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Pope meets Sisters of Congregation founded by Mother Cabrini

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is an Italian-born saint who dedicated her life to helping thousands of Italian immigrants living in the United States during the late 19th century. She died in Chicago exactly one hundred years ago.

On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the religious congregation she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The congregation is present today on 6 continents and in 15 countries around the world.

Click below to hear the report by Seàn-Patrick Lovett

During his discourse in Italian, the Pope recalled the holiness of their Foundress and praised her tireless work with migrants and the poor. He held her up as an example for today, adding that the reality of migrants has evolved and is now “more current than ever”. Migrants, said the Pope, “need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied”. They need God, he said, “encountered in love that is freely given”. We must do as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini does, concluded Pope Francis: “be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person”.


Here is our English translation of the Pope’s address

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you, representatives of the Cabrini Family, who wish in this way to conclude the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of St Frances Xavier Cabrini. On December 17, 1917, this holy woman, who had crossed the ocean twenty-four times to assist migrants in the Americas, and who, untiringly, had gone as far as the Andes and Argentina, died suddenly in Chicago, and departed on her final journey.

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini the Missionary

St Cabrini was a true missionary. She had grown up keeping before her the example of St. Francis Xavier, the pioneer of evangelization in the East. In his heart he had China and in that distant land he hoped to bring the proclamation of the Gospel. He did not think of the thousands and thousands of emigrants who, because of hunger, lack of work and the absence of a future, embarked with their scant belongings to reach America, driven by the dream of a better life. As we know - and as she said - it was the vision of Pope Leo XIII who, jokingly, made her change course: "Not to the east, Cabrini, but to the West!". The young Mother Cabrini, who had just founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, needed to see where God was sending her on mission. Not to where she wanted to go, but to where He had prepared the way for her, the path of service and holiness. Here is the example of a true vocation: to forget oneself in order to surrender oneself fully to the love of God.

Migrants then and now

After so many years, the reality of migrants, to whom St Frances Xavier Cabrini dedicated her entire life, has evolved and is more current than ever. New faces of men, women and children, marked by so many forms of poverty and violence, appear before our eyes, hoping to find outstretched hands and welcoming hearts, like those of Mother Cabrini, along their way. In particular, you are offered the responsibility of being faithful to the mission of your Holy Foundress. Her charisma is of extraordinary actuality, because migrants certainly need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied; they need God, encountered in the freely given love of a woman who, with her consecrated heart, is your sister and mother.

“I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”

May the Lord renew always in you the attentive and merciful gaze towards the poor who live in our cities and our countries. Mother Cabrini had the courage to look into the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed youth who were tempted to commit crimes, the men and women exploited for the humblest jobs; and therefore today we are here to thank God for her holiness. In each of those brothers and sisters, she recognized the face of Christ and was able to put to good use the talents that the Lord had entrusted to her. She had a strong sense of apostolic action; and if she had such great energy to accomplish extraordinary work in a few years, it was only because of her union with Christ, following the model of St. Paul, from whom she took her motto: "I can do all things in Him who gives me strength".

Grasping the moment of grace

Mother Cabrini lived the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Step by step, hers was an existence wholly intended to console and make the Sacred Heart known and loved. And this made her able to look at the hearts of those who approached her and to assist them in a coherent way. This important anniversary is a powerful reminder to us all of the need for a faith that knows how to grasp the moment of grace that is lived. As difficult as it may seem, she tells us that we must do as she does: be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Vatican on Friday afternoon, headed for Rome’s central Piazza di Spagna in order to pay homage to the statue of the Immaculate Conception there.

Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett's report:

Surrounded by crowds of pilgrims, tourists and local Roman residents, the Pope recited a specially-composed Prayer to Our Lady in which he asked her, among other things, to help us “rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance and to recognize ourselves for what we really are: small and poor sinners” – but always Mary’s children.

The Pope’s visit to the memorial column dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, included the traditional blessing of a garland of flowers which Roman firemen placed on the statue of Our Lady which dominates the summit of the ancient marble column.

Visit to Basilica of Mary Major

On his way to Piazza di Spagna this year, Pope Francis also stopped to visit the Basilica of St Mary Major where he laid a floral wreath below the icon of Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady and the Christ Child. This is the same image the Pope always prays at both before and after his apostolic journeys abroad.

Alphonse Ratisbonne

Before returning to the Vatican later in the afternoon, Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.

It was here, 175 years ago, that a French Jew by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. At that moment, in the words of the Pope, “from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, he became a Christian”.

Even more so, following his conversion, Alphonse became a Jesuit priest and missionary and ended up cofounding his own religious Congregation dedicated to Our Lady of Sion.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis' prayer to Mary on the Immaculate Conception

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made his annual visit to Rome's Spanish Square on Friday to pray at the foot of the column and statue of the Immaculate Conception.

A litany of present-day viruses and their corresponding antibodies: this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ prayer, offered to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on Friday afternoon.

Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

The Pope recited the prayer before the column and statue of Mary, dedicated in 1857 to mark the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined by Pope Pius IX three years earlier. The dogma teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, by a special grace of God, was preserved from all stain of original sin.

Mary accompanies us on our journey

The text of the prayer begins by thanking Our Lady for accompanying different categories of humanity of their respective journeys: families, religious, workers, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and those who have immigrated to Rome “from places where there is war and hunger”.

Viruses of our time

The Pope then goes on to identify a series of what he calls “viruses of our times”, which range from indifference to fear of the foreigner, from hypocrisy to the exploitation of others. These must be combatted, said Pope Francis, with the “antibodies that come from the Gospel”.

Here is the full translated text of the prayer:

Immaculate Mother,

For the fifth time I come to your feet as Bishop of Rome,
to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city.

We want to thank you for the constant care
with which you accompany us on our journey,
the journey of families, parishes, religious communities;
the journey of those who daily, and sometimes with difficulty,
pass through Rome on their way to work;
the journey of the sick, the elderly, the poor,
the journey of so many people who immigrated here from places where there is war and hunger.

Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts,
or a fleeting glance, towards you,
or recite a quick Hail Mary,
we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.

O Mother, help this city develop the "antibodies" it needs
to combat some of the viruses of our times:
the indifference that says: "It’s not my business";
the unsociable behavior that despises the common good;
the fear of the foreigner and those who are different from us;
the conformism that disguises itself as transgression;
the hypocrisy that accuses others while doing the same things;
the resignation to environmental and ethical degradation;
the exploitation of so many men and women.

Help us to reject these and other viruses
with the antibodies that come from the Gospel.
Let us make it a good habit
to read a passage from the Gospel every day
and, following your example, to keep the Word of God in our hearts,
so that, like a good seed, it may fruit in our lives.

Immaculate Virgin,

175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, became a Christian.

You revealed yourself to him as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord's graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.

So, let us place our hand in yours
And allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior,
and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us
and forgiving us when we return to Him.

Thank you, Mother, for always listening to us!
Bless the Church that is in Rome.
Bless this City and the whole world.


(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at Angelus: ‘Mary is ever-green oasis of humanity’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis reflected on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception at his Angelus address on Friday, December 8th, as the Church celebrates the Marian Solemnity.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis said the words of the angel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke contain the key to understanding the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Pope said Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace”, even before pronouncing her name.

In this way, he said, God “reveals the new name, which God has given her and which befits her more than the one given by her parents.”

The Holy Father said “full of grace” means that “Mary is full of the presence of God”.

“And if she is entirely pervaded by God, there is no place in her for sin. This is extraordinary,” he said, “because unfortunately the whole world is contaminated by evil.”

Mary alone, he continued, is the “ever-green oasis” of humanity. She is “the only uncontaminated person, immaculately created to welcome fully – with her ‘yes’ – God who came into the world”.

Pope Francis went on to say that, when we call Mary “full of grace”, we are paying her “the greatest compliment, which is the same offered her by God.”

Because Mary is without sin, he said, she is immune to ageing, since “sin makes one old, not age”, and worthy of the name tota pulchra, or “all fair” or “completely beautiful”.

“Since her youth depends not on age, her beauty consists not on external appearances. Mary, as the day’s Gospel shows, does not excel in appearance. She is from a simple family; she lived humbly in Nazareth, an almost unknown place.”

Finally, Pope Francis reflected on the secret of the “beautiful life” lived by Mary, “full of grace”.

“In many paintings [of the Annunciation] Mary is depicted as seated before an angel with a little book. This book is the Scriptures. So Mary often listened to God and reflected with Him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, He took on flesh in her womb.”

The Holy Father invited all to ask for the grace “to remain young by saying ‘no’ to sin and to live a beautiful life by saying ‘yes’ to God.

(from Vatican Radio)

Four men ordained permanent deacons

Deacons Kyle Eller, Daniel Goshey, Michael Marvin, and Steven Odegard were ordained to the permanent diaconate Sunday, Nov. 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King. A near capacity crowd of family, friends, and faithful filled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary to witness the sacrament and celebrate.

In his welcoming remarks, Bishop Paul Sirba expressed gratitude for “the great blessing to the local church” that the four new deacons represent. In his homily, he referenced the Kingship of Jesus to draw a pronounced contrast between fallible secular leaders and the example of servant leadership set by Jesus. “We are called to be good leaders,” he said, noting that the newly ordained deacons should not be ”spectators but witnesses to the Gospel.”

From left, Deacons Daniel Goshey, Kyle Eller, Steven Odegard, and Michael Marvin pose with Bishop Paul Sirba following the diaconal ordination Nov. 26. The men will serve parishes in Crosby, Duluth, Hinckley, and Pine River. (Buzzy Winter / For The Northern Cross)

Looking to the words of Ezekiel from the first reading, Bishop Sirba outlined the new deacons’ roles. “Find the scattered sheep. Go to the fringes and find the lost. Help the priests in your parishes,” he said. Noting the rising number of “nones” (those who claim no religious affiliation at all), Bishop Sirba encouraged the deacons to “help them find Jesus.” Referencing Pope Francis’ call for prayers for the immigrant, the refugee, and the downtrodden of our world, Bishop Sirba reminded all of the faithful that [the Gospel of] “Matthew says we will be judged on how we love.”

Acknowledging the essential role that the deacons’ wives and families play not only in formation but as partners in the diaconate ministry, Bishop Sirba thanked them for their faith and support. He asked the faithful to “bless those called to the diaconate” and to pray for them. As he handed the Book of the Gospels to each newly ordained deacon, he charged them with this mission, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

From doubt to the diaconate

Deacon Eller grew up in Moose Lake and met his wife of 22 years, Sandy, at Augustana College. They have three children. Deacon Eller has worked for the Diocese of Duluth for 12 years as the editor of The Northern Cross and communications director.

Growing up as a “pretty serious Lutheran,” Deacon Eller fell away from his faith during college, where he became a “committed relativist and agnostic” who was nevertheless drawn to the Catholic faith as he sought answers to his doubts and questions about God, Jesus, and genuine belief in both. He eventually converted and joined the church.

His intermittent thoughts for several years about the diaconate led a spiritual director to encourage Deacon Eller to “discern more formally.” He said he was also inspired by the death of his middle daughter, Anna, at age 14 months. “It was an incredible privilege and grace to be with her,” he says, and it led him to “think about being present in a similar way with others.”

During the formation process, Deacon Eller says that “God made a way” through challenges, and he learned to trust in God and discover joy even when pulled out of his comfort zone.

Although professing to be an “introvert,” Deacon Eller says he looks most forward to “walk[ing] with people where they are and help[ing] them encounter Jesus” through his diaconal ministry. He has the unique honor of being the fourth deacon from St. Benedict’s Parish to be ordained in four years, and he will serve his home parish. “I’ve learned that discernment doesn’t end with ordination; in important ways, it’s just a beginning.” He says he’s experienced God’s presence, healing, and mercy and has eyes and “a heart for people who are on the fringes or maybe seem a little cast off.”

Surrendering to God

As the youngest of 11 children growing up in St. Paul, Deacon Goshey lived a typical “cradle Catholic” life. He received the sacraments, including marriage, at his home parish of the Church of the Holy Childhood in St. Paul, where he attended the parish school until eighth grade and was also an altar server, reader, and choir member. Serving in these parish roles stirred in him the beginnings of a vocational call when he was a teenager, although he was unsure about the priesthood and “had never heard of a deacon.” Although feeling conflicted, he felt the call to marriage and family life was stronger than to the priesthood, and he married his high school sweetheart, Julie, with whom he shares two children. As Deacon Goshey pursued his radio broadcasting career and raised a family, however, “the call to be of more service to the church never really went away.”

After a move to Crosby, Deacon Goshey and his family joined the parish of St. Joseph, where he met Deacon Phil Mayer and began to learn about the diaconate. Through 15 years of conversation, discernment, and spiritual direction from both Deacon Mayer and his pastor, Deacon Goshey entered the formation process, which he describes as “a series of surrenders. First I surrendered my agenda, then my deficiencies and weaknesses, then my sinfulness, then my agenda again, then my personal preferences in life …, then my agenda again, then my fears, then my agenda again.” He described the journey as one of “finding layers of myself that I had been clinging to” and then sometimes loosening his grip on them, and sometimes having God rip them out of his hands. Because of learning challenges, Deacon Goshey found the academic preparation of formation to be quite challenging, and the effort it took to master it contributed to the depth of the transformation he felt. “Life these last five years has been the most difficult and challenging [time] of my whole life, yet I have never been more at peace and joy-filled.”

Throughout the discernment and formation journey, Deacon Goshey credits his wife Julie with the strongest “earthly” support and influence he felt. “Not only has she supported me in this process, and accompanied me through the green pastures and the dark valleys, but there have been times when she was actively leading me where I was afraid to go,” he said. This unwavering support has led to what Deacon Goshey describes as “the greatest gift of all — the transformation of our marriage.” Because wives of deacon candidates attend all of the same classes as their husbands, their role is as crucial to the formation process as all the other aspects of it. Julie’s commitment to her husband’s formation is all the more remarkable because she was not Catholic when he began formation. As the process went on, Deacon Goshey said his wife came to him and said “she was also feeling a call to the church and couldn’t stay away any longer.” Now, they will serve their home parish of St. Joseph, in Crosby and Deerwood, together as a team.

As to his future ministry, Deacon Goshey hopes to help simplify and relate the message of God and his church to those who may find it hard to understand. He says sometimes even the vocabulary used in the church leaves people like him with a ‘deer in the headlights’ look and hopes to use his public speaking skills, sense of humor, and joyful heart to try to connect with people. “The Lord has given me compassion and empathy and a true desire to help others know the love of God.”

Vision for the word of God

In the practice of optometry, Dr. Marvin helps his patients see the world more clearly. As a convert to the faith, Deacon Marvin’s own journey to the diaconate was filled with scrutiny and scholarship, which overcame his doubts and sealed his beliefs. As a newly ordained deacon, he will bring those he ministers to a clearer vision of God’s Word and deeper understanding of the Catholic faith.

Deacon Marvin grew up in Brainerd as the fourth of six children in a close-knit family. He describes his family as “loose Christians” who irregularly attended a Congregational church. After graduation from the University of Minnesota Duluth and then optometry school in Oregon, he married his high school sweetheart Carrie, and started practicing in the Brainerd Lakes-Pine River area, where he continues to practice today. He and Carrie raised four children, all of whom are married, and have six grandchildren.

It was through Carrie and her family, “serious Catholics,” as he describes them, that Deacon Marvin began to learn more about Catholicism. Before his marriage, Deacon Marvin’s father advised him “not to become Catholic just because it would be easy …. Instead, he suggested I should wait and convert [only] when, and if, I truly believed in Catholicism.”

As their family grew and he continued to attend Mass with his wife, he began to take faith more seriously and attended some Promise Keeper stadium events. After experiencing questioning of the validity of Catholicism, Deacon Marvin felt “pushed to the point of needing to determine the true Christian faith as revealed by Jesus Christ.” After exploration, study, and reflection, Deacon Marvin found that “Catholicism was the clear winner,” and he converted to the faith.

At the time of his conversion, Carrie’s mother suggested that he should consider becoming a deacon, which he did, off and on for several years, and then let it go. Then, one day while praying before morning Mass, Deacon Marvin said a “from out of nowhere a thought came into my mind: ‘You should consider becoming a deacon.’” Stunned into disbelief, he and his wife discussed the idea that evening and decided together to “answer God’s call and pursue the permanent diaconate.” In addition to his and his wife’s parents, Deacon Marvin also credits Father Mitch Pacwa and Father Larry Richards as influences on his faith.

Deacon Marvin says he considered the coursework for formation “challenging but rewarding” and says it “dramatically broadened my understanding of Catholicism.” As members of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Pine River, which is part of the Lakes Area Parishes, Deacon Marvin and Carrie will be serving their parish alongside Father Mike Patullo. Deacon Marvin hopes to assist with RCIA, adult education, marriage preparation, and the homebound ministry.

Divine chain of command

As a military man, Deacon Odegard understood what it meant to respect the chain of command. As a Missouri Synod Lutheran married to a Catholic woman, he began to wonder about which version of Christianity was truly “commanded” by God. After a long period of exploration and questioning, Deacon Odegard found the answer he had been seeking.

Deacon Odegard was born and raised in Pine City. During a five year stint in the Air Force, he met and married his wife, Mary. After leaving the service, Deacon Odegard and Mary moved back to Minnesota, with plans of “staying only for a year.” Five children and more than 30 years later, Mary and Deacon Odegard live on a 12-acre farmstead in Pine City and have recently started a new career in the winery business. After their move, Mary decided that she wanted their children to be “raised in one church,” so she became a Lutheran. She spent 19 years in the Lutheran church and then returned to her Catholic faith, which prompted her husband to question what church was the true church of Christ. Deacon Odegard’s journey to Catholicism was all about the heavenly “chain of command,” a concept he understood from his years in the military. He says when he “realized it was not the congregation” that received the keys from Christ but Peter, his conversion was complete. He entered the church on Pentecost in 2006.

Shortly after his conversion to the faith, his pastor at the time encouraged Deacon Odegard to consider a calling to the diaconate. As he explored the inquiry process with Deacon Daniel Schultz, he says his decision was “solidified.” The formation process was “challenging and lengthy” for Deacon Odegard. He began in 2007, but because of pressing family issues had to pause his formation training for two years. In retrospect, Deacon Odegard says, “it was the best thing we could have done,” as he and Mary were able to attend to their family’s needs and are happy to have them positively resolved. Although the “academics were hard,” Deacon Odegard says he “learned so much about the church and [its] tradition.”

He is looking forward to beginning his ministry, serving with his pastor, Father Joseph Sirba, and Deacon Jim Mostek at his home parish of St. Patrick’s Church in Hinckley, but says he is “patiently awaiting the graces God will give me at ordination so that through me, the Holy Spirit can bring more to Christ.”

— By Kris Jarocki / For The Northern Cross

Bishop Paul Sirba: Here are some passages of Scripture to pray with this Advent

Sometimes we are left wanting more. Hopefully, Advent is a season like that for us! We should long for the coming of the Messiah. Advent has a two-fold character. It is a preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas and expectation for the Lord’s return in glory. Like the appearance of the star of Bethlehem, it is a flash, a brilliance of grace and light, found in silence and waiting.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

This year our watch is cut short. The fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. This is Advent at its shortest ebb. Be mindful of the days. Now don’t get any ideas of skipping Mass on the fourth Sunday. The faithful are obliged to attend Mass at least twice; at least once for the fourth Sunday of Advent (which can be anticipated on Saturday, December 23) and at least once for Christmas. Sorry, no “two for one” deal, but who would want to miss out on the free gift!

The Church assists our Advent preparations by remembering and proclaiming salvation history in the Sacred Scriptures. Take a passage like Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” What is referred to as the protoevangelium, or the “first Gospel,” is the passage containing the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind. Prayerfully reflect on God’s merciful love in bringing good out of Adam and Eve’s sin. Thank God for the gift of the Sacrament of Confession and make time to go.

Pray with Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” Israel’s unfaithfulness does not prevent God’s initiative. For the Christian the Incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s desire to be with us. Emmanuel means “God is with us.” He is with us today in the midst of natural disasters, sin, and apathy. May our charitable response be not only a financial gift but a joyful encounter with the poor, personally.

How about spending some silent moments with Micah 5:1-2? “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.” Salvation will come through an anointed ruler. The greatest gift comes from the smallest and most out of the way place. God in hidden majesty lies before us each and every day. Do we see Him? Do we look for Him?

Look up for yourselves the passages Numbers 24:7; Deuteronomy 18:15; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11: 1-10; Jeremiah 23:5; Malachi 3:1. Open your heart to God’s love for you in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament during these short Advent days of waiting. Find meaning for your life.

I also encourage you to accompany someone back to Mass this Christmas. Pope Francis has been reminding us again and again to accompany our brothers and sisters on the walk of faith. Jesus Christ is the light of our world and our lives. Only He can bring us peace. Souls can be transformed when someone, namely you and me, can be an instrument, a friend to accompany them on the journey.

Sometimes we are left wanting more. Jesus is the more we are made for and long for. Come, Lord Jesus!

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Pope thanks donors of St. Peter’s Square Christmas Crib and tree

“The Nativity Scene is the suggestive place where we contemplate Jesus, who having assumed our wretchedness, invites us to do likewise through our acts of mercy.”  Pope Francis made the reflection on Thursday while thanking all those who donated this year’s Nativity Scene on the theme of works of mercy and the 28 meter tall ‎Christmas tree set up in the centre of St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The Pope wished that the birth of the Lord be an occasion for all to be attentive to the needs of the poor and all those who like Jesus don't’ find anyone to welcome them. 

Listen to our report:

The Pope met some 4000 people of various donor delegations at the Vatican’s audience hall.  They represented the southern Italian Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine that donated the Nativity Scene, Poland’s Warmia Archdiocese and Elk Diocese that donated the red fir tree and children undergoing cancer treatment in various Italian hospitals who made the various decorations.

Commenting on the Christmas tree, the Pope said it is a sign of the faith of the Polish people and the expression of their fidelity to the see of Peter.  Thanking the children he said they have conveyed to Jesus their dreams and desires through their decorations which, he said, will be admired by pilgrims from all over the world.  

Message of Crib, Christmas tree

The Pope said that each year the Christmas Crib and the Christmas tree become a symbol of the compassion of the heavenly Father, and his participation and closeness with humanity that feels it is not abandoned in the night of the times but is visited and accompanied amidst its difficulties. 

The tree pointing up, he said, urges us to stretch out "towards the highest gifts", and rise above the mist that clouds, to feel how beautiful and joyous it is to be immersed in the light of Christ. In the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God, manifested in that of the Child Jesus.

St. Peter's Christmas Crib and Christmas tree were to be inaugurated later on Thursday. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis meets new president of Lutheran World Federation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Thursday with the new president of the Lutheran World Federation, Nigerian Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus, focusing on common prayer as the key to Christian unity.

Recalling his own visit to the Swedish cities of Lund and Malmo last year for the shared commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the pope said praying together purifies, strengthens and lights our way forward. Prayer, he insisted, is the fuel for our ecumenical journey.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

Through prayer, the pope continued, we are able to see the painful divisions of past ceneturies in a new light, abandoning our prejudices, purifying our memories and looking to the future with confidence. Through prayer, he said, we are called to recognize the gifts of our different traditions and receive them as our shared Christian heritage.

Reformation anniversary 'a turning point'

In his words to Pope Francis, Archbishop Musa also gave thanks for the past 50 years of progress ‘from conflict to communion’, acknowledging in a special way the importance of praying together to commemorate the Reformation anniversary.

Your presence and participation in the Joint Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund was a precious gift for us. It marked the significant turning point at which Catholics and Lutherans are today”.

Concrete steps to unity

Before praying the Our Father together, Pope Francis urged the Lutheran delegation, including the seven regional vice-presidents, to continue on the road to full unity, never giving in to the temptations to become tired, lazy or fearful. Good ideas are not enough, he said, but instead we must take concrete steps and hold out hour hands, working together to support the poorest and most needy as we witness together to the presence of God in our world.

(from Vatican Radio)

Daughter of St. Gianna Molla comes to Duluth

It’s not every day you meet the daughter of a canonized saint. But 300 to 350 people were there to do so when Dr. Gianna Emanue- la Molla appeared at St. John the Evangelist Church in Duluth Oct. 30 to speak about her “saint Mom and holy Dad” and a project to preserve and restore the family home in Italy.

Dr. Molla is the daughter of Pietro and St. Gianna Beretta Molla. The saint, a physi- cian like her daughter, died in 1962 a week after giving birth to her namesake. During her pregnancy, St. Gianna was diagnosed with a tumor and given three possible courses of treatment. She chose the “riskiest solution” and insisted on putting her child’s life first, her daughter told the standing-room-only crowd at St. John’s.

Dr. Gianna Molla
Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, embraces a member of the faithful who greeted her after a presentation at St. John the Evangelist in Duluth Oct. 30. (Photo courtesy of Mary Rasch)

“And my Dad respected Mom’s decision,” she said. “My life was saved, and Mom went on living another seven months before the delivery.”

There was a week of “agony” after the deliv- ery as complications arose, and as it became clear God was calling her to Paradise, St. Gi- anna decided she did not want to die at the hospital and returned to the family home, where she died at age 39.

“I would not be here with you this evening if I had not been loved so much,” Dr. Molla said.

She began her presentation, which followed an evening Mass, by reading from some of the beautiful letters her parents had written to each other both during their marriage and during their courtship. She said she had also come to learn more about her mother when she spent seven years caring for her father from the time he became ill at age 90 until he died at nearly 98 years of age.

During that time, St. Gianna was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II, and Pietro was able to attend. Dr. Molla said she was happy to see a statue of St. John Paul II, the pope who both beatified and canonized her mother, in the church.

She noted that her mother has been called a “saint of everyday life.”

She said she feels “very moved and touched” to hear about graces received through her mother’s intercession, and that the most common of these is babies. She hears from married couples who cannot have children or have had many miscarriages. “They pray to Mom, and they have a child.”

“I’m happy to take into my arms these babies,” she said.

Dr. Molla said both of her parents came from deeply Christian parents and big families with great faith and great devotion to the Virgin Mary, and who loved and served their neighbors. Both of her parents prayed for holy spouses and wrote in their letters to each other of their shared faith.

Dr. Molla said that in one of her letters to Pietro, St. Gianna wrote, “I was always told that the secret of happiness is to live moment by moment, and to thank the Lord for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.”

She also wrote that she wanted God to make their family a “little Cenacle,” referring to the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper, where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, where the early church met and prayed together, and where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost.

“Mom and Dad truly lived the sacrament of marriage as a vocation and as a path towards holiness,” Dr. Molla said. “They always lived their life in the light of faith.”

She said she has learned several lessons from the holy lives of her parents. She said it’s important to “live a life of Christian witness.”

She also spoke of the Way of the Cross as being the right way to follow Jesus and also the way of joy. “Even walking along the Way of the Cross, we can live in joy,” she said.

Finally, she said that she has learned from her parents the sacredness of life — from the moment of conception, as her mother, a patron saint of the pro-life movement, teaches, to the moment of death, as her father’s long life teaches.

“I pray to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary to be as worthy as is possible for me of my ‘saint Mom’ and my ‘holy Dad,’” she said.

Dr. Molla also spoke of plans to restore the family home and nearby property, including a small church, as a holy site. Plans include a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament present, a place for a religious order, and the Saint Gianna Beretta Molla International Center, dedicated to life and family.

Father Richard Kunst, the pastor of St. John’s, who organized the visit and other appearances by Dr. Molla during a three-day stay in Duluth, urged donations. He said that the visit raised just over $56,000, most of it in a private dinner the night before her appearance in the parish.

After her talk, Dr. Molla greeted members of the faithful individually and posed for pictures, including one with several Giannas who were named for her “saint Mom.”

— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

First Sunday of Advent Year B Latin Mass

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Dec. 3, 2017 Noon Mass