Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From the Spanish Steps.

H.H. Benedict XVI

December 8th
Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM.

The Holy Father each 8th of December places a crown of flowers on the image of the Blessed Mother located on top of an ancient and massive Roman column in the Piazza di Spagna and gives a small edifying talk in honor of the Immaculate Conception. Bellow is found a copy of this years allocution.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

About three months ago I had the joy of going on pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the historical apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette. The celebration of this unique anniversary ends precisely today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because in showing herself to Bernadette for the last time in the Grotto of Massabielle, the "beautiful Lady", as Bernadette called her, revealed her name, saying "I am the Immaculate Conception". She said this in the local dialect and the little visionary related the phrase, to her unknown and incomprehensible, to her parish priest.

"Immaculate Conception": we too repeat that mysterious name with feeling, here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome; and countless brothers and sisters of ours are doing the same in thousands of other places in the world, at shrines and in chapels as well as in Christian homes. Today, wherever a Catholic community exists, Our Lady is venerated in it with this stupendous and marvellous name: the Immaculate Conception. Of course, the conviction that Mary's conception was immaculate had already existed for centuries before the apparitions in Lourdes, but which came as a heavenly seal after my venerable Predecessor, Bl. Pius IX, defined the Dogma on 8 December 1854. On today's feast, so dear to Christian people, this expression rises from hearts and is pronounced by lips as our heavenly Mother's name. Just as a child raises his eyes to his mother's face and on seeing her smile forgets every fear and every pain, so do we, turning our eyes to Mary, recognize in her "God's smile", the immaculate reflection of divine light; in her we find new hope even in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.
It is a tradition that the Pope joins with the homage of the City, bringing Mary a basket of roses. These flowers express our love and devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome and of the inhabitants of this City, who feel they are spiritual children of the Virgin Mary. Roses, symbolically, can express everything beautiful and good that we have done during the year because at this traditional encounter we all desire to offer everything to our Mother, convinced that we could not have done anything without her protection and without the graces that daily she obtains for us from God. Yet, as the saying goes, there is no rose without a thorn, and on the stems of these magnificent white roses too there is no lack of thorns that represent for us difficulty and suffering, the troubles that have marked and still mark people's lives and the life of our community. Joys are presented to our Mother but anxieties are also entrusted to her, since the faithful are confident that they will find comfort and support in her to go forward, so as not to be disheartened.

O Immaculate Virgin, at this moment I would especially like to entrust to you the "little ones" of our City: the children, first of all, and above all those who are seriously ill, children who are disabled and those who are suffering the consequences of oppressive family situations. Watch over them and grant that they may feel the warmth of God's love in the affection and help of those who are beside them! To you, O Mary, I entrust the lonely elderly, the sick, immigrants who find it hard to adjust, families that find it difficult to make ends meet and people who cannot find employment or who have lost a job indispensable for their survival. Teach us, Mary, to show solidarity with those in difficulty, to fill the ever increasing social gaps. Help us to foster a more lively sense of the common good, of respect for public property, and spur us to view the city and more than ever our City of Rome as the patrimony of all, making each one of us do our part, to build a more just and supportive society with awareness and commitment.

O Immaculate Mother, who are a sign of certain hope and comfort to everyone, help us to let ourselves be attracted by your immaculate purity. Your beauty Tota Pulchra, as we sing today assures us that the victory of love is possible; indeed, that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and that redemption from any form of slavery is therefore possible. Yes, O Mary, help us to believe with greater trust in good, to wager on giving freely, on service, on non-violence, on the power of the truth. Encourage us to be alert, not to give into the temptation of easy evasions, to face reality and its problems with courage and responsibility. This is what you did, a young woman called to stake everything on the Word of the Lord. May you be a loving mother for our young people, so that they may have the courage to be "watchmen of the dawn", and give this virtue to all Christians so that they may be the heart of the world in this difficult period of history. Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Immaculate Conception Dec.VIII

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with Saints Andrew and John the Baptist by Juan de Valdes y Leal 1650

Feast: December 8th

We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.

—Pope Paul IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Feast of Saint Francis Xavier Dec. III

The death of Saint Francis Xavier

Feast: December 3

Saint Francis Xavier

Born in the Castle of Xavier near ...

...Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, he went to Paris, to the collège de Sainte-Barbe. It was here that he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them. It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534.

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius. The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus. The order was approved verbally 3 September, and before the written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. Here he remained nine months, giving many admirable examples of apostolic zeal.

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christanity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon. Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time, sometimes on account of the cruel persecutions which some of the petty kings of the country carried on against the neophytes, and again because the Portuguese soldiers, far from seconding the work of the saint, retarded it by their bad example and vicious habits.

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last months of that year, and although he reaped an abundant spiritual harvest, he was not able to root out certain abuses, and was conscious that many sinners had resisted his efforts to bring them back to God. About January, 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines. But although this statement is made by some writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623, it is said that he preached the Gospel in Mindanao, up to the present time it has not been proved absolutely that St. Francis Xavier ever landed in the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christanity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at goa, whither he went, taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the infidels, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in the country had been received into the Society. In 1548 Xavier sent these missionaries to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest whom he had met in the Maluccas, he started with him and Brother Juan Fernandez for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them.

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here because of the dissensions the rending the country. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity.

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernandez, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here domestic troubles awaited him. Certain disagreements between the superior who had been left in charge of the missions, and the rector of the college, had to be adjusted. This, however, being arranged, Xavier turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and though he probably had not formed a proper estimate of his extent and greatness, he nevertheless understood how wide a field it afforded for the spread of the light of the Gospel. With the help of friends he arranged a commission or embassy the Sovereign of China, obtained from the Viceroy of India the appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the party encountered difficulties because the influential Portuguese disapproved of the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a rude hut had been built to shelter him. In these wretched surroundings he breathed his last.

It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6 May, 1542 - 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the stupendous miracles which God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which has no equal elsewhere. The list of the principal miracles may be found in the Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderful miracles he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith, entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622, although on account of the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not published until the following year.

The body of the saint is still enshrined at Goa in the church which formerly belonged to the Society. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome, where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VI
Nihil Obstat, September 1, 1909, Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Text Courtesy of TraditionalCatholic.net