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The glory of the Lord shone on Christmas night

December 20, 2019

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Christmas night, Christmas star

When Jesus was born, the glory of the Lord shone around them (Lk 2:9). The glory was more impressive than the Northern Lights, a full moon on a clear night, or an exploding star. There was a grand and glorious light, resplendent in beauty, emanating from the heavens, flooding the sky, bursting to the outer limits, converging over Bethlehem, funneled into a luminescent beam, and shining over the place where the newborn Jesus was lying in the manger.

It was the holiest of nights. God is light, and God’s light is glorious. Radiant in the heavens, it was a spectacular sight to behold on earth. The glory of the Lord was majestic in beauty, captivating, breathtaking, overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and heartwarming.

When Jesus was born, God dawned from on high (see Lk 1:78). The glory of the Lord confirmed the presence of God, that Jesus, the light of the human race (Jn 1:4), had appeared on the earth, that he is the light shining in the darkness (Jn 1:5), that the true light had come into the world (Jn 1:9), that the Word had become flesh and was dwelling among us (Jn 1:14a), and with his presence on earth, the glory of God was shining for all to see.

The glory of the Lord is mentioned in the Old Testament, and it indicates the presence of God. God’s glory is conveyed in many ways: clouds, fire, smoke, lightening, thunder, earthquakes, trumpet blasts, miracles, a whispering sound, and light. When one or more of these are present together, it is a theophany, a mystical revelation of the presence of God.

The glory of the Lord was evident when God fed the Israelites in the desert with manna (Ex 16:7), when the Lord appeared to the Israelites in a cloud when Aaron spoke to them (Ex 16:10), when a cloud enshrouded Mount Sinai at the time that Moses received the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (Ex 24:15,16,17); and when a cloud covered the meeting tent to signify God’s presence (Ex 40:34,35; Lv 9:23; Nm 9:15-22).

The prophet Isaiah foretold that the glory of the Lord would be made manifest when the long-awaited Messiah would appear. In his second Immanuel prophecy, he wrote that, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is 9:1). At the coming of the Messiah, “The glory of the Lord will be revealed” (Is 40:5), and it will be a time of salvation and liberation for God’s people. Isaiah further described the arrival of the Messiah: “Arise! Shine, for your light has come, the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. Though darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds, the peoples, upon you the Lord will dawn, and over you his glory will be seen. Nations shall walk by your light, kings by the radiance of your dawning” (Is 60:1-3).

When Jesus was born, there was a magnificent array of lights in the night sky. It was the glory of the Lord, the greatest theophany ever. God was present that night. The child Jesus born of Mary in Bethlehem is the Son of God (Lk 1:35).

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Gaudete Sunday

December 13, 2019

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Gaudete Sunday

A Joyful Sunday. The Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. The word “gaudete” is derived from the Latin words “gaudium,” joy, and “gaudeo,” to rejoice or be glad. Gaudete Sunday occurs eight to thirteen days before Christmas, and the nearness of the feast is reason for great joy.

The Term “Gaudete.” Gaudete is taken from the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” (paraphrase, Phil 4:4-5). Advent is a time of joyful expectation and eager preparation for the Solemnity of Christmas.

Multiple Reasons for Joy. There is joy in looking forward to the annual celebration of Christmas, but there is also joy in looking back to remember the birth of Jesus on the first Christmas. The joy is heightened by the importance of his birth that he was born to save people from their sins (Mt 1:21b). The joy also extends to anticipation of the Second Coming, either at the end of physical life or the end of the world, the time when believers will be given the crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) and a place in the Father’s house (Jn 14:2) to dwell with God and his angels and saints for all eternity.

A Joyful Color. Rose represents joy and may be used as the liturgical color for Gaudete Sunday. Violet remains the official color for the Season of Advent, the Third Sunday included, because all of Advent has a penitential tone, a time to be absolved of sin and be in the state of grace for Christmas. Gaudete Sunday offers a brief respite to focus on the uplifting, upcoming joyful celebration of the Nativity.

Joyful Adornments. The priest may wear a rose chasuble and the deacon may wear a rose dalmatic. Church decorations may include roses or other flowers, a rose-colored altar cloth, drapery on the pulpit or ambo, chalice veil, tabernacle curtain, or wall hangings. The third candle of the Advent wreath is rose.

Joyful Prayers. The prayers in The Roman Missal on the Third Sunday of Advent convey a joyful message. The immediacy of Christmas is addressed in the Collect, “O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,” followed by two explicit references to joy: “enable us … to attain the joys of so great a salvation” and “to celebrate them [with] … glad rejoicing.” Preface II of Advent says “we rejoice at the mystery of his Nativity” and that we are “exultant in his praise.” The Communion Antiphon contains the joyful message, “Behold, our God will come, and he will save us” (cf. Is 35:4). Two invocations in the Solemn Blessing for Advent refer to joy: the second, “may he make you … joyful in hope,” and the third, “So that, rejoicing now with devotion at the Redeemer’s coming.”

Joyful Readings. The scripture texts for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C, are filled with references to joy. The first reading exhorts, “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult” (Zep 3:14), and continues, “The Lord … will rejoice over you with gladness … he will sing joyfully” (Zep 3:17b). The refrain for the Responsorial Psalm begins, “Cry out with joy and gladness” and the first stanza adds, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation” (Is 12:3). The second reading repeats the Entrance Antiphon, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). In the gospel, John the Baptist makes the joyful announcement: “One mightier than I is coming” (Lk 3:16).

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St. John the Baptist: The Forerunner Prophet

December 6, 2019

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The Baptist’s Featured Role in Advent. St. John the Baptist plays a prominent role in the Scripture readings during the Advent Season as the Church prepares for the celebration of Christmas. He is not mentioned on the First and Fourth Sundays of Advent, but he is a major figure on the Second and Third. While Jesus is always the main focus of the gospel, during the middle of Advent St. John the Baptist serves as the main supporting character.

Christ has come, Christ is here, Christ will come again. During Advent the Church reflects on the triple comings of Jesus: his original coming on the first Christmas, his coming today, and his final coming either at the end of our lives or at the Second Coming. John the Baptist is the one who announced his coming. God said, “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes” (Mal 3:1,23). Jesus explained that Elijah had come in the form of John the Baptist (Mt 17:12-13). The Baptist is the precursor, the forerunner, the one who goes ahead, the herald’s voice.

John the Baptist A Prophet Like No Other. John the Baptist is the intertestamental prophet, the prophet who bridges the Old and New Testaments. There are many great prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, prophets like Elijah and Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, but Jesus said “there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11). The Baptist is the greatest of the prophets for a reason. The prophets of long ago did remote preparation, the Baptist did immediate preparation. The earlier prophets announced that the Messiah was coming, the Baptist announced that the Messiah was here, and when Jesus did appear, the Baptist pointed to him and identified him as such, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29,36).

A Prophetic Appearance. John the Baptist had a striking appearance. He wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist (Mt 3:4). His unusual garb links him directly to Elijah, the only Old Testament prophet to dress in this way (2 Kgs 1:8).

A Prophetic Message. The theme of the Baptist’s preaching was, “Reform your lives!” He challenged his listeners to straighten out the crooked parts of their lives, to tear down the mountains of their evildoing, and to fill in the valleys of their shortcomings. He warned them, “Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees” (Mt 3:10), a powerful metaphor in which the tree represents the unproductive sinner and the ax represents impending judgment. Now is the time to produce good works. Act swiftly to avoid being cut down and thrown into the fire. The Baptist urged the people to confess their sins and receive a baptism of repentance. The way to prepare for the coming of the Lord is to stop sinning and live a more virtuous life.

A Prophetic Attitude. The Baptist avoided a great temptation. The voice of prophecy in Israel had been silent for hundreds of years, and the people went in droves out to the desert to hear him. With such a surge in popularity, he could have reveled in all of the attention, but he resisted the natural inclination to let the focus be on him. The Baptist humbly redirected the peoples’ attention from himself to Jesus: “the one who is coming after me is mightier than I” (Mt 3:11); “I am not fit to loosen his sandal strap” (Lk 3:16); “I am not the Messiah” (Jn 1:20); and “He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

A Message Ever-Old and Ever-New. The Baptist’s prophetic message is applicable to our spiritual preparation for Christmas. Advent is a time to prepare the way of the Lord, to clear away every obstacle that would prevent Jesus from coming to us, so that when Jesus comes to us today and on Christmas, he will have unimpeded access to our hearts. The Baptist wanted his listeners to renounce sin, be washed of their past impurities, and be in the state of grace when Jesus appeared. Likewise, if we wish to be well-prepared for the solemn feast of Christmas, we would be wise to renounce our own sin, to confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to be washed of our impurities through sacramental absolution, to do go works, and to be in the state of grace when Jesus comes today, on Christmas, and our last day. Let us humbly keep Jesus as the main focus of Advent, Christmas, and every day of our lives.

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The Advent Wreath

November 26, 2019

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VanSlounWreathAn Advent Wreath is composed of a circular wreath with four candles which are placed an equal distance apart.  Normally the wreath is decorated with evergreen branches, but in the interest of fire safety, it has become increasingly common to use artificial greens.  The Advent Wreath normally is placed in a prominent location in church, often in the sanctuary, but never in a location that would obstruct the view of the altar, lectern, or presider’s chair.  At home the two most common locations are the center of the dinner table or on a table in the family room.

Three of the candles, the ones for the First, Second and Fourth weeks, are violet, while the candle for the Third Week is rose.  Violet symbolizes sorrow for sin and serves as a reminder to prepare for Christmas through the admission, confession, and absolution of sin during Advent, and to be in the state of grace, ready to welcome the Christ when he comes.  The rose candle is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, and it represents joy that Advent is more than half over and that Christmas is so near.

The Advent Wreath has additional symbolism.  The wreath is a circle, and because it has no beginning or end, it signifies God’s eternal love that is without beginning or end, and because of this immeasurable love, God sent his only begotten Son born on the first Christmas (Jn 3:16).  The circular shape also is a symbol of eternal life.  Jesus was born to die on the Cross, open the Gates of Heaven, redeem sinners, and offer the gift of salvation.  The constant color of the evergreen branches represents eternity.

One candle is lit per week.  The first candle represents hope; the second, faith; the third, joy; and the fourth, peace.  The first candle is lit on the First Sunday of Advent, and the same candle is relit each weekday for the remainder of the first week.  Then, on the Second Sunday, a second candle is added, and the first and second candles are both relit the rest of the week.  After the first week, in church the candles are lit before Mass or before the Collect.  When the candles are lit outside of church, it is customary to offer a prayer at candle-lighting time, often when everyone is gathered around the table before the evening meal.  The Collect from the Mass of the particular Sunday is recommended, and it may be accompanied by a seasonal hymn or Scripture reading.  In some localities there is a tradition regarding the person in the family who is to light the candle:  the youngest child the first week, the oldest child the second, the mother the third, and the father the fourth.

The primary symbol of the Advent Wreath is the candlelight.  December is a month of increasing darkness, a season when the days get shorter as the winter solstice approaches on December 21 or 22, the shortest, darkest day of the year.  Spiritually, darkness is associated with sin, evil, the absence of God, and ignorance.

Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12; 12:46), “the light of the human race” (Jn 1:4).  As the darkness outside deepens, more candles are lit to crowd out the darkness, and then on Christmas, one of the shortest days of the year, during the night watch (Lk 2:8) when the darkness is intense, Jesus, the Light of the World, was born, “the glory of the Lord shone (Lk 2:9), “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not [and will not] overcome it” (Jn 1:5).  The light reflects the splendor of Christ, his victory over sin, and his promise to bring salvation.

It is customary to bless the Advent Wreath on the First Sunday of Advent.  For a wreath in church, the blessing usually is offered at Mass after the homily, but it also may be blessed during Evening Prayer on Saturday.  The blessing is offered by a priest, but it may be offered by a deacon, or by a lay person during a Word Service.  Three options are provided in the Book of Blessings, Nos. 1517 to 1540.  A wreath at home may also be blessed, often by one of the adults, and another option is provided in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, pages 110-112.

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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe the Alpha and the Omega

November 22, 2019

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Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, and both Greek letters are symbols of his kingship.

Scriptural Basis. In the Book of Revelation the Lord God said, “I am the Alpha and Omega … the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rv 1:8). On another occasion God spoke similarly, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rv 21:6). These divine declarations are grounded in the Old Testament where God said, “I, the Lord, am the first, and at the last I am he” (Is 41:4b); “I am the first, I am the last” (Is 44:6), and “It is I who am the first, and am I the last” (Is 48:12). These sayings which are attributed to God the Father are also attributed to Jesus, his Son, who said: “I am the first and the last” (Rv 1:17), and, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rv 22:13).

AlphaJesus Is Timeless. The Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and it stands for the beginning. Its symbolism cannot be applied strictly because Jesus has no beginning. It represents how Jesus is pre-existent. Like God, his Father, Jesus has always existed. The Nicene Creed says that Jesus is “the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” The Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and it stands for the end. Again, its symbolism cannot be applied strictly because Jesus has no end. He exists forever. The Alpha and Omega represent the beginning and the end, how Jesus has always existed and how he will always continue to exist. He is infinite. The scope and length of his existence exceeds our understanding of chronological time in which things have a beginning and an end. Jesus always has been, he continues in being now, and he will always be. He spans the length of human history and beyond. He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8).

Jesus is Eternal. Some earthly kings have a short reign, days, months, or a few years. Others have a long reign, twenty, thirty, or forty years. The alpha and omega represents how Jesus reigns for all eternity.

OmegaJesus is All-Powerful. Some kings are extremely powerful. They commanded great armies, had great conquests, and ruled over vast territories. The power of Jesus far exceeds any human king. The alpha and omega represents his absolute sovereignty, how he is all-powerful, even greater than the power of Rome that was thought to be invincible. He is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rv 1:5), the King of kings (Rv 17:14; 19:16). Moreover, his reign encompasses everything, not just a geographical area but the entire earth, and not only the earth, but also the sun and the moon, the planets and stars, outer space and the galaxies – the entire universe.

Jesus is Everything. The alpha and omega represents Jesus’ completeness. There is nothing lacking in him or about him. He has everything and can satisfy our every need.

The Easter Candle. The Easter Candle has a cross on the front with an alpha on the top and an omega on the bottom. After the blessing of the fire during the first part of the Easter Vigil, the candle is blessed with these words: “Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. All time belongs to him and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age and for ever. Amen.”

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Jesus – King in the line of David

November 21, 2019

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On the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year C, the first reading is taken from the second book of Samuel, and it features King David. David was the greatest king in the history of Israel, and Jesus was of his royal lineage. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, Gabriel explained that “the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father” (Lk 1:32). The announcement fulfilled the promise God made to David before he died through his messenger, the prophet Nathan: “I will raise up your offspring after you … and I will establish his kingdom … I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me … your throne shall be firmly established forever” (2 Sm 7:12,13,14,16). While Jesus was given the throne of David, their kingships could not be more different.

David’s father was Jesse; Jesus’ father is God.

christtheking

David came from Bethlehem; Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is the house of bread; Jesus is the Bread of life.

David had seven brothers; Jesus had twelve apostles.

David was ruddy, handsome, and making a splendid appearance physically;
Jesus was immaculate, free of all sin, white as snow, interiorly.

David was a shepherd boy; Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

David was anointed king by the prophet Samuel;
Jesus’ kingship was conferred upon him by his heavenly Father.

David was anointed with oil; Jesus was baptized with water.

The spirit of the Lord rushed upon David; the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus.

David conquered Goliath; Jesus conquered Satan.

David became widely known because of his prowess as a warrior;
Jesus became widely known because he healed the sick and raised the dead.

David led the army of Israel against the Philistines; Jesus taught love of enemy.

David led thousands of troops; Jesus leads legions of angels.

David armed himself with the sword of Goliath; Jesus armed himself with the Word of God.

David gave the Israelites freedom from the Philistines;
Jesus gives people freedom from their sins.

David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem;
Jesus established the New Covenant with the blood he shed on the Cross.

David sang songs of praise to God;
Jesus receives songs of praise from the angels and saints in heaven,
as well as all of the peoples of the earth.

David has multiple wives, Ahinoam, Abigail, Eglah, Bathsheba, and concubines, too;
Jesus is espoused to his Church, and he has a chaste love for everyone.

David sinned grievously; Jesus was tempted but never sinned.

David was the king of the Israelites; Jesus is king of all people everywhere.

David’s kingdom encompassed a large geographic region from Dan to Beersheba;
Jesus’s kingdom encompasses not only the earth, but the entire universe.

David is the greatest king in the history of Israel;
Jesus is the King of kings.

David reigned from his throne in his palace in Jerusalem;
Jesus reigns from his throne in heaven, the New Jerusalem.

David’s throne was surrounded by attendants;
Jesus’ throne is surrounded by the angels and saints.

David ruled for forty years; Jesus reigns for all eternity.

 

 

 

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The end of the world

November 15, 2019

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As the liturgical year draws to an end, the Church asks us to pause and reflect for a moment on the end of the world. Generation after generation has had doomsday prophets who have cried out, “Watch out! The end of the world is upon us!” Are these predictions believable? Frankly, no!

Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt 24:36). Anyone who claims to know when the end of the world is coming claims to know more than Jesus and the angels. Assertions of this nature are blasphemous, and anyone who makes such a prediction is a fraud and should not be trusted.

Jesus warns us: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk 21:8). There will be wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, and plagues, but no matter how awful these tragic events may be, Jesus advises us to be wary of gloom and doom fortunetellers: “It will not immediately be the end” (Lk 21:9). Speculation is useless. If we listen to the prophets of doom that surface periodically, we are going contrary to Jesus’ teaching.

Some suggest that the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent war in Afghanistan is a sure sign of the end. Not true. The world did not vanish during the Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, or the two World Wars, nor did it stop during any of the other terrible conflicts down through the ages. Judging from the past, it is highly unlikely that the conclusion is looming around the corner.

Others point to anthrax or regional famines in Africa or Asia as sure signs that the end is imminent. Still others mention hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, AIDS, Bubonic Plague, and the other terrible epidemics that have occurred in the past. None spelled, “T-H-E E-N-D.”

Be warned! In the year 999 people were frantic that the world would undergo catastrophic destruction. It did not. In 1999 there was great consternation over Y2K. Again, nothing happened.

If the world has survived for almost two thousand years since Jesus issued his warning, it is doubtful that the Second Coming will arrive any time soon. Jesus does not want us to be worried (Lk 21:9), yet he wants us to stay vigilant and pray (Lk 21:36). “The day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Pt 3:10).

Jesus and the Church are asking us to put “The End” in a healthy, balanced perspective. We are dealing with two “ends,” not one: the end of our lives at natural death and the end of the world at the Second Coming, the Parousia, or the Final Judgment. Based upon the last two thousand years, it is far more likely that our individual deaths will come before the Second Coming, and “The End” that we should be most concerned about is the end of our lives, not the end of the world.

We need to be ready at all times because our death may come “like a thief in the night.” God may call us home suddenly, unexpectantly, due to a heart attack or a stroke, an accident, or while we are asleep. As we see others die, God is serving us warning: all perish, every one of us included, no exceptions! But there is no need to fret! Jesus is preparing a room for each of us in the heavenly mansion (Jn 14:2). Instead of worrying about the end of the world, Jesus would have us be more concerned with the end of our own lives, to always be in a state of spiritual readiness, so we are ready for our true end, eternal life.

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The dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

November 8, 2019

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Basilica of St. John Lateran

This feast commemorates the first dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran which took place in Rome on November 9, 324. Pope Sylvester I (314-335) presided.

St. John Lateran’s original name was the Church of the Savior, and its official complete name is the Patriarchal Basilica of the Most Holy Savior and St. John the Baptist at the Lateran. The church is under the dual patronage of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

It is the oldest of the four principal pilgrimage churches in Rome. The other three are St. Peter’s Vatican Basilica, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. The Emperor Constantine (280-337) legalized Christianity through his historic Edict of Milan in 313, and shortly thereafter, he gave Pope Melchiades (311-314) a beautiful ancient palace that stood on the Celian Hill that had belonged to the Laterani family, and it was converted into an enormous basilica.

This feast is not so much about the building itself, even though it is magnificent architecturally and artistically, but about what the building represents spiritually. St. John Lateran is the first major church in Rome, and because it served as the headquarters of the Church from 313 to 1309, it is known as “the Mother Church.” Pope Clement XII (1730-1740) stated this explicitly when he had this Latin verse etched into the front façade, “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput,” “the mother and head of all churches of the city [Rome] and the world.” It is the one from which all other churches find their origins.

For nearly one thousand years it served as the official residence of the Pope, as well as the place where new popes were elected and installed in office. Ecumenical councils were held at the Lateran Basilica in 1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, and 1512. St. John Lateran remains the cathedral church of Rome, the place where the Pope acts as chief shepherd of the local archdiocese.

The church building has suffered many setbacks as the object of two barbarian attacks (408 and 455), an earthquake (896), two fires (1308 and 1361), and a bomb blast (1993). The building has been repaired, rebuilt, and restored numerous times over the centuries. Reconstructions took place under Popes Leo the Great (440-461), Hadrian I (772-795), Sergius III (904-911), and Clement VIII (1592-1605). The most comprehensive renovation took place in the Seventeenth Century under Pope Innocent X (1644-1655). A new floor was installed in 1938.

The basilica is adorned with beautiful art. The roof above the entrance has 13 statues with the Risen Christ in the center flanked by its patrons, St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. There is a massive statue to Constantine in the vestibule. The nave has marble statues of the twelve apostles, while the walls have reliefs with scenes from the Old and New Testaments and paintings of the prophets. The dome of the apse has a mosaic of Christ with his angels above a glorious Cross. The left side has full size images of Sts. Paul, Peter, and the Blessed Mother Mary, and a smaller image of St. Francis of Assisi, while the right has full size images of Saints John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and Andrew, and a smaller image of St. Anthony of Padua.

The Lateran Basilica represents the unity of the universal Church. The basis of our unity is Jesus and our common Baptism. It was Jesus’ fervent prayer that his disciples be one (Jn 17:21). There are many churches throughout the world, but all are one body in Christ, individually parts of one another (Rom 12:5), all united under the symbolic headship of St. John Lateran.

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St. Martin de Porres

November 3, 2019

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St. Martin de Porres was born on November 9, 1579, in Lima, Peru. He was born outside of wedlock, the son of John de Porres, a Spanish knight, and Anna, a freed black slave from Panama. His father was mortified when he observed how his newborn son had inherited his mother’s African features and dark complexion, and he refused to acknowledge him. Martin’s baptismal records show him listed as the “son of an unknown father,” and as a result he was considered “illegitimate,” a terrible social stigma in Peruvian society. He was raised in the faith by his Christian mother.

As a boy St. Martin studied medicine and was an apprentice to a barber-surgeon. He also became a Third Order Dominican, a person who adopts Dominican spirituality as an associate member while still a lay person. In 1595 he moved into Rosary Convent in Lima as a helper, and in 1603 he joined the Dominican Order and made his religious profession as a Brother.

Brother Martin distinguished himself in personal holiness. He had a great devotion to the Eucharist and prayed regularly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He was strict and highly disciplined with himself, performed rigorous acts of penance, was exceptionally humble, and gladly performed menial tasks. Within the community he served as the infirmarian, the community’s caretaker of the sick and disabled, the barber, the wardrobe keeper, and the gardener, and he swept the floors and cleaned the toilets. He operated the community’s food shelf and distributed food, clothing, and medicine to the needy.

Brother Martin also ventured out of the convent to serve the poor in the city of Lima. He put his medical training to good use with his competent and compassionate care for the sick. Because of his expanding reputation, more and more people came to him for help. For some he administered medical treatment, for others it was a handshake or a simple touch, and there were so many healings and such remarkable cures that the people considered him a miracle worker.

Brother Martin also had a special place in his heart for African slaves that had been forced to come to Peru, and he conducted a special outreach to them. He also founded an orphanage and a hospital for them.

St. Martin was immensely popular with the people of Lima because of his tremendous dedication to the poor and his exemplary personal holiness. He also was held in high regard by his fellow Dominicans who called him the “father of charity,” a title he shunned, and out of self-deprecation he referred to himself as a “mulatto dog.”

St. Martin was a close friend of St. Rose of Lima. He reportedly had the supernatural gifts of bilocation and aerial flight.

St. Martin de Porres died of a raging fever at Rosary Convent in Lima on November 3, 1639, at the age of sixty. He was beatified in 1837 and canonized by Pope John XXIII on May 6, 1962. He is the patron saint of hairdressers, public health workers, social justice, and race relations.

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Saint Jude, Apostle and Martyr

October 25, 2019

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Identity. Jude is one of the original twelve apostles. Luke calls him “Judas the son of James” (Lk 6:16a; Acts 1:13), and places him eleventh on the list. He is also mentioned by John (Jn 14:22). Judas is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah. He is also known as Thaddeus (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18), which means “great hearted”; Labbaeus or Lebbeus, which means “courageous”; Jude Thaddeus; Judas Lebbaeus; or simply Jude.

Mistaken Identity. Jude is not to be confused with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer; Judas Maccabeus of the Old Testament; Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37); the Judas who Paul stayed with in Damascus (Acts 9:11); Judas Barsabbas who accompanied Paul, Barnabas, and Silas to Antioch (Acts 15:22,27,32); or Judas, the brother of James (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:33), a relative of Jesus, and the author of the Letter of Jude who identified himself as “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (Jude 1:1).

Scarce Information. The New Testament provides almost no information about Jude. His name is mentioned on four lists of apostles, and he speaks only once during the Last Supper when he asked Jesus, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22).

Early Church History. Historical information about Jude is sketchy. Church historians differ over whether Jude made missionary journeys to Egypt, Syria, or Armenia. There is stronger agreement that he went to both Mesopotamia and Persia where he was joined by Simon the Cananean. According to tradition, both Simon and Jude suffered martyrdom in Persia, but there is no consensus over the manner of his death. He is variously reported to have been shot to death with arrows, beaten with clubs, run through with a lance, stabbed with a halberd, or crucified, possibly upside down.

Artistic Depictions. St. Jude is often shown holding a medallion with an image of Jesus. His principal symbols are a ship, sometimes with a cross on the sail or a cross-shaped mast, an oar, or a walking stick, either a plain stick or with a cross on the top, all emblematic of his missionary journeys; as well as a club, upside down cross, axe, lance, or halberd, all possible instruments of his martyrdom.

A Famous Patron Saint. St. Jude is best known as the patron saint of hopeless cases. This tradition developed because people prayed through the intercession of the apostles beginning with Peter. If a prayer request was not answered, they would continue to work their way through the list. After ten unsuccessful attempts, the plight of their request seemed hopeless, and as a last resort they would turn to Jude, the eleventh and last saint on the list. Another explanation is that people avoided praying through Jude because his name was next to Judas Iscariot, but after their prayer requests with all of the other saints had failed, their last prayer would be directed to Jude.

Additional Patronages. St. Jude is also the patron saint of Armenia and those who suffer misfortune, and during the Twentieth Century he also emerged as a patron saint of hospitals and the sick.

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