Posted in DIVINE MERCY, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 15 February – Blessed Father Michał Sopoćko (1888-1975) Priest, Apostle of Divine Mercy

Saint of the Day – 15 February – Blessed Father Michał Sopoćko (1888-1975) Priest, Apostle of Divine Mercy, Professor of Pastoral Theology at Vilnius University, Founder of Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, Chaplain during WWII.   He is best known as the Spiritual Director of Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938).   Patronage – Białystok.sopocko.jpg

Michał Sopoćko was born on 1 November 1888 in Nowosady (Juszewszczyzna), then under Imperial Russia.   The Czarist authority persecuted the Catholic Church as well as both the Polish and Lithuanian people within in its territories.   In the Sopoćko family, of noble lineage, the Polish and Catholic traditions were conserved and developed.   The young Michal matured in this religious and patriotic atmosphere.   Motivated by a desire for unconditional service to God, the Church and humanity, he entered the Major Seminary in Vilnius.   On 15 June 1914, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Franciszek Karewicz.Sopoćko.jpg

For four years (1914-1918) he worked as a parochial vicar in Taboryszki, where he opened two mission churches at Miedniki and at Onżadòw, as well as various schools.

As informed by someone that the German authorities may arrest him, he left the parish and went to Warsaw.   There he became a military chaplain for the Polish army.   While dedicated to his ministry as chaplain, he enrolled as a student in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Warsaw and from which he obtained a doctoral degree.   At the same time, he graduated from the National Pedagogical Institute.   In 1924, he became a co-ordinator of the regional military chaplaincies, based in Vilnius.

In 1927, Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski entrusted to him the responsibility of being Spiritual Director for the Major Seminary.   During this same period he taught for the faculty of Theology at Stefan Batory University, also in Vilnius.   He eventually requested the Archbishop to release him from both the military pastoral care and from the seminary duties.   His desire was to dedicate himself entirely to theological pursuits.   In 1934, he received the title of ‘docent’ in pastoral theology.   While teaching, he never forgot the importance of pastoral service.   He was rector of St Michael Church and also served as confessor for Religious Sisters.

One of the most significant events of Fr Sopoćko’s life occurred in 1933, when he became the Spiritual Director of Sr (now Saint) Faustina Kowalska of the Congregation of Sisters of Mary Mother of Mercy.  He continued to assist the Saint after his transfer to Łagiewniki and where she died on 5 October 1938.   As her confessor, he undertook a thorough evaluation of Sr Faustina’s mystical experiences concerning devotion to the Divine Mercy.   Following his advice, she wrote of these in her “Diary.”   To this day this remains a spiritual classic.BlSopockoStFaustina

The Divine Mercy devotion became a life-giving inspiration for Fr Sopoćko.   Due to his assistance and under the direction of Sister Faustina, the artist Eugeniusz Kazimirowski painted the first portrait of Jesus as the Divine Mercy. PRC-116-Blessed-Sopocko1-fr

Fr Sopoćko wrote extensively on the subject of the Divine Mercy and, in 1938, he established a committee charged with building the Divine Mercy Church in Vilnius. However, this attempt had to be halted due to the onset of World War II.   But despite the war and German occupation, Fr Sopoćko persisted in his efforts to promote the devotion to the Divine Mercy. sopockodivinemercy1

Filled with zeal, he constantly helped those who were oppressed and threatened with extermination, for example, numerous Jewish people.  Fortunately, he managed to avoid arrest and imprisonment.   In 1942, along with his fellow seminary professors and students, he was forced to go into hiding near Vilnius.   He remained concealed for two years.   Yet it was during that very time when Fr Sopoćko played a major role in establishing a new Religious Congregation.   According to the revelations of Sr Faustina, this Congregation was to promote love for the Divine Mercy.   After the War, he wrote the Congregation’s constitution.  And he became actively engaged in the growth and development of what we know as the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine michal sopocko art.jpg

In 1947, Archbishop Jałbrzykowski, for two years at Białystok with his diocesan Curia, sought that Fr Sopoćko come to the same city.   He accepted a position as professor in the Archdiocesan Major Seminary.   There he taught pedagogy, catechetics, homiletics, pastoral theology and spirituality.   Additionally, he continued to further the apostolate of the Divine Mercy.   He also made serious efforts to obtain official approval for the Divine Mercy devotion from the Church authorities.   Fr Sopoćko worked tirelessly on the biblical, theological and pastoral bases by which to explain the doctrinal truth concerning the Divine Mercy devotion.   His publications were translated into numerous languages including: Latin, English, French, Italian and michal

Fr Michal Sopoćko died on 15 February 1975, in his apartment on Poleska Street.   He was popularly acclaimed for his sanctity.   He was buried in the parish cemetery in Białystok. Following the inauguration of the process for his Beatification, his body was moved to the Church of the Divine Mercy (30 November 1988)…

Fr Michal’s cause for beatification was started at the Vatican in 1987.   In 2004, St Pope John Paul II issued a decree on the virtues of Father Sopoćko.   In December 2007, Pope Benedict XVI approved of a miracle through his intercession.   His solemn beatification took place on Sunday 28 September 2008, at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Białystok.ksiadz-Sopocko.jpg

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 29 January – Bl Bronislaw Markiewicz SDB (1842-1912)

Saint of the Day – 29 January – Bl Bronislaw Markiewicz SDB (1842-1912) Religious Priest and Founder of the Orders of St Michael the Archangel with both priests and sisters – born on 13 July 1842 at Pruchnik, archdiocese of Przemysl dei Latini, Poland and died on 29 January 1912 at Miejsce Piastowe, Poland of complications related to bronislaw artwork

“Bronislaw Markiewicz, the sixth of the eleven children of John Markiewicz, City Mayor, and Marianna Gryziecka, was born on the 13th of July 1842 in Pruchnik, Poland, in the present day Archdiocese of Przemysl dei Latini.   In his family home, he received a solid religious formation.   Nonetheless, during his secondary studies in Przemysl he experienced a certain wavering in the faith due, in large part, to the strong anti-religious atmosphere which dominated the school.   However, he succeeded in overcoming this in a relatively short period, once again finding peace and serenity.

Feeling a call from God to the priesthood, the young Bronislao entered the major seminary of Przemysl in 1863 after having received the Maturity diploma.   Upon completion of the regular course of study he was ordained to the priesthood on 15 September 1867.   Following six years of pastoral wok as a parochial vicar in the Parish of Harta and the Cathedral of Przemysl, seeking to become better equipped to work with youth, he studied pedagogy, philosophy and history for two years in the Universities of Leopoli and Cracow.   In 1875 he was named pastor at Gac and in 1877 pastor at Blazowa. In 1882 he was entrusted a teaching position in pastoral theology and the Major Seminary of Przemysl.bronisaw-markiewicz-45d7f012-45b4-48c6-855c-1af1e92b539-resize-750.jpg

Hearing a call to the religious life, he left for Italy in the month of November 1885 and joined the Salesians where he had the joy of meeting Saint John Bosco (1815-1888) before whom he professed religious vows on March 25, 1887.

As a Salesian he carried out the various tasks assigned to him by his superiors, which he sought to accomplish with dedication and zeal.   Due to the austerity of the lifestyle and the change of climate, Fr Bronislao fell gravely ill with consumption in 1889, to the point of having been considered close to death.   Having recovered from his illness, he convalesced in Italy until 23 March 1892 when, with the permission of his Superiors, he returned to Poland where he assumed the assignment of Pastor at Miejsce Piastowe, in Przemysl his native Diocese.

In addition to his ordinary pastoral activity, Father dedicated himself, in the Spirit of St John Bosco, to the formation of poor and orphaned youth.   He opened an institute in which he offered his students both material and spiritual support preparing them for life with a professional formation in the schools around the institute itself.   To carry on his work, he decided in 1897 to found two new religious congregations based on the spirituality of St John Bosco, adapting his rules to reflect their own Charism.   Once again received among the clergy of the Diocese of Przemysl, Father Markiewicz continued his work as Pastor and Director of the Society (erected in 1898) which he named Temperance and Work, seeking to obtain its approbation as a religious institute.   The approbation was granted a few years after his death: in 1921 for the male branch and in 1928 for the female branch.

With the approval and blessing of his bishop Saint Joseph Sebastian Pelczar, Fr Bronislao continued his activity forming youth and abandoned and orphaned children.   He was assisted by collaborators to whose preparation and formation he himself always contributed.   Already at Miejce Piastowe he had offered a home and formation to hundreds of children giving of himself totally for them.   Always desiring to do more for them, in the month of August of 1903, Fr Markiewicz opened a new house in Pawlikowice, near Cracow, where over 400 orphans found a house and the possibility for spiritual and professional bronislaw markiewicz.jpg

His total dedication to children, his heroic self-denial and the enormous work he accomplished, quickly exhausted the strength of Fr Markiewicz,. undermining his health, which was already greatly compromised from his illness in Italy.   All of this led rather rapidly to the end of his earthly pilgrimage which came on 29 January 1912.markiewicz-01-428w

Both before and after his death he was considered an extraordinary man.   As the fame of the sanctity of Bronislao Markiewicz continued to constantly increase, the Superiors of both religious institutes of St Michael the Archangel, founded by him, asked the Bishop of Przemysl to initiate the process of beatification of their founder, which began in 1958. Having completed the procedure for the Cause, on 2 July 1994 in the presence of his Holiness John Paul II, the decree of heroic virtue was promulgated and ten years later on 20 December 2004 the decree of the Miracle performed by God through the intercession of Fr Bronislao was promulgated, thus opening the way for his beatification….Vatican.vabl bronislaw

Blessed Bronislaw was Beatified on 19 June 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.   The recognition was celebrated by Cardinal Jozef Glemp in Pilsudski Square, Warsaw, bronislaw plague.JPG

Posted in FRANCISCAN, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 8 January – Blessed Eurosia Fabris (1866-1932) “Mamma Rosa”

Saint of the Day – 8 January – Blessed Eurosia Fabris (1866-1932) “Mamma Rosa”Laywoman, Wife and Mother, Secular Franciscan, Apostle of Charity, Marian devotee, Apostle of Prayer and of the Holy Eucharist – born on 27 September 1866 in Quinto Vicentino, Italy and died on 8 January 1932 at Marola di Torri, Vicenza, Italy of natural eurosia fabris 1855-1932.jpg

Eurosia Fabris was born in Quinto Vicentino, an agricultural area, some kilometers from Vicenza in Italy, on 27 of September 1866.   Her parents, Luigi and Maria Fabris, were farmers.   In 1870, at the age of four, Eurosia moved with her family to Marola, a village in the municipality of Torri di Quartesolo (Vicenza).   She lived there for the rest of her life.   She attended only the first two years of elementary school between 1872 and 1874 because even at such a young age, she was forced to help her parents with farm work and her mother in particular with the household chores.   It was enough, however, for her to learn to read and write with the help of the Holy Scriptures or religious books such as the Catechism, Church history, the Philothea and the Eternal Maxims of St Alfonso Liguori.

Besides her domestic tasks, she helped her mother in her work as a dressmaker, a practice which Eurosia would also take on later.   Even as a child, she was rich in virtue and spirituality, always very careful in providing for the needs of her family.

She was twelve years old when she made her First Holy Communion.   From then on, she received Holy Eucharist on all religious feasts, since at that time daily communion was not the practice.   It was not until 1905 that daily communion was permitted by a Decree of Pope St Pius X.

Eurosia joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary in the parish church of Marola, and was faithful in participating in their devotions.   She diligently observed the practices of the group which helped increase in her a love for Mary.   In Marola, she lived within sight of the shrine of the Madonna of Monte Berico.

Her favourite devotions were to the Holy Spirit, the infant Jesus, the Cross of Christ, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary and the souls in the Purgatory.   She was an apostle of good will in her family, among her friends and in her parish, where she taught catechism to the children and sewing to the girls who came to her home.

At the age of eighteen, Eurosia was a dedicated, pious and hardworking young lady. These virtues, along with her pleasant personality, did not go unobserved and several young men proposed marriage to her, though she did not feel called to accept.

In 1885, Rosina, as she was called by her family, was affected by a tragic event.   A young married woman near her home died leaving three very young daughters.   The first of them died shortly after her mother.   The other two girls, Chiara Angela and Italia were only 20 months old and 2 months old, respectively.   The father of these girls was away, living with his uncle and a grandfather who suffered from a chronic disease.   They were three very different men, always quarrelling among themselves.

For six months, every morning, Rosina would go to care for the children and take care of their home.   Later, following the advice of her relatives and that of the parish priest and after praying about this turn of events, she decided to marry.   Rosina was joined in marriage to a man named Carlo Barban, well aware of the sacrifices that married life would hold for her in the future.   She accepted this fact as the will of God who she now felt was calling her through these two babies to embrace a new mission.   The parish priest would often comment:  “This was a true act of heroic charity towards others.”

The marriage was celebrated on the fifth of May 1886 and, in addition to the two orphaned babies, was blessed with nine other children.   Her home was always opened to other children as well.   Among them were Mansueto Mazzuco, who became a member of the Order of Friars Minor, taking the name, Brother Giorgio.   To all these children, “Mamma Rosa”, as she was called since her marriage, offered affection and care, sacrificing her own needs to provide for them a solid Christian formation.  Between 1918-1921, three of her sons were ordained priests, two for the Diocesan clergy and one as a Franciscan (Fr Bernardino), who would become her first biographer.

Once married, she embraced her marital obligations, always showing the greatest love and respect for her husband and becoming his confidante and adviser.   She had a tender love for all her children.   She was a hard worker and a person who could be counted on to fulfil her duties.

Mamma Rosa lived an intense life of prayer, which was evident by her great devotion to God love’s, to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.   Like the strong woman in Sacred Scripture, she became a real treasure to her family.   She knew how to balance the family budget and at the same time exercised great charity towards the poor, sharing her daily bread also with them.   She cared for the sick and gave them continuous assistance, showing heroic strength during the final illness of her husband Carlo, who died in 1930.

Mamma Rosa became a member of the Franciscan Third Order, known today as the Secular Franciscans.   She faithfully attended all their meetings but above all tried to live the true Franciscan spirit of poverty and joy in her home, in the midst of her daily work and prayer.   She had a gentle manner with everyone and praised God as the Creator and source of all good and the giver of all hope.

Mama Rosa’s family home was an ideal Christian community where her children were taught to pray, to obey, to respect the will of God and to practice Christian virtues.   In her vocation as a Christian mother, Mamma Rosa sacrificed and consumed herself day by day like a lamp burning brightly on the altar of charity.   She died on 8 January 1932 and was buried, with the hope of final resurrection, in the church of Marola.

The canonical process of beatification and canonisation was initiated on 3 February 2005 at the Diocesan curia of Padova, after getting passed several difficulties and misunderstandings among the different juridical persons trying to promote the Cause.

Mamma Rosa was a model of holiness in what should be the daily life of a Catholic family.   Her three sons who became priests were encouraged in their vocation by her example of holiness.   She was proclaimed Venerable on the 7th of July, 2003, by St Pope John Paul II who recognised the testimony of her heroic and singular virtues.   It was the wish of Venerable Pope Pius XII that the life of this marvellous woman be known among all Christian families of our day…

Blessed Eurosia was Beatified on 6 November 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI
the recognition was celebrated by Cardinal Saraiva Martins at Vincenza, Italy.

Posted in SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 5 January – St Charles of Mount Argus C.P. (1821-1893)

Saint of the Day – 5 January – St Charles of Mount Argus C.P. (1821-1893) – Religious Passionist Priest, Apostle of Charity, Spiritual guide, Miracle-worker – born Joannes Andreas Houben on 11 December 1821 in the village of Munstergeleen in the Province of Limburg in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and died on 5 January 1893 at Mount Argus, Ireland from an infected leg wound received in a carriage accident.saint_charles_argus

Fr Charles of St Andrew, known in secular life as John Andrew Houben, was born on 11 December 1821 in Munstergeleen, in the diocese of Ruremond (Holland), the fourth of eleven children.   He was baptised the same day with the name John Andrew.   He received his First Communion on 26 April 1835 and the sacrament of Confirmation on 28 June in the same year.   He began his formal education in Sittard and then in Broeksittard.   In 1840 he had to interrupt his studies to enter the military.   It was during this latter period that he first heard about the Congregation of the Passion.   At the end of his military service he completed his studies and requested to be admitted to the Congregation.   He was received by Blessed Dominic Barberi (1792-1849), Passionist and he entered the novitiate in the Belgium city of Ere, near Tournai on 5 November 1845. In December of that same year he was vested with the Passionist religious Habit and was given the name of Charles of St Andrew.   Having completed the canonical year of novitiate he professed First Vows on 10 December 1850.   At the conclusion of his studies he was ordained a priest by Bishop Labis, the ordinary of Tournai.houben

Immediately he was sent to England where the Passionists had founded three monasteries and it was here that, for a period of time, he undertook the ministry of vice-master of novices in the monastery of Broadway.   He also did parochial ministry in the parish of St Wilfred and neighbouring areas until 1856 when he was transferred to the newly established monastery of Mount Argus, on the outskirts of Dublin.

Blessed Charles Houben lived almost the remainder of his life in this retreat and was greatly loved by the Irish people to point that they referred to him,­ a native of Holland, ­ as Father Charles of Mount Argus.   He was a particularly pious priest.   He was outstanding in exercising obedience, in the practice of poverty, humility and simplicity and to an even greater degree, to devotion to the Passion of the Lord.

Due to his poor mastery of the English language, he was never a formal preacher and he never preached missions.   Rather, he very successfully dedicated himself to spiritual direction, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

The fame of his virtue was such that great crowds of people would gather at the monastery to seek his blessing.   There are also numerous testimonies to the outstanding miraculous cures that he worked to the extent, that even during his lifetime, he was known as a miracle worker.

Precisely because of this fame that extended throughout all of Great Britain as well as in America and Australia that in 1866, in order to afford him some rest, he was transferred to England where he lived for a time in the communities at Broadway, Sutton and London.   There he ministered as usual and there too, inside and outside the monastery, he was sought by the faithful, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

He returned to Dublin in 1874 where he remained until his death that took place at dawn on 5 January 1893.

During his very solemn funeral that was attended by people from all of Ireland there was definite proof of the popular devotion that had surrounded him throughout his life.   In a newspaper of the time we read: “Never before has the memory of any man sparked an explosion of religious sentiment and profound veneration as that which we observed in the presence of the mortal remains of Father Charles.”   The Superior of the monastery wrote to his family:  “The people have already declared him a saint.”charlesmtargus

The cause of his Beatification and Canonisation was introduced on 13 November 1935, and on 16 October 1988, His Holiness John Paul II proceeded with the Beatification of the one whom everyone called the saint of Mount Argus.

The miracle that led to his Canonisation was obtained through his intercession on behalf of Mr Adolf Dormans of Munstergeleen, the birthplace of the Blessed.   The diocesan inquiry super miro was also undertaken in the diocese of Roermond (Holland) from 6 November 2002 until 19 February 2003 at which time the validity of the miracle was recognised by a Decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 7 November 2003.

The medical consulta was convoked on 24 November 2005 and following the investigation of the matter, the members unanimously expressed that the cure of Mr. Dormans of “perforated, gangrenous appendicitis with generalised peritonitis that was multi-organically compromising and included extenuating and prolonged agony” was “not scientifically explainable”.

The theologian consultors, in the particular Congress of 21 February 2006 and the Ordinary Congregation of Cardinals and Bishops of 12 December 2006 also gave their unanimous approval of the supernatural aspect of the said healing.   The Decree concerning the miracle was given in the presence of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI on 21 December 2006…and he was Canonised on 3 June 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy…

During the last years of his life he had many trials.   He was also in failing health, was anxious about death.   His family in Holland were dying.   Old injuries returned to plague him.   Towards the end of 1892, it was obvious that the life of Fr Charles was coming to an end.   He said his last Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1892.   Word of his illness spread through the city, crowds gathered to enquire about him.   Just after Christmas he couldn’t eat, lost his sight and was like a living skeleton.   At 5.30 in the morning of the 5th January 1893 he passed peacefully to his Maker.

His body was brought to the Church and lay in state for five days.   Despite heavy snow, thousands filed past his coffin with the police keeping order.   His funeral was said to have been bigger than Parnell’s two years before.   Finally his remains were laid to rest in the cemetery beside Mount Argus Church.   His grave became a place of pilgrimage where people came daily to pray.   When in 1949 his remains were moved inside the Church the Shrine became the place of prayer.   Today people come twice each day to be blest with the Relic of Blessed Charles.SONY DSC

canonisation st charles of mount argusst charles passionists-argus


The 52nd World Day of Prayer for Peace – 1 January 2019

The 52nd World Day of Prayer for Peace – 1 January 2019

Excerpt from St Pope Paul VI’s First Message to the World on 1 January 1968 for the First World Day of Prayer for Peace1st world day of prayer of peace - st popepaul VI 1 jan 1968 1 jan2019

“We address Ourself to all men of good will to exhort them to celebrate “The Day of Peace”, throughout the world, on the first day of the year, 1 January 1968.   It is Our desire that then, every year, this commemoration be repeated as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and outlines the path of human life in time, that Peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come.

We think that this proposal interprets the aspirations of peoples, of their governments, of international organisms which strive to preserve Peace in the world, of those religious institutions so interested in the promotion of Peace, of cultural, political and social movements which make Peace their ideal;  of youth, whose perspicacity regarding the new paths of civilisation, dutifully oriented toward its peaceful developments is more lively;  of wise men who see how much, today, Peace is both necessary and threatened. The proposal to dedicate to Peace the first day of the new year is not intended, therefore, as exclusively ours, religious, that is, Catholic.   It would hope to have the adherence of all the true friends of Peace, as if it were their own initiative, to be expressed in a free manner, congenial to the particular character of those who are aware of how beautiful and how important is the harmony of all voices in the world for the exaltation of this primary good, which is Peace, in the varied concert of modern humanity.

The Catholic Church, with the intention of service and of example, simply wishes to “launch the idea”, in the hope that it may not only receive the widest consent of the civilised world but that such an idea may find everywhere numerous promoters, able and capable of impressing on the “Day of Peace”, to be celebrated on the first day of every new year, that sincere and strong character of conscious humanity, redeemed from its sad and fatal bellicose conflicts, which will give to the history of the world a more happy, ordered and civilised development.”the 52nd world day of prayer for peace - pope francis 1 jan 2019


1 JANUARY 2019

Good politics is at the service of peace

1. “Peace be to this house!”

In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10:5-6).

Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history.  The “house” of which Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.

So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”

2. The challenge of good politics

Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated. It is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalisation and even destruction.

Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide – is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.

Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.

3. Charity and human virtues:  the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace

Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity, commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have… Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”. This is a programme on which all politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.

In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.

Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.

4. Political vices

Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.

5. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others

When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.

Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex, especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalised world has such great need. Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.

6. No to war and to the strategy of fear

A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.

Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for the future of humanity.

7. A great project of peace

In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.

Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others:  family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lk 1:50-55).

From the Vatican, 8 December 2018




Saint of the Day – 27 December – Blessed Sára Salkaházi S.S.S. (1899–1944) Martyr – A Catholic Gem

Saint of the Day – 27 December – Blessed Sára Salkaházi S.S.S. (1899–1944) Martyr, Religious Sister of The Sisters of Social Service, Teacher, bookbinder, milliner, journalist – born as Schalkház Sarolta Klotild on 11 May 1899 in Kassa, Hungary (modern Košice, Slovakia) and died by being shot on 27 December 1944.   Sára was a Hungarian Catholic religious sister who saved the lives of Jews during World War II.   Denounced and summarily executed by the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party, Blessed Sara was Beatified on 17 September 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.   Recognition of the Beatification was celebrated at Budapest, Hungary by Cardinal Peter Erdo.   Blessed Sára was the first non-aristocrat Hungarian to be sarabeatification bl sara

Teacher, bookbinder, milliner, journalist – this was the resume of Sára Salkaházi when she applied to join the Sisters of Social Service, a Hungarian religious society that today is also active in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan and the Philippines.   The Sisters of that new congregation, founded in 1923 by Margit Slachta and devoted to charitable, social and women’s causes, were reluctant to accept this chain-smoking, successful woman journalist and she was at first turned away from their Motherhouse in Budapest. But 16 years later, she became the Society’s first Martyr, at the hands of the Nazis.

Fun-loving and intelligent, Sára was born into a well-to-do family at Kassa-Kosice, Upper Hungary, now Slovak territory, on 11 May 1899.   She studied to become a teacher.   In the classroom, she learned through her students about the social problems of the poor, which she publicised via newspaper articles.   To widen her horizon and experience first-hand what discrimination meant, Sára became a bookbinder’s apprentice, where she was given the hardest and dirtiest work.   She learned that trade, then went to work in a millinery shop, all the while continuing to write articles for newspapers.   She became a member of the Christian Socialist Party and then worked as editor of that party’s newspaper, focusing on women’s social problems.sara-salkahazi

After she had come into contact with the Sisters of Social Service, Sára felt a strong call to join them.   Following her initial rebuff, she quit smoking – with great difficulty – and was admitted to the Society at age 30, in 1929.   She chose as her motto Isaiah’s “Here I am! Send me!” (Is 6: 8b).   Her first assignment was to her native Kassa (which at the end of World War I had been incorporated into Czechoslovakia) to organise the work of Catholic Charities;  subsequently, she was sent to Komarom, for the same task  . In addition, she wrote, edited and published a Catholic women’s journal, managed a religious bookstore, supervised a shelter for the poor and taught.   The Bishops of Slovakia then entrusted her with the organization of the National Girls’ Movement.   She thus began giving leadership courses and publishing manuals.

In one year alone, she received 15 different assignments, from cooking to teaching at the Social Training Centre, all of which exhausted her physically and spiritually.   When several novices left the Society, Sára also considered leaving, especially since her superiors would not allow her to renew her temporary vows (she was deemed “unworthy”), nor permit her to wear the habit for a year.   These decisions hurt her deeply.   But Sára accepted these hardships and made up her mind to remain faithful to her calling for the sake of the One who called her.   Her faithfulness paid off as she received permission to renew her vows some time later.Sara_Salkahazi

She wanted to go to the missions, to China or Brazil but the outbreak of World War II made it impossible to leave the country.   She worked instead as a social lecturer and administrator in Upper Hungary and Sub-Carpathia (which had also been part of Hungary until the end of World War l) and took her final vows in 1940.

As national director of the Catholic Working Girls’ Movement, Sister Sára built the first Hungarian college for working women, near Lake Balaton.   In Budapest, she opened Homes for working girls and organised training courses.   To protest the rising Nazi ideology Sister Sára changed her last name to the more Hungarian-sounding “Salkaházi”. As the Hungarian Nazi Party gained strength and also began to persecute the Jews, the Sisters of Social Service provided safe havens.   Sister Sára opened the Working Girls’ Homes to them where, even in the most stressful situations, she managed to cheer up the anxious and discouraged.

As if her days were not busy enough, she managed to write a play on the life of St Margaret of Hungary, canonised on 19 November 1943.   The first performance, in March 1944, was also the last, since German troops occupied Hungary that very day and immediately suppressed this religious production.

The life of St Margaret may have provided the inspiration for Sister Sára to offer herself as a victim-soul for the safety and protection of her fellow-Sisters of Social Service.   For this, she needed the permission of her superiors, which was eventually granted.   At the time, they alone knew about her self-offering.

Meanwhile, she kept hiding additional groups of refugees in the various Girls’ Homes, under increasingly dangerous circumstances.   Providing them with food and supplies became more and more complicated every day, given the system of ration cards and the frequent air raids.   Nevertheless, Sister Sára herself is credited with the saving of 100 Jewish lives and her Community, with saving 1,000.

The Russian siege of Budapest began on Christmas 1944.   On the morning of 27 December, Sister Sára still delivered a meditation to her fellow-Sisters.   Her topic? Martyrdom!   For her, it would become a reality that very day.   Before noon, Sister Sára and another Sister were returning on foot from a visit to another Girls’ Home.   They could already see in the distance, armed Nazis standing in front of the house.   Sister Sára had time to get away but she decided that, being the director, her place was at this Home.   Upon entering the house, she too was accompanied down into the air raid shelter where the Nazis were already checking the papers of the 150 residents.   About 10 of them were refugees with false papers.   Some were declared suspicious and were to be taken to the ghetto, while those in charge would have to “give statements at Nazi headquarters before being released”.   As she was led out, Sister Sára managed to step into the chapel and quickly genuflected before the altar but her captors dragged her away.   One of the Nazis suggested, “Why don’t we finish them off here in the yard?”. But another gestured, “No”.

That night, a group of people was driven by agents of the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross regime to the Danube Embankment.   Sister Sára was among them.   As they were lined up, she knelt and made the Sign of the Cross before a bullet mowed her down.   Her stripped corpse and those of her companions were thrown into the sara profile

The other Sisters anxiously awaited Sister Sára’s return.   A youngster from the neighbourhood brought them news of the shooting the following day.   It seems that the Lord had accepted Sister Sára’s sacrifice, because none of the other Sisters of her Community was harmed.

Every year, on 27 December, the anniversary of her martyrdom, the Sisters of Social Service hold a candlelight memorial service on the Danube Embankment for Sister Sára Salkaházi.   The voluntary offering of their first martyr saved not only many persecuted Jews but also her Religious Community…

Speaking at the Beatification Mass, Rabbi József Schweitzer said of Sister Sára, “I know from personal experience … how dangerous and heroic it was in those times to help Jews and save them from death.   Originating in her faith, she kept the commandment of love until death.”

Peter Cardinal Erdo, the Archbishop of Budapest, read a proclamation from Pope Benedict XVI beatifying Sister Sara.

The proclamation said, “She was willing to assume risks for the persecuted…in days of great fear. Her martyrdom is still topical… and presents the foundations for our humanity.”

For the Lord, all things are possible.   Trust Him to the end!

“Here I am!   Send me!” (Is 6: 8b)



8 December – The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Today, 8 December, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. I wish you all a Blessed and Holy Feast Day!

Murillo 1678

Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 8 December 2012

“I would like to emphasise that Mary is Immaculate through a freely given gift of God’s grace, which, however, found perfect willingness and cooperation in her.   It is in this sense that she is “blessed” because “she believed” (Lk 1:45) and because she had steadfast faith in God.   Mary represents that “remnant of Israel”, that holy root which the Prophets proclaimed.   The promises of the Old Covenant find a ready welcome in her.   In Mary, the Word of God is met with listening, acceptance and a response, He encounters that “yes” which enables Him to take flesh and to come and dwell among us.


In Mary, humanity and history are truly opened to God, they welcome His grace and are prepared to do His will.   Mary is a genuine expression of Grace.   She represents the new Israel, which the Scriptures of the Old Testament describe with the symbol of the bride. And St Paul takes up this language in his Letter to the Ephesians where he speaks of marriage and says “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (5:25-27).   The Fathers of the Church developed this image and thus the Doctrine of the Immaculate Virgin first came into being with reference to the Church virgin-mother and, subsequently, to Mary.   Thus Ephraim the Syrian writes poetically:  “Just as [it was] because these bodies themselves have sinned and are themselves dying, that the earth, their mother was also accursed (cf. Gen 3:7-19), because of this body which is the incorruptible Church, her land was blessed from the outset.   This land is the body of Mary, a temple in which a seed was sown” (Diatessaron 4, 15: sc 121, 102).

Francesco de Mura imm conception
Francesco de Mura

The light that shines from the figure of Mary, also helps us to understand the true meaning of original sin.   Indeed that relationship with God which sin truncates is fully alive and active in Mary.   In her there is no opposition between God and her being, there is full communion, full understanding.   There is a reciprocal “yes” – God to her and her to God.   Mary is free from sin because she belongs entirely to God, she empties herself totally for Him.   She is full of His Grace and of His Love.

To conclude, the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary expresses the certainty of faith that God’s promises have been fulfilled and that His Covenant does not fail but has produced a holy root from which came forth the blessed Fruit of the whole universe, Jesus the Saviour.   The Immaculate Virgin shows that Grace can give rise to a response, that God’s fidelity can bring forth a true and good faith.”

Imm Conception Jusepe de Ribera (1637) tumblr_mcpufmupix1rpq8j1o1_540
Jusepe de Ribera (1637)

Room of the Immaculate Conception

Following the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX, which took place on 8 December 1854, the pontiff decide to celebrate the event with a cycle of frescoes.
The large room adjacent to the Raphael Rooms was chosen and the task was assigned to Francis Podesti (1800-1895), a painter originally from Ancona but rooted in the Roman artistic and academic panorama.   The artist, along with his team of workers, worked on the commission from 1856 to 1865, planning it and following its execution in all its aspects –  the wooden doors and window frames and the inlaid marble work, as well as the installation of the Roman mosaic from Ostia Antica, purchased specifically for this space.
The pictorial decoration proceeds from the ceiling, with allegorical scenes alluding to the virtues of the Virgin;  it continues along the northern wall with the homage of the continents to the Church enthroned;  it continues on the west wall, devoted to the Discussion of dogma in St Peter’s Basilica and concludes on the east wall, with the Coronation of the Image of Mary, an event following the Proclamation, which took place in St Peter’s.   Podesti, who was present, included a self-portrait here.ROOM OF THE IMM CONCEPTION.png