Monday, December 31, 2007

Thought on Auburn Game at Halftime

Coach Tuberville has this habit it appears of not to really care if they win Bowl Games or not. Installing a whole new offensive scheme and giving the players not even two weeks to game it is insane. Also Lou Holtz is correct in what he just said. QB Brandon Cox is the not the mobile QB to do this scheme. Current mood Frustrated.

Clemson 7 Auburn 3 at the half

Happy New Year and Thoughts On Bowl Games

I have been soaking up all the College Football I can get today. I love Bowl season and for that reason I suppose I have never been a playoff fan for college ball.

I am glad Bama won last night

I am glad that Fresno beat GA Tech

I have 20 Dollars on this Kentucky Game and how they are playing right now is driving me to distraction.

I am glad Cal got it together and beat Air Force. I would have loved Air Force in some ways to win however that would have hurt me in my Bowl Pick em Contest

I am anxious to watch the Clemson/Auburn Game tonight. I am really amazed that so many people think Clemson will win. I think Auburn handles them nicely but we shall see.

I so wish I was in New Orleans. I am hearing that the Hawaii fans are having a blast down there. I normally root for all SEC teams. However I shall be rooting for Hawaii and the WAC tomorrow night.

Anyway more later. Also one other thing:

Tomorrow is a HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION- GET TO MASS. I shall post on that after midnight!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Huckabee Beats Out Pope Benedict

At least as to news stories on Catholic News Services.

I just posted the full text of a interesting article that was just released from Catholic Online News. You can see it here at BREAKING: Governor Huckabee Addresses Anti-Catholicism and Abortion

It has been noted by Huckabee supporters that many people wish to argue that the Huckabee supporters are all Evangelical. Thus setting up , in a very clever way, a feeling that if one is not of this faith tradition you are oddball for supporting Huckabee. One person on the Corner blog responded to this last week:

Huckareaders [Ramesh Ponnuru]
Here is a very representative example of the response from Huckabites to my
latest article:
Bro, you need not be an evangelical to appreciate and support Huckabee's candidacy ... what, you think his issues only appeal to evangelicals? For your sake and the future of the party, I hope you don't. What is so appealing about him is that he is speaking to the concerns, and fears even, that many people are experiencing in a global economy.
And for God's sake, in case you are so inclined, leave the floating cross/bookcase alone ...
And another:
The only problem with the thesis of your column is that you are wrong.
Many other people other than evangelicals are listening to Huckabee. We listen because he is not part of the "crowd."
You make a huge mistake if you think this election will be business as usual. Or that illegal immigration will swing your way.
(I have no idea what that last bit means.)
I didn't mind the Huckabee Christmas ad: I'm a keep-Mass-in-Christmas kind of guy, myself. As for why I think that non-evangelicals don't find Huckabee very appealing, it is a hunch about the way he has been campaigning combined with the polling data I have seen. Anyone who has recent data on this question, send it in.

12/27 05:22 PM

As the article noted the Huckabee Interview was the most read article in the HISTORY OF CATHOLIC ONLINE. Catholic Online is one of the Major Catholic News Services. Thus meaning that in a way Huckabee beat out the Pope and stories on the "Latin Mass". That indicates to me a lot of linking and emailing of that article going on and thus interest by serious Mass Going Catholics. A vote that went to Bush in 04.

BREAKING: Governor Huckabee Addresses Anti-Catholicism

Just Checking in. I find this very significant:

BREAKING: Governor Huckabee Addresses Anti-Catholicism and AbortionBy Deacon Keith Fournier12/29/2007Catholic Online ( our first interview with Governor Mike Huckabee there was an intimation of anti-catholicism by several pundits and commentators. We asked the Governor directly about this and about another issue of importance to our Catholic Online readers and viewers.LOS ANGELES (Catholic Online) - We set forth below the questions asked by Catholic Online and the candidates responses.

DEACON KEITH FOURNIER: “Governor Huckabee, on December 18, 2007 Catholic Online issued a challenge to all of the candidates running for the President in 2008, in both major political parties, asking each of them to answer a series of questions of particular concern to Catholics. We promised that their response, or lack of response, would be made known to all of our readers and viewers. Governor, you were gracious enough to give us an exclusive interview. In that interview you answered each of our questions, thoroughly, thoughtfully and forthrightly.

Just days from now, the first real contest of the Presidential Primary season, the important Iowa caucus, will be underway. In a Primary schedule that has become compacted by changes in dates, Iowa results loom quite large. And, the 2008 election contest which was once considered a “lock”, has become a real “horse race”, voters are truly paying attention.

Your interview with Catholic Online is one the highest read stories in our history.

However, shortly after its publication, you spoke at a Church in Texas, on a Sunday morning. Of course, there is nothing unusual about that. What caught the attention of many of our readers and viewers was a concern that the Pastor of the Church has written some material that insults the Catholic Church and has been labeled by some as anti-Catholic. Our readers understand that you, like all of the candidates, are running for the Presidency.

In other words, we know that you seek to govern the whole Nation and, of course, you must reach out to all Americans. However, there has, unfortunately, been a history of anti-Catholicism in this Nation that we all love. Your campaign quickly noted the presence of Catholics in many of the top positions of your campaign staff.However, the issue and the concern raised by your visit, has not gone away. Would you comment upon your visit and on your views concerning Catholics in America?

GOVERNOR HUCKABEE: “I am invited to speak at thousands of diverse venues each year. My willingness to address a group says nothing about whether or not I agree with every tenet, policy or belief espoused by a group. To be honest, I have never thought about having “a view” about Catholics in America. Rather, I have enjoyed strong, personal relationships with many Catholics over the years and I would hate to think about my life without those relationships having been there.

For more than a decade, I marched side-by-side with Catholic Bishops in Arkansas’ annual March for Life. Throughout my years as Lieutenant Governor and Governor, I enjoyed a very close relationship with leaders and members of the Catholic Church in Arkansas. My pro-life record is largely the result of this close working relationship. My relationships with Catholics predated my entry into politics.

When I was pastoring a Baptist church in Texarkana, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word at the St. Michael Hospital near my church. I was always welcomed warmly by the sisters when I visited the sick.

As a pastor, I held joint services with my neighboring Catholic congregation, was invited to speak in Catholic churches for special services, and had regular breakfast meetings with the Bishop of the Arkansas Diocese, Bishop Peter Sartain, now in Illinois. Those early years of ministry showed me the value of working with caring people whether or not every one of our religious tenets line up exactly. In short, if I held any animosity toward Catholics, I don't think Justice Scalia would have ever taken me up on my invitations to go duck hunting.

As I mentioned before, many of my top-level staff and closest advisors are Catholic, including my national campaign manager, national campaign director, my policy advisor and my campaign’s chief operating officer.

DEACON FOURNIER: Governor, you have expressed your long term position on what most Catholics consider the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death, in these words: “I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. As President, I will fight for passage of this amendment. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering.” Does your position in opposition to abortion admit of any exceptions?

GOVERNOR HUCKABEE: “First, let me say I have appreciated that Catholics led in the pro-life issue and were firm on this even before the Baptists. Before the Baptists really started taking a strong position on the sanctity of life, I was a part of an organization called "Southern Baptists for Life" which was launched to move our denomination to a more consistent pro-life position. In regard to exceptions, experience has shown that health of the mother exceptions are so broad that they result in ‘carte blanche’ abortion on demand. Consequently, I do not support an exception in those terms. Abortion proponents point to exceptions and worst-case scenarios as a way to defend abortion on demand.

DEACON FOURNIER: "Thank you for taking the time out of a busy schedule to speak with us once again. Blessed Christmas to you and your family and Happy New Year"

IT appears that GOvernor Huckabee has a very significant and friendly voice and ally in the major US Online Catholic Press

Friday, December 28, 2007

Off To Mississippi

After a few hours sleep I am off to the Magnola State. My mothers side of the family is all getting together to celebrate Christmas. Blogging will resume either Sunday night or Monday

Pope rejects ideology for its own sake

I was very impressed by this article. Partly because it appeared in the secular press.

AT midnight mass in St Peter's, Benedict XVI conjured in his sermon with an image from the writings of Gregory of Nyssa, of the whole universe torn and disfigured by sin."What," the Pope wondered, "would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation? Anselm of Canterbury, in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk."
At first blush, it seems as though he's talking about global warming. That's certainly the way Ian Fisher, the Fairfax stringer in Rome, framed his story about the event and construed those passing remarks in a sermon mainly devoted to the incarnation. "Benedict has spoken out increasingly about environmental concerns and the Vatican has purchased carbon offsets, credits to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions created by the energy consumed in the world's smallest state, Vatican City," Fisher's report said.
There are three problems with such a gloss. The first is that the line about selfish and reckless abuse of energy might be no more than a reference to the First World's consumption of dwindling oil reserves. The second is that the idea of a polluted world whose future is at risk could just as well be interpreted as an allusion to acid rain, contaminated waterways, general environmental degradation and the problem of nuclear proliferation.
The third and most conclusive objection is that we already know what Benedict thinks about global warming. He made a telling intervention during the Bali conference earlier this month, releasing a message prepared for World Peace Day fully three weeks earlier than scheduled just to emphasise the point. Whether some Vatican bureaucrat - who probably got the project under way in the dying days of the previous reign - has bought some tokenistic carbon credits is neither here nor there. What matters is what the Pope himself says.
He warned that "any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not dubious ideology ... Fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disaster are nothing more than scaremongering. While some concerns may be valid, it is vital that the international community bases its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement ... Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions."
It cannot have escaped the Pope's attention that carbon dioxide continues to build in the atmosphere but the mean planetary temperature hasn't increased significantly for nearly nine years. Similar misgivings about how well the greenhouse theory fits the available facts informed the views of his leading local representative, Cardinal George Pell. In February this year Pell wrote a column calling for caution over exaggerated claims of severe global warming. He said he is "deeply sceptical about man-made catastrophic global warming, but still open to further evidence. What we are seeing from the doomsayers is an induced dose of mild hysteria, semi-religious if you like, but dangerously close to superstition. I would be surprised if industrial pollution and carbon emissions had no effect at all, but enough is enough."

A reporter with a sharper eye for coded messages could have found one at least that was unmistakable in the text of the sermon and within the rest of the liturgy half a dozen actions that spoke far louder than words.
The Pope has long been concerned about the place of Gregorian chant, which after the Second Vatican Council has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance, even in Rome. He said: "According to the Fathers, part of the angels' Christmas song is that now angels and men can sing together and in this way the beauty of the universe is expressed in the beauty of the song of praise. Liturgical song - still according to the Fathers - possesses its own peculiar dignity through the fact that it is sung together with the celestial choirs."
On the face of it, this is a scholarly account of the Patristic view of what inspired plainchant and why it should continue to command attention. Another way of putting it would be to say that earthly worship and its distinctive music is both modelled on and hopes to prefigure the celestial liturgy. These lines serve to encapsulate a distinctive theology of beauty, most recently articulated by Hans Urs von Balthasar. It's also a signal that the Pope will be setting much higher standards in the selection and performance of church music, not least in St Peter's Basilica. The Sistine Chapel Choir, which has been going to the dogs for at least a decade and sang dismally on the night, has been put on notice. Its conductor, who has a marked preference for saccharine ecclesiastical pop, is widely reported to be departing in the next few months. Plainchant and polyphony are back in a big way, which is welcome news for everyone who loves fine music, regardless of whether or not they subscribe to any form of religion.
Recently there was another involuntary departure, that of John Paul II's favourite master of ceremonies, Piero Marini. He is a passionate advocate of modern liturgical style and music, and presided over a lot of gimmicky papal mega-masses designed to ingratiate the young. Another unrelated Marini, Monsignor Guido, has been appointed to replace him and the first midnight mass offered on his watch, broadcast to a potential audience of more than a billion Catholics and consciously offered as world's best practice, at every turn stressed continuity with tradition rather than novelty for its own sake.

Mindful of the fact that this is a column for the general reader, I'll try to locate some of the main changes, using themes in the culture wars as points of reference. A few weeks ago Franco Zeffirelli, an elderly film director, was asked to consult to the Holy See on aspects of media management.(NOTE THIS HAS BEEN DENIED) A man of the Left, at least in cultural terms, he rashly interpreted his brief as giving the Pope an image makeover and began by publicly criticising "his too sumptuous attire and trappings" and recommending the "noble simplicity" that was de rigueur after Vatican II. As an exercise in media management, it left a lot to be desired.

The first thing most viewers of the Christmas ceremonies would have noticed is that John Paul's faux-democratic armchair, which might well have graced a gentleman's library but looked ridiculous in a basilica, has gone. At mass and later in the loggia, Benedict sat on seats that were unmistakably thrones, and gilded ones at that, designed for his predecessors. He may have disdained the papal tiara, but he's quite comfortable with the symbols of presidential authority. Another indication of how much store the Pope and his master of ceremonies set by Zeffirelli's fashion tips was the papal headware. Until the 1960s, popes and bishops routinely wore a mitre decorated with jewels on major feasts. Benedict has restored the tradition, wearing during Christmas two different examples of the mitra pretiosa inherited from earlier popes, along with some of their elaborately embroidered vestments. It drives the so-called progressives to distraction, but like any sensible bishop he unapologetically dons his best to celebrate the birth of a king's son, let alone to greet the Prince of Peace. This is a pope who's meekly put up with a lot in his time and has now resolved never to wear liturgical polyester again.
I could - but won't - list the number of times when the Pope, celebrating the new rite, bowed or made symbolic gestures found in the Gloria, the Creed and the Preface in the old rite which the new rubrics seemed to have suppressed. Suffice it to say that all over the world people will have seen Catholicism's supreme lawgiver setting precedents he knows will be followed. Having restored the old rite to equal standing with the new, he obviously hopes that its more measured approach will inform the way the new rite is celebrated from now on. The choice to use a Latin version of the newer form of mass once again highlights the Pope's emphasis on continuity with tradition, rather than rupture, and his view that Latin remains something of a universal lingua franca.
Last but not least, there has been a long-running dispute over the most appropriate means of receiving communion, whether on the tongue or in the hand. Though to hostile observers this will seem an argument over nothing, at its core is the question of whether communion in the hand risks subverting a sense of the real presence and promotes the modernist misconception that mass is merely a community meal.

The Pope has often said that sudden changes in what is allowed in church are needlessly disruptive and distressing. Catholic viewers will have noted on Christmas Eve that distribution in the hand was permitted, particularly with all those cantankerous, grabby older nuns who project the attitude that it's their God-given right. However, everyone in the queue that was privileged to be given communion by the Pope received the host on the tongue, no doubt by prior arrangement. Pluralism still prevails perforce but it's safe to say there's now an officially preferred method of communicating. The modernist conventions ushered in after VaticanII, which seemed so well entrenched even three years ago, are falling like ninepins.

Iowa Trappists expand casket factory

I thought this was a cool article here at Iowa Trappists expand casket factory due to increased demand. We find among other interesting tidbits that they are the "official casket of the University of Notre Dame".

Here is their web site.

A Meditation on The Feast of Innocents

TOday is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I thought Fighting Irish Thomas had a good post here that is worth reading as we remember them on this day here at The Blood of the Young Innocents .

Iraqis Hope to Restore Patristic-era church

Tip of the hat to Way of the Fathers blog for this very interesting and important article Ancient church awaits restoration in Iraq desert.

Iraqis determined to restore ancient Al-Aqiser church - 1,500 years old - to past glory.
AIN TAMUR, Iraq - No-one celebrated Christmas in Al-Aqiser church on Tuesday, for what many consider to be the oldest eastern Christian house of worship lies in ruins in a windswept Iraqi desert.
But 1,500 years ago, the first eastern Christians knelt and prayed in this barren land, their faces turned towards Jerusalem.
The remains of Al-Aqiser church lie in the windswept sand dunes of Ain Tamur, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, forgotten by most.
But some Iraqis are determined to restore the ancient edifice to its past glory.
"It is a place of worship, a church, and without doubt, the oldest church of the East," said Hussein Yasser, the head of the antiquities department of the province of Karbala.
"According to our research, it was build 120 years before the emergence of Islam in the region," Yasser said
In time, Karbala overshadowed it and became a key Muslim Shiite pilgrimage destination, while across the region Christian communities began to recede.
Deserted by its worshippers, Al-Aqiser slowly sank into the sands and would have been totally forgotten had it not been for a team of Iraqi archeologists who stumbled on its ruins in the 1970s.
The foundations of the church jut out of the desert, forming a perfect rectangle 75 metres (yards) long by 15 metres wide.
The nave is clearly visible as well as the central part around the altar where masses were celebrated.
"The church was built facing Jerusalem," said Yasser, who has been struggling since 1993 to attract funds and interest to restore the church and carry out excavations in the area.
His efforts were briefly rewarded some years ago when the authorities agreed to finance a brief excavation that lasted six months.

The work revealed an archway which he believes probably belonged to an underground crypt, bearing inscriptions in Syriac -- the language spoken by the first Christians.
"I am sure there is a city underneath the sand," said Yasser, a Shiite Muslim.
"Even then the city was known as Ain Tamur and stood at a major trading junction between Persia, the Arabian peninsula and the Roman empire," he added.
"There used to be a vast lake. People made their livelihood from fishing," he said, adding that the site was more archeologically, than religiously, significant.
A sand embankment indicates the location of the outer walls that protected the church, and Yasser is convinced that the uneven terrain that surrounds the church hides a wealth of archeological evidence.
"There are certainly houses beneath it all, and inside I am sure we can find cooking utensils, inscriptions," he said.
In the past Catholic Chaldeans, the largest single Christian denomination in Iraq who follow an eastern rite but recognise the Pope in Rome, used to pray in Al-Aqiser on Christmas Day but the faithful have not returned in a long time.
The church "is part of out country's memory, part of the great civilisation that the Iraqis have built and it must be saved," said Yasser.
Ain Tamur police chief Mahfoud al-Tamimi said he agreed that Al-Aqiser must be saved.
"The church does not belong to the Christians only or to the Muslims. It belongs to the world," Tamimi said.
"The world must help us save it," he said, calling for the church to be added to UNESCO's world heritage site list

I so agree. This seems like something we should all get behind

Louisiana ExPat Columnist Helps Get a Louisiana Guy to Come Home

Go see Capt. Crunchy gets results.
Perhaps Mr Dreher will leave the big city of Dallas and come work for the Adovcate, The Shreveport Times, or the Daily Town Talk. Well we can dream :)

Wow I just Love This 1962 Missal -Part II

A few days ago I was ranting on about my Christmas Present at Wow I just Love This 1962 Missal . I am talking about The Daily Missal 1962 from Baronius Press.

As I mentioned this Missal has lot of stuff not related to extraordinary form of the Latin Rite Liturgy. I was looking at the back part of the missal and discovered something great. That is a Proper of Feasts for Saints that are honored in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Now what struck me was this. Why in Heavens name do I not know so many of these great Saints that are a part of our Catholic Patrimony? I am assuming that many of this pre reformation saints are part of the current American Anglican calender.It is sort of odd that as a Country birthed from Mother England that we do not know them more as Catholics. Perhaps this all deals with the waves of immigration.

There is also many Reformation Catholic Saints that I was not aware of. Now one would think that in Louisiana some of these Saints would be more well known. Especially since the Cajuns got here because they would not take a similar Oath of Supremacy Clause. Perhaps the French just didn't like the English whether they were Catholic or not.

I should note that my Church in North Louisiana is an exception. It's name is St Margarets. Who was Queen and Patron of Scotland and whose Feast day is celebrated on Nov 16th. Bishop Greco who established this Church knew what he was doing. I am in a very Protestant area of Louisiana. However many of the descendants here are from Scot/Irish stock. I think I will make more of a effort to have our Parish to pray to St Margaret and ask her to send the descendants of her former subjects to our RCIA class

Co-chair of Romney's Florida campaign endorses Huckabee

Goodness it is like a sinking ship.
Huckabee picked up a surprise endorsement standing on a podium at Orlando Executive Airport.
Former state Sen. Dick Langley, who had been a co-chair of Romney's Florida campaign, ripped a Romney sticker off his lapel and replaced it with one of Huckabee's.
"I just couldn't figure out where Mitt stood," Langley said to applause from the crowd. "I had to have somebody that I could know where he stood, with the right values for this country and for a future for this country

Full story here.

Huckabee supports refrain from gloating. Governor Romney should be lauded for putting his hat in the political race. We should now be positioning our selves to get Romney supporters on the Huckabee bandwagaon.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A New York TImes Reporter Gets Huckabee and His Success

One more Huckabee post for the night. Of course the night is about to end in a hour :).

I was struck by this NYT Blog piece called Mitt and Mike: A Tale of Two States.

I am often amazed that conservative pundits and left pundits don't get Huckabee. They don't get his appeal. I think much of that comes from the lack of understanding of Arkansas itself. That is quite something in itself. One would think after 8 years of Bill Clinton people would have a more sophisticated view of the politics, culture, and diversity of Arkansas.

I am from Louisiana but live very close to the Arkansas line. The diversity of Arkansas even in the southern regions is something. In many ways it mirrors North Louisiana. A region that even many South Louisiana politicians wrongly think after all these years is one monolithic cultural and political blob. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

On the whole it draws an interesting comparison between Romney and Huckabee and I think it is right on. For Republicans that want to win in 08 I think they should read the whole thing. However let me post this part:

Arkansas’ legacy is, if anything, the opposite. When a single, backwoods state produces legendary orators like William Fulbright, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor and, of course, Bill Clinton, you have to ask yourself what’s in those hog lots and whether it’s contagious. I expect it has more to do with simple geography. Perfectly situated between the Mississippi and the Missouri, Arkansas, like war-time Belgium, is a small strip of land besieged by the ideologies of its neighbors: farm-belt progressivism, Southern conservatism, Western anti-establishmentism. It takes a powerful gift to negotiate and subdue these disparate cultural strains, and that gift is the ability to tell a riveting story. Huckabee may not be the intellectual equal of some of his predecessors, but he comes from a long line of instinctive and emotive politicians who know how to make an argument stick.

Let me add to that a very dynamic and progressive business culture in the northwestern part of the state. It is not easy being Governor of Arkansas. The fact that Huckabee could speak and indeed unite these different groups and strains of political thought is significant. That is as important as his ability to "tell a story".

Senator Brownback Calls Huckabee "authentic conservative"

I found this very significant article online. Brownback not surprised by Huckabee's surge.

Before I decided to support Governor Huckabee, I was torn between him and Brownback and McCain. In the end it came down between Brownback and Huckabee and I chose Huckabee.

I have the greatest repect in the world for Senator Brownback. I should also add that many Catholics and espcially converts too note of his run. Brownback like Huckabee is a man that had appeal to both Catholics and Evangelicals of a political conservative and moderate mindset . This article should be circulated. Especially to Catholic voters.

Former Republican presidential candidate Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is commending former GOP rival Mike Huckabee for his rise in the polls, calling him "an authentic conservative."

Brownback says his short-lived bid for the White House was a "fantastic experience" that allowed to him to get to know the country better and realize again that "you cannot micromanage America and you shouldn't try." He says time on the campaign trail re-instilled his belief that America needs to "rebuild the family," which he argues is "hurting."
While still in the race, Brownback was competing aggressively with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee for the support of social conservatives. But Huckabee's surging poll numbers do not surprise the Kansas Republican. Brownback says when he first entered the race he had trouble with name recognition. "When I first announced I was running and people were saying, you know, 'what's that guy's name again, Brownback?' You know they would do that on Huckabee, too. 'Hucklebee, Huckle-what?'" he says.
However, he says he did see a need for a strong, authentic conservative, and he says he knew the electorate was out there that could vote in a candidate like that. Brownback says Huckabee's challenge after securing the social conservative base is to build support among economic conservatives, which he believes will be a more difficult task for the former Arkansas governor. Brownback, who has endorsed fellow Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), expects the GOP race to remain fluid through at least January.
When asked about Huckabee's controversial Christmas ad, which allegedly features a "floating cross," Brownback said all he saw was a bookshelf. He says people need to get over it, and that he does not feel Huckabee was trying to send a subliminal message in order to impose his evangelical Christian beliefs on Americans.
However, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League argues that the Huckabee ad was intended to "give the appearance of the cross" and was inappropriately "injecting religion into politics."

Troops Celebrate Christmas In Saddam's Old Palace

The Pink Flamingo has such a good link here. This article also points out that WOT is truly a global mission.
Listening from the second floor was Sgt. 1st Class Rodrigo Fernandez, who formerly was stationed with the Military Police unit on Fort Huachuca.To him it was the music wafting up from the first floor that was enjoyable.And, what was the best was the Royal Tonga Marine Choir, who sang a number of songs, all a cappella (which means unaccompanied by musical instruments), under the direction of Cpl. Steve Mikaele.“Tonga is 99.9 percent Christian,” he said of the Pacific island kingdom.Singing is a Polynesian tradition, he said.“We sing in church, everywhere,” Mikaele said.Some consider the Tonga singers to be the “Welsh of the Pacific.” People from Wales are also noted for their vocal capabilities.The choir had three top tenors and a strong bass section and ended their part of the service, after singing a half-dozen songs in their native language, by performing “The Little Drummer Boy,” in English. Tonga was once part of the British Empire and is a member of the Commonwealth.The Tonga Royal Marine Choir brought the audience to its feet in a long standing ovation when they were done.These marines provide security and other services at Camp Victory.

Louisiana Catholic Blogger Roundup For Dec 27

The Louisiana Catholic Blogsphere as I thought is not posting a lot this week. Christmas week is a busy time to say the least. However this is the roundup for today

Catholic Underground, the Louisiana Catholic Podcast to the World, has their new episode up here at CU Special: Lessons and Antiphons. They also have their shownotes for the episode here at Lessons and Antiphons 2007 Shownotes

Alive and Young has a post up called March for Life: Help for Teens

Maudie in Mandeville has a post of a political nature up called Maudie's 'Fair Tax and 7th grade math'

Footprints on the Fridge has a post up called Is it still Christmas?

We end with the Brown Pelican Society has two links up today.
TODAY'S SAINT - St. John the Apostle

Latin Mass Unites not Divides- A real Life Example

I was really struck by an article in the California Catholic Daily.That is “This proves that prayer does work”-Return of traditional Latin Mass brings harmony to once deeply divided parish.

I think many people including Pope Benedict realized this. In the end this is the expression of Latin Rite Liturgy under two forms. I can't help but note that there have been several articles like this recently from Priest of a more "liberal" bent that see this in the proper understanding. That is a pastoral need of a part of their congregation.

I shall quote the article in full.

A stormy and divisive two years at St. Mary’s by the Sea in Huntington Beach appears to be coming to an end now that Bishop Tod Brown has approved the return of the Tridentine Latin Mass to the Orange County parish. Today marks the fourth consecutive Sunday that a traditional noon Mass in Latin has been celebrated at St. Mary’s by Norbertine priests from nearby St. Michael’s Abbey.

Turnout has been near capacity. Since the 2004 retirement of Fr. Daniel Johnson as pastor of St. Mary’s by the Sea, the parish has been mired in a very public controversy that drew attention in the secular press. Traditionally-minded parishioners found themselves at loggerheads with their bishop after he withdrew his indult for the Tridentine Mass upon Fr. Johnson’s retirement. But after Pope Benedict XVI issued his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in July allowing more widespread celebration of the Latin Mass used by the Church for centuries, an unexpected sense of harmony has returned to the once deeply divided parish. St. Mary’s parishioner Ann Erwin says the traditional Latin Mass had been scheduled to resume in September, but was delayed because parish administrator Fr. Martin Tran was sent to Vietnam to teach at a seminary for two months.

“The bishop decided that, rather than start without him, we would wait for the first Sunday of Advent,” she explained. A rumor that the parish might use readings from the Novus Ordo Mass in the celebration of the Latin Mass brought consternation from some traditionalists, but the rumor proved to be false, Erwin said. “We are using the readings from the 1962 Missal. Una Voce, they are loaning us our Mass booklets until we get our own, and translations of the Propers for each Sunday.” Parishioner Rachel Turicchi said the traditional Latin Mass was sorely missed. “We are extremely blessed that the Holy Father came out with the edict that all priests could celebrate this Mass,” she said. “It’s also great for the young people who haven’t grown up with it to know that there was another Mass in the history of the Church.”

Fr. Tran, who at one time appeared to be acting as Bishop Brown’s enforcer by denouncing kneeling at Mass, is now learning the older rite. Turicchi said she is not surprised: “I think that this proves that prayer does work.” Associate pastor, Fr. Eamon Mackin, is learning the traditional rite as well. Many parishioners left St. Mary’s when the indult was lifted in 2004, a lot of them going to the unauthorized chapel Our Lady Help of Christians in Garden Grove. One of those who left was Charles Erpenbeck, but he’s now back at St. Mary’s. “Fr. Johnson always told me it was better to stay with Rome,” he said. “I thought for a while that maybe I knew better than he did, but Our Lady Help of Christians just wasn’t attached to Rome. As much as I may not like the bishop, that’s the hierarchy that the Church has. And from a financial point of view, it’s meant a lot to the parish in terms of revenue.” High Mass is sung every Sunday at St. Mary’s by the Sea, except on the last Sunday of each month, when a Low Mass is celebrated.

Reconciliation and meeting the pastoral needs of the Body of Christ. I think this is a article that stands in nice contracts to the National Catholic Reporter Editorial I posted earlier today. THe Body of Christ no longer divided on the local level. Is that something we should not celebrate?

So Bush Was Right In the Stem Cell Debate?

The Stem Cell debate in this country was often framed as politics getting in the way of science. In a way that is true but not in the way that it was proclaimed. The politics were often "look at George Bush pandering to the religious idiots" etc etc. Many bloggers spent a good couple of years just trying to clarify that Bush and others were not against all forms of Stem cell research.

Vox Nova has a great piece and and link to a must read article at the post “Stem Cells and the President”. I often state that conservatives of all stripes have not appreciated Bush as they should. They have gotten 75 percent of what they wanted and loudly proclaimed that as insufficient. President Bush here took a hard stance that was not popular with some and he was lampooned . However I expect many conservative critics of Bush will let this go and become a footnote in history without saluting Bush on his courage. There were others but as the article points out it was not always the Republican congress. Here is an excerpt:
Democrats sought to use the stem-cell issue to their advantage, and succeeded. Over the next years, to spectacular fundraising effect, the party would tout its vehement opposition to Bush’s policy. In 2006, a close Senate race in Missouri tilted decisively toward the Democrats after the airing of an emotionally affecting television advertisement featuring the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease and who attacked the Republican candidate for his retrograde position on the matter. That victory in Missouri was a key factor in the Democratic takeover of the Senate from the GOP in November. When Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi assumed control of the House of Representatives in early 2007, she declared that undoing the Bush policy was one of her top priorities.
For their part, Republicans have mostly remained in a defensive crouch on the issue, and have tried to avoid discussing it at all. But Bush himself has never wavered, and last year he even used the first two vetoes of his tenure to repel congressional attempts to override the policy.
And then, in November 2007, something remarkable happened. Two of the world’s leading scientific journals, Cell and Science, published findings from researchers in the United States and Japan demonstrating a technique that allows, without the destruction of human embryos, the creation of stem cells identical to those taken from human embryos. The significance of the innovation was undeniable. George Daly, a researcher at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, called it “just a spectacular, spectacular advance. It will change everyone’s thinking about the field.” Ian Wilmut, the Scottish researcher who became famous for his role in cloning Dolly the sheep a decade ago, told the Daily Telegraph he would no longer pursue cloning to produce stem cells, making use instead of this new and wholly uncontroversial method

What makes this article so interesting is that it is an inside account of what was going on in the White House. I was struck by this part-
If our meetings with scientists and advocates were memorable, our discussions of the moral issues were disturbing and haunting. One session involved the bioethicist LeRoy Walters from Georgetown University; another was with John Mendelsohn, the head of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. During a meeting with several participants, the President laid out a series of moral challenges. For example, if an embryo was going to be destroyed anyway, was it not appropriate, perhaps even desirable, to use its stem cells to save other human lives? In response, one person asked whether, on the same grounds, it should not be considered equally acceptable to extract organs from a death-row inmate moments before his execution; after all, society had already decided that he had forfeited his right to live. Another suggested that federal funding might have the unintended consequence of creating financial incentives that would encourage the creation of frozen embryos in order to destroy them.
A few days later, I brought into the Oval Office my copy of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 anti-utopian novel, and as I read passages aloud imagining a future in which humans would be bred in hatcheries, a chill came over the room. “We’re tinkering with the boundaries of life here,” Bush said when I finished. “We’re on the edge of a cliff. And if we take a step off the cliff, there’s no going back. Perhaps we should only take one step at a time.”

Good Read!!!

National Catholic Reporter Slams Pope and his Views On Liturgy

Sigh!!! I would love to see the circulation numbers of the bastion of American liberal Catholicism. I bet since I became aware of this publication when I converted the numbers have been on a downward slide. Anyhow they slam the Pope which is no surprise in their latest Editorial.

Father Z has the article plus his great commentary at NCR: another editorial whine about Pope Benedict and liturgy

Benazir Bhutto Killed In Suicide Attack

I hate to say it but I thought this was just a matter of time. For over a year the forces of terror have started to realize the jig is up in Iraq. They have been slowly been their forces back into the Pakistan/Afghan region. The US largely unnoticed has been up ticking our efforts there.

AJ has the latest at Benazir Bhutto Killed In Suicide Attack.

Needless to say Pakistan is one of our number one priorities. A radical Govt with nuclear weapons is something I can not even imagine.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How One Person Can Make a Difference at Mass

I was very struck this story by "Et tu?" about her first Midnight Mass. Go see her entry Saving Christmas . OF course this attitude this stranger no doubt provides benefits out there in the world in a million ways.

Louisiana Catholic Update FOr Dec 26th

It is time to start the Louisiana Catholic Update again. Many Bloggers were busy so I put it in hiatus for the past few days because of the holidays.

Catholic Tube has updated since the 23rd but he has a real fun vid a few days ago I wish to highlight. GO see Men in Black which he describes here as :who ever said priests don’t have any fun!!! What a lie! Here is the promo video for our annual Men In Black basketball game. Priests, deacons and seminarians vs. high school students from different parishes in the Diocese.

From The Recamier like many bloggers has not been updating as much this week because of company. However she had a nice update here for Dec 24th. As usual she has ton of historical stuff. I thought this was interesting:
On this date in history, in 1777 Captain John Cook discovered the island of Kiritimati in the Pacific. (Cook had named it Christmas Island; Kiritimati is the Gilbertese spelling of Christmas, pronounced kee-rees-mass.) In 1818 the hymn “Stille Nacht” (”Silent Night”) was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber and Josef Mohr. (It is believed that the carol has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects around the world, and it is one of the most popular carols of all time. It is sometimes sung without musical accompaniment. Although written by Catholics, it is given special significance in Lutheranism.) And in 1914 on the front lines during World War I, English and German troops near Ypres, Belgium suspended hostilities during the “Christmas Truce”. (”Stille Nacht” (”Silent Night”) was sung simultaneously in English and German by the troops, as it was one of the few carols that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.)

Catholic UnderGround that is the Louisiana Catholic based podcast has their Christmas message up

The Brown Pelican Society of course has their usual abundance of links and news we need to know. Since I am on my slow dial up computer today I will not post the individual links. But be sure to check them out today.

Full Circle has a entry on Adding Personal and Family content to Facebook

Cajun Cottage Under the Oaks first has a beautiful new header up. See her Christmas letter at My Christmas Letter . Check out her post My Christmas Prayers , A Quiet Christmas Eve, and lots of pics here at A Gibson Christmas.

Looking at the Birds and Considering the Lilies has a very nice Christmas post here at O magnum mysterium

Huckabee Goes Hunting In Iowa

Well it is the day after Christmas and Huckabee is out there on the "trail" in a very literal way. That is the hunting trail. He was out there Hunting early this morning. This is a amusing report of it from a reporters point of view.

The major thing that has surprised me is the lack of focus on the NRA and the gun issue on the campaign. I truly believe that this will be big. McCain is till battling his support and getting the Campaign Finance Reform bill through. SOmething anethama to the NRA and its supporters. Rudy for goddness sake ok suing Gun manufactors!! How in the heck will that play among gun owners. ROmeny will also have problems.

THe media often talks about the support of abortion by Romney and Rudy as being problems for many Conservatives. I agree with that to a certain extent. However in the SOuth and portions of the North and West the gun issue will be huge.

The "Club Against Huckabee" about to Spend More Money

Bryon York , who is one of the few that thinks the Club for Growth manic obession with Huckabee is odd, reports:

The Club Against Huckabee [Byron York]
Today the Club for chipped in an
additional $175,000 for anti-Huckabee TV ads in Iowa – bringing to $550,000 the total it has spent trying to stop Huckabee in just the last three weeks. (The Club also spent a good bit of money hitting Huckabee in the run-up to the Ames Straw Poll in August.) The new ad buy will run on broadcast TV and statewide cable in Iowa, and on cable in South Carolina.
12/26 02:51 PM

Of course the Club For Growth has been attacking Huckabee since he was not even a blip in the polls. The reason is a Arkansas Billionare that funds much of this is still upset over a spat they had when he was Governor. Hopefully the true reasons for the dLub for Growths distortions of Huckabee's record will be become more known nationwide soon.

Augustine Was Very Devoted To St Stephen

I have posted earlier Pope Benedict's thoughts on St Stephen who we honor today. The Way of the Fathers has a few thoughts on St Stephen from St Augustine.

The Pope's Day After Christmas Angelus

It is the day after Christmas and thus the day after quite a full busy days for the Pope and staff. However no taking the day off it appears and watching some ESPN sportscenter for the Holy Father. There was no Wednesday Genral Audience but the Pope did appear and talk on the Feast of St. Stephen which is today of course. Thanks to the Ratzinger Forum for the translation.

Dear brothers and sisters!
The day after Christmas, the liturgy celebrates the 'birth in heaven' of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. 'Filled with faith and the Holy Spirit' (Acts 6,5), he was chosen as a deacon by he community if Jerusalem, along with six other disciples who had a Greek education.

With the power given to him by God, Stephen performed many miracles and announced the Gospel in the synagogues with "inspired wisdom.' He was stoned at the gates of the city and died, like Jesus, invoking forgiveness for his executioners (Acts 7,59-60).

The profound link that united Christ to his first martyr Stephen was divine charity: the same love that made the Son of God strip himself and be obedient up to dying on the Cross (cfr Phil 2,6-8) later impelled the Apostles and other martyrs to give their life for the Gospel. It is necessary always to note this distinctive characteristic of Christian martyrdom: it is exclusively an act of love, for God and for men, including their persecutors. That is why today, in the Holy Mass, we prayed to the Lord to teach us to "love even our enemies as Stephen did, who, in dying, prayed for his persecutors" (Collect prayer).

How many sons and daughters of the Church, in the course of centuries, have followed his example! From the first persecutions in Jerusalem, to those of the Roman emperors, down to the ranks of martyrs in our time. In fact, it is not rare that even today, we get news from various parts of the world about missionaries, priests, bishops, religious and lay faithful, who are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, deprived of freedom or prevented from exercising freedom because they are disciples of Christ and apostles of the Gospel. And some suffer and die because of their communion with the universal Church and loyalty to the Pope.

In the encyclical letter Spe salvi (cfr par. 37), recalling the experience of the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le Bao Thin, I note how suffering is transformed to joy through the strength of hope which comes from faith. The Christian martyr, like Christ, and through union with him, "accepts the Cross and death in his most intimate being, transforming these into an act of love. That which is brutal violence seen from the outside becomes interiorly an act of completely self-giving love. Thus, violence is transformed to love, and death to life" (Homily at Marienfeld, Cologne, Aug. 20, 2005).

The Christian martyr actualizes the victory of love over hate and death. Let us pray for those who suffer because of their loyalty to Christ and his Church. Most Holy Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help us to be credible witnesses for the Gospel, replying to our enemies with the disarming force of truth and charity.

In English, he said:

I greet all those present for today’s Angelus. On this Feast of Saint Stephen the Martyr, Christians throughout the world are reminded that those who stand firm with Christ to the end will be saved. Confident of our Lord’s love for us, may we always make a place for him in our hearts and in our lives. During these Christmas days, may God bless you with the saving power of his peace and love.

Note On the Louisiana Catholic Update

Since a good many Louisiana bloggers are out of town are very busy I have not done one this week. I might do one today but I know I will be doing one tomorrow as I shall be on a faster computer. Stay Tuned. I shall post a reminder to say a Chaplet and Rosary for Astonished Yet at Home(Toby) dad later today

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wow I just Love This 1962 Missal

My Pa Pa gave me some money for Christmas so I decided to buy a Roman Missa l(1962 ed). A strange purchase perhaps though because we have no extraordinary mass on the horizon in my Diocese. In fact at this point I am just hoping we get a Bishop soon.

However, I do wish to try to be active in having the older for effecting the "new" and who knows. It is likely I will be in a position to go to a Extraoridnary Form of the Mass on a regualar basis in the years to come. I also want to learn Church Latin.

First this is the book I "un wrapped" this morning. The Daily Missal 1962 from Baronius Press. It is as you can see very nice. I now realize that I shall get a lot more use out of this Missal than I realized. About 100 pages of the Missal before you even get to the Mass is just stuffed with all the traditional prayers of the Catholic faith. What is cool about this Missal is that those of course have been updated. We see this as to the indulgences that are mentioned. However some have been added. Like the additional mysteries of the Rosary. THe Chaplet of Divine Mercy etc etc. I love the section morning and evening prayers. However it's section on preparation and prayers for communion and confession are great. One wonders why I have not seen such a extensive selection in Missals I have for the regular form. So I intend to take this Missal with me to Mass with me on a regular basis.

Midnight Mass Held at Ground Zero One Last Time

This seems significant on many levels.

Another Reason TO Enjoy Christmas Time-Lent is Early This Year

I went to morning Christmas Mass this morning and was shocked when I started looking ahead in the Missal. LENT IS VERY EARLY THIS YEAR. Ash Wednesday is like Feb 6th!!! Which means we shall have a very early Easter.

I actually enjoy a early Lent. It seems that the partying and Feasting of Christmastime , followed up by a robust Mardi Gras season of feasting in quick succession is a great thing. Then you go smack dab into Lent not much over a month after Christmas when you think about it.

I think it will be a enjoyable year.

I am going to post this post another Blogger did called 12 Days of Christmas!. The fact that Lent comes so early this year reminds me not only to liturgically celebrate the 12 days but also keep the spirit in a secular way by "feasting" in my own way

The Pope's Urbi et Orbi message for Christmas Day(Great Pics)

Update- Father Z has more on the Miter the Pope is wear here at The Pope’s great miter for the Urbi et Orbi blessing . He also has a interesting post on what this Urbi et Orbit means and is all about at Urbi et Orbi: Christmas 2007 - “true” peace and “sure” hope .

Thanks To Vatican Radio we have the full English translation of the Pope's Christmas Message. It is quite stirring. Go here to read it.

The Pics are something else. In fact they are some of the most striking of the Pope I have seen all year. To see more as well as secular media reports on the Christmas message go here to this thread.

The Pope is doing some interesting things to send a message during his liturgical celebrations during Christmas. We see a small example here. Pope Benedict wants very much for people to embrace their Catholic Patrimony. Especially in Liturgy. Here the Pope is showing how the nature of his office is one of Continuity. Last night at the Midnight Mass and at the Mass of the Epiphany, Benedict XVI will wear his own miter.

However here for the Urbi et Orbi blessing on Christmas Day, he is wearing a miter that belonged to John Paul I

For the New Year's Day blessing, he wear a miter that belonged to Benedict XV; and for the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, a miter that belonged to John Paul II.

Christ, the Manger and the Love of Animals

This is a really good article that relates the animals around the manger tradition and the love that Christians and Jews have for animals. Go see At the Creation and at the manger. Very thought provoking and also has some info in there I was not aware of.

It would be interesting to compare other religons and their treatment of animals and see if there is a different ethic. Talking to some guys coming back from Iraq one or two commented they were not thrilled how Iraqis treated dogs. Strays it appeared just love Americans and I get the impression the higher up had to put some rules in place before our bases became overun by guys feeding them and playing with them. However they did say Iraqis love cats. Then of course there are the stories about dogs being eaten in the Asia areas. Anyway good story.

A Columnist Talks About Missing Louisiana

I was checking out Crunchy Con and saw he had this piece up "What's time to a hog?". I suppose around Christmas time a lot of Louisiana expats thoughts go to "home" Rod is of course in Dallas. It seems like half the state has gone to Dallas or Houston at times. In Louisiana if you have half decent grades you can pretty much get your College education paid for through the TOPS program. I always joke that Louisiana does a great job educating some of the best workers for Texas. Like him I hope Jindal can turn it around.

Rod Dreher is from an interesting part of the state. I believe he was raised in St Francisville which is just north of Baton Rouge. It is a beautiful town with plantations and nice Bed and Breakfasts. It has a Catholic presence but it starts to get real less Catholic and more Mississippi like real quick around that region. Confederate President Jefferson Davis's home is not too far away up in Woodville Mississippi. I used to love to go there and then take the ferry across the river to False River Louisiana. It was interesting to note the slight cultural differences. Any way nice links there for the homesick.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pope's Midnight Mass Homily (Full Text with Pics)

I managed to watched this on EWTN via the net. It was very nice. I just saw an promo for a movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson called Kick the Bucket. The premise looks like they are doing all the things they want to do before they "kick the bucket"
I suppose Midnight Mass at At Peters is one of the those things I want to do before I "kick the bucket". Anyway I am going to Midnight Mass tonight. I guess when I get out the Holy Father will be doing Morning Mass in Rome. Anywho ,here is the translation from the Vatican Via the Ratzinger Forum that also has these nice pics I am putting up. I very much like this Homily in which the Holy father expounds in part on "no room at the inn"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"The time came for Mary to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Lk 2:6f.). These words touch our hearts every time we hear them. This was the moment that the angel had foretold at Nazareth: "You will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High" (Lk 1:31).
This was the moment that Israel had been awaiting for centuries, through many dark hours - the moment that all mankind was somehow awaiting, in terms as yet ill-defined: when God would take care of us, when he would step outside his concealment, when the world would be saved and God would renew all things. We can imagine the kind of interior preparation, the kind of love with which Mary approached that hour. The brief phrase: "She wrapped him in swaddling clothes" allows us to glimpse something of the holy joy and the silent zeal of that preparation. The swaddling clothes were ready, so that the child could be given a fitting welcome.

Yet there is no room at the inn. In some way, mankind is awaiting God, waiting for him to draw near. But when the moment comes, there is no room for him. Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such urgent need of all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others - for his neighbour, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become, the more they fill up all the space by themselves.

And the less room there is for others. Saint John, in his Gospel, went to the heart of the matter, giving added depth to Saint Luke's brief account of the situation in Bethlehem: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1:11). This refers first and foremost to Bethlehem: the Son of David comes to his own city, but has to be born in a stable, because there is no room for him at the inn.

Then it refers to Israel: the one who is sent comes among his own, but they do not want him. And truly, it refers to all mankind: he through whom the world was made, the primordial Creator-Word, enters into the world, but he is not listened to, he is not received. These words refer ultimately to us, to each individual and to society as a whole. Do we have time for our neighbour who is in need of a word from us, from me, or in need of my affection? For the sufferer who is in need of help? For the fugitive or the refugee who is seeking asylum? Do we have time and space for God? Can he enter into our lives? Does he find room in us, or have we occupied all the available space in our thoughts, our actions, our lives for ourselves?

Thank God, this negative detail is not the only one, nor the last one that we find in the Gospel. Just as in Luke we encounter the maternal love of Mary and the fidelity of Saint Joseph, the vigilance of the shepherds and their great joy, just as in Matthew we encounter the visit of the wise men, come from afar, so too John says to us: "To all who received him, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). There are those who receive him, and thus, beginning with the stable, with the outside, there grows silently the new house, the new city, the new world

The message of Christmas makes us recognize the darkness of a closed world, and thereby no doubt illustrates a reality that we see daily. Yet it also tells us that God does not allow himself to be shut out. He finds a space, even if it means entering through the stable; there are people who see his light and pass it on. Through the word of the Gospel, the angel also speaks to us, and in the sacred liturgy the light of the Redeemer enters our lives. Whether we are shepherds or "wise men" - the light and its message call us to set out, to leave the narrow circle of our desires and interests, to go out to meet the Lord and worship him.

We worship him by opening the world to truth, to good, to Christ, to the service of those who are marginalized and in whom he awaits us. In some Christmas scenes from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, the stable is depicted as a crumbling palace. It is still possible to recognize its former splendour, but now it has become a ruin, the walls are falling down - in fact, it has become a stable. Although it lacks any historical basis, this metaphorical interpretation nevertheless expresses something of the truth that is hidden in the mystery of Christmas. David's throne, which had been promised to last for ever, stands empty.

Others rule over the Holy Land. Joseph, the descendant of David, is a simple artisan; the palace, in fact, has become a hovel. David himself had begun life as a shepherd. When Samuel sought him out in order to anoint him, it seemed impossible and absurd that a shepherd-boy such as he could become the bearer of the promise of Israel. In the stable of Bethlehem, the very town where it had all begun, the Davidic kingship started again in a new way - in that child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The new throne from which this David will draw the world to himself is the Cross. The new throne - the Cross - corresponds to the new beginning in the stable. Yet this is exactly how the true Davidic palace, the true kingship is being built.

This new palace is so different from what people imagine a palace and royal power ought to be like. It is the community of those who allow themselves to be drawn by Christ's love and so become one body with him, a new humanity. The power that comes from the Cross, the power of self-giving goodness - this is the true kingship. The stable becomes a palace - and setting out from this starting-point, Jesus builds the great new community, whose key-word the angels sing at the hour of his birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those whom he loves" - those who place their will in his, in this way becoming men of God, new men, a new world.

Gregory of Nyssa, in his Christmas homilies, developed the same vision setting out from the Christmas message in the Gospel of John: "He pitched his tent among us" (Jn 1:14). Gregory applies this passage about the tent to the tent of our body, which has become worn out and weak, exposed everywhere to pain and suffering. And he applies it to the whole universe, torn and disfigured by sin. What would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation?

Anselm of Canterbury, in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk: "Everything was as if dead, and had lost its dignity, having been made for the service of those who praise God. The elements of the world were oppressed, they had lost their splendour because of the abuse of those who enslaved them for their idols, for whom they had not been created" (PL 158, 955f.).

Thus, according to Gregory's vision, the stable in the Christmas message represents the ill-treated world. What Christ rebuilds is no ordinary palace. He came to restore beauty and dignity to creation, to the universe: this is what began at Christmas and makes the angels rejoice. The Earth is restored to good order by virtue of the fact that it is opened up to God, it obtains its true light anew, and in the harmony between human will and divine will, in the unification of height and depth, it regains its beauty and dignity.

Thus Christmas is a feast of restored creation. It is in this context that the Fathers interpret the song of the angels on that holy night: it is an expression of joy over the fact that the height and the depth, Heaven and Earth, are once more united; that man is again united to God. According to the Fathers, part of the angels' Christmas song is the fact that now angels and men can sing together and in this way the beauty of the universe is expressed in the beauty of the song of praise. Liturgical song - still according to the Fathers - possesses its own peculiar dignity through the fact that it is sung together with the celestial choirs.

It is the encounter with Jesus Christ that makes us capable of hearing the song of the angels, thus creating the real music that fades away when we lose this singing-with and hearing-with. In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there; for this reason song is born there. At the end of our Christmas meditation I should like to quote a remarkable passage from Saint Augustine. Interpreting the invocation in the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in Heaven", he asks:

What is this - Heaven? And where is Heaven? Then comes a surprising response: "... who art in Heaven - that means: in the saints and in the just. Yes, the heavens are the highest bodies in the universe, but they are still bodies, which cannot exist except in a given location.

Yet if we believe that God is located in the heavens, meaning in the highest parts of the world, then the birds would be more fortunate than we, since they would live closer to God. Yet it is not written: 'The Lord is close to those who dwell on the heights or on the mountains', but rather: 'the Lord is close to the brokenhearted' (Ps 34:18[33:19]), an expression which refers to humility. Just as the sinner is called 'Earth', so by contrast the just man can be called 'Heaven'" (Sermo in monte II 5, 17).

Heaven does not belong to the geography of space, but to the geography of the heart. And the heart of God, during the Holy Night, stooped down to the stable: the humility of God is Heaven. And if we approach this humility, then we touch Heaven. Then the Earth too is made new.

With the humility of the shepherds, let us set out, during this Holy Night, towards the Child in the stable! Let us touch God's humility, God's heart! Then his joy will touch us and will make the world more radiant. Amen.

A Louisiana Christmas Tradition- The Feux de Joie

Tonight on both the banks of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans a wonderful thing will happen. That is the Feux de Joie which means Fires of Joy. People will gather and set a ton of bonfires on both sides. This site has a short description.

If you're having trouble swallowing Santa slipping - or squeezing - down the chimney, and reindeer flying through the sky with a red nose lighting the way, you might like to ponder the New Orleanean way.
They light feux de joie, fires of joy, along the banks of the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to cleverly guide Papa Noel (and that IS what they call him) as he glides down the river in his paddleboat. Now, doesn't this make more sense? ....Thought to have begun as early as the 1750's with the Arcadians (now Cajuns), who settled along the riverbanks, the celebration goes on the entire month of December with a big boat parade, music and a huge bonfire kicking off the event on the 2nd of December (3rd this year, due to unwieldy winds).

The highlight is of course tonight. Sadly I was never able to attend the Christmas Week and especially Christmas Eve fires. When I lived in Baton Rouge I often had to head to North Louisiana to start the marathon of Family Christmas events that would take me from Homer to Shreveport, to Mississippi and back again. How I hope I can go one day. I think it would be wonderful to go and then end the night with the community attending midnight mass in one of those river towns. Perhaps I will be able to do it soon.

I did not realize this but this also appears to be a tradition in the Southwestern part of the State which makes somes sense. By the way Cajun folks. You might be interested in this article. There appears you might have a family connection to people in WEST VIRGINIA. That nugget is contained in this article.

DOWN along the levees of southwest Louisiana today, they're assembling piles of brush and logs for tonight's big bonfires.
It's Christmas Eve, and the Cajuns - those descendants of French-speaking Canadians who were forced from the maritime regions of Canada more than 200 years ago - celebrate Christmas in what some may think is a peculiar way.
The real reason for lighting the bonfires on the levees is perhaps lost in antiquity. The current story is that the fires help Santa find his way to Cajun country so he can bring toys to good girls and boys.
The German families who live among the Cajuns will celebrate Christmas as well, but a couple of weeks ago they celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas. The Germans gathered as families to party and await a visit from St. Nicholas, a man garbed in bishop's robes.
He was accompanied by an elfish character known as "Black Peter," who carried a sack on his back. It's said that Black Peter puts bad children in his bag and carries them away to who-knows-where.
His arrival stirs tension among the kids. But Black Peter has never been known to carry a kid away, thank goodness.
But back to those Cajuns and their bonfire tradition: Before he passed away, my guru on Appalachian topics, Dr. O. Norman Simpkins, said there might be a cultural connection between the Cajuns and mountain folks.
Simpkins speculated that the cultural ancestors of the Cajuns could well be the Parisi, a tribe of Celts who inhabited the islands in the Seine River.
The Celts were not Christians until they were converted by early missionaries.
The early Celts were similar to today's Wiccans. They probably celebrated the Winter Solstice around this time of the year. They saw the sun getting lower in the sky every day and thought it was about to die.
So what did they do?
They built bonfires and kept them blazing for days to heat the sun and revive it. When they saw the sun slowly rising in the sky again, they thought they had saved the sun again.
That meant party time. The Celts didn't need much to party.
Could it be that the Cajun tradition of lighting bonfires on Christmas Eve comes from the Celtic tradition of lighting bonfires to save the sun?
Whatever the reason, the bonfire celebration in Cajun country is a family affair. The Cajuns are as family-oriented as mountain folks.
And they suffer from many of the same maladies - poor economic conditions, poor health and a cultural inferiority complex that may rival the one mountain people share.
But what better way of fighting the darkness than with light? What better way of doing what you can to bring cheer to the sometimes cheerless winter weather than by celebrating with a bonfire, and helping Santa along his route as well?
Whatever you do to bring warmth to yourself, your family or the world this holiday season, may it bring you happiness, peace and light

Preparing To Celebrate the Catholic Liturgical "12 Days" of Christmas

There is always a segment of the Catholic and Anglican Blogsphere that does a great job of reminding us that there is season of Advent and lets not rush into Christmas during the first weeks of Dec. Christams Time is a season of the Church. Though a very short one. I have to admit I have not embraced and delved into the full spirit of it as I should. I start out great with the Feast of the Holy Innocents and the Saint Stephen, Martyr. However it goes down hill from there.

I just finished printing out and bookmarking a excellent and beautiful post that From Burke to Kirk and Beyond... has done. Go see 12 Days of Christmas! I am putting this on the fridge to remind me and inpsire me to get into the season.

A Christmas Eve Mass For Those Having a "Blue" Christmas

I am very happy to see that the some in the Church recognize that Christmas for many people is a tough time. Whispers in the Loggia has a great post on a special "Blue Christmas" Mass that will be occuring tonight. Go see Getting Through a "Blue Christmas" . A few years back I so wish I had something like this to go to when I was a having a very tough year.

Things To watch For In the Christmas TIme Papal Liturgies

There are some interesting to watch for in the upcoming Christmas time Papal Liturgies. This is a translation of article from the Italian paper which is located on this thread. Many of these can be seen on EWTN

Novelties as well as continuity with tradition will mark the Papal liturgies this season

Continuity with tradition and with the Council, a language of signs, but above all, careful attention to creating an atmosphere of meditation and prayer which should characterize all liturgical celebrations. These are the principal criteria which, at Pope Benedict's wishes, the Office for Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations is following in preparing the solemn liturgies for the Christmas season and for the Pope in general.

There are quite a few novelties this year which are significant. Among this, the fact that on Christmas Day, the figurine of Baby Jesus will be laid on the small 'throne' used during Vatican-II to hold the Gospel. This would highlight the mystery of the Word made flesh in the Baby of Bethlehem, who will be laid there as the Gloria is sung at the Christmas Mass.

And a special attention for the papal liturgical vestments for the season. The vestments, as well as certain details in the rites themselves, are intended to underscore the continuity between liturgical celebration today and that which characterized Church tradition before Vatican-II. Mons. Guido Marini, master of pontifical liturgical rites, noted: "Just as the Pope cites in his texts the Pontiffs who preceded him, so too in the liturgical context, the Pope may use the vestments of his predecessors to show the same continuity even in the lex orandi." Thus, tonight at the Midnight Mass and at the Mass of the Epiphany, Benedict XVI will wear his own miter, but for the Urbi et Orbi blessing on Christmas Day, he will wear a miter that belonged to John Paul I; for the New Year's Day blessing, a miter that belonged to Benedict XV; and for the Feast of the Lord's Baptism, a miter that belonged to John Paul II. As Mons. Marini has done since he took over as liturgical MC at the Vatican, the Cross will be placed in the center of the Altar. [For some reason, the Novus Ordo had displaced the Cross from the altar.]

This obviously indicates the centrality of the Cross in the Eucharistic celebration and the orientation which the entire congregation should have during the liturgy: looking at the Savior who died and was resurrected for us. The altar will also have a seventh candle, as provided by the ceremonial manual for bishops, particularly for the papal liturgy, as a symbol of perfection - the reference is in the book of Revelations.

Two other signs will be common to all the liturgies of the Christmas season. First, the use of a more solemn cathedra (chair) for the Pope is intended to underscore the special significance of the seat from which the Vicar of Christ on earth exercises his Magisterium over the universal Church. Second, the Pope will always be assisted either by two deacons (as at the Midnight Mass, the Te Deum on December 31, and January 13, at the Baptism Mass) or by two cardinals (at the Christmas Day and New Year's Day benedictions, and on January 6) to emphasize the Pope's liturgical presidence.

Other novelties will be seen according to the feast celebrated. On Christmas Eve, there will be a brief prayer vigil before the Midnight Mass, with the chanting of the Kalenda, an ancient hymn which shows the birth of the Savior as rooted in history. After the deposition of the Baby Jesus on the Gospel throne, children representing all the children of the world will bring floral tributes to the Baby Jesus. this is a reminder of Jesus's admonition that men must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God. At the end of the Mass, the Pope will carry the Baby Jesus to the manger in the creche on St. Peter's Square.

On Dec. 31, the New Year's Eve Vespers will be followed by the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with a Te Deum to give thanks for the year past, and a eucharistic benediction. This underscores the centrality of Eucharistic adoration in the life of the Church and the Lord's disciples, and to accompany the start of the new year with the Lord's benediction.

On January 1, the prayers for the faithful at Mass will be inspired by the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace on New Year's Day. After the Mass, there will also be a veneration of the Madonna, since January 1 in the liturgical calendar is the Feast of Mary as the Mother of God. The image used is one that has been kept in the Vatican Museums.

On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, the Credo will be recited in the form of renewal of the baptismal vows. In any case, Mons. Marini said, "What is fundamental to a liturgical celebration is an atmosphere of meditation and prayer, as well as a sense of mystery - and to these, everything should contribute: words, images, gestures, song, music, silences." He described it as the ars celebrandi which aims to make the liturgical sense luminous and clear. The true and authentic meaning of active participation in the liturgy, he said, is to participate in the moment that is being celebrated by the liturgy which recreates for us the history of salvation, and every element of liturgy should help to realize this. "The fruit of authentic participation," he said, "is growing in holiness, and therefore, the transformation of our life to be in Christ and with Christ." Avvenire, 23 dicembre 2007

Where The Feast OF Christmas Was First Celebrated

I find this very interesting. Again thanks to the Ratzinger Forum that has so many interesting things up today. Of course the first Christmas was celebrated when Christ was born. However this is the place where it was first celebrated after it had been "officially" established as a feast day. I find the nuggets of info that are at the end of this article interesting.

The first official Christmas celebration was in 335 in Rome

VATICAN CITY - It's the dawn of the year 336 and in the Church of St. Athanasia in Rome, Christmas is being celebrated. It was the first Christmas officially celebrated in history.

The identification of the Church where the first ceremony honoring the birth of Christ was held is the work of archeologist Andrea Carandini who gave a lecture at the Ministry of Cultural Assets to discuss some archeological discoveries in the Palatine Hill and the home of Augustus. It was in 335, said Carandini, that the Emperor Constantine, in agreement with Pope Silvester, officially established the date of December 25 for the birth of Christ.

The Church, which is now dedicated to St. Athanasia, weas called the church of Bethlehem and was built precisely behind the Palatine bridge, the pagan site par excellence of ancient Rome. In fact, however, the choice was seen as an outright provocation. Constantine himself was careful to avoid coming to the Eternal City. Not just that. It seems that under the church of St. Athanasia, they have found a door that appears to have a door that led directly to the Lupercale, the cave where according to legend, Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf.

That is why it was transformed by Augustus into a place of worship for the Romans. At Carandini's lecture, also present was the Minister of Culture Frnacesco Rutelli wcho spoke about "a reconstruction consistent with the hypotheses developed by Carandini in the past ten years."

Cardinal Ratzinger Christmas Story-The ox and the donkey

The Ratzinger Forum is the place to check today for a lot of Catholic Christmas Stories from around the World. I was very struck by this entry that I shall reprint in full. This is a Christmas Story as told by the then Cardinal Ratzinger that was published in IMMAGINI DI SPERANZA (Images of Hope), a book published in Italy in 2005. I think this a great reflection on the Nativity scene.

At Christmas time, it is our heartfelt wish that in the frenzy of feasting, we will also have time for reflection and the joy of contact with the goodness of our God, which will give us the courage to move forward. At the start of this reflection on what the feast can tell us today, a brief look at the origins of Christmas celebration would be very useful. The Church's liturgical year, first of all, did not develop with reference to the birth of Christ, but to his resurrection.

That is why the oldest feast in Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. In fact, it was only the resurrection of Christ that founded the Christian faith and therefore gave rise to the Church. Because of this, Ignatius of Antioch (who died around 117) defined Christians as "those who have stopped observing the Sabbath but live according to the Lord's day": to be Christian meant to live in the Paschal manner, by virtue of the Resurrection, which was celebrated every week in the Paschal feast of the Sunday Mass.

The first one to affirm with certainty that Jesus was born on December 25 was Hippolytus of Rome in a comment to Daniel, written around 204. Bo Reicke, who was a professor of Biblical exegesis in Basel, called attention to the festive calendar, according to which the stories in the the Gospel of Luke about the birth of the Baptist and of Jesus are linked. We may deduce that Luke already presupposes in his Gospel the date of December 25 as the date of Jesus's birth. In those days, it was celebrated as the feast of the dedication of the temple established by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C.

Thus, the birth of Jesus came to symbolize the fact that with him, who appeared like the light of God on a wintry night, the consecration of the true temple came to pass - the coming of God to this earth. In any case, the feast of Christmas took clear shape in Christianity only in the fourth century when it took the place of the Roman feast of 'sol invictus' (invincible sun) which taught the faithful to conceive of the birth of Christ as the triumph of the true Light. Reicke's research showed that this transformation of a pagan feast to a Christian solemnity was in keeping with an ancient Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Nonetheless, the particular human warmth which so moves us at Christmas to the point that it has surpassed Easter in the heart of Christians, only developed in the Middle Ages when Francis of Assisi, profoundly enamored of Christ the man, God-with-us, introduced this new element. His first biographer, Tommaso da Celano, tells us in his Seconda Vita: "More than any other feast, Francis celebrated Christmas with indescribable joy, because on that day, God became a baby and suckled milk like all other babies. He would embrace with tenderness and transport any image which represented the Baby Jesus and would speak to it with compassionate and gentle words as one would to a baby.

On his lips the name of Jesus sounded sweet as honey." It was this sensibility that gave rise to the famous Christmas celebration in Greccio, perhaps inspired by his pilgrimage to the Holy Land and by the Nativity scene in Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore. He was also urged by his thirst for closeness to Jesus, to relive the experience of Bethlehem as close as possible, so he could directly experience something of the joy at the actual birth of Jesus and transmit this to all his friends. In his first biography, Celano writes about the night of that first Christmas creche, in a manner that remains touching to any reader and which contributed decisively to the dissemination of the most beautiful of Christmas traditions, the creche. or Nativity scene.

We can therefore rightly say that the night in Greccio gave back to Christianity the feast of Christmas, so that its authentic message, its particular warmth and humanity, the humanity of our God, could communicate itself to the souls of men and give our faith a new dimension. The feast of the Resurrection had focused our attention on the power of God who triumphed over death and teaches us to hope in the life to come. But what was now highlighted was the defenseless love of God, his humility and his goodness, which are manifested in this world in our midst to teach us a new way to live and to love.

It may be useful to pause a little at his point to ask: Where is this Greccio, which has assumed such significance for the story of the faith? It is a small town in Umbria, not far from Rome, to the northeast. Lakes and mountains have given the town its particular fascination and silent beauty, which succeeds in moving us even today, especially since it has hardly been touched by the confusion attendant to mass tourism. The convent of Greccio, some 2000 feet above sea level, has retained much of its original simplicity; it has remained modest, like the little town at the foot of its mountain. The forest surrounds it as in Francis's time, and invites us to pause and reflect. Celano recalls that Francis had a particular liking for the residents of the area, because of their poverty and simplicity.

That is why he went there often to rest, drawn by the idea of living in an extremely poor and simple cell, where he could dedicate himself undisturbed to the contemplation of celestial things. Poverty, simplicity, silence and speaking to nature: these were surely the attractions that linked the Saint of Assisi to this place. It became his Bethlehem and would inscribe the mystery of Bethlehem once again in the geography of our soul. But let us go back to the Christmas of 1223. Some land in Greccio had been placed at Francis's disposition by a nobleman named Giovanni who, according to Celano, although he had noble lineage and high position, "gave no importance to nobility by blood but rather sought to gain nobility of the spirit", such that he earned Francis's affection. Celano writes that Giovanni had the grace of a marvelous vision in which he saw a baby asleep in a manger, which awoke when Francis came near.

He adds: "This vision in fact coincided with what was really happening, because until then, the baby Jesus had effectively fallen into the sleep of oblivion in many hearts. Through his servant Francis, remembrance of him has been revived and impressed indelibly in memory." This picture describes with precision the new dimension that, through his vivid and passionate faith, Francis conferred on the Christian feast of Christmas: the discovery of God's revelation embodied in the Baby Jesus. In this way, God has really become Emmanuel, God-with-us, from whom no barrier of superiority or distance separates us: As a baby, he made himself so close to us that we can easily address him familiarly and reach his heart directly. In the Baby Jesus we see the defenselessness of God's love: God comes to us unarmed, because he does not intend to conquer externally, but rather to win us over and transform us internally.

If anything is capable of winning over man, his despotism, his violence and his greed, it is the helplessness of a baby. God took on that defenselessness, in order to win us over and lead us to our true selves. In this respect, let us not forget that the greatest title of Jesus Christ is that of "Son", Son of God: his divinity is indicated by this term, which presents Jesus as a perennial baby. His condition as a child corresponds uniquely to his divinity, which is the divinity of the 'Son'. Therefore, it is an indication of the way that we can reach God, the way to divinization. It is in this light that we should understand his words: "Unless you repent and become as children, you will not enter the kingdom of God" (Mt 18, 3). Whoever has not understood the mystery of Christmas has not understood the decisive fact of Christianity. Whoever has not accepted it cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It is this that Francis wished to remind Christianity in his time and in all the times that followed. Following Francis's instructions, on that Holy Night of 1223, an ox and a donkey were placed in the cave in Greccio.

In fact, he told Giovanni: "I would like to present the Baby born in Bethlehem, so that in some way, I will see with my own eyes the discomfort which he experienced, not having all the things necessary for a newborn baby, and how he was placed in a manger and lay on the hay between the ox and the donkey." From then on, the ox and the donkey have become part of all Nativity scenes. But how did the idea itself originate? As we know, the Nativity accounts in the New Testament do not say a word about them. If we look deeper into the question, then we will discover something important both for Christmas tradition as well as for the liturgical and popular spirituality of Christmas and Easter for the Church.

The ox and the donkey are not simply products of popular piety and fantasy, but they have become ingredients of the Nativity because of the Church belief in the unity of the Old and New testaments. In Isaiah 1,3, we read: "The ox knows its owner, and the donkey, his master's manger; but Israel does not know and my people do not understand." The Fathers of the Church saw in these words a prophecy which refers to the new people of God, the Church made of Jews and pagans. Before God, all men, Jews as well as pagans, were like oxen and donkeys, without intelligence and knowledge. But the baby in the manger opened their eyes, so that now they recognize the voice of the owner, the voice of their Lord. In the medieval representations of Christmas, we see that the two animals are given almost human faces, how they incline consciously and respectfully before the mystery of the baby.

This was perfectly logical, because they had the value of being prophetic symbols behind which is concealed the mystery of the Church, our mystery, according to which, before the eternal, we are all oxen and donkeys, who had our eyes opened on that Holy Night, so that now we can recognize the manger of our Lord. But do we really recognize it? When we place the ox and the donkey in our Christmas creche, we must remember the words of Isaiah, which are not only Gospel - therefore, the promise of future knowledge - but also a judgment on our actual blindness. The ox and the donkey recognize, but "Israel does not know and my people do not understand". Who are the ox and the donkey today, who are 'my people' who do not understand? How do we recognize the ox and the donkey, ad how do we recognize 'my people'?

How is it that beings without reason recognize, while reason is blind? To find answers to these questions, we should return once more with the Fathers of the church to that first Christmas. Who recognized? And who did not? And why did this happen? Well, someone who did not recognize was Herod. He understood nothing when he was told of the Baby. On the contrary, he was blinded even more by his thirst for power and his consequent mania for persecution (Mt 2,3). And 'along with him, all Jerusalem" did not recognize. Neither did the educated, the scholars of Scripture, the specialists of interpretation who knew the exact and correct Biblical passage and still understood nothing (Mt 2,6). Instead, those who recognised were 'the ox and the donkey' - that is, in comparison to those exalted persons: the shepherds, the Magi, Mary and Joseph. Could it have been otherwise?

The cave stall, where the Baby lay, was not inhabited by refined persons; it was, in fact, the home of the ox and the donkey. And what is our position? Are we very far from that stall precisely because we are too refined and intelligent? Have we not lost ourselves in scholarly Biblical exegesis in an attempt to demonstrate the historical authenticity or lack of it of a certain passage, to the point of becoming blind to the Baby and not to see anything more of him? Don't we perhaps live too much in 'Jerusalem', closed in on ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of persecution, such that we are no longer able to perceive in the night the voices of angels so that we may join them in adoring him? On the Holy Night, the faces of the ox and the donkey remind us of the question: My people do not understand, do you understand the voice of your Lord? When we place the figurines in our Christmas creche, we should pray God to grant to our hearts that simplicity that recognizes the Lord in the Baby, as Francis once did in Greccio. Then we may experience what Tommaso da Celano - almost with the same words Luke used about the shepherds on that first Christmas (Lk 2,20) - said about the participants of that midnight Mass in Greccio: And everyone went home, filled with joy.