29 December 2015

Mary, the Holy Mother of God. New Year's Day. World Day of Peace

The Virgin Mary, El Greco, 1594-1604
Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is a holy day of obligation on the universal calendar of the Church. However in some countries the bishops have decided not to observe it as such. But I know for sure that in the Philippines and in the USA it is observed as a holy day of obligation.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
National Gallery, London [Web Gallery of Art]
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

World Day of Peace

Today is the Church's 49th World Day of Peace. Here is the conclusion of the message of Pope Francis for this day.

I would like to make a threefold appeal to the leaders of nations: to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts or wars which destroy not only their material, cultural and social legacy, but also – and in the long term – their moral and spiritual integrity; to forgive or manage in a sustainable way the international debt of the poorer nations; and to adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of local populations and, in any case, not prove detrimental to the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

I entrust these reflections, together with my best wishes for the New Year, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, who cares for the needs of our human family, that she may obtain from her Son Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the granting of our prayers and the blessing of our daily efforts for a fraternal and united world.

The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes  (detail)            El Greco, 1597-99
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC [Web Gallery of Art]

As he has done many times before, Pope Francis stresses the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

I have used the video above a number of times. It's message is not only the powerful words of the Beatitudes given us by Jesus but the dignity of those who proclaim them here. Some say, in all sincerity, that if it is known before birth that a child has a disability, especially a mental one, better that that child not be born. They are really saying that the persons in this video, whose names appear at the end, were not worthy of being born, or would have been spared a life of suffering had they been aborted. Pope Francis is speaking to those who see things in this way.

Miggy and Gee-Gee with Mikko and Mica, 2009

I have close friends whose first child, a son, was born with severe mental and physical disabilities, due to something that went wrong during his birth. Mikko lived for seven years. There is no way that his parents, Miggy and Gee-Gee, or his younger sister Mica regret his birth.  His parents loved him to bits from the moment of his birth, indeed from the moment they knew their first child was on his way. And Mica loved her older brother to bits in the same way.

How often persons who are pro-life in word and in deed are taunted or dismissed as caring only for the lives of the unborn! Miggy and Gee-Gee took care of Mikko, with professional help, 24/7. That included many days in the ICU over the years of his life, including one Christmas. There are countless others caring with all their hearts for those in need.

The words of Pope Francis are a message of hope to the many who lovingly care for persons with special needs at whatever stage of life and he is telling them that they are truly peacemakers. He is also quietly challenging those who see things differently.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us

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