Sunday, December 21, 2014

Unique Nativity Scenes on display in Rome




The tradition of setting up nativity scenes was actually born in Italy, thanks to St. Francis of Assisi. So, it doesn't get more Italian than this: A nativity scene, shepherds and all, made out of pasta.

It's just one of hundreds of original designs, on display at a yearly Christmas exhibit titled "100 Nativity Sets.”

MARIA MENAGLIA
100 Presepi (Rome)
"This year we have 212 of them on display. They are all new and they came from 42 different countries. From Italy alone, we have some from 14 regions. They represent all the culture of the world.”

Even though the exhibit is based in Europe, Latin American has a strong presence. Countries like Mexico, Colombia and Peru put forth their best work for the show.

Displays like these prove that a tradition that started centuries ago, is still very much alive today on a global scale.

MARIA MENAGLIA
100 Presepi (Rome)
"In the 60's this tradition was dying in Italy. The Christmas tree was more fashionable back then. So my father came up with the idea of this exhibit.  He loved tradition, especially the Nativity Scene. We had ours every year.”

So from now until January 6th, all locals and plenty of visitors will have the chance to head out to Rome's Piazza del Poppolo to see how this old tradition, is still very much alive. A tradition that stems from celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

Via Rome Reports.

Catholic Fire's 11th Blogiversary!!!



Today is the 11th anniversary of my first post on Catholic Fire! Thank you for reading Catholic Fire and for your comments here. This is the busy time of the year when people aren't visiting here too often because they are off preparing to celebrate Christmas, but if you do happen to drop by, I would love it if you would leave a comment. Yes, I do like feedback, preferably the positive kind. I will probably be blogging right up to Christmas, so keep on stopping by. I appreciate you so much!  God bless you!

Catholic Christmas Gifts for The Five Senses



1. Sound --Beautiful Christmas music from the Dominican Sisters in Nashville (FREE)

2. Sight -Gorgeous Christmas Nativity Paintings (FREE), 10 Videos to Warm Your Heart This Christmas

3. Taste -- Chocolate Gingerbread Truffles (gluten-free, dairy-free),Chocolate Pepperment Cookies , Cherry Cheese Coffee Cake for Christmas , and More (INEXPENSIVE)

4. Touch -- Christmas Crafts, Festive Candle Holder (INEXPENSIVE)

5. Smell -- Frankincense Oil and More  (MODERATELY PRICED)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blessed Pope Urban V: Humble Peacemaker


A native of France, Pope Urban V was born Guillaume de Grimoard at Grisac in Languedoc in 1310. Born of a knightly family, he was educated at Montpellier and Toulouse. He studied canon law and theology and became a Benedictine monk. He was one of the greatest canonists of his day; was professor of canon law at Montpellier, and also taught at Toulouse, Paris, and Avignon.

He was named abbot of his monastery in 1352, served as a papal diplomat, and was sent as an ambassador to various locations. He also served as a bishop.

He was elected pope in 1362 while on diplomatic business, even though he was not a cardinal. Guillaume de Grimoard was chosen for his virtue and learning, and for his skill in practical affairs of government and diplomacy. In spite of his great intellect, he was a humble man who lived simply and modestly in contrast to other clergymen of that time who preferred comfort and luxury. He was a great lover of peace and his papacy was blessed by his peacekeeping activity between the French and Italian kings. He also the established many universities,expressed great zeal for the Crusades and decided to return the papacy to Rome and end the Avignon exile of the popes.

However, the breakout of war between England and France, forced him to return to Avignon on a peacekeeping mission. On his return to Avignon he died, and his body, which had been buried at Avignon was then transferred to Marseille according to his own wishes, and his tomb became the site of many miracles. He died on December 19, 1370.

He always had a Benedictine spirit and even wore his monk’s habit as pope. His virtue and honesty were noted, especially in a Europe plagued by scandal and corruption.

It is said that as he lay dying he called the people to surround his deathbed saying “the people must see how popes die.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dominican Sisters: Singing the Rosary


The Dominican Sisters of Mary in Ann Arbor, Mich., have released a new music album centered on the rosary. These Sisters have such heavenly voices!

Blessed Anthony Grassi



Anthony Grassi was born in 1592, in Fermo, Italy. Anthony was the oldest child of five born to a devout middle class family. He was a congenial and clever boy, who was well-liked by his teachers and peers. Anthony’s father died when he was only ten and afterwards, Anthony suffered a long illness. When he recovered, he began frequenting the local church of the Oratorian Fathers (founded by St. Philip Neri), joining the religious order when he was 17.

Anthony's love of learning made his studies for the priesthood a pleasurable time in his life. His excellent memory made it possible for him to acquire an extensive knowledge of the Bible, the Fathers of the Church, and the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He was a like a “walking encyclopedia” of Catholic information.

Each year, Anthony made a pilgrimage to the holy house of Loreto, which was only twenty miles away. On one such visit in 1621 at age 29, he was struck by lightning and knocked unconscious. He received the anointing of the sick and the doctors gave him little hope of healing. But God had other plans. Anthony was completely cured through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and from that time on, he acknowledged his total dependence on God and strived to dedicate himself completely to His Will.

Blessed Anthony was known for visiting the sick and the dying. He knew that nothing in this life is permanent, that there is no point in trying to find our complete happiness here, but that we must seek it from God in heaven. In 1671, as Blessed Anthony lay dying he said with great joy, "What a beautiful thing it is to die a son of Saint Philip."

Quote

“He who loves Our Lord Jesus Christ must desire to be with Him…the more we conform ourselves to His example the more perfect will be our lives.” -- Blessed Anthony Grassi

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Enter to Win The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living



This week, Catholic Mom is giving away five copies of The Grace of Yes : Eight Virtues for Generous Living by Lisa Hendey along with a signed copy for one lucky winner. Go HERE to enter!

Pope gets surprised on his 78th birthday!




Getting a good spot in St. Peter's Square isn't always easy. But, a group of seminarians managed to not only get front row seats-they also managed to bring in a cake for the Pope's birthday, candles and all....

JOSUÉ MARÍA HERNÁNDEZ
Seminarian
"We thought about it yesterday. So, we quickly made the cake and brought it here to the audience this morning. We don't know a lot about cooking, but we wanted to make the Pope feel special. The cake was made of apricot jam and whipped cream with blue icing. We wrote, Happy 78th birthday Pope Francis!.”

The celebration didn't stop there. The Pope also greeted a large group of about 300 seminarians and took a few sips of Argentinian maté tea.

"We are seminarians here in Rome.”
"On Saturday, 35 priests from the Legion of Christ were ordained.”

Among the seminarians was Raúl, who brought the Pope an image of Our Lady.

RAUL LANSING
Seminarian
"This little statue of Our Lady is from Germany, close to where Benedict XVI is from. I thought, when the Pope comes around, I will give it to him as a gift. We were just standing there, but he came up to us and started talking. We told them we were from the Legion of Christ and then I told him I had brought the statue of Our Lady as a gift for him. He said, 'No, no. Keep it and when you see it pray for me'”

There were a few other surprises in store. When the Pope left the Square, a massive crowd danced tango as a gift to the Argentinian Pope.

Best Catholic Books for Christmas Gifts 2014



1. Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures by Fr. Donald Calloway -- Ignatius Press, 2014

I have this book and love it! It is one of the most inspirational books I have read! Beautiful photos, uplifting quotes from the saints about Mary, all make this an ideal Christmas gift.








4. St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Everett -- Totus Tuus Press and Lighthouse Media, 2014




This is the perfect book for family communication and reflection! It is power-packed with great stories on Pope St. John Paul II that you will love reading!



6. Prayer Works: Getting a Grip on Catholic Spirituality by Matthew Leonard -- Our Sunday Visitor, 2014


7.  Seven Saints for Seven Virtues by Jean M. Heimann -- Servant Books, 2014 

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Adelaide: Patron of Abuse Victims



The Saint of the day for December 16th is St. Adelaide of Burgundy, a marvel of grace and beauty, according to her spiritual director and biographer, St. Odilon of Cluny. She was born a princess in 1931 and was to become not only the Queen of Italy, but the Empress of Italy. More importantly, Adelaide lived a holy life, which wasn't an easy task, given her circumstances in life, and was later canonized a saint.

The daughter of King Rupert II of Burgundy, France, at age 16, she married Lothar of Italy, who became king of Italy. She was widowed in 950 while still a teenager. Lothar was thought to be poisoned by his successor to the throne, Berengarius. As part of his attempt to solidify his grip on power, Berengarius ordered Adelaide to marry his son; but she refused, and was imprisoned.

A priest came and dug a tunnel to where she was being kept and helped her escape from prison. She remained hidden in the woods until the Duke of Canossa carried her to his castle. During this time the Italians had turned against Berengarius and had compelled the German king, Otto the Great, to invade Italy. His invasion was successful and while in Canossa he met Adelaide and ended up marrying her on Christmas Day, 951 at Pavia. He was crowned Emperor in Rome in 952, and Adelaide reigned with him for 20 years. Widowed in 973, she was treated poorly by her step-son, Emperor Otto II, and his wife Theophano, but eventually reconciled with them.

When Otto II died in 983, he was succeeded by his infant son, Otto III. Theophano acted as a regent, and since she still did not like Adelaide, used her power to exile her from the royal court. Theophano died in 991, and Adelaide returned once again to the court to act as regent for the child emperor. She used her position and power to help the poor, evangelize, especially among the Slavs, and to build and restore monasteries and churches. When Otto III was old enough, Adelaide retired to the convent of Selta near Cologne. Though she never became a nun, she spent the rest of her days there in prayer.

She died on December 16, 999 of natural causes and was canonized by Pope Urban II in 1097. Her feast day is kept in many German dioceses. She is the patron of: abuse victims, brides, in-law problems, parenthood, second marriages, step-parents, and widows.

Christmas Novena starts December 16



The following Christmas Novena begins December 16 and is prayed for nine consecutive days. It  is suggested for private use with the family. The three leader parts, Father, Eldest Child and Mother may be adjusted to fit your family situation or to use in a classroom, parish or prayer group.

The Christmas Novena
All: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Our Father... Hail Mary...

Father: O Lord, Open my lips.

All: And my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.

Father: O God, come to my assistance.

All: O Lord, make haste to help us. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

Father: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

All: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Rejoice, O Daughter of Sion, and exult, O Daughter of Jerusalem.

All: The Lord our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Behold, He that is God and man shall come forth from the house of David, His Father, to sit upon His throne, and you shall see Him and your heart shall rejoice.

All: Hasten to adore.

Eldest child: Behold, the Lord shall come, our Protector, the Holy One of Israel, bearing on His head the crown of the Kingdom.

All: The Lord Our Coming King, hasten to adore.

Eldest child: The Lord will descend, as rain on the field. His justice shall rise in those days, and all the kings of the earth shall adore Him, all nations shall serve Him.

All: Hasten to adore.

Eldest child: A child shall be born to us, and He shall be called the God of strength. Bethlehem, city of the Highest God, out from you shall go forth the ruler of Israel, and peace will be on the earth, when He shall have come.

All: The Lord our coming King, hasten to adore.

Father : Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

All: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All: The Lord, our Coming King. Hasten to adore.

All: Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia!

Father: Let the heavens rejoice and the earth exult. Praise the Lord, you mountains.

All: Let the mountains break forth into gladness, and the hills with justice.

Father: For the Lord shall come and to the poor He shall show mercy.

All: Drop down dew, you heavens, from above and let the clouds rain down the Just One;

Father: Let the earth be opened and bud forth the Savior.

All: Be mindful of us, O Lord, and visit us in Your salvation.

Father: Show to us, O Lord, Your mercy, and grant us your salvation.

All: Come, O Lord, in peace visit us that with a perfect heart we may rejoice before You.

Father: Come, O Lord, do not tarry; do away with the offenses of Your people.

All: Come and show to us Your countenance, O Lord. You sit upon the cherubim.

Father: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

All: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All : Blow ye the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh; behold, He will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.

Reading
[Isaiah 35:1-7a ]
Mother: A reading from the prophet Isaiah: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the rose it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the weak knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance with the recompense of God. He will come and save you."

Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.

All: Thanks be to God.

(On Dec. 16, continue: "Behold a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel, Alleluia, Alleluia." Each day thereafter until Christmas, say the O Antiphon of the day.)

The Magnificat
[Luke 1:46-55 RSV]
Father: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

All: For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed,

Father: For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

All: And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

Father: He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,

All: He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted those of low degree;

Father: He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

All: He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.

Father: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his posterity forever.

All: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Father: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

All: (repeat the O Antiphon of the day)

Concluding Prayers
Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come to You.

Father: Let us pray. Stir up Thy power and come, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and with great might help us. May our deliverance, which our sins impede, be hastened by the help of Thy grace and the forgiveness of Thy mercy. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

All: Amen.

Father: Let us bless the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God.

Father: May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

All: Amen.

All: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

The "Great O's"
The final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great O Antiphons of Advent on the evening of December 17. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The O Antiphons are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.

A vestige of the "Great O's" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".

Families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of liturgical poetry and use them in their evening prayers. An O Antiphon House similar to an Advent Calendar, can be made, with seven windows, each concealing an appropriate symbol for each O Antiphon, and an eighth window hiding the Nativity scene. As with an Advent calendar, one window is opened each day.

The sublime meditation of the Great O's would be excellent for families with children who have outgrown the Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. In any case, they are beautiful additions to your family prayers in the days just before Christmas.

The O Antiphons appear below in English translation, with scriptural sources and suggested symbols.

The O Antiphons
O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Sirach 24:2; Wisdom 8:1. Symbols: oil lamp, open book.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

Exodus 3:2, 20:1. Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets .

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.

Isaiah 11:1-3., 10 Symbol: vine or plant in flower, especially a rose.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Isaiah 22:22. Symbols: key; broken chains.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Psalm 19:6-7. Symbol: rising sun.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

Psalm 2:7-8, Ephesians 2:14-20. Symbols, Crown, scepter .

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.

I saiah 7:14; 33:22. Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.

St. Maria Crocifissa Di Rosa: Hero of Charity and Courage


Today's saint was born Paolina (Paula) Francesca Maria at Brescia, Italy on Nov. 6, 1813. She was the sixth of nine children of a wealthy noble landowner and industrialist, Clement de Rosa and his wife Countess Camilla Albani. At the age of eleven, Paula’s mother died and she was educated by the Visitandines. At the age of seventeen, she returned home to care for her father's household.

As was common in noble families, her father found a proper husband for her. However, Paula had taken a vow of celibacy. With the help of her spiritual director, Msgr. Faustino Pinzoni, she persuaded her father to respect her wishes. She remained at home and spent all her free time performing good works in the community. She organized a women’s guild, for which she planned retreats and special missions. She also tended to the spiritual needs of young women employed at her father's textile mill in Acquafredda.

During a cholera epidemic, she and Gabriela Echenos-Bornati cared for the sick with dedication, compassion, and gentleness. She opened a home for poor and abandoned girls and a school for the deaf. Paula was soon joined by two other women in her ministries and under the direction of Msgr. Pinzoni; the Handmaids of Charity was formed in 1840 in the city of Brescia.  Paula was appointed superior of the order and took the name Mary Crucifixa because of her devotion to the Crucified Christ. The group of four soon grew into a flourishing community of thirty-two. Their rule was approved by the bishop in 1843.

In 1848, her life seemed to fall apart. First, she lost Gabriela and then Msgr. Pinzoni died, leaving her without the support, guidance, and friendship she had come to depend on. War broke out in Europe and her homeland was invaded. Facing that kind of heartache, would have been devastating to many others, who would have retreated. But Paula saw the opportunity to serve. War meant that many would be wounded, so she and her Sisters went to work at a military hospital and even went out into the battlefield to care for spiritual and physical needs of the wounded and the dying.

During the war, when a military hospital where Paula worked, was about to be attacked, she showed great courage, trusting in the providence of God. The soldiers pounded relentlessly on the barricaded door and demanded that it be opened. When the door swung wide, they saw their way blocked by a large crucifix held by Paula di Rosa and two candles held by two of the six sisters who stood by her. Suddenly their frenzy to destroy disappeared, and full of shame before this display of great courage and faith, they disgracefully departed.

In December 1850, Pope Pius IX approved of the constitutions of the congregation, but it wasn't until 1852 that the civil authorities allowed the twenty-six sisters to make their vows.

Paula lived only a few more years and expansion took place at Brescia as well as convents opened in Spalata, Dalmatia and near Verona, Italy. She was taken seriously ill at Mantua and shortly after returning to Brescia, died on December 15, 1855 at the age of 42. She was canonized in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.

Paula's life was one of availability to any and every one in need. She would go to the aid of anyone at any hour whether it be caring for someone sick or dying, bringing peace in a quarrelsome home, or comforting someone in great distress. Whatever the need, she brought God's love and healing. She passionately practiced the virtue of charity in her daily work, sharing the love of Christ with all those she encountered. Thus, her passionate love for the Crucified Christ was demonstrated by her great love for the members of His Mystical Body.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

7 QT's: Three Marian Feast Days, My Book, and a Giveaway!


This is going to be very quick, as it is almost Saturday.



1.  Lisa Hendey interviewed me for my new book, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, on Friday, December 12.  You can read her interview HERE.



2.  Happy Belated Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

3. This weekend, I will be putting up our Christmas tree and indoor decorations. I usually wait until the third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday to put it up.



4. Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe!




5. Happy St. Lucy's Day!



6. Enter to win! I'm giving away 2 CD's of "O Day of Resurrection! Liturgy of the Hours for Sunday."



7.  Happy belated Feast of Our Lady of Loreto!

Have a great weekend and a joyful Gaudete Sunday!

For more Quick Takes,link up with our lovely new hostess, Kelly, of This Ain't the Lyceum!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Feast of St. Lucy and Traditional Celebrations



December 13th is the feast of St. Lucy (283-304), a noblewoman who was born in Syracuse, Italy, during the Diocletian persecution. She made a vow of virginity and distributed her wealth to the poor. This generosity angered the pagan youth to whom she had been unwillingly betrothed and who denounced her to Paschasius, the governor of Sicily. When it was decided to violate her virginity in a place of shame, Lucy, with the help of the Holy Spirit, stood immovable. A fire was then built around her, but again God protected her. She was finally executed by a sword.

As the name, Lucy, derives from 'lux' or 'light', she has become associated with festivals of light and with invocations against afflictions of the sight. Legend has it that she was blinded by her persecutors. The church of San Giovanni Maggiore at Naples even claims to possess her eyes.

In the old Julian calendar, Lucy's feast fell on the shortest day of the year. She continues to be associated with the coming of longer days and sunlight. Her feast day marks the beginning of Christmas celebrations in Sweden, and some parts of Finland, and Norway. She is the patron of electricians, opthamologists, writers, and sales people. She is also the protector of those with diseases of the eye.

Prayer
Saint Lucy, your beautiful name signifies light. By the light of faith which God bestowed upon you, increase and preserve this light in my soul so that I may avoid evil, be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and of sin. By your intercession with God, obtain for me perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God's greater honor and glory and the salvation of all men. Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.



Celebrating St. Lucy's Day

Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland

In Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland, Saint Lucy is venerated on her feast day, December 13, in a ceremony where a young girl is chosen to portray the noble virgin and martyr. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of other girls, each holding a candle, and singing a song in honor of Saint Lucy. The candles symbolize the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life when she was sentenced to be burned to death by the Roman judge, during the persecution of Diocletian.

Boys take part in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. Some may be dressed in the same kind of white robe, but with a cone-shaped hat decorated with golden stars, called stjärngossar (star boys); some may be dressed up as "tomtenissar", carrying lanterns; and some may be dressed up as gingerbread men. They participate in the singing and also have a song or two of their own, usually Staffan Stalledräng, which tells the story about Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, caring for his five horses.


Italy

St. Lucy is the patron saint of the city of Syracuse (Sicily). Sicily and Northern parts of Italy celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day or Santa Lucia’s Day, as a national holiday. The “Parade of Light” is held on December 13 to pay respects to Saint Lucia and her influence in the famine of 1582. Tradition holds that a famine ended when she arrived with ships filled with wheat to help the starving Sicilians. The Sicilians were so hungry that they just cooked the wheat without bothering to grind it into flour. Thus, Italians eat  whole grains instead of bread on December 13. This usually takes the form of cuccia, a dish of boiled wheat berries often mixed with ricotta and honey, or sometimes served as a savory soup with beans.

St. Lucy is also popular among children in some regions of North-Eastern Italy, namely Trentino, East Lombardy (Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lodi and Mantua), parts of Veneto, (Verona), parts of Emilia-Romagna, (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia and Bologna), and all of Friuli, where she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between December 12 and 13. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey and her escort, Castaldo. Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, hay and carrots for the donkey and a glass of wine or bread for Castaldo.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Miracles of Yesterday and Today



Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- one of my favorite Marian feast days. Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, brings hope into our lives. She covers us in the folds of her heavenly mantle and cradles us. She is the Mother who tenderly consoles us and protects us from evil. She is the one who carries Divine Life within her and crushed the head of the wicked serpent. She brings us life and love; hope and healing. She brought conversion to Mexico and will renew the Americas again if we pray for her intercession.

History

Five centuries ago, in the country now known as Mexico, senseless human sacrifices were performed. Between 20,000 and 50,000 human beings were murdered a year in the Aztec empire. Most of them were slaves and included men, as well as women, and children. An early Mexican historian estimated that one out of every five children in Mexico was sacrificed to the gods.

The climax of these ritualistic killings came in 1487 when a new temple (ornately decorated with snakes) was dedicated in what is now modern day Mexico City. In a single ceremony that lasted four days and four nights, accompanied by the constant beating of giant drums made of snakeskin, the Aztec ruler and demon worshiper Tlacaellel presided over the sacrifice of more than 80,000 men.

It was Our Lady of Guadalupe who crushed the head of the wicked serpent in 1531. For, it was then that she appeared to a poor, humble, uneducated man, Juan Diego. In bare feet, he walked every Saturday and Sunday to church, departing before dawn, to be on time for Mass and religious instruction.

On December 9, 1531, when Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass, the Blessed Mother appeared to him on Tepeyac Hill, the outskirts of what is now Mexico City. She asked him to go to the Bishop and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out her grace upon those who invoked her. The Bishop, who did not believe Juan Diego, asked for a sign to prove that the apparition was true.

On December 12, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac. Here, the Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the roses that he would find in bloom. He obeyed, and although it was winter, he found Spanish Castillian roses in bloom. He gathered the roses and took them to Our Lady, who carefully placed them in his tilma (a type of poncho) and told him to take them to the Bishop as "proof". When he opened his mantle, the roses fell to the ground and there remained impressed, in place of the flowers, a beautiful image of the Blessed Mother as she appeared at Tepeyac.

Today this image is still preserved on Juan Diego's tilma, which hangs over the main altar in the basilica at the foot of Tepeyac Hill. In the image, Our Lady is pregnant, carrying the Son of God in her womb. Her head is bowed in homage and in humble obedience to God. She wears a broach at her throat, containing a black cross, which represents the Franciscans, who came from Spain, to convert Mexico.

When asked who the lady was, Juan Diego replied in his Aztec dialect, "Te Coatlaxopeuh," which means "she who crushes the stone serpent." His answer recalls Gen. 3:15 and the depiction of Mary as the Immaculate Conception, her heel on the serpent's head.

As a result of that image, 9 million Aztecs were converted to Christianity and the human sacrifices were abolished. The image converted their hearts to the one, true God and drew them out of the darkness of despair into the light of hope.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Today

Today, the ancient serpent is slithering around the globe, making big hits in its attack upon human life. Millions of unborn children are murdered every year around the world, in procedures that in countries, (which now includes the United States under the HHS mandate) are not only legal, but also officially supported and financed.

However, we can be confident that The Woman clothed with the sun, in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn, will crush the head of the serpent today.

Just as she affectionately referred to Juan Diego as “Juanito” – her "little one”  or  her "humble one" -- she calls us to also make ourselves her little ones – her children – and to put our trust in her As Fr. Marie - Dominique Philippe, OP tells us, “[On] the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe it is truly Mary who shows her presence. This enables us to understand that in our Christian life, Christ's presence and Mary's presence are primary and come before any spoken words. A mother is a silent presence, a presence that will help her children sleep peacefully, trustingly...a presence of love, of warmth for the heart, so that we might truly be in her hands, asking her to carry us and to teach us this evangelical way of littleness, which will allow us to obey just as a child obeys his mother.”

Today Our Mother encourages us with us the same words she spoke to Juan Diego:

"Hear and let it penetrate your hearts, my dear little ones. Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you; let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Do not fear vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"

~ © Jean M. Heimann, December 2014



Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Virgin of Guadalupe,
Patroness of unborn children,
we implore your intercession
for every child at risk of abortion.
Help expectant parents to welcome from God
the priceless gift of their child’s life.

Console parents who have lost that gift
through abortion,
and lead them to forgiveness and healing
through the Divine Mercy of your Son.

Teach us to cherish
and to care for family and friends
until God calls them home.
Help us never to see others as burdens.

Guide our public officials
to defend each and every human life
through just laws.
Inspire us all to bring our faith into public life,
to speak for those who have no voice.

We ask this in the name of your Son,
Jesus Christ, who is Love and Mercy itself.
Amen.

--- 2010 Respect Life Liturgy Guide, USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.