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December 2011

Feast of the Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents, martyrs

Feast of the Holy Innocents


According to Matthew’s gospel, the Holy Innocents, children of Bethlehem, two years old and under, were massacred by the Idumean, King Herod the Great. The story really begins with the visit of the Magi or astrologers, “Wise Men”, arriving in Jerusalem and enquiring for a newborn child who is “King of the Jews”. They said that they had seen his star in the eastern sky and had come to pay him homage. On hearing the news, Herod, the Romans’ client king in Judaea, immediately became anxious and the whole of Jerusalem with him. He felt his throne was in danger and that could mean a future attack on the city.

Herod then called together the chief priests and scribes, experts in Jewish law, and asked where the Messiah was to be born. They said it would be in Bethlehem of Judaea, a small town not far from Jerusalem. They based their answer on a combination of texts taken from the prophet Micah (5:1) and the Second Book of Samuel (5:2) which read: “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the princes of Judah, since from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Micah is writing during a period when the king in Jerusalem is under great threat from the Assyrians. But the tiny and insignificant town and clan of Bethlehem-Ephrathah is the seat of the Davidic dynasty from which will come the Messianic king to rule over Israel. The second part of the prophecy echoes a passage in the Second Book of Samuel where the tribes of Israel come to David in Hebron asking him to be their king. They say to him, “And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel’.” It was a powerful prophecy which clearly made Herod nervous.

Herod summoned the Magi and asked them the exact time of the star’s appearance. He then sent them off to Bethlehem with the instructions: “Find out all you can about the child. When you have found him, let me know so that I, too, can go and pay him homage.” Herod, of course, had a very different kind of homage in mind.

The Magi then set off and the star, which they had seen, now appeared again and stopped over the place where the Child was. Overcome with joy, they went into the house and found the Baby with Mary its Mother. They fell prostrate on the ground in homage. Then they brought out the gifts they had brought – gold, frankincense and myrrh, customary gifts in the Orient as signs of homage. On completion of their visit, they were told in a dream not to return to Herod but to return home by another route.
Then, in another dream, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to take the child and his mother and find refuge in Egypt until told otherwise. That very night they left for Egypt and did not return until after the death of Herod. Matthew sees this as the fulfilment of a prophecy in Hosea (11:1): “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” In this way the prophet relates Jesus to the destiny of Israel. Just as God called Israel out of Egypt to create his own people, so now he will call Jesus out of Egypt into the land of Israel to accomplish his purpose of creating the new Israel or People of God. The story of the flight into Egypt thus enables this prophecy to be fulfilled in Jesus. Writing as he is for a Christian Jewish audience, Matthew likes to see events in the life of Jesus as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies.
When Herod realised the astrologers had cheated him, he was furious. On the basis of the information the Magi had given him, he ordered that every boy of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding area should be killed.

How many children actually lost their lives? One Eastern liturgy had 14,000 and another list said it was 64,000. A Catholic source in the early 20th century said that in a village of that size the figure could only be between 6 and 20 children. Still a tragic number.
According to Matthew, the massacre fulfilled a verse of Jeremiah (31:15), read as a prophecy of this event: “A cry was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation: Rachel bewailing her children; no comfort for her, since they are no more.” The text originally was a description of the tragedy of the Babylonian exile, when large numbers of Jerusalem’s citizens were taken off as slaves to Babylon. In the following verse God asks “Rachel” to stop weeping because her children “shall come again from the land of the enemy”. And so some commentators believe the purpose of Matthew for including Jeremiah’s words is not to connect the reference to “weeping” with the slaughtered babies, but rather with the Child Jesus, who has gone to a foreign land like Israel had before him but will return.
The Scripture commentator, Raymond Brown, suggests the account in Matthew is based on an earlier story which was modelled on the killing of the Hebrew firstborn by Pharaoh and the birth of Moses. Such a connection would have been easily understood by Jewish readers.
The feast of Holy Innocents has been observed in the Western Church since the 4th century. They were regarded as martyrs because they not only died for Christ but in place of Christ.

In honouring the Innocents, the Church honours all who die in a state of innocence, especially very young children and babies, and consoles parents of dead children with the conviction that these also will share the glory of the infant companions of the Infant Jesus.
In England their feast was called Childermas. Some English and French churches claim to have their relics.



Day After Christmas-Feast of St. Stephen

After the beauty of the Christmas celebration the Church gives us the martyrdom of Stephen. It seem a real let down on the glory of the Christmas season. Yet that is the whole purpose of the life ahead for the Christ child. He will be rejected, suffer, and be put to death so we also can have eternal life. He shows us the way to eternal life is love and that means even love to the enemy. St. Stephen shows us that through our baptism we too are called to give our life even to the enemy. Let's pray that God will give us the grace to be able one day to do exactly that. Merry Christmas.

Day After Christmas-Feast of St. Stephen

A Good Laugh for Christmas

Christmas Gift

A man in Newfoundland calls his son in Calgary two days before Christmas and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."

"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Vancouver and tell her."

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "No way they're getting divorced!" she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls Newfoundland immediately and screams at her father, "You are not getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there by tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife smiling. "It worked," he says, "they're coming for Christmas and paying their own way".

A Good Laugh for Christmas

Humor. No Room At The Inn

Is There Room in the Inn?

A very religious couple was touring the Holy Land during the Christmas season and decided it would be very meaningful to them to spend Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus.

Arriving there, they searched high and low for a room, but none was available at any price. Finally, they pulled up in front of the Sheraton-Bethlehem and the husband got out of the car, telling his wife: "Stay here, sweetie. Let me see if I can do something
for us."

He approached the desk and the clerk told him there were no rooms. "Sorry, Sir. It's Christmas Eve, our busiest time."

No matter how much the man offered to pay, the clerk said he had nothing. Finally, the man told the clerk, "I bet if I told you my name was Joseph, that the woman waiting in the car was called Mary, and that she had a newborn infant, you'd find us a room."

"Well," stammered the clerk, "I-- I suppose so."

"Okay," said the man. "I guarantee you, they're not coming tonight, so we'll take their room."

Humor. No Room At The Inn

Humor. No Room At The Inn

December 12th. Feast Day Our Lady of Guadalupe

From a report by Don Antonio Valeriano,

a Native American 16th Century

December 12th. Feast Day



At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

Our Lady Guadelupe

Are you laughing yet?

Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as Holiday Trees for
> the first time this year which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present
> this piece which I would like to share. I think it applies just as much to
> many countries as it does to America ...
> The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday
> Morning Commentary.
> My confession:
> I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does
> not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up,
> bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel
> discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.
> It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I
> don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.
> In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters
> celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there
> is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in
> Malibu . If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the
> Menorah a few hundred yards away.
> I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think
> Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people
> who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I
> have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly
> atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it
> being shoved down my throat.
> Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we
> should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God? I guess
> that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are
> wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew
> went to.
> In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a
> little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's
> intended to get you thinking.
> Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson
> asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding
> Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful
> response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we
> are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get
> out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman
> He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us
> His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
> In light of recent events... Terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I
> think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body
> found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and
> we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The
> Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor
> as yourself. And we said OK.
> Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they
> misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might
> damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an
> expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.
> Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they
> don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill
> strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
> Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.
> I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'
> Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the
> world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but
> question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail
> and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding
> the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar
> and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion
> of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
> Are you laughing yet?