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Monday, February 28, 2011

New York: pro-life billboard removed after city officials complain RSS Facebook February 28, 2011

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has denounced a billboard company's decision to remove a pro-life billboard following complaints from city officials. The billboard stated that "the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb."

"Why has the billboard suddenly been taken down?" asks Archbishop Dolan.

What was it that moved many of our elected officials to condemn this ad and call for the gag order? Are they claiming that free speech is a right enjoyed only by those who favor abortion or their pet causes? Do they believe that unpleasant and disturbing truths should not be spoken? Or are they afraid that when people are finally confronted with the reality of the horror of abortion, and with the toll that it is taking in our city, particularly in our African-American community, that they will be moved to defend innocent, unborn, human life?

The billboard company's general manager said he took down the billboard because workers at a nearby restaurant were being harassed by those critical of the billboard's message.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

the Journey we take...

Pope Shenouda interviewed on recent Egyptian events

( - In a recent interview conducted by Father Daoud Lamei, His Holiness Pope Shenouda clarified points in the Statement which he issued on behalf of the Holy Synod and commented on aspects of the Egyptian Revolution.

What was meant by a civil nation ?

A civil nation is defined as a non-religious and non-military nation.

You spoke of the valiant Egyptian army ?

Praising the army in the statement recalls a long history. While still a university student, I volunteered in the army and graduated from the school of Infantry in 1947.

Are you optimistic about the future?

I am not tending to talk about optimism but rather about hope in God. We are asked not to lose hope. This is an integral part of our relation to God. Our life, as well as the life of countries, abides not in the hands of people, but in the hands of God. There is no doubt, the authorities want good for the country whether on the internal level (unity, security and prosperity) or on the external level (events in surrounding Arab Countries, possible reactions of Israel…etc.). In these days, our priority should not be to put forward demands and exert pressure on the regime but to support the leadership to pass through this difficult phase and arrive to a safe haven.

Some people suggested that the church was a main beneficiary from the old regime, not knowing what we have been suffering from.

In a TV interview with Amr Adeeb, some 6 months ago, I mentioned that the problems of the Copts can be summarized in one word 'marginalization'. Copts are marginalized from high official positions, syndicates, legislative councils, university staff…etc. Another main element has been the frequent violent attacks targeting Copts. We remember the El Kosheh assassinations (21 dead and no sentence has been made against anyone by the court), Abu Korkas (9 people assassinated inside the church and no one has received death penalty – according to the law), Dayrout (14 killed including children), the Alexandria church this year (30 killed, 90 injured), Omraneya Church (where we were unjustly blamed for the events) but we thank the Lord for having people released before the Feast of Nativity early in January.

On the other hand, I cannot deny that we had good relations with President Mubarak as a person. That's why I see it a personal obligation of loyalty not to mention bad points but rather to remember the good ones. The problems we suffered were mainly due to those surrounding him. Now after the revolution, they have been apprehended and are being prosecuted...
Complete article here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Credible witness to Jesus: 'Heart speaks to heart'

"People are not won for Jesus Christ and his Church by means of argumentation alone, ... but by credible witness.
John Henry Newman believed that the truth of the Gospel, passed down through the centuries, "has been upheld not as a system, not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such [individuals]... who are at once teachers and the patterns of it".

- Fr Juan R. Vélez, from
"Heart Speaks to Heart"
Newman, a scholar and churchman, was also a model
of deep and enduring friendship

Mother Teresa holding a baby born with no arms

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Four Degrees of Love…
"since we are carnal and are born of the lust of the flesh, it must be that our desire and our love shall have its beginning in the flesh. But rightly guided by the grace of God through these degrees, it will have its consummation in the spirit: for that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual (I Cor. 15.46).
1. At first, man loves himself for his own sake. That is the flesh, which can appreciate nothing beyond itself.
2. Next, he perceives that he cannot exist by himself, and so begins by faith to seek after God, and to love Him as something necessary to his own welfare. When he has learned to worship God and to seek Him aright, meditating on God, reading God's Word, praying and obeying His commandments, he comes gradually to know what God is, and finds Him altogether lovely.
3. So, having tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is (Ps. 34.8), he advances to the third degree, when he loves God, not merely as his benefactor but as God.
4. The fourth degree and perfect condition wherein man loves himself solely for God's sake. Let any who have attained so far bear record; I confess it seems beyond my powers…For then in wondrous wise he will forget himself and as if delivered from self, he will grow wholly God's. Joined unto the Lord, he will then be one spirit with Him (I Cor. 6.17)."

Heart speaks to heart


Heart speaks to heart

The scholar and churchman was also a model of deep and enduring friendship.


Next Thursday Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United Kingdom for a three day visit that will culminate, on the 19th September, in the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. In this and two companion articles MercatorNet surveys the controversies surrounding these events and pays its own tribute to the great Englishman.

John Henry Newman will soon be officially recognised by the Catholic Church as a blessed in heaven. One of his many outstanding qualities was his capacity for friendship. Our society needs to evoke once more the worth and beauty of this type of friendship. Cicero wrote, "a friend is, as it were, a second self." This is possible when a person gives himself to another, first out of common mutual interests, but eventually in a selfless manner, for the good of the other. Jesus Christ radicalized that idea by teaching that a friend is one who would lay down his life for another.

Newman had numerous male and female friends whom we know from his copious correspondence. He visited them when they were ill, encouraged them in difficulties and advised them on all types of matters. He understood that a friend offers his life for his friends and, in so doing, becomes a better self. The love of benevolence (friendship) can develop into the highest form of love, the self-giving love called agape, rooted in the virtue of charity.

For Newman, friendship was not forced. He got to know people by spending time with them. As a university student, he had long conversations over meals with his friends. He went on long walks and horse rides with them. He corresponded with them when they were apart. In these natural activities, he built lasting friendships. One fast friend was William Bowden, whose family also grew to love Newman. At first their relationship was based on mutual interests, such as writing on the same school publication, but it deepened through common religious concerns.

Another close friend was Richard Hurrell Froude, the son of a landed clergyman and a future reformer. Richard was an outgoing, intelligent young man, as well as a good rider and hunter. Richard inspired Newman to learn about the catholic truths of the Anglican Church which led Newman to an appreciation for the richness of tradition in the Church.

Just because a friendship is close doesn't mean there is always full agreement. Newman and Froude debated on various issues but still learned from one another. It was from Froude, who died prematurely, that Newman began to have devotion to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He also inherited a Roman Catholic breviary used by Froude to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Through Froude, Newman became acquainted with John Keble, who was a few years their senior. Keble, like Froude, came from a wealthy family with strong religious and charitable practices. Newman sought Keble's advice on many matters. Over the years, in an interesting turn of events, Keble, a married Anglican clergyman, would seek Newman's advice on doctrinal and pastoral questions. Such is the nature of true friendship. Both Keble's friendship and his writings, such as the famous Christian Year, were an inspiration for Newman and Newman's family.

Friendship grows through a sincere interest in others and a desire to serve them. When Newman was at Oriel College, at Oxford University, he was a fellow, or mentor, to many undergraduates. One of these, Henry Wilberforce, the son of the famous abolitionist William Wilberforce, became life-long friend of Newman. Like Froude, Wilberforce was an early member of the Oxford Movement. Even with the age difference, an unconditional friendship developed between them based on mutual respect and affection. A few years after Newman's conversion to Roman Catholicism, Wilberforce and his family followed suit. As in the case of Bowden, Froude, Keble and others, Newman became a good friend of Wilberforce's family as well.

One of the hallmarks of friendship is warmth born from affection. Newman, a shy, retiring man in person (especially in large groups) was able to convey affection in his letters. He addressed his closest friends as carissime, a Latin term meaning "dearest." These private expressions of friendship used by Newman, although no longer common, were common in Victorian times. 

Another friend from Newman's Oxford days was Edward Bouverie Pusey, a distinguished professor of Hebrew at Christ College. Pusey was older than Newman and a married man. Through discussion of doctrinal and spiritual matters, they became friends and collaborated in the Oxford Movement. Newman's eventual conversion, however, caused a rift. Pusey remained an Anglican all his life and their infrequent communication over the years was a nagging wound for both men. They had a deep affection for one other, but their divergent beliefs over what mattered most to both of them -- the Church -- had pushed them apart. Years later, after age had done its work, the two men, along with Keble, found themselves face to face once again. After this memorable reunion their communication was rekindled.

Newman's thoughts on friendship were beautifully shown in a sermon from his Anglican period preached to Oxford undergraduates, "Personal Influence, the Means of Propagating Truth." People are not won for Jesus Christ and his Church by means of argumentation alone, he said, but by credible witness. Newman believed that the truth of the Gospel, passed down through the centuries, "has been upheld not as a system, not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such men... who are at once teachers and the patterns of it".

Newman understood that a friend is also a teacher, one who guides in truth. Like his patron saint St Philip Neri, Newman had a big heart. St Philip, the 16th century founder of the original Oratory, knew well how to lead others, guiding them gently to God, the greatest Love. Newman, following his patron, guided many friends along their paths to God. He firmly believed and taught that those who have the biggest impact on our lives are our friends. Friends, who help us to know and love God more, help us to become better persons. Both St Philip and John Henry lived long lives, leading many on the right path.

Another characteristic of Newman's friendships was loyalty. From his years at Oxford, Newman developed other close and lasting friendships with men such as Fredrick Rogers, James Robert Hope and Ambrose St John. Newman was an unconditional friend to all of them. Rogers, later an English Lord and Hope, a prominent barrister, were influential men who remained loyal to Newman in the times of hardship he endured after his conversion to Catholicism. Ambrose St John, a close collaborator in the Oxford Movement, converted at the same time as Newman. In the midst of trials at the Birmingham Oratory, he maintained an intimate friendship with Newman until the moment of his premature death.

Newman's friendships were not limited to men. He also shared close friendships with Maria Giberne, Mrs William Bowden, and Mrs Bowden's daughter Marianne, his godchild. All three looked to Newman for religious guidance and in time became Roman Catholics. Marianne eventually became a nun. As was the case with his male friends, Newman wrote many letters to Marianne. These were affectionate letters, as an uncle would write to a niece. Newman was sensitive to the expressions of affection of both male and female friends. The fact that he treasured these manifestations of friendship illustrates how indispensable friends are in life.

In 1879, Newman was raised to the dignity of Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo XIII. He chose as a motto for his coat of arms, an expression coined by St Francis de Sales: cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaks to heart. In his writing about preaching, found in the Idea of the University, Newman quotes this expression from a letter by St Francis. Newman was of course familiar with St Francis, but it may have been Marianne who introduced him to this expression. In any case, the motto perfectly captures the idea of friendship, where people speak heart to heart, in a sincere, simple, and affectionate manner.

John Henry Newman is recognized for his theological works on many topics.  He was and is an inspiration for converts to Roman Catholicism.  Someday, however, he may well earn a new title, that of Doctor amicitiae: Doctor of the Church on Friendship. His biography is a treatise on the human and supernatural virtues that make up friendship.

Fr Juan R. Vélez is a Catholic priest who resides in Los Angeles. He is co-author with Michael Aquilina of Take Five, Meditations with John Henry Newman (2010).

Universidade Harvard dá razão ao Papa na luta contra AIDS

Universidade Harvard dá razão ao Papa na luta contra AIDS
Estudo realizado a partir do caso do Zimbábue
ROMA, sexta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2011 ( - Um estudo realizado pela Universidade Harvard deu razão à posição de Bento XVI sobre a AIDS, afirmando que um comportamento sexual responsável e a fidelidade ao próprio cônjuge foram fatores que determinaram uma drástica diminuição da epidemia no Zimbábue. Quem explica, em sua última pesquisa, é Daniel Halperin, do Departamento de Saúde Global da População da universidade norte-americana, que, desde 1998, estuda as dinâmicas sociais que causam a disseminação de doenças sexualmente transmissíveis nos países em vias de desenvolvimento.
Halperin usou dados estatísticos e análises sobre o estudo de campo, tais como entrevistas e focus group, o que lhe permitiu coletar depoimentos de pessoas que pertencem a grupos sociais mais desfavorecidos.
A tendência de dez anos é evidente: de 1997 a 2007, a taxa de infecção entre adultos diminuiu de 29% a 16%. Após sua pesquisa, Halperin não hesita em afirmar: a repentina e clara diminuição da incidência de AIDS se deve "à redução de comportamentos de risco, como sexo fora do casamento, com prostitutas e esporádico".
O estudo, publicado em, foi financiado pela Agência Americana para o Desenvolvimento Internacional, da qual Halperin foi conselheiro, e pelo Fundo das Nações Unidas para a População e Desenvolvimento.
"Com este estudo, Halperin promove uma reflexão séria e honesta sobre as políticas até agora adotadas pelas principais agências de combate à AIDS nos países em desenvolvimento", afirma o jornal L'Osservatore Romano, ao dar a notícia, em sua edição de 26 de fevereiro.
Segundo o estudo, fica claro que a drástica mudança no comportamento sexual da população do Zimbábue "recebeu o apoio de programas de prevenção na mídia e de projetos educativos patrocinados pelas igrejas".
Poucos anos atrás, Halperin se perguntava como é possível que as políticas de prevenção "mais significativas tenham sido feitas até agora baseando-se em evidências extremamente fracas", ou seja, na ineficácia dos preservativos.
Em suma, segundo o estudo de Halperin, é necessário "ensinar a evitar a promiscuidade e promover a fidelidade", apoiando iniciativas que visem a construir na sociedade afetada pela AIDS uma nova cultura.
Como disse Bento XVI, é necessário promover uma "humanização da sexualidade".

"The protection of human life [at all its stages] is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation upon which all other human rights are based." - Benedict XVI

Friday, February 25, 2011

MOVIE: 'Of Gods and Men'

"OF GODS AND MEN", based on a true story 


Synopsis: Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay... come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996. -- (C) Sony Pictures Classics Less

Rated: PG-13 [See Full Rating]

Running Time: 2 hr.

In Theaters: Feb 25, 2011 Limited

Distributor:Sony Pictures Classics

Directed By: Xavier Beauvois

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Priest in the Making :)

Here below's a little boy preparing for the future :)
VIDEO link:

Feast of the Theophany Troparion

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

The Blessing of the Bedroom

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries commit ourselves to make Jesus and Mary, the true living inspiration and example of our lives.

Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries commit ourselves to make Jesus and Mary, the true living inspiration and example of our lives.

Nuns combat human trafficking

Young community of nuns combats human trafficking RSS Facebook February 24, 2011

A Philippine women's religious community, founded in Cebu in 1996, combats human trafficking by ministering in "remote villages where the pimps prey on the girls with the promise of a good job in the city," according to the Fides news agency. Twenty victims of human trafficking live with the Mary Queen of Heaven Missionaries, whose size has grown to 22, including three novices.
The community's web site explains that the nuns

go out at night and penetrate the "red districts," entering bars and casas to share the filial love of God to the victims of prostitution (pick up girls, bar dancers, tourist escorts or GRO's) and even to videoke bar waitresses. They place them under the maternal protection of Mary, giving them the powerful weapons of Mary, the Holy Rosary and the Brown Scapular with the appropriate literature and prayer guide. The sisters listen attentively to the outpouring of their problems and thirst for God. Through the miraculous touch of the "Mother of Mercy and of Holy Hope" [and] by the warm embrace and open hearts of the sisters, their hearts and minds will be awakened and regain direction towards oneness with God's fervent call for repentance and renewed life with Him.
Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Job Righteous

Job the Righteous
"The protection of human life [at all its stages] is the "rock solid and inviolable" foundation upon which all other human rights are based." - Benedict XVI

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chair of St. Peter

Pontiff to Jesuits: Church Needs People of Solid Faith

New Superior Congratulates Pope for Feast of Chair of St. Peter

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2008 ( Benedict XVI encouraged Jesuits to continue their God-given mission "in full fidelity to the original charism," within the ecclesial and social context of today.

The Pope made this recommendation today when he received in audience the participants of the Jesuit general congregation, accompanied by their newly elected superior general, Father Adolfo Nicolás. The general congregation has been meeting in Rome since Jan. 7.

"The Church," the Holy Father said, "urgently needs persons of solid and deep faith, of serious culture, and of genuine human and social sensitivity; [it needs] priests and religious who dedicate their lives to living at the margins in order to bear witness and help further the understanding that there is a profound harmony between faith and reason, between evangelical spirit and a thirst for justice and dedication to peace."

The Pontiff encouraged the Society of Jesus, "faithful to its best tradition," to "continue forming its members with great attention to the sciences and to virtue, without conforming to mediocrity, because the task of confrontation and dialogue in very diverse social and cultural situations with the different mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and costly there is."

"In the attempt to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or who have difficulty in accepting its positions and messages," he said, "you must loyally take charge of the Church's fundamental right to remain faithful to its mandate and adhere completely to the Word of God as well as to the magisterium's charge of conserving the truth and unity of Catholic doctrine in its entirety."


Benedict XVI added that "this holds true not only for the vow of each Jesuit."

And he explained: "As you work as members of an apostolic body, you have to also remain attentive that your works and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and so that many others might share your ideals and might effectively and enthusiastically join with you, collaborating in your vow of service to God and as human beings.

"The themes that are debated and questioned today, such as the salvation of all in Christ, sexual morality, and marriage and the family, should be considered in the context of contemporary reality, maintaining, however, that harmony with the magisterium that avoids the provocation of confusion and uncertainty in the people of God."

The Holy Father encouraged the Jesuits to "continue and to renew" their mission among and with the poor. "For us," he said, "the option for the poor is not ideological but rather is born of the Gospel."

Besides making the "effort to understand and fight the structural causes" of injustice and poverty, he added, "it is necessary to fight the deep roots of evil in the very heart of the human being, the sin that separates us from God, without forgetting to care for the most urgent needs of others in Christ's spirit of charity."

Finally, referring to the spiritual exercises, "which from its origins have characterized your Society," the Pope asked that the priests "continue making them a precious and effective instrument for the spiritual growth of souls. [...] The spiritual exercises represent a particularly precious journey and method for seeking and encountering the face of God in and around us and in all things, for coming to know his will and putting it into practice."

Seeking service

Before Benedict XVI's discourse to the members of the Society of Jesus, the congregation's new leader, Father Nicolás, addressed the Pope.

"Our general congregation, to which Your Holiness has given your paternal encouragement, is looking, in prayer and in discernment, for the ways through which the Society can renew its commitment to the service of the Church and of humanity," Father Nicolás said. "What inspires and impels us is the Gospel and the Spirit of Christ: If the Lord Jesus was not at the center of our life, we would have no sense of our apostolic activity, we would have no reason for our existence."

The superior-general continued: "In communion with the Church and guided by the magisterium, we seek to dedicate ourselves to profound service, to discernment, to research.

"The generosity with which so many Jesuits work for the kingdom of God, even to giving their very lives for the Church, does not mitigate the sense of responsibility that the Society feels it has in the Church. […] Alongside the sense of responsibility, must go humility, recognizing that the mystery of God and of man is much greater than our capacity for understanding."

Father Nicolás said that "it saddens us, Holy Father, when the inevitable deficiencies and superficialities of some among us are at times used to dramatize and represent as conflicts and clashes what are often only manifestations of limits and human imperfections, or inevitable tensions of everyday life."

"But," he continued, "all this does not discourage us, nor quell our passion, not only to serve the Church, but also, with a deeper sense of our roots, according to the spirit of the Ignatian tradition, to love the hierarchical Church and the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ.

The Jesuit superior said the members of the Society considered it a "happy and significant circumstance" that their meeting today with the Pope occurred on the eve of Friday's feast of the Chair of St. Peter, "a day of prayer and of union with the Pope and his highest service of universal teaching authority."

"For this," he concluded, "we offer you our good wishes."


'Jesus shows God as He who loves, and His power as the power of love.  And so He tells us what will always be part of

the true worship of God: healing, service, the goodness that heals.' - Benedict XVI

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Dance of Life :)

Loving What is Not God

St. Conrad of Piacenza

Hermit of the Third Order of St. Francis, date of birth uncertain; died at Noto in Sicily, 19 February, 1351. He belonged to one of the noblest families of Piacenza, and having married when he was quite young, led a virtuous and God-fearinglife. On one occasion, when he was engaged in his usual pastime of hunting, he ordered his attendants to fire some brushwood in which game had taken refuge. The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly, and the surrounding fields and forest were soon in a state of conflagration. A mendicant, who happened to be found near the place where the fire had originated, was accused of being the author. He was imprisoned, tried, and condemned todeath. As the poor man was being led to execution, Conrad, stricken with remorse, made open confession of his guilt; and in order to repair the damage of which he had been the cause, was obliged to sell all his possessions. Thus reduced to poverty, Conrad retired to a lonely hermitage some distance from Piacenza, while his wife entered the Order of Poor Clares. Later he went to Rome, and thence to Sicily, where for thirty years he lived a most austere and penitential lifeand worked numerous miracles. He is especially invoked for the cure of hernia. In 1515 Leo X permitted the town ofNoto to celebrate his feast, which permission was later extended by Urban VIII to the whole Order of St. Francis. Though bearing the title of saint, Conrad was never formally canonized. His feast is kept in the Franciscan Order on 19 February.

February 19

St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A native of Mianyang in Sichuan, China, St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei was born on December 9, 1815, and was the youngest member in her family.
Lucy was a very pious child, to the extent that she made a commitment to chastity at 12 years of age.
As she matured she developed a love for reading and study. At 20 years of age, in the midst of her higher education she grew very ill. After her recovery Lucy took her spiritual life still more seriously. She devoted herself to the discipline of prayer with great devotion, assuming a way of life much like that of a religious while continuing to assist in the support her family.[1]
After her father died, she lived with her brother and mother, using part of her leisure time to teach the faith to children nearby. The parish priest, who asked her to teach at the school in Mianyang, noticed her devotion and reliable knowledge of her faith. After four years, her brother went to Chongqing to practice medicine, and Lucy and her mother moved with him. In Chongquing, the priest also asked her to help teach the women in the parish. When she was offered money for her work, she refused to take it and offered her work to God.[2]
A few years later, her brother moved back to Guiyang, during which time her mother died. Full of enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel, she went on doing missionary work. However, for her own safety she decided to stay at the convent of lay virgins. Shortly after, her failing health forced her to move back home again. In 1861, Bishop Hu asked her to teach once more at the convent. In spite of opposition from relatives, she returned to work there.[3]
In 1862, she went with Fr. Wen Nair to open a mission in Jiashanlong, but just then the administrator of Guizhou Province, Tian Xingshu, began to stir up hatred against Christians, which the local magistrate supported. As a result, Zhang Tienshen, Wu Shuesheng, Chen Xianheng and Father Wen were all imprisoned and sentenced to death without a formal trial. On February 18, the day of their execution, they met Yi Zhenmei on the road. She was also jailed and put on trial that very day and sentenced to death, because she refused to renounce her faith. The following day at noon, February 19, 1862, she was beheaded. Brave believers took the bodies of all five martyrs to the Liuchonnguan seminary grounds for burial.[4]
Pope John Paul II canonized St. Lucy Yi Zhenmei and her companions, the Martyr Saints of China on October 1st, 2000. Her feast day is celebrated on 19 February in the Roman Catholic Church.


"Each of us is willed - each of us is loved - each of us is necessary." - Benedict XVI






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Friday, February 18, 2011


In his beautiful and timely encyclical, "Mother of the Redeemer" (<Redemptoris Mater>)1, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the 1987-88 Marian Year, the second of its kind in the history of the Church (the first being that of Pope Pius XII in 1954). Pope John Paul's reasons included preparation for the coming of the third millennium of Christianity in the year 2000; the honoring of Mary, who preceded Jesus in history; commemoration of the 1200th anniversary of the seventh and last worldwide ecumenical council accepted by both the Greek and the Latin churches, that of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 A.D.; and, very importantly, prayer for Christian unity through Mary, Mother of the Church.

In pointing to Mary as the Mother of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, our Holy Father seeks to find in her the remedy for a divided Christendom. Non-Catholics today know little about the rich Christian tradition concerning Mary that existed prior to the Reformation, and indeed, prior to the Greek Schism of the 11th century. The purpose of the present article is to point out the common belief about Mary held by the early Church, as manifested in the writings of the so-called "Fathers of the Church," learned and saintly writers of the first eight centuries of Christianity.2 Let us therefore examine five of the Church's teachings about Mary held by Christians some 1200-1800 years ago Mary as the Mother of God (<Theotokos>), Mary's perpetual virginity, her sinlessness and Immaculate Conception, her Assumption, and her role as Mother of the Church.

Mary, the Mother of God

The first and most fundamental teaching about Mary is based on her relationship with Jesus, that of being his mother. It is on this reality that her special dignity is founded, and from it flow all her prerogatives. Now Mary is not the Mother of God as such; she was rather the mother of God the Son incarnate. United in the one person of Jesus Christ are two natures, divine and human. Mary, being the mother of the one person of Christ, is in this sense the mother of God.

During the first few centuries of the growth of the Church, there arose three Christological heresies which bear on the issue of the divine maternity. Docetism (110 A.D.), while acknowledging the divinity of Christ, rejected the reality of his human nature. Arianism (320 A.D.), on the other hand, accepted Jesus' humanity but denied that he was the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. Both of these heresies repudiated the dual nature of Christ and the mystery of the Incarnation. If Docetism was correct, Mary could not be called the Mother of God, since she would not be the mother of God the Son incarnate. If Arianism were true, Jesus was not divine, and Mary could not be considered the mother of God. At the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), the first ecumenical council convened by the Church, both of these positions were condemned, and the reality of Jesus as true God and true man infallibly defined. The consequent document is known as the Nicene Creed.

After Nicaea a third Christological heresy arose, called Nestorianism (428 A.D.), which proposed two persons in Christ, rather than two natures in one person. Mary would then be the mother of the human person of Christ only, and therefore not the mother of God. Nestorianism was condemned by the third ecumenical council, held in Ephesus (431 A.D.). In substance, the council infallibly declared that Jesus was "according to his divinity, born of the Father before all ages, and in these last days, according to his humanity, born of the Virgin Mary for us and for our salvation . . . A union was made of the two natures . . . In accord with this understanding of the unconfused union we confess that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (<Theotokos>, God-Bearer), through God the Word's being incarnate and becoming man, and, from this conception, His joining to Himself the temple assumed from her." The foregoing statement is taken from a letter of St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria (444 A.D.), who presided over the Council of Ephesus. It is known as the "Creed of Union" or the "Creed of Ephesus."

Prior to Ephesus, however, the Church Fathers wrote of Mary's relationship to Jesus, the Word Incarnate. St. Irenaeus (202 A.D.), bishop of Lyons and pupil of Polycarp, St. John's disciple, declared, "The Virgin Mary . . . being obedient to His Word, received from the angel the glad tidings that she would bear God." St. Ephraem of Syria (373 A.D.) noted, "The handmaid work of His Wisdom became the Mother of God." St. Alexander (328 A.D.), bishop of Alexandria and a key figure at the Council of Nicaea, wrote that "Jesus Christ . . . bore a body not in appearance but in truth, derived from the Mother of God." St. Athanasius (373 A.D.), secretary and successor to Alexander, reflected upon "the Word begotten of the Father on high" who "inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly and eternally, is he that is born in time here below, of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God."

St. Cyril (386 A.D.), bishop of Jerusalem, referred to "the Virgin Mother of God," and St. Gregory of Nazianz (382 A.D.), bishop of Constantinople, strongly asserted, "If anyone does not agree that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead." St. Gregory of Nyssa (371 A.D.) proclaimed the virginity of Mary, referring to her as "Mary, the Mother of God." St. Epiphanius (403 A.D.), bishop of Salamis, writes of the "Holy Savior who came down from heaven . . . took on humanity along with His divinity . . . incarnate among us, not in appearance but in truth . . . from Mary, the Mother of God." The monk Leporius (426 A.D.), a disciple of the great Augustine, expressed his faith that ". . . the Only-begotten was incarnate in that secret mystery which He understood, for it is ours to believe, His to understand." Finally, just prior to the Council of Ephesus, St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote, "I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the Holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God. For if Our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the Holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God?" St. Cyril also wrote these words of praise: "Hail, O Mary, Mother of God! You did enclose in your sacred womb the One Who cannot be encompassed. Hail, O Mary, Mother of God! With the shepherds we sing the praise of God, and with the angels the song of thanksgiving—Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will! Hail, O Mary, Mother of God! Through you came to us the Conqueror and triumphant Vanquisher of hell."

Mary, Ever Virgin

The virginal conception of Christ was upheld by the early Church. St. Ignatius (107 A.D.), bishop of Antioch and reputed hearer of the apostle John, wrote, "The virginity of Mary, her giving birth, and also the death of the Lord . . . three mysteries loudly proclaimed, but wrought in the silence of God." And again, "According to the flesh, Our Lord Jesus Christ was born from the stock of David; but if we look at the will and the power of God, He is the Son of God, truly born of a virgin." St. Justin the Martyr (165 A.D.) observed that the "power of God, coming upon the Virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her, while yet a Virgin, to conceive." St. Irenaeus (202 A.D.) referred to Jesus as "the Word Himself, born of Mary who was still a Virgin." He adds, "The belief in the Virgin Birth has been handed over to the Church by the Apostles and by their disciples, the same as the other truths of the Faith." St. Hippolytus (215 A.D.), in questioning candidates for baptism, inquired, "Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit, of the Virgin Mary?"

St. Ephraem (373 A.D.) extols Mary as the Virgin who became a Mother "while preserving her virginity." And St. Ambrose (397 A.D.), bishop of Milan, proclaimed Christ who was "born of a virgin," and adds, "Mary was a Virgin not in body only, but mind also . . . so pure that she was chosen to be the Mother of the Lord. God made her whom He had chosen and chose her of whom He would be made." St. Augustine (430 A.D.) observed, "The nobility of the Child was in the virginity which brought him forth, and the nobility of the parent was in the Divinity of the Child."

The Patristic writers also had no difficulty in asserting Mary's perpetual virginity. For example, St. Athanasius (373 A.D.), bishop of Alexandria, who was, as a deacon, active at the First Council of Nicaea, stated that Jesus "took human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary." Didymus the Blind (380 A.D.), mentor of the great Jerome, wrote of Mary, "Even after childbirth, she remained always and forever an immaculate virgin." St. Epiphanius of Salamis (403 A.D.) commented that "to Holy Mary, Virgin is invariably added, for that Holy Woman remains undefiled." Against the heretic Helvidius, St. Jerome (420 A.D.) spoke, "You say that Mary did not remain a virgin? As for myself, I claim that Joseph himself was a virgin, through Mary, so that a Virgin son might be born of virginal wedlock."

St. Ambrose of Milan (397 A.D.) cites the beautiful prophecy of Ezekiel—"This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it. Since the Lord, the God of Israel has entered by it, it shall remain closed (Ez 44:2)." He then comments, "Who is this gate, if not Mary?" Leporius (426 A.D.), monk and disciple of St. Augustine, in a credal statement refers to Christ as the Son of God "made man of the Holy Spirit and the Ever-Virgin Mary." St. Cyril of Alexandria (444 A.D.) remarked that the Word himself "kept his Mother a Virgin even after her child-bearing, which was done for none of the other saints." St. Peter Chrysologus (450 A.D.), archbishop of Ravenna, penned the beautiful words, "A Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remains." St. John Damascene (749 A.D.), the last of the Fathers, is quaint in his vigorous defense of Mary's perpetual virginity—"Thus the Ever-Virgin remains after birth a Virgin still, never having consorted with man . . . For how were it possible that she, who had borne God . . . should ever receive the embrace of a man? Perish the thought!"

In subsequent centuries, Mary's perpetual virginity was defended in various councils, e.g., the fifth ecumenical council held in Constantinople (553 A.D.), and dogmatically defined by Pope St. Martin I at the Lateran Council of Rome (649 A.D.), whose decree was later upheld by the sixth ecumenical council at Constantinople (681 A.D.). This belief also meets the criterion of infallibility in that it has been the constant teaching of the Church.

Mary's Sinlessness

Early Christian belief always associated Mary with Jesus in the divine plan. The Patristic writers referred to Mary as the "new Eve," who cooperated with Christ, the "new Adam." In the writings of Justin the Martyr (165 A.D.), Irenaeus (202 A.D.), Ephraem of Syria (403 A.D.), Cyril of Jerusalem (348 A.D.), Jerome (420 A.D.), Augustine (430 A.D.), Epiphanius of Salamis (403 A.D.), and John Chrysostom (407 A.D.), Mary is portrayed as bringing life (Christ) into the world, whereas Eve brought death, and Mary's humility and obedience is contrasted with Eve's pride and disobedience.

Mary's sinlessness in general was undisputed by early Christian writers. St. Ambrose (430 A.D.) wrote, ". . . Mary, a Virgin not only undefiled but a virgin whom grace has made inviolate, free of every stain." Concerning Our Blessed Lady, St. Augustine declared, "I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sin." St. Ephraem, in a poem addressed to Christ, penned "Thou and thy mother are alone in this—you are wholly beautiful in every respect. There is in thee, Lord, no stain, nor any spot in thy Mother." In praise of Mary, he wrote, "My Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate . . . spotless robe of Him who clothes himself with light as with a garment . . . flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate!"

St. Proclus (446 A.D.), Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote, "Mary is the heavenly orb of a new creation, in whom the Sun of justice, ever shining, has vanished from her soul all the night of sin." St. John Damascene spoke of Mary as "preserved without stain." Although agreeing that Mary was sinless in her behavior, the Church Fathers were divided on the question of her inheritance of original sin. Even the great Thomas Aquinas (1274 A.D.) could not resolve the issue; it remained for John Duns Scotus (1308 A.D.) to propose a "preservative redemption" rather than a "restorative redemption" for Mary. The Church took the decisive step on December 8, 1854, when Peter's successor, the venerable Pope Pius IX, infallibly defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was by this title that, four years later, Mary identified herself to St. Bernadette at Lourdes. And, in 1954, the first Marian Year was occasioned by the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of this beautiful truth.

Mary's Assumption

The belief in Mary's resurrection, called the Assumption, is founded, as are all Marian doctrines, on her divine maternity. Liturgically, the feast of the Dormition, or "falling asleep," of the Blessed Virgin, dates to the fourth century. In the fifth century, St. Augustine commented on the feast, "This venerable day has dawned, the day that surpasses all the festivals of the saints, this most exalted and solemn day on which the Blessed Virgin was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. On this day the queenly Virgin was exalted to the very throne of God the Father, and elevated to such a height that the angelic spirits are in admiration." St. Jerome observed, "We read how the angels have come to the death and burial of some of the saints, and how they have accompanied the souls of the elect to Heaven with hymns and praises. How much more should we believe that the heavenly army, with all its bands, came forth rejoicing in festal array, to meet the Mother of God, to surround her with effulgent light, and to lead her with praises and canticles to the throne prepared for her from the beginning of the world!"

St. Gregory (594 A.D.), bishop of Tours, declared that "the Lord . . . commanded the body of Mary be taken in a cloud into paradise; where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary reposes with the chosen ones." St. Germaine I (732 A.D.), Patriarch of Constantinople, speaks thusly to Mary, "Thou art . . . the dwelling place of God . . . exempt from all dissolution into dust." And St. John Damascene asserted, "He who had been pleased to become incarnate (of) her . . . was pleased . . . to honor her immaculate and undefiled body with incorruption . . . prior to the common and universal resurrection."

Finally, in our own time, on November 1, 1950, Peter's successor, Pope Pius XII, infallibly defined the doctrine of Mary's Assumption into heaven.

Mary as Mother of the Church

Since Christ is Head of his Mystical Body, the Church, it follows that Mary, mother of Christ, is also mother of that body. As we have seen, the early Church Fathers called Mary the new Eve, in that as Eve was our mother by physical generation, so Mary is our mother by spiritual regeneration, in virtue of her Divine Son's redemption of humanity. In the second century, St. Irenaeus commented that "the Word will become flesh, and the Son of God the son of man—the Pure One opening purely that pure womb, which generates men unto God." St. Epiphanius remarked, "True it is . . . the whole race of man upon earth was born of Eve; but in reality it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living." St. Augustine summarized, "The Mother of the Head, in bearing Him corporally became spiritually the Mother of all members of this Divine Head."

With regard to Mary's intercessory role on behalf of the members of the Body of Christ, St. Irenaeus remarked, "He who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost." St. Augustine addresses Mary, "Through you do the miserable obtain mercy, the ungracious grace, and the weak strength." St. Jerome wrote, "Mary not only comes to us when called, but even spontaneously advances to meet us." St. Basil the Great (379 A.D.), bishop of Caesarea, declared, "God has ordained that she should assist us in everything!" St. John Damascene prayed, "O Mother of God, if I place my confidence in you, I shall be saved. If I am under your protection, I have nothing to fear, for the fact of being your client is the possession of a certainty of salvation, which God grants only to those whom He intends to save." St. Ephraem beseeches Mary, "O Lady, cease not to watch over us; preserve and guard us under the wings of your compassion and mercy, for, after God, we have no hope but in you!" St. Fulgentius (533 A.D.), bishop of Ruspe, stated, "Mary is the ladder of heaven; for by Mary God descended from Heaven into the world, that by her men might ascend from earth to Heaven." Pope St. Leo the Great (461 A.D.) observed, "Mary is so endued with feelings of compassion, that she not only deserves to be called merciful, but even mercy itself."


It is evident, then, that Christian devotion to the Mother of our Savior is as old as the Church itself, flourishing during the fourteen centuries prior to the Protestant Reformation. Our contemporary non-Catholic brethren are deprived of their spiritual Mother, who loves them deeply and yearns to have them know of that love. We who have been gifted with this knowledge have an obligation in charity to make Mary known to them and to the world.

As we approach the third millennium of Christianity, let us pray also with our Holy Father that a divided Christendom may be brought into unity by the intercession of Mary, who desires so greatly the gathering of her children into the one fold of Christ, her Son.


1 Available from the Daughters of St. Paul, 50 St. Paul's Avenue, Jamaica Plain, Boston, MA 02130.

2 Patristic writings may be found in various works. The present article drew upon Peter Brookby's <Virgin Wholly Marvelous> (Ravengate Press), and the three-volume work of William A. Jurgens, <The Faith of the Early Fathers> (The Liturgical Press). Other excellent references include such multi-volumed series as <Ancient Christian Writers> (Paulist Press), <The Fathers of the Church> (Catholic University of America Press), <The Ante-Nicene Fathers> and <The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers> (Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

John A. Hammes received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. He has been a professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia in Athens for over twenty years.