New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When did you last go for Confession

It will soon be Advent 2009, when was the last time you went for confession.

The next time you feel like GOD can't use you, just remember...
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elija h was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt
Peter denied Christ (3 times!)
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
Mary Magdalene was the Samaritan woman who was divorced, more than once...
Zaccheus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer... AND
Lazarus was dead!

Now! No more excuses!
God can use you to your full potential.
Besides, you aren't the message, you are just the messenger.
And one more thing...
Share this with a friend or two...
In the Circle of God's love, God is waiting to use your full potential.

(Another email gem from mummy)

A Sikh Boy who became a Catholic Priest

From devout Sikh to Catholic priest. This is the story of Jaideep Singh, who recently became a Maryknoll missionary, a societies of apostolic life founded in the United States in the early 1900s. Today he is Fr. Stephen James Taluja.

Born in 1981, the youngest child of an important Indian Sikh family, the only male eagerly awaited by his parents after three daughters. Fr. Stephen talks to AsiaNews about his unique and personal story that revolves around his discovery that Christ is the Mighty God "in weakness" and the certainty that "God is faithful."

"My mother was a very devout woman who introduced me to the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib educated us at home in the prayer and recitation of the hymns of the sacred scriptures. My father accompanied me to the Gurdwara, the Sikh temple, and he raised me in the faith of the almighty. My parents instilled in us children love for God and a sense of service to the community".

The young Jaideep studied at St Stephen's School in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. Harold Carver, dean and founder of the institute remembers the young Sikh who "excelled in sports and played in the under 19 national soccer team of the state, loved music and sang in the school choir".

Because of the quality of his singing the little Jaideep was invited to sing at midnight Mass on Easter Eve in the local church of St. Sebastian. He was 13 years old and attending the 7th class. It was the first time he had set foot in a Catholic church making the unusual occasion even more special for the young Sikh. Today, he says: "In that night I have vivid memories of the crucifix hanging on the wall and all the people on their knees praying. I did not understand how people could pray to a weak and dying God. For me, God had to emanate strength and power. And that God was just the opposite. " Fr. Stephen remembers "the charm of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, common prayer and the unveiling of a totally new way for me." He left the Mass with the image of "the cross and crucified Lord" in his head as well as "emerging questions about the meaning of life."

After that night Jadeep began a long journey. "My mother had noticed that there was something new in me and caught my initial interest in Christianity, but did not say anything." Jaideep turned to the rector Carver, putting his questions to him. Which become more insistent, even after the events in the family life of the boy.

The sudden death of his mother made even more urgent the need to understand the meaning of life and death. Fr. Stephen speaks today of the "darkness of soul" recalling that time. "I wondered where God was in all that was happening to me, what was the meaning of life." The patient company of Harold Carver marks the "days of torment" of the young Sikh who recalls: "At some point I began to see the connection between life and death, realizing that Jesus died and rose was the model for us."

The memory of that period, in which anguish was followed by the emergence of faith, is for Fr Stephen motive for "pride and gratitude". "My family had planted in my soul the seed of religion, dean Carver the seed of Catholicism and of a life spent in witness of the Gospel."

Jaideep decides to speak with his father about becoming a Christian. "All hell broke loose. He was annoyed, angry and offended. He called my sisters to ask them for information about my new faith". The young priest now says: "They were really heavy and unsettling days for the whole family ... thus began my personal participation in the passion and crucifixion of Christ."

On March 1, 1999 Jaideep was baptized and chose the name of his school Stephen James. "I became a Catholic in secret and for 3-4 years my family knew nothing. I did not want to hurt them even more, because my father loved me so much and yet did not understand my choices".

The year after Stephen leaves for the United States to study computer science. He lives in New York. To earn some money he works at night at a gas station. Every morning he goes to Mass in the parish named after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Shrub Oak. Even there, he sings in the choir and one day the director Patti Copeland introduced Stephen to the Maryknoll missionaries. The young man remembers: "Their stories of aid to the poor around the world were impressed on my young 20 year old mind".

"For some time I felt emerge in me the innate desire to communicate with God, to devote all of myself to contemplation." Stephen believes the roots of this impulse lie in the education he received in his home: "Being Indian, and having received from my mother and our culture a deep sense of divinity I was fascinated by the mystical life in the early days of New York and I had thought of becoming a Trappist monk”.

In 2001, the young Indian was invited to an Easter spiritual retreat and he realises he is being called to consecrated life. Stephen enters the seminary, but does not say nothing yet to his father and sisters, "worried about the pain and stress that the decision might cause to my family."

"It was a period of anxiety in my life," says the boy. "I knew that my father and members of my family were mocked, scorned and humiliated for my decision to become Catholic." Sikh culture attaches great importance to the one male in the family circle. "You have the responsibility to carry on the name of your race, to take care of parents when they grow old - said Stephen - all this and I could no longer do so because of the decision I had taken."

The days of priestly formation pass accompanied by the torture of hurting his loved ones and especially his father. "But God is faithful," says the young man. "I suffered, but I knew that God would give my father a reward far greater than I could hope for."

Stephen studied at St. Xavier University in Chicago, attended the Maryknoll's Language Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and for two years lived and worked in the mission of Aymara, on the Peruvian High Planes.

(Deacon Taluja prostrates himself before the altar during his ordination ceremony. Kindly note that the mass is being said Ad Orientem)

On 30 May 2009 he was ordained to the priesthood. Stephen’s three sisters arrive in New York: Anu, Manpreet and Jaipreet, who live in Europe and America. U.S. authorities will not grant a visa to the father. "But it was one of the happiest days of my life," says the young priest. "My dad wanted to be with me and through my sisters gave me his blessing and the sign of his support for my choice. He wanted me to know that he was proud of me and he had reconciled with my vocation. "

On becoming a priest of the Maryknoll missionaries, the young priest began a new life and on the day of his ordination, officiated by Msgr. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, he received messages of congratulations from hitherto unknown people who had learned of his story through friends or other missionaries. "They wrote that they prayed for me, as I became a priest during his Year for Priests - says Fr Stephen - and I felt honoured and privileged to be a Catholic priest, blessed by the prayers of so many people around the world. All this has made me all the stronger in my desire to be a holy priest and a missionary who serves God by serving his people".

(I received this in my email from mum, I verified it at this website )

Presentation of the Virgin Mary

Many of the celebrations in honor of Mary are based in historical fact. The Sacred Scriptures tell of her acceptance of God's invitation to be the mother of the Savior at the Annunciation. We know of her maternity and of her faithfulness to her son, Jesus, even standing at the side of his cross.

The Scriptures tells us nothing of Mary's hidden life. The inspired Word of God gives us no word about her Presentation in the Temple, the feast which we celebrate each year on November 21st. However, we do have the testimonies of tradition which are based on accounts which come to us from apostolic times. That which is known about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple is found in the Apocrypha, principally in chapter seven of the Protoevangelium of James, which has been dated by historians prior to the year 200 AD.

This book gives us a detailed account in which Mary's father, Joachim, tells Anna his wife that he wishes to bring their child to the Temple of the Lord. Anna responds that they should wait until the child is three years old lest she yearn for her parents. When the day arrived, the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews were invited to accompany Mary with their lamps burning to the Temple. There the priest received her, blessed her, and kissed her in welcome. He proclaimed, "The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel." Mary was placed on the third step of the Temple and there danced with joy and all the house of Israel loved her. It was there that she was nurtured and her parents returned, glorifying the Almighty.

This story is a legend with no foundation in history and the point of the story is to show that even in her childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. However, it is from this very account that arose the feast of Mary's Presentation.

Historians tell us that the Emperor Justinian built a splendid church dedicated to Mary in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was dedicated on November 21, 543 but was destroyed by the Persians within a century. Many of the early church Fathers such as St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (+730) and St. John Damascene, his contemporary, preached magnificent homilies on this feast referring to Mary as that special plant or flower which was being nurtured for better things." She was planted in the House of God, nourished by the Holy Spirit and kept her body and soul spotless to receive God in her bosom. He Who is all-holy rests among the holy."

We know that in the Byzantine Church this feast is considered one of the twelve great feasts of the liturgical year, called the Dodecaorton. Scholars believe that Mary's Presentation in the Temple is considered a major feast for the Eastern churches celebrating the same values that the Western church celebrates in the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It appears that this feast was not celebrated in Rome at the time of Pope St. Sergius (+701) who established four other principle feasts dedicated to Mary. By the ninth century it is celebrated in the monasteries of southern Italy which had been influenced by the traditions of the Byzantine churches. By the fourteenth century it had spread to England and it is recorded that it was celebrated in Avignon, France in 1373. Its acceptance is considered very slow and it was not until the year 1472 that Pope Sixtus IV extended its celebration to the universal church.

Pope Paul VI in the 1974 encyclical Marialis Cultus, n.8, wrote of this feast that "despite its apocryphal content, it presents lofty and exemplary values and carries on the venerable traditions having their origins in the Eastern churches."

(Courtesy )

Friday, November 20, 2009

By faith she believed; by faith, conceived

(The following text is from the Office of Readings)

Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Saviour was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her – did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power. and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, and so she is blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent – the most eminent – member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine – our head is God.
Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfils the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.

Saint Felix of Valois -20 November 2009

Saint Felix was the son of the Count of Valois. His mother carried him to Saint Bernard at his monastery of Clairvaux, to offer him there to God, when he was three years old; she kept him, however, under her own care and took particular care of him, permitting him, still young, to distribute the alms she was pleased to give to the poor. When the exiled Pope Innocent II sought refuge in France, the Count of Valois, father of Felix, offered his castle of Crepy to the Pontiff, who often blessed the young child whom he saw being trained in virtue. One day when Felix gave away his own habits to a poor beggar, he found them that evening neatly laid on his bed; and he thanked God for this sign of His divine goodness, proving that one loses nothing when one gives to the poor.

When he was ten years old he obtained grace for a prisoner condemned to death, by means of his prayer and his pleadings with his uncle, a lord of whom the man was the subject. Felix had a presentiment that this man would become a saint; and in fact, he retired into a deep solitude where he undertook severe penance and died the death of the just.

The unfortunate divorce of the parents of Felix, and the excommunication of his father, who had remarried and whose condemnation raised serious troubles on his domains, caused to mature in the young man a long-formed resolution to leave the world. Confiding his mother to her pious brother, Thibault, Count of Champagne, Felix took the Cistercian habit at Clairvaux. His rare virtues drew on him an admiration such that, with Saint Bernard’s consent, he fled from it to Italy, where he began to live an austere life with an aged hermit in the Alps. For this purpose he had departed secretly, and the servants his uncle sent believed him dead, being unable to trace him; they published the rumor of his death. About this time the old hermit procured the ordination of his disciple as a priest.

After his elderly counselor died in his arms, Saint Felix returned to France. He built a cell in the diocese of Meaux in an uninhabited forest; this place was later named Cerfroid. Amid savage beasts he led an angelic life of perpetual fasting. Here God inspired him with the desire of founding an Order for the redemption of Christian captives. The Lord also moved Saint John of Matha, a young nobleman of Provence, to seek out the hermit and join him. The two applied themselves to the practice of all virtues. It was John who overtly proposed to Saint Felix the project of an Order for the redemption of captives, when his preceptor was already seventy years old. The latter gladly offered himself to God for that purpose, and after praying for three days the two solitaries made a pilgrimage to Rome in the middle of winter. They were kindly received by the Pope, after he read the recommendation which the Bishop of Paris had given them. He too prayed and became convinced that the two Saints were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he gave his approbation to the Trinitarian Order

Within forty years the Order would have six hundred monasteries. Saint John, who was Superior General, left to Saint Felix the direction of the convents in France, exercised from the monastery which the founders had built at Cerfroid. There Saint Felix died in November of 1212, at the age of eighty-five, only about six weeks before his younger co-founder. It is a constant tradition in the Trinitarian Order that Saint Felix and Saint John were canonized by Urban IV in 1260, though no bull has ever been found. In 1219 already the feast of Saint Felix was kept in the entire diocese of Meaux. In 1666 Alexander VI declared that veneration of the servant of God was “immemorial”.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

St. Raphael Kalinowski - 19 November 2009

Father Raphael of Saint Joseph Kalinowski, was born at Vilna, 1st September 1835, and at baptism received the name Joseph. Under the teaching of his father Andrew, at the Institute for Nobles at Vilna, he progressed so well that he received the maximum distinction in his studies. He then went for two years (1851-1852) to the school of Agriculture at Hory-Horky. During the years 1853-1857, he continued his studies at the Academy of Military Engineering at St Petersburg, obtaining his degree in Engineering, and the rank of Lieutenant. Immediately afterwards he was named Lecturer in Mathematics at the same Academy. In 1859, he took part in the designing of the Kursk-Kiev-Odessa railway.

In 1863 the Polish insurrection against their Russian oppressors broke out. He resigned from the Russian forces, and accepted the post of Minister of War for the region of Vilna, in the rebel army. On 24th March 1864, he was arrested and condemned to death, a penalty that was mitigated to 10 years hard labour in Siberia. With an admirable strength of spirit, patience, and love for his fellow exiles, he knew how to instill into them the spirit of prayer, serenity and hope, and to give material help together with a word of encouragement.

Repatriated in 1874, he accepted the post of tutor to the Venerable Servant of God, Augusto Czartoryski, living mostly in Paris. His influence on the young prince was such, that Augusto discovered his true vocation as priest and religious. He was received into the Salesians by their founder, Saint John Bosco, in 1887. On the other hand, Joseph Kalinowski entered the Discalced Carmelites at Graz in Austria, and received the religious name of Brother Raphael of Saint Joseph. He studied theology in Hungary, and was ordained Priest at Czerna near Krakow, 15th January 1882.

Afire with apostolic zeal, he did not spare himself in helping the faithful, and assisting his Carmelite brothers and sisters in the ascent of the mountain of perfection.

In the sacrament of Reconciliation, he lifted up many from the mire of sin. He did his utmost for the work of reunification of the Church, and bequeathed this mission to his Carmelite brothers and sisters. His superiors entrusted him with many important offices, which he carried out perfectly, right until the time of his death.

Overcome by fatigue and suffering, and held in great respect by all the people, he gave his soul to God, 15th November 1907, at Wadowice in the monastery founded by himself. He was buried in the monastery cemetery, at Czerna, near Krakow.

During his life and after death, he enjoyed a remarkable fame for sanctity, even on the part of the most noble and illustrious of people, such as the Cardinals Dunajewski, Puzyna, Kakowski and Gotti. The Ordinary Process for his eventual beatification, was set in motion in the Curia of Krakow during the years 1934-1938, and later taken to Rome where in 1943 was issued the Decree concerning his writings. His cause was introduced in 1952. From 1953-1956 the Apostolic Process was carried out, and the Congregation proceeded to the discussion on his virtues.

Pope John Paul II, on the 11th October 1980, promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of his virtues. After the approval of the miraculous healing of the Reverend Mis, the Holy Father beatified Father Raphael Kalinowski at Krakow on 22nd June 1983.

As the fame of his miracles was increasing, the Curia of Krakow in 1989, set in motion the Canonical Process to investigate the extraordinary healing of a young child. The discussions of the doctors, theologians and cardinals, were brought to a happy conclusion. On the 10th July 1990, the Holy Father John Paul II, approved the miracle for the canonization.

In the Consistory of 26th November 1990, Pope John Paul together with the Cardinals, decided to canonize Blessed Raphael Kalinowski. They set the ceremony for Sunday, 17th November 1991.
Pope John Paul II, today canonizes him, and presents him as a model to all Christians in the universal Church.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dedication of Sts. Peter and Sts. Paul Basilicas

AS the commemorative feast of the dedication of the archbasilica of the Lateran is kept by the whole Western church, so also is that of the other greater patriarchal basilicas at Rome, St Mary Major on August 5, and St Peter's and St Paul's together on this day, November 18th. Amongst all the places which the blood of martyrs has rendered illustrious, that part of the Vatican Hill which was consecrated with the blood and enriched with the relics of the Prince of the Apostles has always been the most venerable. "The sepulchres of those who have served Christ crucified", says St John Chrysostom, "surpass the palaces of kings ; not so much in the greatness and beauty of the buildings (though in this also they go beyond them) as in other things of more importance, such as the multitude of those who with devotion and joy repair to them. For the emperor himself, clothed in purple, goes to the tombs of the saints and kisses them ; humbly prostrate on the ground he beseeches the same saints to pray to God for him ; and he who wears a royal crown looks on it as a great privilege from God that a tentmaker and a fisherman, and these dead, should be his protectors and defenders, and for this he begs with great earnestness." The martyrdom of St Peter took place according to tradition at the circus of Caligula in Nero 's gardens on the Vatican Hill, and he was buried nearby. It is held by some that in the year 258, to avoid desecration during the persecution of Valerian, the relics of St Peter, together with those of St Paul were translated for a time to the obscure catacomb now called St Sebastian's ; but they came back to their original resting-place, and in 323 the Emperor Constantine began the building of the basilica of St Peter over the tomb of the Apostle. For nearly twelve hundred years this magnificent church remained substantially the same, a great papal establishment gradually growing up between it and the Vatican Hill. This was made the permanent residence of the popes on their return from the exile at Avignon, and by the middle of the fifteenth century the old church was found to be inadequate. In 1506 Pope Julius II inaugurated a new building designed by Bramante, whose erection was carried on over a period of a hundred and twenty years, undergoing many alterations, additions and modifications at the hands of various popes and architects, especially Paul V and Michelangelo. The new basilica of St Peter, as we see it today, was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626, the day of its original dedication. The high altar was set up over the Apostle's resting-place, which until 1942 had been inaccessible for many centuries. Though St Peter's must always yield in dignity to the cathedral of St John Lateran, it has nevertheless for long been the most important church of the world, both in fact and in the hearts of Catholic Christians.

The martyrdom of St Paul took place some seven miles from that of St Peter at Aquae Salviae (now called Tre Fontane) on the Ostian Way. He was buried about two miles therefrom, on the property of a lady named Lucina, in a small vault. Early in the third century, according to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., ii, 25, 7), a Roman priest, Caius, refers to the tombs of SS. Peter and Paul : " I can show you the trophies [tombs] of the apostles. If you go to the Vatican or on the road to Ostia you will see the trophies of those who founded this church." Constantine is said to have begun a basilica here too, but the great church of St Pauloutside-the-Walls was principally the work of the Emperor Theodosius I and Pope St Leo the Great. It remained in its primitive beauty and simplicity till the year 1823, when it was consumed by fire. The whole world contributed to its restoration, non-Christians as well as non-Catholics sending gifts and contributions. During the course of the work the fourth-century tomb was found, with the inscription PAULO APOST MART : To Paul, apostle and martyr ; it was not opened. The new basilica, on the lines of the old one, was consecrated by Pope Pius IX on December 10, 1854, but the annual commemoration was appointed for this day, as the Roman Martyrology records. " We do not ", says St Augustine, " build churches or appoint priesthoods, sacred rites and sacrifices to the martyrs, because, not the martyrs, but the God of the martyrs, is our God. Who among the faithful ever heard a priest, standing at the altar set up over the body of a martyr to the honour and worship of God, say in praying : We offer up sacrifices to thee, Peter, or Paul, or Cyprian ? We do not build churches to martyrs as to gods, but as memorials to men departed this life, whose souls live with God. Nor do we make altars to sacrifice on them to the martyrs, but to their God and our God."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

St Elizabeth of Hungary - 17th November 2009

Elizabeth of Hungary lived for only a short while during the early part of the thirteenth century, yet experienced life as only few can; she was a child, princess, mother, queen, widow, exile, and one of the most pious women to ever live. She was able to simultaneously balance the role of prosperous sovereign with humble servant of God. Even after her exile by her in-laws, in the years following her husband’s death, she remained strong in her faith and never wavered in her devotion to the poor. She was an extraordinary woman who lived for less than a quarter of a century during the early portion of the 13th century, but made more of an impact on an entire country then most people who live three times as long as she did. She is still remembered in Germany as "dear St. Elizabeth" and her feast is celebrated on November 17 in the Roman Catholic Church.

While most sources refer to her as Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, she is more accurately referred to as Elizabeth of Thuringia and Hesse as she married into the Thuringian family line from Hesse and consequently spent more of her time in her husband's territory. Born in 1207 at the castle at Pressburg (modern day Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia) she was the second child of Alexander/ Andreas/ Andrew (different sources give diverse names) II and Queen Gertrude of Hungary. As a royal daughter, the issue of marriage became an important one, even in her infancy. Ultimately, an offer was accepted and she was betrothed to Landgrafin Hermann I of Thuringia.

Elizabeth was an outstanding child who directed all of her actions and intentions to God. She was intelligent, well-educated, and a willful young girl who practiced penance regularly, refused to go to Mass in embroidered sleeves or gloves (as she felt that these luxuries were unnecessary and gaudy), and regularly gave alms to the poor. She was often being lost in prayer and at an early age, put herself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin and Saint John.

While most children are off frolicking and making trouble, Elizabeth was married between the ages of thirteen and fourteen. Hermann I had died on December 31, 1216; so instead, she married his brother, Ludwig. The match proved to be a happy one. Ludwig loved her deeply and was a kind-hearted husband. He was generous and wary of misusing his power. His ultimate goal was the service of God, and therefore their philosophies and personal morals intertwined perfectly.

Ludwig spent his reign, as he spent his life, acting for the will of God. As ruler, he traveled to Italy on behalf of the empire and emperor. In his absence, he left control of his finances and household to Elizabeth who in turn disseminated alms, including state robes and ornaments, to all parts of the territory. In addition, she built a twenty-eight-bed hospital below the Wartburg and visited the residents daily to attend to their wants. The following year, after a brief return to Germany, Ludwig left yet again, this time on a crusade to Palestine in conjunction with Emperor Frederick II. He died shortly after leaving for Palestine, on 11 September 1227 en route to the crusade for God against the infidels.

Thus, Elizabeth was left with three children, a widow at the age of twenty. She was deeply upset at the loss of her beloved husband. Yet, she turned to God for aid and found it in the guidance of Caesarius of Speyer. With newfound hope, she built a monastery for the Franciscan order in 1225 at Eisenach.

However, trouble was not far behind. In 1227, she felt compelled to leave Wartburg for moral reasons and instead took up residence at Marburg. Ludwig’s brother, Heinrich Raspe, was a cruel and harsh man compared to his brother, and offered to provide her with enough to subsist her each day, but nothing more. She did not agree to these terms and ultimately, his callous and uncooperative manner drove her out of Warburg; without extra money, she could not provide for the poor of the community and her conscience would not permit her to act without regard for others. She found final refuge on Good Friday, 1228 with the Franciscans at Eisenach. Here, she formally relinquished worldly possessions and then proceeded to become one of the first tertiaries of Germany, a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. Her last act of the outside world was the completion of the Franciscan hospital at Marburg in the summer of 1228. After this, she devoted her heart and soul to the aid of the poor and sick, especially the most severely afflicted. She died only a few years later, at the age of twenty-four.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, or Thuringia, is the first royal Franciscan tertiary to be canonized. At only twenty-four years old, Elizabeth of Hungary died and the world lost of one of the most pious women to ever live. Within only four years, Pope Gregory IX named her a Saint (in May of 1235). She is most remembered for her gentle, charitable nature and complete devotion to God’ s will. Her popularity was immediate, with most of her followers living in the regions in and around Germany and Hungary. While she is still remembered today for her many works of charity, Elizabeth's popularity has declined due to the historical distance that today's society possesses from the 12th century.

St. Margaret of Scotland - 16th November 2009

Margaret was born in 1046 and was a member of an ancient English royal family. She was a direct descendant of King Alfred and was the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England through his son Edward.

Along with her family Margaret had been exiled to the eastern continent when King Canute and his Danish army had overrun England. Beautiful and devout she was also intelligent receiving her formal education in Hungary.

Margaret and her family returned to England towards the end of the reign of her great-uncle, Edward the Confessor, as her younger brother Edgar the Aetheling, had a very strong claim to the English throne. The English nobility had other ideas however and elected Harold Godwin as Edward’s successor.

All of this political manoeuvring proved irrelevant when William, Duke of Normandy, otherwise known as ‘The Conqueror’ arrived with his army near Hastings in 1066, but that’s another story.

As some of the last remaining Saxon Royals in England, Margaret and her family’s position was precarious and fearing for their lives they fled northwards, in the opposite direction to the advancing Normans. They were heading back to the continent from Northumbria when their ship was blown off course and landed in Fife.

The Scottish King, Malcolm III, known as Malcolm Canmore (or Great Head) offered his protection to the royal family.

Malcolm was particularly protective towards Margaret! She initially refused his proposals of marriage, preferring, according to one account, a life of piety as a virgin. Malcolm however was a persistent king, and the couple finally married in Dunfermline in 1069.

Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for both themselves and the Scottish nation. Margaret brought with her some of the finer points of current European manners, ceremony and culture to the Scottish Court, which highly improved its civilised reputation.

Queen Margaret was renown for her moderating and good influence on her husband and also for her devout piety and religious observance. She was a prime mover in the reform of the Church in Scotland.

Under Queen Margaret's leadership Church councils promoted Easter communion and, much to joy of the working-class, abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels and established the Royal Mausoleum at Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially fond of Scottish saints and instigated the Queen's Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.

Mass was changed from the many dialects of Gaelic spoken throughout Scotland to the unifying Latin. By adopting Latin to celebrate the Mass she believed that all Scots could worship together in unity, along with the other Christians of Western Europe. Many people believe that in doing this, it was not only Queen Margaret's goals to unite the Scots, but also Scotland and England in an attempt to end the bloody warfare between the two countries.

In setting the agenda for the church in Scotland Queen Margaret also ensured the dominance of the Roman Church over the native Celtic Church in the north of the country.

Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, all with English names. Alexander and David followed their father to the throne, whilst their daughter, Edith (who changed her name to Matilda upon her marriage), brought the ancient Anglo-Saxon and Scottish Royal bloodline into the veins of the Norman Invaders of England when she married and bore children to King Henry I.

Margaret was very pious and cared especially for the poor and orphans. It was this piety that caused considerable damage to her health with the repeated fasting and abstinence. In 1093, as she lay on her deathbed after a long illness, she was told that her husband and eldest son had been ambushed and treacherously killed at the Battle of Alnwick in Northumbia. She died shortly after aged just forty-seven.

She was buried alongside Malcolm in Dunfermline Abbey and the reported miracles that took place in and around her tomb supported her canonization in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV.

At the Reformation St. Margaret’s head somehow passed into the possession of Mary Queen of Scots, and was later secured by the Jesuits at Douai, where it is believed to have perished during the French Revolution.

The feast of St. Margaret was formerly observed by the Roman Catholic Church on 10th June but is now celebrated each year on the anniversary of her death, 16th November.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Democracy cannot exist without values

Democracy is classically defined as a government of, for and by the people. The people have a set of values based on which they elect representatives who form the government.The government passes laws based on the values of the people as the government shares the same values as the people.

Democracies have achieved greatness because they were based on the values of the people which they represented. However the edifice of democracy breaks down when the value system of the people changes.

Western democracy was based on Judeo-Christian values. These values laid the foundation of society and laws were based around these values. However as the people moved away from these values their elected representatives also passed laws which reflected these new values.

For example, society frowned upon adultery and laws were passed against adultery. However as people accepted adultery government had to pass laws which not only allowed divorces, but also recognized common law spouses and common law spousal benefits. Now a negative value - adultery - gets rewarded with the same benefits as monogamy and the value of monogamy is diminished.

Progressing on the same example, as adultery becomes more and more acceptable in society and loses all its stigma, fornication also becomes acceptable and soon all forms of sexuality becomes acceptable. Soon homosexuality is common and the government which is elected by people whose values now include support for a perverse sexuality passes law in support of such perversion. Homosexual unions are given the status of marriage and education systems are forced to teach sexual perversion as part of curriculum.

As the values of the people move further away from the Judeo-Christian value system each of the 10 commandments is broken and anti-values come to the fore, rights of choice (abortion and euthanasia) triumph of right to life. Government passes laws supporting abortion and euthanasia, the right to chose is taught in schools and any from of dissent is punished legally via human right tribunals.

As relativism grows a democracy fails and is replaced by a tyrannical government which makes laws to allow anti-values and punish real values. This is already seen in Canada and many parts of western Europe.

The United States of America faces this situation today. Religion and values have been pushed far into the background. As a consequence of this generations have grown up with a warped if not non-existent value system. the prevailing value is to be happy at all costs and be rich at all costs. The American democracy is at stake and if USA wishes not to become like Canada, then a return to Judeo-Christian values is essential.