (Murphy) Report on the abuse of children by priests in my native Archdiocese of Dublin and the cover-up by bishops.

Tomorrow here in the Philippines we begin the annual novena of pre-dawn Masses in preparation for Christmas. They are known variously as Aguinaldo Masses, 'aguinaldo' being a Spanish word for 'gift', Misas de Gallo, a Spanish term which could be translated as 'Masses at cockcrow', or the Tagalog Simbang-gabi, which I understand to mean literally as 'worship at night.

The Supplement to the Roman Sacramentary for the Philippines describes the Masses as:

Misa de Aguinaldo (also Misa de Gallo or Simbang-gabi) is a form of solemn votive Masses held at dawn for nine consecutive days before Christmas in honor of the Blessed Vrigin Mary. At these Masses the Gloria is sung on the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent, white vestments are used, the church and sancuary are festively decorated, and approved musical instrument are played. If any of these days fall on Sunday, the Mass formularies and readings are those of Sunday.

The readings are the Advent readings for the day, though on the 16th, the first day, the readings prescribed are those for Friday of the Third Week of Advent.
The gift meant by 'Aguinaldo' is the gift of the faith.

There is a festive spirit at these Masses side by side with a sense of sacrifice. In many places Mass begins at 4am. In the village where I live we have had it at 5am since I came in 2002 but this year we have moved it to 4:30, which is more in the spirit of the sacrifice that Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of Bacolod, where I live, emphasises.

Usually churches and chapels are filled on the first morning but numbers drop day by day until there is a surge as the end of the novena approaches. The only similar experience I have had in Ireland is during Lent when I was young and our church was always full for weekday Masses.

Filipinos have adapted the Misa de Gallo and introduced it in many countries, though usually gathering at night. In some cities they will have the novena spread out over nine different churches.

My own special prayer this year is that the people of Ireland will experience a renewal of faith at this time of deep crisis and that the leaders of the Church there will get back to the basics.

May I ask your prayers for that intention too.

11 December 2009

Pope 'deeply disturbed and distressed' by Dublin Report on child abuse by priests


VATICAN CITY, 11 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office released the following English-language communique at midday today:

"Today the Holy Father held a meeting with senior Irish bishops and high- ranking members of the Roman Curia. He listened to their concerns and discussed with them the traumatic events that were presented in the Irish Commission of Investigation's Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

"After careful study of the report, the Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents. He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large.

"The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church.
"His Holiness asks Catholics in Ireland and throughout the world to join him in praying for the victims, their families and all those affected by these heinous crimes.

"He assures all concerned that the Church will continue to follow this grave matter with the closest attention in order to understand better how these shameful events came to pass and how best to develop effective and secure strategies to prevent any recurrence.

"The Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the report, including questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.

"The Holy Father intends to address a Pastoral Letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.

"Finally, His Holiness encourages all those who have dedicated their lives in generous service to children to persevere in their good works in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd".


Statement of Irish bishops on Dublin Report on abuse of children by priests

9 December 2009

The Winter General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference takes place today and tomorrow, 9 and 10 December 2009, in Maynooth. At the end of the first day, Bishops published the following statement:

“We, as bishops, apologise to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the Report”

The normal business of the General Meeting was suspended. Bishops gave their full attention today to the Commission of Investigation Report into the Archdiocese of Dublin which was published on 26 November last. Bishops said:

We, as bishops, apologise to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the Report.

As an initial response to the Report, we agreed today to request the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with the relevant Government departments and statutory authorities, North and South, a mechanism by which to ensure that the Church’s current policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that allegations of abuse are properly handled.

We are deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse as described in the Report. We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church. The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.

The Report raises very important issues for the Church in Ireland, including the functioning of the Bishops’ Conference, and, how the lay faithful can be more effectively involved in the life of the Church. We will give further detailed consideration to these issues.

In response to the many concerns raised about the use of ‘Mental Reservation’, we wish to categorically state that it has no place in covering up evil. Charity, truthfulness, integrity and transparency must be the hallmark of all our communications.

Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have been called to the Vatican by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to enable him “to be briefed and evaluate the painful situation of the Church in Ireland following the recent publication of the Murphy Commission Report.” They will meet with Pope Benedict on Friday.

We humbly ask that you continue to pray for all those who suffer due to child abuse.


Further information:

Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

10 December 2009

An Advent novena for priests

I came across this on the website of the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, USA. It is never too late to start praying for our priests, especially in the context of what has happened in Ireland.

An Advent novena for priests
By Roxanne King

Next week, the faithful are invited to recite a special novena to Mary under the title “Our Lady of the New Advent” and to offer the prayers for priests.

In the Denver Archdiocese, Dec. 16 is the feast of Our Lady of the New Advent. The nine-day novena would take place on the days leading up to and including the feast
“On the liturgical calendar of the Archdiocese of Denver, which has been approved by the Holy See, the days from Dec. 8 through the 16th are ‘Days of Prayer to Mary,’” explained Msgr. Edward Buelt, pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Church in Foxfield and a member of the Presbyteral Council. “It seems most appropriate that in this Year for Priests the ‘Days of Prayer to Mary’ be dedicated as ‘Days of Prayer to Mary for Priests.’”

The archdiocese’s Year for Priests activities committee, which is led by Auxiliary Bishop James Conley, agreed. The faithful are therefore invited to pray the novena (see box on Page 13) either alone or with family or friends, at home or at their parish.

The Year for Priests, which began June 19 and runs through the same date next year, was proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to encourage priests to recommit themselves to their priestly vocation and as an occasion for the laity to pray for and support priests in their ministry.

The Our Lady of the New Advent prayer, which was composed by the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of St. Walburga located in Virginia Dale, Colo., complements an icon created by Jesuit Father William Hart McNichols for the archdiocese 18 years ago at the request of then-archbishop, now Cardinal J. Francis Stafford.

Father McNichols, 60, is the son of former Colorado Gov. Stephen and Marjory McNichols. Born in Denver he has resided in New Mexico since 1990, where he works as an iconographer.

In the Our Lady of the New Advent icon, Mary is dressed in purple and holds her hands up in the orans posture of prayer in a gesture of intercession. The Christ Child, who shines forth from within her, holds a Columbine flower in his left hand. Behind the expectant mother, the Rocky Mountains rise up out of the Colorado plains.

The symbolism found in Our Lady of the New Advent makes her a particularly appropriate title under which to pray for priests.

The purple worn by Mary, Msgr. Buelt told the Denver Catholic Register in 1991, is the color for Advent and is used in the Scriptures to represent the dignity of the priesthood.

“The Virgin’s purple robes represent the fact that the laity, too, are dressed in purple because they exercise a true priesthood by virtue of their baptism,” Msgr. Buelt said, referring to the universal priesthood of the Christian whose witness, work and trials may be offered as a sacrifice of praise and intercession to sanctify the world.

“The Christ Child is within the mother’s being” he added, “because the universal priesthood of the baptized, as represented by Mary, is meant to nurture the particular priesthood of the ordained, as represented by Christ.”

At the same time, continued Msgr. Buelt, those ordained to the ministerial priesthood are to serve the universal priesthood of the baptized.

The Columbine the Christ Child holds is the state flower for Colorado and is an ancient iconographic symbol of the Holy Spirit.

“Columba is Latin for ‘dove,’” explained Father McNichols by phone from his office in Ranchos de Taos, N.M.

The single stem of the Columbine in the icon symbolizes the one true God and the three blossoms the persons of the Holy Trinity. Greek lettering on the icon identifies Mary as the “Mother of God” and Christ as the “Son of God.”In the Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent, one implores: “O Lady and Mother of the One who was and is and is to come, dawn of the New Jerusalem, we earnestly beseech you, bring us by your intercession so to live in love that the Church, the Body of Christ, may stand in this world’s dark as fiery icon of the New Jerusalem.”

The “dark” the prayer mentions is not only the darkness of hatred, sin and evil in the world, but also the darkness of winter. With its short days and long, cold nights, winter can be difficult and depressing for many people as it compounds the other tribulations one experiences.

“It’s the darkest time of the year,” noted Father McNichols.

But we can take heart and find consolation in the holy season of Advent with its beautiful reminder of the salvation and new life won out of love for us by Christ—“the light of the world” (Jn 8:12)—which urges us to look with hopeful expectancy for his return at the end of time.

“The darkness of Advent,” Father McNichols asserted, “is therefore not the darkness of despair but the darkness of pregnancy and waiting for rebirth.”

The Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent is especially good to offer for priests as their ministry calls for them to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and his love to the people, Fathr McNichols said.

“The priest is the bearer of the Gospel and the Gospel is the light to all nations,” he said. “To bring the light of new birth, new Advent, during a dark time is the vocation of the priest.”

Prayer to Our Lady of the New Advent

O Lady and Mother
of the One who was and is
and is to come,
dawn of the New Jerusalem,
we earnestly beseech you,
bring us by your intercession
so to live in love that the Church,the Body of Christ,
may stand in this world’s dark
as fiery iconof the New Jerusalem.
We ask you to obtain for us
this mercy through Jesus Christ,
your Son and Lord,
who lives and reigns
with the Father
in the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

Follow with an "Our Father," a "Hail Mary" and a "Glory Be."

Closing Hymn: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Optional: Scripture readings suggested by Father William McNichols to precede the prayers may be found online at http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/andre/sj_nov2.html or call 303-715-3215.

For more information about Father McNichols and his icons, visit http://www.standreirublevicons.com/.