In 2016 the parish celebrates the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the church building. The chosen theme for this celebration is from Psalm 6.4: ‘We are filled with the blessings of your house’. The celebration is not so much about a building, but about the people, the families and the generations that have worshipped and experienced God’s loving kindness and mercy in the house of God at St Charles over the past fifty years. The occasion is being marked by a celebratory mass at 10:00 on Sunday 29 May 2016, celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI.
POPE IN BANGKOK FEATURE: ‘The Pope Is Here to Give a Testimony’ – Suggested at St. Louis Hospital by European Missionary in Thailand – ZENIT
A European missionary whose order founded the hospital Pope Francis visited today expresses gratitude for the peaceful, free way Catholics can live their faith in Thailand, and coexist with the majority-Buddhist population, but acknowledges that the idea of being a ‘missionary’ in such a place is challenging to define.
Father Brice Testu from the Society of the French Missionaries of Paris arrived in Thailand two years ago, and is still learning Thai. He lives at St. Louis Hospital where Pope Francis visited today and gives patients Communion and offers other types of pastoral care.
ZENIT was at the hospital today for Pope Francis’ visit as the roads were packed with people enthusiastically waiting to see him, including little ones.
Prior to his arrival, ZENIT, RNS, and CRUX visited the hospital to see the preparations and speak to individuals. This is when they interviewed Father Testu, whose interview we bring you below.
A Catholic orthopedic surgeon expressed to us his hope that the Pope’s visit gives him greater spiritual strength to confront the difficulties he faces and comes across in his work, and reiterated how even all the Buddhist doctors and employees at the hospital were equally excited to meet the Pope, whose figure they may not understand exactly, but who, nonetheless, they esteem as a figure who promotes good and peace.
We also spoke to other nurses and hospital personnel who reiterated the same sentiments, and expressed how they never feel prejudiced against being Catholics in Thailand. Some were married to Buddhists, and noted how here in Thailand it is normal, as is their case, that they and their husbands decided to raise their children as Catholics. They acknowledged the peaceful relationships between religions.
Unlike other countries in Asia where persecution of Christians is on the rise, in Thailand this is not the case. They attribute it when asked to their overall peaceful and ‘smiling’ attitude and way of being.
Babies and #PopeinThailand: A #PopeFrancis replica in garden outside 4th story of St Louis Hospital in #Bangkok where #Pope visits tomorrow @popevisit_th #Japan #PopeinThailand #PopeVisitThailand #法王 #教皇 #PopeinJapan pic.twitter.com/wOG7YQHTgj
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 20, 2019
The hospital itself had a big Pope Francis sign high up, visible from the street, the Vatican flag and its colors everywhere, and even a Pope Francis replica on the fourth floor in the garden where there was a little chapel, where next to ‘Francis’ was a blow up, but sweet, nun and religious sister, on his sides.
#PopeFrancis, accompanied by his cousin/translator, greets papal entourage at ‘Government House’ in #Bangkok where he is meeting Authorities, Diplomatic Corps #PopeVisitThailand #PopeinThailand #Thailand #PopeVisitThailand2019 #PopeinJapan #PapaInThailandia pic.twitter.com/VpKDTuvwbV
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 21, 2019
Before the hospital, ZENIT was part of the press pools at the Government House for the welcoming ceremony and Pope’s address with the authorities, before he went to meet the Supreme Patriarch of the Buddhists. Then, they returned to the Hospital where he received an incredibly warm and touching welcome, with much laughter, many smiles, and much tenderness.
#PopeFrancis has arrived!! Much joy here on 11th floor of St. Louis Hospital to welcome #PopeinThailand #PopeVisitThailand2019 #pope #papainthailandia #PopeinJapan @popevisit_th pic.twitter.com/NjxyOsseWR
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 21, 2019
He reminded them that when looking at a patient, to call them by name, and applauded the work that they do, noting that suffering makes us relate to Christ’s suffering, and how we are to draw and cling always more closely to Him.
‘When looking at a patient, call them by name…’ #PopeinThailand‘s advice to doctors and personnel at St Louis Hospital in #Bangkok, #Thailand #PopeVisitThailand2019 #pope #papainthailandia #PopeinJapan @popevisit_th #Thailandia pic.twitter.com/60sPzRbrPT
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 21, 2019
Then we followed the Holy Father’s Mass in the evening for some 67,000 faithful in Thailand’s national stadium.
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 21, 2019
Here is our conversation with Father Tetsu.
And your plan is to stay here?
The Society of the French Missionaries of Paris, when we come to a country, we stay in a country for life, normally… So, I am learning Thai because I am likely going to be spending the rest of my life in Thailand, as a missionary.
Did you choose Thailand or were you sent here?
I was sent here. In fact, when we ordain a deacon, they receive their country of mission at the same time. For me, it was Thailand. I arrived two years ago after being ordained a priest.
Everyone ready here on the 11th floor in St. Louis Hospital to welcome #PopeinThailand. His predecessor #Saint #JohnPaulII, while in #Bangkok, #Thailand visited here. #PopeVisitThailand2019 #pope #papainthailandia #PopeinJapan @popevisit_th pic.twitter.com/jAeNiqMtt1
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 21, 2019
The Pope is here visiting where you deliver Communion tomorrow. What importance does this have?
The Pope is coming here to give a testimony that the Pope is very interested in the way that the Catholic Church deals with the sick people and the poor people in the Hospital of St. Louis. Then, among all the Thai people, even if the Catholic Church makes up such a small percentage, about 0.5%, that thanks to their good schools, and hospitals, and the fact that they take care of the ill, and of children in ensuring they are educated, it has a very good reputation. Even if it makes up less than one percent of the population.
Everyone here is very excited, they feel very close to Rome and the person of the Pope. They are all very proud, as you can see. Singers are here training and rehearsing for his arrival now. Wherever he will go, there will be numerous people here happy to see him and welcome him.
Why are they so happy?
They feel it is really a great honor to see and to have him in their land, in their Church. They are very proud of that and are very excited. They are hoping that the Pope will help them to be happy as Christians and be better missionaries, because it is not something natural for Thai people to speak about their religion, especially if it’s Catholicism, given the religion of the Thai people is Buddhism. You don’t have to be a missionary at all if you are a Buddhist because everyone is a Buddhist. It is therefore very weird to speak about another religion since the Buddhist people they like the Catholic Church, if they know it. They know very, very few things about it. They know it because of the schools and hospitals. Changing their religion is absolutely not something they would think about because Buddhism is part of their culture, their nation, their identity.
And what about being ‘missionary’ as a Catholic here?
The Catholics in Thailand, while very small, are very happy and live perfectly fine, but being missionary is very difficult. While some people may be interested in sort of a cultural way, maybe trying to recall well ‘Jesus was this. Jesus was that. And there is the Virgin Mary, and you have saints.’ And they sort of can follow the idea of how religious live. Monks living in solitude. This they can relate to since the Buddhist monks are single and live in solitude. This is quite similar and welcomed.
Over the past 350 years, we have something like 0.5 % of the population who is Catholic. The Catholics in Thailand know that they are not going to convert the whole country in the next couple of years. It really interrogates us to ask how can we be missionary when you know that majority will not convert and will not baptize tomorrow or next year. They are hoping that Pope Francis’ may be able to help them, maybe to give them advice on how they can be missionaries in their daily life.
— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) November 20, 2019
How have Buddhists welcomed the trip of the Pope? What is your sense?
My sense is that most of the population doesn’t know really about it. The media are speaking about it. This morning, all the newspapers were speaking about the visit of the Pope. But for most of the people, they do not know exactly who the Pope is. ‘He is somebody important…’ ‘He is somebody from the Catholic Church.” They think, ‘Oh, the Catholic Church. They have schools and hospitals. Those who know about it are very happy. The Catholic Church, as far as I know, has really great relations with the Buddhists. With the Buddhists, you have nothing to fear…[smiling].
You give the sacrament of Communion to hospital patients. What had patients said about the fact the Pope is visiting?
Everyone has been really excited. Having the Pope is really having something huge. They have been preparing and preparing more and more for his arrival. Too much [laughing]. They just keep and would keep doing more. They ask themselves: maybe we can do more. Then: ‘Yes, yes, yes. We can do more. Let’s do more.’ and more and more…’ The Pope is coming tomorrow, so they can still do some more, but if he were coming next week, he would do more and more and more.
They are doing so much, praying the rosary, going to Church, praying that they see him. Europeans generally– I can say coming from France–can make a pilgrimage to Rome and see the Pope. For them, it is once in a lifetime. It is very important.
As this papal trip is occurring, we slowly get closer to the Advent Season? Can you tell us about experiencing the Christmas season in Thailand as a Catholic?
In the country, in the small cities, Christmas is not a very big thing. In the big cities, it is, but very commercial. One sees it all over the supermarkets, malls and shopping centers for example. They will have various Christmas events; they have nothing to do with Jesus Christ.
There are therefore, I presume, no nativity sets?
No, absolutely not. Everybody knows Christmas is a very big party but they do not know why. In the malls, it is a commercial event but, in the parish, it is a very, very important feast. At one of the largest parishes in Bangkok, there is always celebrations before and after the Christmas Mass. Faithful sometimes confess more. There are many priests listening to confessions around the Christmas Mass’ activities.
Thank you, Father
The next “Bishop Barron Presents” event, featuring social scientist, musician, and Harvard professor Dr. Arthur Brooks, will take place LIVE tomorrow, November 21, at 10:00 p.m. (EST)!
The evening is titled Love Your Enemies: Civility in a Culture of Contempt and will be livestreamed from Southern California.
In the first part of the livestream, available to the public, Dr. Brooks will be offering a talk on the necessity of charitable dialogue, an economics based in human dignity, and the way forward in a “culture of contempt.”
Following his presentation will be an exclusive conversation between Bishop Robert Barron and Dr. Brooks on the intricacies of Catholic Social Teaching and the realities of modern economic structures.
Learn more about this exciting Bishop Barron Presents event here: https://wordonfire.institute/bishop-barron-presents-nov-2019/
Following the outrage of the sacrilegious attack on the parish church of the Assumption in the Chilean capital Santiago on Friday, November 8, 2019, the parish priest Father Pedro Narbona, gathered on Sunday, November 17, 2019, together with his faithful to pray together and organize the cleaning of the church.
In an effort to console the Catholic faithful, some of whom could not hold back their tears, Father Pedro reminded them, “The Church is built not so much out of physical materials, but rather of the living stones, which we are, each and every one of us. We are the living stones and this is the fundamental truth.” At the same time, he called on every person present “not to slip into the cycle of hatred that can only end up poisoning the souls”.
On Sunday the parish celebrated a simple ceremony of atonement, in which the faithful were able to kiss the damaged and desecrated crucifix and sing hymns to the Virgin Mary, to whom the month of November is dedicated in Chile.
The church had been attacked as part of the violent protests and demonstrations that have convulsed the country by hooded vandals who dragged out the benches, statues and sacred images into the street, smashing them and setting fire to them. They also sprayed graffiti and other abusive slogans on the inside walls of the church.
This is not the first time that a Catholic Church has been attacked. Father Pedro Narbona, who happens also to be the ecclesiastical assistant to the national branch of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International in Chile, reported that protesters had already attempted to set fire to the church on the previous Friday, 1 November, but he had managed to call the fire brigade in time. A week earlier, the facade of another parish church served by Father Pedro had also been attacked and damaged. This was the church of Vera Cruz, the True Cross, in the center of Santiago. Outside the capital, there have likewise been two consecutive attacks on the cathedral in Valparaiso, at the end of October, plus another on the parish of Saint Teresa of the Andes in Villa Alfredo Lorca, in Punta Arenas.
“We are deeply concerned and unhappy at the turn the violence has taken in recent days, even affecting the Church. We have witnessed a new act of desecration against a Catholic parish, which is all the more painful to us in ACN, as a Catholic pastoral foundation”, commented Maria Covarrubias, the president of the Chilean national office of ACN International.
“We ask your prayers at this difficult time for our ecclesiastical assistant and his parishioners, for peace in our country and that God may convert the hearts of those who have committed these lamentable acts”, added Mrs. Covarrubias, in an appeal to all the benefactors of ACN around the world.
In a video published on the YouTube channel of the archdiocese, the apostolic administrator of Santiago de Chile, Archbishop Celestino Aós, likewise expressed his solidarity with Father Narbona and his condemnation of the desecration of the parish church of the Assumption. “To you, dear Father and to all your Catholic faithful in the parish of the Assumption I wish to express our closeness and solidarity in your suffering. To all of you, dear brothers and sisters in the Faith, I repeat the words of the Apostle: do not allow yourselves to be overcome by evil, but conquer evil with good.”
At the same time he issued an appeal for peace: “With all the strength of our voice, we appeal to all our fellow countrymen and countrywomen to put a stop to all the violence. May those who are deceived into believing in the apparent effectiveness and triumph of violence instead adopt the path of dialogue and engage in the search for solutions to the problems, by putting forward their own visions.”
As a high school theology teacher, one of the first things I sought out to teach my young students was how much God loves us and how much he longs for us to love him back. This should have been a relatively easy undertaking. I mean, this is “Sunday School 101” kind of stuff, right? There are songs about it. I soon learned, however, that there exist some major roadblocks—namely, that being in love is now seen as a bad thing by many young people today.
There exists a growing trend among young adults where experiencing feelings of love for another is something to be avoided at all costs—just like the common cold. In her groundbreaking book iGen, Jean Twenge explains how the iGeneration’s verbiage to “catch feelings” for another person equates the feelings of love to a disease that one would rather not have. (I strongly recommend this book for anyone who works with or parents members of the iGen.)
Twenge explains that, according to members of the iGeneration (roughly ages ten to twenty-two), to be in a loving relationship with another person would draw one’s attention away from focusing on themselves. She writes, “In general, relationships conflict with the individualistic notion that ‘you don’t need someone else to make you happy—you should make yourself happy.’” In droves, iGen’ers are repeatedly rejecting the idea of being in loving, committed relationships in favor of focusing on themselves—their success, their happiness, their safety, and their health. The battle cry of the iGeneration, to “love yourself,” has become so ensconced in the culture, that the threat of “catching feelings” for another person leads many members to swear off romantic relationships altogether. The problem is that many replace committed relationships with fleeting, sexual “hookups” (noncommittal sex) in the interest of being seen as “wild and free.”
Sound pretty bleak? Well, there is a silver lining. Twenge’s research found that, while many young adults will say that they want to be unattached, roughly three-quarters of the iGeneration actually do want to be in a loving, committed relationship. Twenge concludes, “The average iGen college student thinks he is the only one who wants a relationship, when most of his fellow students actually do, too. . . . There’s this disconnect between brave narratives about what they think they should want and be doing and what, in a way, they do want.” So while the culture might be pushing young adults away from pursuing loving, committed relationships in favor of self-gratification, something deep within them is still craving true love and connection. How Augustinian of them.
Now, to be fair, Twenge was not talking about the iGeneration’s relationship with God per se. She was referring instead to their romantic relationships with peers. However, her findings have real and serious implications for us as evangelists. How can we encourage young adults to enter into a loving relationship with God if their culture is telling them that experiencing feelings of love for another is akin to catching a disease? If we want young adults to (forgive me for this) “catch feelings” for God, how can we best support them? In what follows, I offer a few solutions.
“Love yourself” by loving God
Rather than fight the culture, how can we use the inward-looking perspective of young adults to our advantage? A popular analogy used by the iGen refers to the inflight safety guidelines we see in many modern airplanes. In the event of an emergency, when the oxygen masks deploy from the ceiling, you should put your own mask on first before helping others do the same. It makes perfect sense to a culture focused on self-love, self-care . . . self-preservation before all else. However, in that terrible scenario, we are still deeply reliant on something: oxygen. Our self-preservation is based on the presence of oxygen: what keeps our hearts beating, our brains functioning, what keeps us alive. Self-love cannot take place within a vacuum—it requires us to take in what we are dependent on for survival. In order for us to truly help ourselves, don’t we then need what keeps our soul alive? God’s love is just like that oxygen, except even more necessary: it sustains our very being—our body, mind, and soul. To truly focus on self-help, the iGeneration should be turning to God as a form of self-care and self-love. As evangelists, we need to carry this message to our young adults: A relationship with God isn’t something extra, something that takes the focus away from oneself. It is the very thing that sustains you, that keeps your soul alive and healthy. By being in that loving relationship with God, young adults can find the ultimate and sustaining form of self-care.
Raise up and honor examples of loving relationships
If we are to challenge the iGeneration culture-applied stigma of committed relationships, young adults need to witness functional, committed, and loving relationships in the real world. Specifically, they need to see the joy those individuals receive from being in a relationship but also how they are able to maintain their individualism and independence. Instead of worrying about their lives being diminished by loving relationships, they need to witness how their lives can be augmented by loving others and God. In a world dominated by reality TV dating shows, songs that objectify and oversexualize women, and apps focused on noncommittal hookups, young adults need to be exposed to true and genuine examples of loving relationships. This can be done by identifying individuals within our community and inviting them to share their experience. Married couples, men and women religious, decades-long best friends . . . we can find these relationships within our own communities and use them as examples available to our young adults. If these individuals can openly and honestly speak to the young adults about the joy they find through their relationships while still maintaining their self identity, it could make a real difference in breaking down the iGen’s fears of “catching feelings” but also give them real and beautiful examples to emulate.
Create opportunities for cultivating relationships
No, I’m not talking about the Catholic version of Tinder (alas, someone has already cornered that market). Instead, we need to be offering young adults well-thought-out, intentional, and meaningful opportunities to form relationships with one another and with God. Despite being hyperconnected to people online, the iGeneration remains woefully lonely in the real world. This, in turn, has a devastating negative effect on their mental health and happiness. Human beings were created to be social . . . in the real world, not just through their smartphones. As evangelists, catechists, youth ministers, pastors, and parents, we are called to help these young adults establish and grow real-world, loving relationships with others as a path to forming their own relationship with God. Retreat programs, youth and young adult events, even parish or school-sponsored events with no catechetical or religious angle can serve as opportunities for young adults to meet and form relationships in the real world. Relationships formed in these settings can open the door to deeper, loving connections with God.
Conclusion: Risking relationship
The fear of “catching feelings” originates largely out of a fear of the unknown: Will I get hurt? Will I lose myself? Will I be happy? There is a lot of risk incurred when entering into any relationship (let alone one with God), and the iGeneration is keenly skeptical when it comes to taking chances—especially when their own happiness and health are at stake. As evangelists, we need to work diligently to assuage those fears and preconceived notions about relationships that have become characteristic of the culture. This is no easy task, but with faith, dedication, patience, and grace, we can compel young adults to take that risk.
The Chairman of AMECEA, Rt. Rev. Charles Kasonde has said that the Holy Father Pope Francis’ unrelenting focus for the people of South Sudan is a clear testimony of his love and concern for humanity, reported AMECEA Online Newes. Bishop Kasonde who is also the Local Ordinary for the Catholic Diocese of Solwezi, Zambia expressed delight at the news of a probable second visit of the Pontiff to AMECEA Region. Pope Francis in his maiden visit to Africa came to Kenya and Uganda in November 2015 before proceeding to Central Africa Republic (CAR).
“This is great news for AMECEA Region. A probable Papal visit to South Sudan next year 2020 is a timely news of great hope. We are grateful to God to have the Vicar of Christ who accompanies his flock until taken to the higher ground for safety,” Bishop Kasonde said.
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011. Unfortunately, in December 2013, following a political struggle between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, violence erupted which has since crippled the country. It is estimated that over 50,000 people have been killed and nearly four million people have been displaced either internally or fled to neighboring countries.
Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in September 2018, signed a peace agreement in Ethiopia, and they are now attempting to form a stable government together. Unfortunately, the situation is still unpredictable and fragile.
In April 2019, during a special retreat at the Vatican, the Holy Father Pope Francis appealed for peace after kissing the rival leaders’ feet and urged them not to return to civil war. He encouraged them in the mood of prayer and serenity to overcome their divisions and let peace reign in South Sudan for the good of the country and the continent as a whole.
On Thursday, November 7, the two rival South Sudanese leaders agreed to postpone the formation of a coalition government for another 100 days. The leaders were to form the Government of National Unity (GNU) by November 12 but after meeting in Uganda which was mediated by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, they said that security and governance issues needed to be resolved before they could form the GNU.
On Sunday, November 10 during the prayers of the Angelus with a group of pilgrims at the Vatican, Pope Francis was quoted to have said, “A special thought goes to the dear people of South Sudan, which I must visit this [next] year,” Pope Francis said. “With the still vivid memory of the spiritual retreat for the authorities of the country, held in the Vatican last April, I wish to renew my invitation to all the actors in the national political process, to seek what unites and to overcome what divides, in a true spirit of brotherhood.”
“As AMECEA Region we feel blessed and privileged by the Holy Father’s disclosure of his wish as it brings great hope to all of us,” Bishop Kasonde said adding that he is like Abraham our father in faith who interceded for his people (Genesis 18:6-33)
“My humble request to His Holiness Pope Francis, if it is fitting for me as Chairman of AMECEA, is that he extends his visit and step his feet on the soil of Eritrea as well, to pray with our brothers and sisters there who are also undergoing difficult times,” Bishop Kasonde implored.
Eritrea is another member of AMECEA countries where citizens have seen lots of problems. Many young Eritreans have fled the country to Europe via dangerous routes just to escape the harsh condition at home. Many of them have even perished on the sea as they flee.
The Catholic Church in Eritrea has also not been spared from the suffering going by the recent happenings where the government took over church institutions including health care facilities as well as schools run by the Church. The visit of the Holy Father would, therefore, mean a lot to the Catholic Church which is a minority in Eritrea.
“We continue praying for the realization of this important visit on our soil by our Shepherd,” Bishop Kasonde remarked.
[On hearing of the death of his son,] the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
It was told Joab, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops; for the troops heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” The troops stole into the city that day as soldiers steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 19:1-5)
We Americans live in a culture that has largely lost its shared social scripts and rituals for grieving. How does one grieve loss, failure or tragedy? For how long? How do we move on? How do others respond rightly to those who grieve? With whom should we share our grief? Do we mourn with our clothing? Do we weep and wail aloud in public or in private? Do we share our pain or remain silent? How do we pray in the midst of grief? When do we pray? How should we eat?
And how does faith shape the way we grieve?
Grief is how we bury our dead—the injustices and injuries, losses, failures, and tragedies we undergo in life. Grief allows us to heal, surrender, forgive, and move on into new freedom with reverence.
In the face of my parents’ death over the last two years, I have given much thought to this. I have one simple observation.
I and my family were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, care, prayer, and compassion shown to us. Cards, texts, emails, gifts, flowers, prayers promised, countless Masses offered, meals brought, memorial donations to charities, sincere words of condolence. One friend had a magnificent chalice made, inscribed with my mom’s name, and donated it as alms to a poor diocese so that my mom would be perpetually remembered in the offering of the Sacrifice.
Absolutely overwhelming. How can one possibly begin to offer gratitude sufficient to repay these acts of kindness? “Pay it forward,” as one friend suggested. Lovely, right, and just.
The beauty and power of all these gifts notwithstanding, what I found most powerful personally was the sacred space afforded me by two people I know. Each offered me a guarded sanctuary within which I could grieve.
One of them, while my mom was dying, asked me, “How are you?” I knew he meant he really wanted to know, and was prepared for whatever would come out. So I told him. He just listened as I dissolved in front of him. He didn’t attempt to mute my pain with pious words of comfort or counsel; neither did he say he knew what I was going through by telling me of his own tale of loss. He simply listened, revering the infinite power of silence.
At the end he said, “I’m so sorry.” And embraced me. We left in silence.
For me, he was the weeping Christ-with-me. A real presence reserved in the tabernacle of compassionate silence.
Aside from the Funeral Mass, nothing has allowed me to bury my mom and return her to God more than that hour I spent with this friend. He brought alive for me the beauty of the words of Job 2:13:
[The friends of Job] sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
May I be able, by God’s grace, to pay that forward . . .
The Nativity Scene, which will be set up in Saint Peter’s Square for Christmas 2019, comes from Scurelle, the municipality of Valsugana in the province of Trento. Instead, the imposing spruce, some 26 meters high, with a diameter of 70 centimeters, which will be erected next to the Nativity Scene, comes from the Highlands of Asiago. The Rotzo-Pedescala and San Pietro Consortium of Civic Uses, in the province of Vicenza, donated the spruce along with some 20 smaller trees. The tree and the Nativity Scene are linked by the common memory of the storm of October-November 2018, which devastated many areas of Triveneto. This year, in addition, the Pare di Conegliano Artistic Crib Group, in the province of Treviso, will be in charge of setting up the Nativity Scene inside Paul VI Hall.
The traditional inauguration of the Nativity Scene and the lighting of the Christmas tree in Saint Peter’s Square will be held on Thursday, December 5 at 4:30 pm. The ceremony will be presided over by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, and by Bishop Fernando Vergez Alzaga, President and Secretary-General, respectively, of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
The Nativity Scene is made almost entirely of wood. It is made up of two characteristic architectural elements of the Trento tradition. They are two structures in wood worked with raw boards. It is the so-called system of coverage “alla trentina,” made with a shingle roof (the shingle roof is a very old construction system used to make covers with split boards and flat wood chips).
Lodging in the two structures are 20/25 personages of natural dimension (height of the statues is about 1.80 meters) in polychrome wood. The Holy Family is placed in the largest structure. Around the central scene, other personages find space: the Wise Kings, shepherds, animals, objects and plants. Placed in particular in the background of the scene, in remembrance of the October-November 2018 storm, are wood logs from areas hit by the storms.
The spruce used for the Christmas tree comes from forests of which the territory of the municipality of Rotzo and the fractions of Pedescala and San Pietro is rich. The wooded area, in fact, extends over a surface of over 1,880 hectares in which the majority of the species, such as the spruce, the silver fir, the larch, in addition to beech specimens, extend but more sporadically. To replace the uprooted plants, 40 fir trees will be replanted to reintegrate the forests gravely damaged by the 2018 storm. The decoration and lighting of the tree will be done by the Governorate’s Infrastructure and Services Department in collaboration with Osram S.p.A. and Osram gmbh, which offers a decorative lighting system with high color rendering, of the latest generation, geared to limit the environmental impact and the energy consumption.
The Nativity Scene of Conegliano, instead, recalls directly as its setting the ancient barn stables of Lessinia (land used and prepared for the pastures”), a geographic areas of the Venetian Pre-Alps
The structure recalls the pointed arch constructions: a geometric construction, of gothic inspiration, consisting of two joint arches with bricks, “ashlars,” arranged radially making use of the friction between them. Present to enrich the work will be a capital (arch), which represents the famous work the “Madonna con Bambino” of Cima da Conegliano, an important Renaissance painter. The figures that will be inserted in the Nativity Scene will be about 125 centimeters high and wear clothes of the Venetian tradition.
On the morning of December 5, Pope Francis will receive the delegation of Scurelle, of the Rotzo-Pedescala and San Pietro Civic Uses Consortium and of the Pare di Conegliano Artistic Crib Group for the official presentation of gifts.
The tree and Nativity Scene will remain displayed until the end of the Christmas Season, which coincides with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, January 12, 2020.
Pope Francis Comments on a Frightening – and Reassuring – Gospel Passage
Reject Haste and Nurture Perseverance
‘The Lord Calls Us to Collaborate in the Construction of History Becoming, Together with Him, Agents of Peace and Witnesses of Hope in a Future of Salvation and Resurrection’
Joins 1,500 for Lunch in Paul VI Hall
‘Apostle of Prayer and Youth Educator’
‘The hope of the poor shall not perish forever’
‘Let us look for answers in the words of Jesus.’
Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia
Pope Francis on Friday received in the Vatican the Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb of Al-Azhar of Egypt and his retinue, reported Vatican News.
Among those whom Pope Francis received along with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar were Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ambassador of the Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Mahmoud Samy and some personalities and representatives of the University of Al-Azhar and the Superior Committee, said a communique of the Holy See Press Office.
It said the purpose of the meeting was to help achieve the objectives contained in the Document on the Human Brotherhood for World Peace and Common Living together, established in August.
Among those representing the Holy See at the meeting were Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Bishop Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Secretary of the Holy Father.
During the cordial talks, the Vatican said, the issue of the protection of minors in the digital world was discussed, as well as the recent visit of His Holiness to the United Arab Emirates and the initiatives taken by the Superior Committee to achieve the objectives of the Document on the Human Brotherhood in the months since its foundation.
During the encounter, the Committee introduced to the Holy Father a new member, Dr. Irina Georgieva Bokova, and explained to the Holy Father the project of the “House of Abraham”, inaugurated in New York last September.
As you know, on October 13, Pope Francis canonized John Henry Newman a saint of the Church. Like so many others, I have long admired the depth and breadth of Newman’s thought and insight. Yet my first introduction to Newman was not one of his lengthy books or classic works. It was a short but inspiring meditation he wrote on “The Mission of My Life” that I came across by chance at a time when I was discerning my vocation. Here I try to unpack a genuine spiritual classic that deserves to be widely shared to all who are trying to discern their calling or perhaps have forgotten “The Mission of My Life.”
“God has created me to do Him some definite service.” God created you and I intentionally and has blessed us with a unique set of gifts and talents that he wants us to use for some service or good. So never think that you are just a product of evolution, less talented than others, or devoid of any gifts. You are wanted and willed, and have a combination of gifts that the world needs. This intentional creating of us is closely linked to love. God has created us in love, and because of love he calls us to do him some definitive service. This is how it was with St. Peter. First came love, then came call and mission: “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (John 21:15 ff). The Lord loves us first and calls us second.
“He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” No two vocations are the same. That’s why it’s so important for you and I to respond to his call, because the good work that only we can do is left undone if we don’t do it. I have my mission, you have your mission. So say “yes” to that call from God. He does not lose patience by taking our mission from us and giving it to another even if we are slow to respond. And when we do respond, everyone benefits from the good we do, including ourselves who come alive with the joy of giving.
“I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.” Some of us struggle to understand that we have a vocation at all. There are so many who don’t have a sense of the presence and love of God in their lives. Many struggle with questions like: “What am I meant to be doing in this life?”; “Who am I meant to be with?”; “Who can help me find meaning to my existence?” Discerning our vocation takes time, patience, and prayer. If we are not sure of what our purpose is in life, then we need to pray for that clarity. Pray that your calling becomes clear and ask the Lord to reveal his will for you. I remember making this prayer when I was discerning whether or not to enter seminary. It was a risky prayer because you are holding yourself open to what God might want for us but what we might not want for ourselves. But I only had peace when I realized that what God wanted of my life was the life I would be at my best and most fulfilled. So don’t be afraid. Surrender to him and let his plan for your life that he holds in eternity begin to unfold today.
“I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.” We are part of a family in the Church, a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). By being missionary disciples of Jesus Christ we are united in a powerful spiritual bond to all those who have also been missionaries since Christ himself: the Apostles, St. Paul, St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Thérèse, and so many more. This is the chain to which we are linked and united. The mission of the Church began with the Apostles and continues with us, empowered by the same Spirit who brings the saving work of Christ to fulfillment. Whether we know it or not, we are helping to write the latest chapter of a great story that continues in our day.
“He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.” Each of us matter and have been created for a unique purpose. Our mission is to do good, to do the Lord’s work in his name. We are called to be channels of peace, conformed to God’s truth and lovers of his commandments that he gave us out of love to protect us from the slavery of sin. We do this, as St. John Henry insists, in our own time, place, and circumstance. We might not see the full fruit of our witness now, but we will in eternity. Neither did Newman or the other saints for that matter. Only in time and beyond our own death will we see the way God is using us for his plans and providence. The totality of our lives is greater than the sum of its parts.
“Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.” Trust, trust, and trust again. This is the essence of faith. Trust in his promise: “I will be with you always until the end of time” (Matt. 28:20). Don’t let anyone dismiss you or reduce your dignity, even if you have to suffer for being faithful.
“If I am in sickness, may my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, may my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.” No matter how we are, young or old, healthy or sick, rich or poor—let us offer it all to the Lord and serve him in the way only we can. Newman’s words here are reminiscent of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “holy indifference,” which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: “We need to train ourselves to be indifferent in our attitude to all created things . . . so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest” (Spiritual Exercises, 23d). So however we are, give the Lord what we have and as we are. Like he did with the five barley loaves and two fish, there is no limit to what he can do with limited resources. All he asks of us is to give everything in love.
“He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.” Again, an invitation to trust, just like St. John Henry Newman learned to trust in his lifetime amid many difficult times. When he spoke about the loss of friends, this is what he suffered after his conversion to Catholicism. When he went to Rome, he was thrown among strangers. At the lowest times in his life, his spirit did sink and his future was indeed hidden from him. But little did he know what God had prepared for him and his place in the Church, which he could never have imagined. Therefore, St. John Henry is ideally placed to speak back to us in encouragement and never to lose sight of God’s providence, which is at work at all times and through everything. Yes, he knows what he is about. God is in charge. In this is our peace.
St. John Henry Newman, pray for us!