Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Silence in Snow and Shadow


The morning after our first snowstorm, I ventured out in my 4x4 to the local park. For a time I was the only person in the park. God and me, the trees, the wind, the snow. The wind was blowing forty to fifty miles an hour, whipping up the snow into amazing twisters and rushing clouds. I took out my camera and began shooting. This shot reminds me of the Thomas Merton black and whites. I think it speaks of silence. Thomas Merton said “And because of the peacefulness of the snow, I imagined that my new ideas were breeding within me an interior peace."

The snow is a sign of peace, a peace that can only come from Another.



Snow and Shadow©bjm

"Choose Life" License Plates get Green Light in New Jersey


I grabbed this article out of the Newark Catholic Advocate. This is very good news - and a wonderful way to express our "Pro-Life" attitude!

Advocacy plates get green light to display ‘Life’ message in NJ

BY WARD MIELE
Managing Editor

AREA - "we did it!"

That was the reaction of an exuberant Elizabeth Rex, Ph.D., president of The Children First Foundation (CFF) to approval Dec. 8 by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) of “Choose Life” license plates.

New Jersey is the 26th state to approve the specialty plates. It joins Massachusetts, Delaware and North Dakota in doing so this year. CFF first began seeking approval of the plates in the Garden State in 2002.

Last summer Rex declared prophetically “we’re getting closer, we’ll never give up”
(see The Catholic Advocate, July 14). She described CFF at the time as an organization that actively promotes and supports adoption as “a positive choice” for women facing unwanted pregnancies.

Rex, who is Catholic, and her husband, Charles, founded CFF almost a decade ago. They are the adoptive parents of two children who joined the family after their first child was born. CFF is the official sponsor of the “Choose Life” plates. The group’s tri-state headquarters is in Eastchester, NY.

“The ‘Choose Life’ license plate program is so much more than a ‘traveling billboard’ to promote adoption and safe haven programs in the Garden State and raise awareness about the positive,” Archbishop John J. Myers, a staunch supporter of the CFF effort, said. “At this particular time in New Jersey’s economic history, such a private/public partnership is truly welcome and truly needed. As women in crisis face the challenge of bearing and raising a child in difficult times, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate program can help offer them a viable and life-sustaining alternative for them and their unborn or newborn children.”

Rex expressed gratitude for the solid backing of both Archbishop Myers and the Trenton-based New Jersey Catholic Conference. She cited too the attorneys of the Alliance Defense Fund headquartered in Washington, D.C.

“Choose Life” license plates are not available through NJMVC offices but rather must be ordered through CFF. That can be done by calling (888) 652-4667 (888-NJChooseLife) or by visiting the group’s Web site (NJChoose-Life.org).

Funding for the “Choose Life” plates comes primarily from the annual $25 tax-deductible CFF membership donation. Locally $20 is earmarked for 66 pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes and non-profit safe haven programs throughout New Jersey. The remaining $5 is used to cover administrative costs and legal expenses. Since 2000, according to CFF, over $13 million has been raised to help pregnant women “choose life.”

A setback in the eight year struggle to get the plates on New Jersey roads occurred several years ago when the “Choose Life” plate had reached the manufacturing phase when it was abruptly rejected by lawmakers in Trenton. That promoted a CFF federal lawsuit in 2004. CFF was told at the time, Rex explained, that slogans and advocacy messages cannot be put on the state’s license plates. She saw Trenton’s thumbs down at the time as “government censorship and discrimination.”

The latest round on the legal front came last spring when CFF’s federal lawsuit was revived by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A three judge panel reinstated the case on the grounds that the state’s decision may have amounted to “viewpoint discrimination.”

Monday, December 27, 2010

First Snow in New Jersey !


I shot this image of my street a few minutes ago. We had a heck of a snowstorm here in New Jersey - snow fell throughout the night into the morning - with hurricane force wind. Some areas received almost thirty inches.

If you don't have to travel, a snowstorm is the perfect opportunity to stay home - to pray, to read, - have a nice cup of hot chocolate. In my case, I get some needed time to complete my Canon Law homework.


Here is a wonderful and appropriate poem by Robert Frost, "A Dust of Snow"...

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Saviour Has Been Born To Us

The hour approaches
The time is so near
He comes into the world
A Child so dear

His mother is young
She is virtuous and graced
Her husband a devout man
Doesn't know what He'll face

The rise and fall of many
Depend upon this Child
Subject to His Mother
He is tender and mild

Lo comes the star
Foretelling of His birth
The salvation of the world
What one Life is worth

To look upon Baby Jesus
Is to see that Heaven is real
The profoundness of this moment
The heart can not conceal

True joy is not pleasure
Or any earthly delight
True joy came into the world
That one holy night

Did His mother know
All that He would do
Through the tree of the cross
He would make the world anew

Because of this beautiful Babe
Full of truth and divinity
I have great hope and love
That I may see Him in eternity

Please dearest Baby Jesus
Come deep within my heart
Remain with me all days
Let us never be apart

Help me Baby Jesus
To love Thee evermore
Help me follow Thee
For the Cross let me adore

In the end dear Baby Jesus
Come for me and never let me go
Let me stay with Thee Baby Jesus
My heart with love aglow

Teach me Baby Jesus
The meekness of Thy ways
Let me love Thee always
For the rest of all my days

composed by Illinoisan Susan E. Gorski

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the road to Christmas


We are almost there. Have we seen Jesus in the in-between times - in the every day - in our brothers and sisters? Let us ask God for this grace to see Jesus in the faces of all our neighbors.

Gift of Wonder by Rev. Alfred McBride

"Each year, God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.

"The older we get, the harder this is to do. As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open and drinking in the fascinating gifts we beheld…Our thirsty souls could not have enough of the wonders of creation.

"Then, somehow, we grew too old to dream. We tired of the abundance of the world, or at least grew weary of keeping up with the feast of life, and stepped away from the banquet of life.

"The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive.…Instead we let wonder go to sleep. We entered the typical dream state of most humans.

"Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’

"…Psychology says, ‘Let go.’ Spirituality says, ‘Wake up.’ In both cases there is a withdrawal from the busyness of daily life (our dream state) and a waking up to the subconscious and spiritual depths of ourselves."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bishop Tobin's Letter



Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence Rhode Island, has written an important letter, reaching out to fallen-away Catholics. I think we all know friends and family members who have fallen away. This letter would be good for them to read. I urge you to copy it and send it out! Hope you are all enjoying this blessed Advent season.

Bishop Thomas Tobin Sends 'An Open Letter to Inactive Catholics'

My dear Brother or Sister: In the spirit of the Advent and Christmas Season, and as the Diocese of Providence nears the end of its "Year of Evangelization," I'm writing this letter to inactive Catholics of our Diocese - perhaps you're in that category - to let you know that we miss you, we love you and we want you to come home to the Church.

The first dilemma I faced in writing this letter was how to describe you - an "inactive Catholic," a "fallen-away Catholic" or a "former-Catholic." I chose the first option.

I decided against "fallen-away Catholic" for it suggests someone falling off a fence or out of a tree. The image isn't helpful.

And there's really no such thing as a "former Catholic." If you were baptized a Catholic, you're a Catholic for life - even if you haven't been to Mass for years, even if you've renounced the title and joined another Church. Your baptism infused your soul with Catholic DNA - it defines who and what you are.

Thus, I've chosen the title, "inactive Catholic," because even though you haven't been "active" in the Catholic community for awhile, especially by attending Sunday Mass, receiving the sacraments and otherwise participating in the life of the Church, you're still a Catholic. Sorry . . . you're stuck with us!

Perhaps the exact name isn't very important though. What's more important is why you drifted away from the Church, why you stopped coming to Mass, and what we can do about it.

Did you leave the Church because you disagree with some of the Church's teachings and practices; or because you found it boring and "didn't get anything out of it"; or because someone in the Church offended you or disappointed you; or because you just got a little complacent, spiritually lazy, in the fulfillment of your obligations? Let's look at each of these reasons.

If you left the Church because you disagree with the fundamental teachings of the Church I'm afraid there's not much I can do to help you. The essential teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals aren't negotiable - they weren't made up arbitrarily by human beings but, in fact, were given to us by Christ. They can't be changed, even if they're unpopular or difficult to live with. I hope that you'll take some time to really understand what the Church teaches and why. Sometimes, we find, good folks get bad information and that leads to confusion and then alienation.

If you left the Church because you found it to be boring and "didn't get anything out of it," well, I understand. Sometimes, it's true, leaders of the Church haven't fed the flock very well - sometimes we haven't provided sound and challenging teaching and preaching, and sometimes our worship has been banal and bland. Perhaps we haven't been very kind or welcoming. I apologize for that; we can and should do better.

On the other hand, when you attend Mass it shouldn't be all about you - the focus is God! You should attend Mass to give, as well as receive - to worship the Lord, to ask forgiveness of your sins, to thank Him for His gifts and to pray for others. And for Catholics the most important reason to attend Mass is to receive the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, the Bread of Life. You can't do that anywhere else!

If you left the Church because another member of the Church offended or disappointed you, I'm truly sorry for that offense and in the name of the Church I sincerely apologize. I hope you'll forgive us and give us another chance. Members of the Church - including priests and bishops - are completely human. Sometimes we say things and do things that are totally unacceptable, even immoral. But let's face it - we belong to a community of sinners - that's why we begin every Mass by calling to mind our sins and asking for God's forgiveness. The virtue of forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian life - we all need to seek and grant forgiveness now and then.

Finally, if you left the Church because of your own spiritual laziness - complacency - I guess the ball's in your court. I can only encourage you to start over - to think about your relationship with God and try to understand how important the Church is in helping you fulfill your God-given potential and, more importantly, helping you achieve eternal life.

You see, the Church isn't just another human organization, some sort of social club. We believe that the Church has divine elements - that it was founded by Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit. You need the Church - you need the teachings of the Church, the life-giving sacraments of the Church, and the support of a community that shares your faith and values. But the Church also needs you - we need the gifts of your time and talent, your faith and commitment. The Church has an awful lot to offer you, but if in fact we've been imperfect fulfilling our mission, in serving the Lord and caring for one another, perhaps you can help us to do better.

The irony of this letter, of course, is that if you've been an inactive Catholic, you might not see it. But I'm counting on a Catholic member of your family, or a friend, neighbor or co-worker, to see it and share it.

The Christmas Season is a wonderful, grace-filled time, a time when we remember that the Word of God became flesh and that Jesus is "Emmanuel" - God with us. God came to earth to search for us, to embrace us, to lift us up, and to take us with Him to eternal life. He came to invite you to be His friend and companion along the way.

Dear brother or sister, if you've been away from the Church for awhile, it's time to come home. If there's an issue or a problem we can help you with, please contact your local parish, or contact me here at the Diocese of Providence. I might not be able to solve every problem and meet every need, but I'll try. Please know, however, that we miss you, we love you and we hope to see you soon.

Your brother in Christ,

Bishop Tobin

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quote of the Day


"It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce man and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us? Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace?"

Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An Advent Reflection


We have begun our Liturgical year. As defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Liturgical Year is "The celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord's birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a 'year of the Lord's grace'. Thus the cycle of the liturgical year and the great feasts constitute the basic rhythm of the Christian's life of prayer, with its focal point at Easter.” The emphasis of the season of Advent is waiting, conversion and Hope. We can include patience and humility. We wait in a state of prayer - in the manner of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother – and we cry out Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means “the Lord is coming, or Come, O Lord.


When I was a child, I attended Catholic school, taught by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters – so I was aware of the liturgical season. Advent had a special meaning for me. Christmas was coming – and that means PRESENTS! Advent also hinted of the coming of winter. Soon it would begin to snow – and I loved the snow. When you don’t have to drive – snow is welcome everyday. In my Catholic grammar school, I rarely had a day off for snow. I remember wearing my galoshes, trudging through the snow to school. The hallway would be lined with boots. From my experience, I would say that most children today do not understand the “meaning.” of Advent. Still, the anticipation of Santa, presents, and snow are threads of “understanding” even at a young age. Children know that “something” is going to happen, something is coming.” – They will soon find out that “something” is “SOMEONE.” In Latin the word for Advent is “Adventus.” which means “coming.”

Advent is all about “ENCOUNTER.” Specifically two encounters. Our Lord’s first coming – the Incarnation, the WORD made Flesh - when God becomes man, the birth of Christ. And then Jesus’ second or final coming, or the General or Last judgment at the end of the world. The Nicene Creed says “He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.”

Advent is a season to prepare us for both encounters. There is also an in-between encounter which we will speak of later.

So, our first encounter: The Incarnation. CCC 522 says "the coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to “prepare” for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant".195 He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming. The Prophet Isaiah: Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. Preparations for the birth of Christ have taken place as far back as the fourth century, they are ancient. The Advent wreath (pg 6) and the lighting of the four candles. It is part of the spiritual preparation for Christmas. St. John says that Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). The History of Christmas Candle is linked with the Saturnalia festival of the Romans because during this festival tall papers of wax were offered to Saturn (an angel of God). With the spread of Christianity, the custom of placing candles beside the window gained people's acceptance. The Irish people believed that if a candle is placed near a window then the light emerging from the candle would be able to guide the Christ Child who on the eve of Christmas wandered from house to house. We also display the empty manger, symbolizing the period of waiting. Some still celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6th – when each child puts out a shoe the night before St. Nicholas Day in the hope that the kind bishop — with his miter, staff, and bag of gifts — will pay a visit. These are all wonderful Christian traditions. But what are they really called to remind us of? Again using the words of St. John, that “God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we wait for the Christ child - born of the Virgin Mary, laid in a manger, a trough where animals feed. Jesus is now the food that will now feed the whole world. Three wise men, also known as the Magi, were seeking the one who would be King of the Nations. They brought the baby Jesus gifts of frankincense, Gold and myrrh. We also must bring the King a gift. And that gift can only be the gift of “unselfish love.” Some say that only “unselfish love” comes from God. But we are followers of Christ, called to imitate Him – to be like the teacher. So we must strive “To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”

CCC 524: When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. This is very interesting. Do we really have an “ardent” desire for the second coming of Jesus? Are we ready for that? This “second coming” or “final coming” is called the General Judgment, when, as Isaiah says, "the wolf shall live with the lamb.” the end of days. The belief in the general judgment has prevailed at all times and in all places within the Church.
At the end of time, Jesus the Christ will come to judge “the living” and the “dead.” Remember, there are two judgments, the Particular Judgment –when we die, and the General Judgment. (It is interesting to think that when we die, we leave the realm of time.” So do we experience the General Judgment immediately?)

As I said before, are we ready to meet Jesus at the Final or General Judgment? In last weeks Gospel reading from St. Matthew, Jesus says –“STAY AWAKE”!

If you knew your house was going to be broken in to, you would not sleep. Well, our house is being broken in to every day, every hour, and every moment. The evil one is a master locksmith. We must keep our doors locked! Change your locks often. How are we to keep ourselves safe and be ready to enter the Kingdom of God?

St. Paul has a few pointers in his Letter to the Romans: “throw off the works of darkness, put on the armor of light: Which means to put on Our Lord Jesus Christ – to put on His face. We must be the “mirror” of Christ to others. Do not think that you have to be a living saint to be that “mirror.” Catholic author from New Zealand, Brendan Roberts says: “Even if you feel like a broken mirror let others see the splendor and beauty of Christ in the shards. You may have to gather those shards together, for then the beauty will be greater than individual shards scattered from your heart.” People will know that you are a disciple of Christ by your ACTIONS! St. Paul says: “We should conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, promiscuity and lust, rivalry and jealousy.” These vices are attributes of our fallen human nature. So we follow Christ. And we build up our trust, our strength to overcome sin by persevering in PRAYER. Advent is the perfect time for us to renew our commitment to prayer. Conversing with God strengthens our faith, readies us for battle. It is a good time for us to embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To return to that “friendship” with the Lord.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” To enter the Kingdom of God, we must recognize Jesus in all our neighbors, those who love us, and those who hate us. Blessed Mother Teresa took Jesus’ words into her own heart. Why did mother spend her life feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for her neighbor?

Mother Teresa understood that Jesus is the hungry, is the naked, is the lonely, unwanted and unloved. Mother saw Jesus in the most distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor – physically poor and spiritually poor. In Mother’s own words “You and I, we are the Church, no? We have to share with our people. Suffering today is because people are hoarding, not giving, not sharing. Jesus made it very clear. Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me. Give a glass of water, you give it to me. Receive a little child, you receive me.” Love of neighbor is not just a feeling of “pity.” It must be a real compassion. And a real compassion is God’s love in action!

I mentioned before, there is also an in-between encounter with Our Lord, between The Incarnation and the Final Judgment. This is the encounter with Jesus in the every day – we encounter Jesus in the gift of family, in the faces of our children and grandchildren. We encounter Jesus in our living experience of love. We encounter Jesus in the communion of saints. We hold out our hand to Jesus, when he is on the street, sleeping in a cardboard box. We encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread. We encounter Jesus in all the Sacraments. We meet Jesus in our own suffering. How can we ever forget the sufferings our Lord accepted in obedience to the Father, to save us from our sins? We now offer our own sufferings to the Lord.

If we are resolute in our preparation to encounter Jesus, at His Birth, and at the end of the world, we will not be afraid. We will be ready to meet Him face to face.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior's coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stay Awake!


Stay Awake!


Be ready to meet the Lord



Not only at His birth, not only at the end of the world



Meet Him now in the poorest of the poor.

This is Jesus, in a most distressing disguise

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Saint Columbanus



Saint Columbanus

Saint Columbanus (540 – 23 November 615) was an Irish missionary notable for founding a number of monasteries on the European continent from around 590 in the Frankish and Lombard kingdoms, most notably Luxeuil (in present-day France) and Bobbio (Italy), and stands as an exemplar of Irish missionary activity in early medieval Europe.

Grant, O Lord, that the light of your love may never be dimmed within us.
Let it shine forth from our warmed hearts to comfort others
in times of peace and in seasons of adversity,
and in bright beams of your goodness and love
may we come at last to the vision of your glory;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Words from Francis Cardinal George



Here are some words by Cardinal Francis George regarding the deaths of Father Thaer Saad and Father Boutros Wassim, who were both slain as one celebrated Holy Mass and and the other hearing confessions in Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad.

“Our brothers in the priesthood, Father Thaer Saad and Father Boutros Wassim, were slain as one celebrated Mass and the other heard confessions,” Cardinal George said. “Father Thaer prayed and asked a terrorist to spare the lives of his parishioners before he died. Father Raphael [a third priest] moved parishioners to a safer location in the Church and was grievously wounded.”

In his final address as USCCB president;

We are not a national Church; we resist being transformed into a purely American denomination. I therefore cannot depart this position or leave you today without speaking of our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq. Ever since the capture of Baghdad, it has been clear to anyone of good will that, while Muslim groups might be in conflict with one another, it was uniquely the Christians who were without protection in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq. Now, at the end of last month, on the vigil of the feast of All Saints, in the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of our Lady of Deliverance in the city of Baghdad, many dozens of Catholics were killed as they gathered for Mass. Two were priests: one was killed at the altar and the other as he left the confessional. They are joined in death with hundreds of others who have died for their faith in Christ since the current conflict began. An American Dominican Sister, a friend of a friend, has written from that country: “Waves of grief have enveloped their world, surging along the fault lines created in Iraqi society by the displacement of thousands of Iraq’s Christian minority who have fled what is clearly a growing genocidal threat…One survivor was asked by a reporter, what do you say to the terrorists? Through his tears he said, ‘We forgive you.’…Among the victims of this senseless tragedy was a little boy named Adam. Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, ‘enough, enough, enough.’ According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered.” As bishops, as Americans, we cannot turn from this scene or allow the world to overlook it.

Dear brothers, we have all experienced challenges and even tragedies that tempt us to say at times, “enough.” Yet all of our efforts, our work, our failures and our sense of responsibility pale before the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in Iraq and the active persecution of Catholics in other parts of the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in China and in Vietnam, in Sudan and African countries rent by civil conflict. With their faces always before us, we stand before the Lord, collectively responsible for all those whom Jesus Christ died to save; and that is more than enough to define us as bishops and to keep us together in mission.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Love Your Neighbor

The crowds outside Shishu Bhavan on Christmas Day, waiting to be fed

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is time again to think about what we are doing in our lives. Do we love God? Are we loving God by loving our neighbors?

Blessed Mother Teresa says...

"It is not enough for us to say, "I love God." But I also have to love my neighbour. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbour. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realise that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in his image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on Christ," as Scripture tells us. And so we have been created to love as he loves us. Jesus makes himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and he says, "You did it to me." On the last day he will say to those on his right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me," and he will also say to those on his left, "whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for me."

When he was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst for everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts."

Photo by Verity Worthington

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI at Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela

On Saturday November 6th, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Holy Mass at the Plaza del Obradoiro, Santiago de Compostela - Spain. His homily was full of the Gospel message. We all can gain so much by reading and meditating on the writings of this wonderful and loving Pope. He is truly our Holy Father. I posted below an excerpt from the homily, but you can read it all via the link below.

"Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear, and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned by her best traditions: not only the biblical, at the basis of this order, but also the classical, the medieval and the modern, the matrix from which the great philosophical, literary, cultural and social masterpieces of Europe were born.

This God and this man were concretely and historically manifested in Christ. It is this Christ whom we can find all along the way to Compostela for, at every juncture, there is a cross which welcomes and points the way. The cross, which is the supreme sign of love brought to its extreme and hence both gift and pardon, must be our guiding star in the night of time. The cross and love, the cross and light have been synonymous in our history because Christ allowed himself to hang there in order to give us the supreme witness of his love, to invite us to forgiveness and reconciliation, to teach us how to overcome evil with good. So do not fail to learn the lessons of that Christ whom we encounter at the crossroads of our journey and our whole life, in whom God comes forth to meet us as our friend, father and guide. Blessed Cross, shine always upon the lands of Europe!

Allow me here to point out the glory of man, and to indicate the threats to his dignity resulting from the privation of his essential values and richness, and the marginalization and death visited upon the weakest and the poorest. One cannot worship God without taking care of his sons and daughters; and man cannot be served without asking who his Father is and answering the question about him. The Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilization and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents, and open to the living and true God, starting with the living and true man. This is what the Church wishes to contribute to Europe: to be watchful for God and for man, based on the understanding of both which is offered to us in Jesus Christ."

Link

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fr. Solanus Casey


Recently we enjoyed the canonization of André Bessette of Montreal. St. André spent most of his religious life as a porter. There are a few other saints who also acted as porter - Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., of the island of Majorca, Saint Nuno de Braganza of Portugal and for a time, Saint Padre Pio. Today we think of the Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey, who also lived life as a porter.

Brian Kelly writing in Catholicism.org says..


In 1924, Father Solanus was reassigned to St. Bonaventure’s where twenty-eight years before he had received the brown habit of a Capuchin. His reputation for sanctity, the gift of healing, and the ability to read souls had preceded his arrival, so, once again, he was given the porter’s post, and the crowds would line up after Mass to open their hearts to him and receive his blessing and advice. The humble porter’s apostolate was a cherished blessing to the monastery but it was also a trial, a welcome one, but still a bit burdensome. You see, a good number of the visitors needed to have their confessions heard and the humble doorkeeper had no faculties to forgive sins. Father Casey would spend almost his whole day with his needy children and the confession bell was rung frequently.

In his early years in religious life the holy porter had to work hard to discipline a nature that tended to be overly sensitive and impatient. Capuchin biographer, Michael H. Crosby, in his study, Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey, wrote that the emotional Irishman would “battle with feelings that could easily get expressed in anger, intolerance, and excessive concern over little things.” In his younger years, even in religious life, the humble friar was rather impulsive, thinking later and acting first, and sometimes too critical of others; yet when it came to himself he could be a bit defensive, and he didn’t mind compliments. With the help of God’s grace he completely overcame these tendencies and nurtured within himself a very congenial, humble, and patient disposition. Keeping in mind his own past sins helped forge the holy porter’s own deep humility of soul and it gave him patience in dealing with the sins of the tens of thousands who sought his counsel over the fifty years of his priestly labors. Casey was literally re-made through his cooperation with grace for this special vocation which God had prepared for him. At peace with God and, therefore, himself, he exuded peace to all who came seeking the “good things.”

* What I think we can learn from the good life of Fr. Solanus, is that whatever place or state of life we live, we can do great things. And if our faith is strong, God can perform many miracles through us.

O God, I adore You. I give myself to You.
May I be the person You want me to be,
and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave to Father Solanus.
If it is Your Will, bless us with the beatification of
Venerable Solanus so that others may imitate
and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,
I ask You, according to Your Will,
to hear my prayer for . . . (your intention)
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Imprimatur: Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit
March 31, 2007 © F.S.G. 3/07

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Bronxville Pieta


Last weekend I attended the wedding of a very close friend at the Church of St. Joseph in Bronxville, New York. In the foyer of the Church I noticed this striking work of art - the crucified Christ being held by his Mother. I was so moved by this work of art - I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TODAY "VOTE FOR LIFE"



Please, when you vote today, be sure he/she is a candidate that believes in the "right to life." From conception to natural death.



"The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as "good news" to the people of every age and culture.

At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this "great joy" is the Birth of the Saviour; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfilment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21).

When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that "new" and "eternal" life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this "life" that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.
" Evangelium vitae - John Paul II





Monday, November 1, 2010

Catholic Church attacked in Baghdad Iraq


Let us pray for all those effected by this terrible tragedy in Baghdad - especially for the two priests who are presumed dead, and all the faithful. Also for those heroes who are trying to relieve the pain of all who are suffering.

Out of CNN - Baghdad, Iraq

The death toll from a hostage standoff at a Catholic church in Baghdad has risen to 58, police officials with the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Monday.

Seventy-five others were wounded in the attack by armed gunmen Sunday, the officials said, adding that most of the casualties were women and children. Two priests were also among the dead as well as 17 security officers and five gunmen.

The hours-long standoff ended Sunday after Iraqi security forces stormed the Sayidat al-Nejat church. Eight suspects were arrested.

"All the marks point out that this incident carries the fingerprints of al Qaeda," Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qader Obeidi said on state television Sunday.

He said that most of the hostages were killed or wounded when the kidnappers set off explosives inside the church.

At least two of the attackers were wearing explosive vests, which they detonated just minutes before security forces raided the church, the police officials said.

The Islamic State of Iraq later claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement posted on a radical Islamic website. The umbrella group includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq.

"The Mujahedeens raided a filthy nest of the nests of polytheism, which has been long taken by the Christians of Iraq as a headquarter for a war against the religion of Islam and they were able by the grace of God and His glory to capture those were gathered in and to take full control of all its entrances," the group said on the website.

Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that he was praying "for the victims of this absurd violence -- all the more ferocious in that it hit defenseless people gathered in the house of the Lord, which is home to reconciliation and love."

Survivors of the ordeal said they were about to begin Sunday night services when the gunmen entered the church, according to Martin Chulov, a journalist for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper who was on the scene. A priest ushered the congregants into a backroom, Chulov reported that survivors said.

At one point, one of the gunmen entered the room and threw an unidentified explosive device inside, causing casualties, Chulov said.

The U.S. military spokesman said that as many as 120 people were taken hostage.

The gunmen seized the hostages after attacking the Baghdad Stock Market in the central part of the Iraqi capital earlier Sunday, police said. Four armed men entered the nearby Sayidat al-Nejat church after clashing with Iraqi security forces trying to repel the stock market attack.

Iraq's Interior Ministry told CNN that gunmen attacked the stock market to distract Iraqi security forces who were outside the church to protect it.

The gunmen were demanding that the Iraqi government release a number of detainees and prisoners inside Iraqi prisons, saying the Christian hostages would be freed in return, according to the police officials. Iraq's defense minister later said on state television that the kidnappers had demanded the release of a number of prisoners in both Iraq and Egypt.

Iraqi security forces sealed off the area surrounding the church, the officials said, and buildings were evacuated of civilians as a precautionary measure. At least 13 hostages, including two children, managed to escape ahead of the rescue operation, police said.

The Iraqi authorities ordered the attackers to release the hostages and to turn themselves in, warning that they would storm the church if they do not comply. A few hours passed quietly as military units took up positions outside the church, including several American units, said Chulov.

"Then all hell broke loose," he said. A firefight erupted, and Chulov said he heard three to four large explosions. Later, he saw about 20 ambulances race away from the scene.

The American military spokesman minimized the role that U.S. troops played in the operation.

"The U.S. only provided UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] support with video imagery. As always we have advisers with the ISF [Iraqi security forces] command teams," Bloom said.

While the U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially ended earlier this year, some 50,000 American troops are expected to remain in the country until the end of 2011 to train, assist and advise Iraqi troops.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallow's Eve



It's All Hallow's Eve. The weather this afternoon is cool and breezy, the skies are blue - and the trees are shedding their leaves. We are waiting for the treaters, but so far only one has arrived. I am sure after dinner, mom and dad will have their kids out in full costume - knocking on the doors expecting a handful of goodies thrown into their bags. Living out here in the suburbs, there are only so many goodies to be had. I grew up in a city, where there were plenty of apartment houses - enough candy to build a small mountain. I remember my bag so full - going home, emptying out the bag on my bed, then going out on another round. Trick or treating was certainly a lot of fun - memories that will last forever.


All Hallow's Eve or Hallowmas is also the eve of "All Saint's Day." A day in which we honor the saints, known and unknown. Think of all our loved ones, family members, friends - those who have gone before us. If they are in heaven - they are saints. And we can pray to them and ask for their help and guidance. We can ask them to pray for us. We are also blessed to have so many women and men who have been canonized in our time. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, Saint Padre Pio, Saint André Bessette. We have Blessed Mother Teresa who is surely a saint. We also have saints that are living among us. Those who love the poor and needy. Who practice compassion is so many ways, always in the name of Jesus. We can learn so much from them. We are all CALLED to be saints - to be holy.

Excerpt from "Lumen Gentium."

"all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love. Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world; for this world, as we see it, is passing away."

Friday, October 29, 2010

E-Letter from Fr. Luke, CFR



Pray for the grace to know your need.

The greatest obstacle in the spiritual life is not knowing your need for God, your need for a savior. In what ways am I in denial of my deepest need? If we are honest, we will discover that there is a part of us that does not like to acknowledge our need for God, our need for a savior. The hardness of heart which prevents spiritual growth is rooted in this unholy ignorance of the truth. If the truth “sets us free” then lies “hold us bound”. The idea that I do not need God, do not need a savior, is a damn lie.

An essential grace is to know your need for God, your need for a savior. “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else” (Luke 18:9). An honest self-assessment of one’s sins, weaknesses and failures can open the heart in humility to receive the life-giving healing that only comes from God’s grace.

Pray for the grace to know your need, to know it in your head and your heart.

God bless,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, New York, NY

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Castello di Trebbio


My friend Mary Ann shot this image on her recent trip to Italy. I absolutely love it. The earthy tones remind me of Andrew Wyeth. The splash of the blue bicycle in the center is awesome...

Here is some history of Castello di Trebbio from Mary Ann.

This estate is called Castello di Trebbio and it once belonged to the Pazzi family who happened to be great rivals of the Medici’s because they had banking institutions as well. The Pazzi’s plotted revenge against the Medici’s in this very building because without them in the picture they would be the most powerful banking family in all of Florence as well as the sole rulers. The Pope at the time (not sure which one though) sided with the Pazzi and vowed his allegiance to them because the Medici family refused to loan him any more money b/c this Pope was in so much debt. The Pazzi enticed him because they promised that no matter how much debt he had they would continue to loan him money. So, the Pazzi came up with a plan to kill both Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici in order to shake things up in the Medici world. This happened in the famous Duomo in Florence during the 15th century. They succeeded in killing Giuliano but Lorenzo survived and the Medici’s continued as the rulers of Florence. As per our tour guide, this conspiracy is just as important as the assasination of JFK because it rocked the Renaissance world. If the both Medici’s had been killed who knows what would have happened to Florence, to all the arts they commissioned as well as their banking empire. Also, after the Pazzi’s were captured and executed the Medici’s gave the Holy See two Popes; this was their revenge to the Vatican.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brother André Bessette, founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal



He was one of six new saints made by Pope Benedict XVI. Born Alfred Bessette into a large Catholic family in 1845 in the Quebec village of Saint-Grégoire d'Iberville, the baby was so frail as a newborn that his father, Isaac, didn't expect him to live for more than a day.

The Bessette family was besieged with tragedies. In 1855, when Alfred was 10 years old, his father died in a logging accident. In order to provide for her children, Alfred's mother was forced to separate them from each other and sent them to live with various members of their extended family. Only Alfred was able to stay with his mother due to his own delicate health. Two years later Madame Bessette died of tuberculosis.

After Alfred was orphaned, he lived with his aunt's family and was frequently sick as a young boy, rarely attending school. At age 18, he set out for the United States where he followed the path of many French-Canadians before him working for four years on farms, in factories and in textile mills in New England. Throughout his American sojourn, Alfred remained frail and sickly, as he searched for his real vocation.

In 1867 he returned to Canada, settling in the town of Sainte-Césaire in Quebec. He began helping Fr. André Provençal, the pastor of the local parish. In 1870, convinced that his young parishioner was surely being called by God, wise priest asked Alfred to consider religious life within the Congregation of Holy Cross. Alfred was 25 years old and reluctantly agreed to the advice of his mentor.

Fr. Provençal wrote to the superiors of the Congregation of Holy Cross: "I am sending you a saint."

When Alfred applied for vows, his religious superiors decided they could not accept him knowing that his poor health would be an impediment to future ministry. Alfred was devastated. A few weeks later, the Bishop of Montreal visited College Notre-Dame, which was also the location of the novitiate community. Alfred begged the Bishop to intercede with the Holy Cross superiors, saying "My only ambition is to serve God in the most humble tasks." The superiors relented and admitted Alfred to vows as a brother of Holy Cross. On February 2, 1874, Bessette's religious name, André, was given to him by his superiors. Alfred had chosen the name in honor of his parish priest who had a major influence on his life.

For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges. Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, "When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door." As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance did many menial tasks such as washing the floors and windows, cleaning lamps, bringing in the firewood and looking after the laundry of the students. He was also the students' barber.

Brother André urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance. Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. Brother André insisted, "I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph." While some supported him, many others opposed him and even considered him dangerous to the well being of the school's reputation because they regarded him as a charlatan. Others were concerned for the health of the children, fearing the possibility of contagion in the school spread from diseases carried by the sick who frequented Brother André. As the tensions increased at the College with so many of the sick coming to see the porter, the school officials permitted him to receive the sick in the nearby tramway station rather than the College.

The school's physician, Dr. Charette, slandered Brother André as a fraud, calling him "Brother Greaser" because of the St. Joseph oil André applied on the sick while he was praying with them. The doctor was soon to eat his own words. His wife fell ill and began to hemorrhage; no medical treatment could stop the bleeding. Fearing her imminent death, she begged her husband to seek Brother André's intercession. The doctor was upset with this request but accommodated his wife and asked Brother André to visit her and pray for her. His wife was miraculously healed. From that time on, Dr. Charette became one of André's supporters.

Brother André always had a strong devotion to St. Joseph, and in 1900 received permission to raise money for a shrine to St. Joseph. The first shelter was constructed in 1904. Holy Cross authorities allowed for a room to be added to the Chapel and Brother André was assigned to live in that room where he could receive pilgrims and pray for them. He spent his days seeing sick people who came to him, and spent his evenings visiting the sick who could not make it to the Oratory. Construction on what would become known as Saint Joseph's Oratory began in 1914. A crypt church seating 1,000 was completed in 1917. By the 1920's the Oratory hosted over one million pilgrims annually, and hundreds of cures were attributed to his prayers every year.

Brother André died in Montreal on January 6, 1937 without seeing the completion of his dream. Over a million people came to pay their respects around his mortal remains during the week following his death. He beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. On Oct. 17, 2010, Brother André Bessette was canonized, becoming the first male Canadian-born saint.

The miracle leading to his canonization occurred in 1999 when a nine-year old boy had been the victim of an automobile accident, leaving him with a serious cranial injury and putting him in an irreversible coma leading toward death. The prayers of the people closest to him, along with the intercession of Brother André, brought him back to consciousness and health, and this was deemed scientifically unexplainable by medical experts.

In his day, Brother André was a porter on Mount Royal. Now he is one of Heaven's special gatekeepers. He left us a powerful example of how to welcome strangers, the homeless, sick, poor and hungry into our communities. Some will come to our doors rejoicing, and others in fear; some will come healed and others to seek that healing. The important thing is that we open doors and build bridges to those who come, instead of erecting obstacles and barriers. As an adult, Brother André stood just five feet tall, yet he was a giant of faith, spirituality and humanity, whose shadow still hovers mightily over Montreal and Canada. In the humble porter's own words, "It is with the smallest brushes that the artists paint the most beautiful pictures." May Canada learn from this great, little man who was truly one of God's masterpieces in our time.

Link

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fr. Louis Marie Navaratne O.S.B.



Fr. Louis Marie Navaratne O.S.B. is a Benedictine Monk residing at Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, New Jersey. He is a holy man, a wonderful confessor. Fr. Louis is also an international expert on the Holy Shroud of Turin, a writer and poet. You can find out out more about Holy Face Monastery on the side bar of this blog. Here is his beautiful poem "Peacemaker."

Fr. Louis - "I wrote this poem during my Thanksgiving after Holy Communion. In my meditation I realized that the Body, Blood and Divinity of Jesus (Son of God the Creator) was within me. So, through, with and in Him, creative power was in my hands. Above all, I believed that I and each and everyone of us, have the power and the mission to create, to make PEACE.

In fact, each human being has the power and choice to either MAKE peace or war! So, I prayed to the Lord: "Let me be: a PEACEMAKER" I wish everyone else too -through this poem- would chose to be "peacemakers".

The Lord who said: "Blessed are the 'peacemakers'" will certainly reward us!"

PEACEMAKER

Made in Gods image
In His likeness
Power to create
In my hands

What I think
Say or do
Shapes
The situation

Past is gone
Future unknown
What NOW ?

My influence
On this journey
In MY SPACE
Makes a difference

Being creative
Using God's gifts
Receiving His PEACE
Let me be

A peacemaker !



Copyright © 2007 Fr. Louis Marie Navaratne O.S.B.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Robert Frost's October


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.



* Image Brookdale Park -Montclair, New Jersey ©bjm

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mastermind of Chilean miner rescue team to become deacon


Out of the Catholic news Agency...

Cypress, Texas, Oct 14, 2010 - On Wednesday, the world watched in anticipation as 33 Chilean miners finally began to emerge through a narrow shaft, drilled half a mile below the earth. The extraordinary man who helped save them, Drillers Supply International co-owner Greg Hall, is also training to become a deacon in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston next February. CNA spoke to his wife Angelica Hall (with whom he runs Drillers Supply) on Wednesday, about her husband's service to the Church, and the role their Catholic faith had played in helping them plan the rescue.

While the trapped miners were surviving on food rations lowered into a shaft too small to pull them to safety, Greg Hall was working --and praying-- to determine how a larger opening could be drilled. “We're prayerful people,” Angelica Hall remarked. “Prayer is a part of our daily life … and part of our community at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church.”

Mrs. Hall explained that her husband's drilling supply company, which opened its Chilean branch in 1993, normally provided the supplies for gold, copper and silver mines. But in almost 25 years of business, she said, “this is the first time that we were involved in a mine rescue.”

“There was a crossover from Greg's expertise and drilling in Chile, (and) what our parts and our drill pipe could do,” she explained. Hall's engineering expertise “was able to cross over in making a shaft to get to the miners.”


The unprecedented rescue took months of planning, since even the smallest error or miscalculation could have caused rocks to slide or cave in-- trapping the miners forever. Mrs. Hall said her husband was grateful to play his part, having volunteered his expertise after initially hearing that a rescue was unlikely.
“He's kind of a take-action guy,” she told CNA. “We try to help if we have the skills and the talents to help.” Both faith and service to others, she said, “have been a part of our entire marriage.”

The same risk-taking spirit will lead Mr. Hall to become Deacon Hall, on February 12 next year. His wife recalled how her husband was first “an usher-greeter, then he was a lector,” before being asked “if he'd ever considered the diaconate.” She said that although her husband hadn't thought about it, “we just went forward in faith a step at a time.”

“Our formation has been six years and we're in the last semester. Hopefully, Greg will be ordained February 12th.” With everything going on, she said, her family's life had been “quite an amazing ride.”

Noting the Biblical significance of 33 miners being pulled alive from their potential tomb after a 33 day drilling operation, Mrs. Hall told CNA that “the significance of that number” --the same number of years Jesus lived before his death and resurrection-- “has not been lost on us.”

She expressed amazement and gratitude that the opportunity to save dozens of lives had emerged in the ordinary course of “our everyday walk,” a fact that she said is proof that “God uses ordinary people in their ordinary lives.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mary MacKillop declared a saint


Out of ABC News...

Mary MacKillop has officially been declared Australia's first Catholic saint - Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross.

Pope Benedict addressed over 50,000 pilgrims who gathered at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican in Rome.

A ripple of joy passed through the thousands of Australians spread throughout the crowd when the announcement was made.

Speaking in Latin, the pope also canonised Canada's Brother Andre and four other saints from Italy, Poland and Spain and declared that "throughout the Church they be honoured devoutly among all the saints".

Reading out the many things for which Saint Mary was known, Archbishop Omata said she was dedicated to teaching.

"Notwithstanding many sorrowful trials the small community began to grow and to be diffused throughout the Australian continent and despite personal difficulties Sister Mary never lost the generosity of her spirit or her complete confidence in divine providence," he said.

About 9,000 Australians made the pilgrimage to Rome, including hundreds of nuns from the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the order that Saint Mary helped found.

"Oh, it's just wonderful," said Moya Campbell, 65, a Josephite sister dressed in the order's distinctive turquoise scarf.

"We've always believed that Mary was a saint."

Sister Campbell said Saint Mary's most important legacy for Australia was "the vision she had for education".

"She was the first one to go into rural areas. She saw the need."

In central Sydney, up to 4000 people packed the forecourt of Saint Mary's Cathedral to witness the canonisation ceremony.

Some families arrived around midday, setting up in front of the big screen that beamed the proceedings live from the Vatican.

Sydneysider Maria Cakarun was there with her mother and two young children and says it is an emotional event.

"Very cheery and just hoping that it all sort of bringeth home to a lot of Catholics about practising again," she said.

"It would be lovely to get more people back to the Church and actually believe the true belief, rather than just say cafeteria Catholics. I hope that her canonisation now will bring a lot of hope to a lot of Catholics that have maybe lost hope in the past."

The Sydney celebration was one of many around Australia, with thousands of people including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Victorian Premier John Brumby and many families and school groups flocking to the Exhibition building in Carlton throughout today.

A festival to celebrate Saint Mary's life and time in Melbourne was held this afternoon, before the crowd moved inside to watch the canonisation telecast from the Vatican.

In Penola, the small South Australian town where Saint Mary founded the order, about 8,000 people travelled to be part of the celebrations.

Over 5,000 took part in an open-air mass on the town's school oval, while more visitors wandered the streets, looking at sites of significance in Saint Mary's life.

Link