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Greetings to each and everyone of you.


This section for English-speaking viewers –
and all those enjoying the culture –

has developed over the months and is now offering materials of all kinds:

texts, images, poems, videos, etc.

It will continue to provide you with rich contents week after week.

 

Origin of the Christmas Crib

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The Christmas Crib (crèche) dates back to St. Francis of Assisi (Feast October 4). It was in 1293 that the first crèche was celebrated in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. There lived in that town a man by the name of John (Messier Giovanni Velitta), a very holy man who stood in high esteem. Blessed Francis loved with him a special affection because he despised the nobility of the flesh and strove after the nobility of the soul.

Blessed Francis called upon John about two weeks before Christmas and said to him, “If you desire that we should celebrate this year’s Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant who was born at Bethlehem and how He was bedded in the manger on hay between a donkey and an ox. I want to see all of this with my own eyes.” The good and faithful man departed quickly and prepared everything that the Saint had told him. The Friars who had come from many communities, gathered around St. Francis as did the men and women of the neighborhood. They bought candles and torches to brighten the night. St. Francis arrived and saw that everything had been prepared. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The crowds gathered and rejoiced in the celebration. Solemn Mass was sung.

St. Francis’ idea of bringing Bethlehem into one’s own town spread quickly all over the Christian world, and soon there were Christmas cribs in churches and homes.

Source: http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/christmascrib.htm                Pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ak_win/

Christmas Vigil

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« The tender mercy of our God will bring the rising sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. »

(Canticle of the Benedictus, Luke 1:78-79)

Feast of the Holy Family, C

I have a treasure. No, I am not afraid it will be stolen for it does not hold any silver or gold, nor any valuable currency. What I keep therein is a whole collection of texts and quotes – texts and quotes from many people, some long dead, others alive in our world, all over the world. Today, I want to share one such text with you. It was published in Living with Christ ( the English version of Prions en Église). It was published for Christmas  1980. At the time, Fr. Jerome Herauf wrote:

« God is ‘at home with us’. People travelling, or exiled from their native lands, long to be home again. This same expectant feeling may have grown on us during our Advent days. Recently, I was delighted to read a prominent theologian speculate that God felt the same way about being with us that first Christmas. He longed to be ‘at home’ with us. The more I have thought about this since, the more it has affected my own understanding about us, about Christmas and even about God himself. God is at home with us because he wants to be! And therefore could we not want rather than fear to be with him? »

Mary-and-Joseph on the way, www.lds.org

Mary and Joseph would not be home for Christmas. They were among what we call nowadays the IDP – Internally Displaced People – on the way to a major city and soon to become refugees in another country. The new-born child was taken to safety by his parents fleeing to escape violence and possible death. He knew early on in life what is the lot of so many people in our world today.

Today, we remember all those who find themselves in such a situation – exiles, refugees –  faced with insecurity, anxiety, lacking the basic necessities of life, and not knowing what the future has in store for them . . .

Pic source: www.lds.org

Christmas, C

CHRISTMAS, a time to rejoice and to celebrate. We somehow move a short distance away from our routine tasks and daily activities. We try to take time – time to reflect, time to look at things, situations, and people, in a different way. Strange, but it seems that those very things, situations and people that are part of our daily lives suddenly take on, is it a glow? Or a meaning? that was not there before… It is as if things around us now have a special quality, a special depth, drawing our attention, perhaps even our admiration.

NativityReflecting on this, I started looking at the texts of the Christmas liturgy. Different aspects struck me: the light, the simplicity, the newness, the peace, that a birth – THE birth – of this God-Child brought into our world. It happened long ago, but the effect is enduring, permanent!

Then, one short text came to my mind. It stood out, not of those beautiful Christmas readings, but it appeared suddenly from the often-repeated ritual of the daily Eucharistic celebration. The words are spoken by the priest when he addresses us, saying: « The Lord is with you. »

A new meaning dawned on me and I know that, when I hear these words during the Christmas celebration, I will be tempted to reply: « HE IS ! » « Yes, indeed, HE IS, ‘GOD-WITH-US’! »

This is in fact, the meaning of all that happens during this season, what people call « the reason for the season »! It is announced at the very beginning of the gospel of Luke and it is confirmed at the end of the gospel of Matthew by that Child who has become a man who promises: « Behold, I am with you until the end of time! » (Mt.28:20) This is Christmas for me…

Pic: www.rforh.com

International Solidarity Day – December 20

earth-hour-2009Solidarity refers to a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group. In the Millennium Declaration world leaders agreed that solidarity was a value that was important to international relations in the 21st century. In light of globalization and growing inequality, the UN realized that strong international solidarity and cooperation was needed to achieve its Millennium Development Goals. The UN was founded on the idea unity and harmony via the concept of collective security that relies on its members’ solidarity to unite for international peace and security.

On December 22, 2005, the UN General Assembly proclaimed that International Solidarity Day would take place on December 20 each year. The event aimed to raise people’s awareness of the importance of advancing the international development agenda and promoting global understanding of the value of human solidarity. The assembly felt that the promotion of a culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important in combating poverty.

4th Sunday of Advent, C

life-is-meant-to-be-happyAre you happy? Oh, I know, this is a personal question and you need not answer me. Some philosophers or ‘masters’, or ‘gurus’ will tell us that, yes, « Life is meant to be happy ». But… we all know that true happiness seems, at times, to be in short supply for many people. If you asked yourself and tried to reply in all honesty to the question, what would you say? Perhaps you would admit that you are sometimes truly happy but that, at other times, you are not carried by a big wave of happiness. But, if you pursue your introspection, or soul searching, and look at what makes you truly happy you may admit that the love of those around you, good health, success in your daily activities, some appreciation of friends and colleagues – all this can bring some measure of happiness, yet . . .

If someone dared to ask: « Are you happy because you believe? » You may be taken aback and, to save time before you give an answer, you may ask the person: « What did you say – happy because… I believe? » You may never had thought about it… happiness born of… faith.

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In the gospel of this 4th Sunday of Advent, this is what Mary’s cousin, Elisabeth, told her: « Happy (or blessed, in some translations) is she who believed… » (Luke 1:45).
In the early Church, there was a tradition that honoured Mary more because of her faith than because of her being the Mother of God. At first, this may seem surprising, but when we think of it, somehow, it makes sense! God asking Mary to be the Mother of his Son, was a great gift HE was giving her – making her the Mother of God! But Mary accepting this very special offer – believing that God wanted her to be exactly that – was HER gift to God! Of course, she said her ‘Yes’ with the help of the Holy Spirit, but it was HER ‘Yes’! Elisabeth added: « … because you believed that the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled ».
Have you thought of giving God a gift this Christmas? Another question you need not answer … but you may like to think about it, and FAITH in his promises to you might be… the perfect gift for HIM! 

Religious Art, Dorothy Webster, Blessed Mother, The Visitation on Pintarest

World Day of Migrants and Refugees – 18 December

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The theme chosen by Pope Francis for 2016 is “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy.”
“The tragic stories of millions of men and women daily confront the international community as a result of the outbreak of unacceptable humanitarian crises in different parts of the world,” writes Pope Francis.
“Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying of suffocation, starvation, violence and shipwreck,” he continues. “Whether large or small in scale, these are always tragedies, even when a single human life is lost.”
“The Church stands at the side of all who work to defend each person’s right to live with dignity, first and foremost by exercising the right not to emigrate and to contribute to the development of one’s country of origin. This process should include, from the outset, the need to assist the countries which migrants and refugees leave.         (Vatican Radio)

The head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has urged European leaders to set up a « massive » refugee settlement programme. Antonio Guterres was speaking as a new UN report warned that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide would « far surpass » a record 60 million this year.     (Source: BBC News email, December 18, 2015)

 

Expectation

200120Come20Lord20JesusIn this period of waiting, of e x p e c t a t i o n , the words of Henri Nouwen are very appropriate.

« Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way.

Those who think they have reached their goal, have missed it.

An important part of the spiritual life is to keep longing, waiting, hoping, expecting.

A good criticism, a frustrating day, an empty stomach, or tired eyes might help to reawaken our expectation and deepen our prayer:

« Come, Lord Jesus, come. »

Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Journal, p. 113

 

I’ll quit!…

Autumn lingers on… Summer is long gone and winter is late coming – late, that is, in bringing the beautiful snow-landscapes we recall and enjoy. The days are short and dark, rain is often there, wet, sometimes slippery and always unpleasant. And, if truth be told, at times our thoughts are also unpleasant. Life is not easy and there’s not much to cheer us up.

QUIT

 

Have you ever been tempted to send this note to . . . God?!

You smile! But sometimes, we feel like that, don’t we?

We’d like to drop some commitment, forget about some responsibility, give up some demanding task and abandon whatever seems too heavy a load to carry at the moment.

Recently, I came across a poem with much humour and wisdom. Let me share it with you.

 

« I’ve taught a class for many years;
Borne many burdens – toiled through tears,
But people don’t notice me a bit;
I’m so discouraged – I’ll just quit.

Sometime ago I joined the choir
That many people I might inspire;
But people don’t seem moved a bit
And I wont stand it. I’ll just quit.

I’ve led young people day and night
And sacrificed to lead them right.
But people wont help me out a bit,
And I’m so tired, I think I’ll quit.

Christ’s cause is hindered everywhere
And people are dying in despair.
The reason why? Just think a bit;
The Church is full of people who quit. »

Anonymous

3rd Sunday of Advent, C

You lobliss, happinessok at this picture, you read the text, you go from one layer to the other and you think to yourself: ‘Something is missing! Where is… JOY?’

Bliss can make us feel heavenly… for a while!
Delight provides a feeling of pleasure in something or someone.
Happiness is a more pervasive, deeper, state leading us to think that life is good and the world a good place to be.
Contentment makes us experience some kind of ease, of gratification, about the situation we find ourselves in.
Satisfaction provides a sensation that things are all right, it calls for some kind of suspension of effort for some time.

But what about JOY? It is very much the theme of this Sunday as we hear the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:14-18) and the apostle Paul (Ph.4:4-7). Both tell us to « REJOICE », and they stress this message. Paul admits: « I repeat. » What they tell us is to « rejoice in the Lord. »

What does it mean? I wonder: ‘What is asked of me?’ Perhaps the answer lies in the reason why we should rejoice and it is mentioned clearly: « The Lord is near. » So, we are expected to rejoice because we have nothing to fear, the Lord is in our midst, and Zephaniah promises us: « He will renew you with his love. » Nothing less – is it not enough to be filled with joy?