Archive for February, 2016

#ShortNews: India’s Franciscans to seek freedom for 1,000 prisoners

India’s Franciscans have agreed to seek the release of at least 1,000 prisoners during the jubilee year of mercy.

Negotiating with civil officials, the Franciscans will focus on those “who languish in jails for years charged with minor crimes such thefts,” according to the online news site MattersIndia.com.

http://mattersindia.com/2016/02/indian-franciscans-to-free-thousand-prisoners-in-mercy-year/

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#ShortNews: God cannot be solitary because God is love, Pope tells conference participants

“God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love,” Pope Francis said in a February 26 address. “Charity is his essence; it is his nature.”

Speaking to participants in a converence marking the 10th anniversary of Deus Caritas Est, the encyclical of Benedict XVI, the Pope remarked that because God is love, He is “not solitary; He cannot be alone: He cannot be closed in on Himself, because He is communion.”

Pope Francis went on to suggest that the current Jubilee Year offers a chance “to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith.” Calling attention to the importance that Pope Benedict placed on charitable work, as a reflection of God’s love, the Holy Father said: “How I wish that everyone in the Church– every institution, every activity– would show that God loves man!”

The two-day conference on Deus Caritas Est was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the charitable arm of the Holy See.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/gods-love-is-the-beating-heart-of-the-church-pope-francis-says-65025/

#ShortNews: Chinese pastor’s sentence: 14 years for resisting removal of cross

A Chinese Protestant pastor has been sentenced to a 14-year prison term after resisting the removal of a cross from his church building, the AsiaNews service reports.

Rev. Bao Guohoa hired a team of lawyers to fight the demolition in June 2015. He was arrested along with several members of the congregation of the Church of Holy Love. Soon after the arrest, government officials charged that he and his wife had misappropriated church funds and were “leading a luxurious life.” A court in Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province, sentenced him for “embezzlement, disturbance of public order, illegal commercial activities, concealment of financial documents and invoices.”

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Zhejiang-Protestant-pastor-sentenced-to-14-years-for-defending-Cross-36796.html

The Peace That is Not of This World

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.

Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.

Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected!

Miracles associated with Brigid of Kildare and Her Cross

Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor. In her case, most of the miracles associated with her relate to healing and household tasks usually attributed to women.

  • When Brigit was of marital age, a man by the name of Dubthach moccu Lugair came to woo her. Since Brigid offered her virginity to God, she told the man that she cannot accept him but to go to the woods behind his house where he will find a beautiful maiden to marry. Everything that he says to the maiden’s father will be pleasing to them. The man followed her instructions and it was as she said.
  • In one story, Brigid protected a woman from a nobleman who had entrusted a silver brooch to the woman for safekeeping but then accidentally dropped it into the sea. He charged her with stealing it, knowing that he could take her as a slave if a judge ruled in his favor. The woman fled and sought refuge with Brigid’s community. By chance, one of her fishermen hauled in a fish which, when cut open, proved to have swallowed the brooch. The nobleman freed the woman, confessed his sin, and bowed in submission to Brigid. A similar story is told of St Kentigern.
  • On another occasion, Brigid was travelling to see a physician for her headache. She stayed at the house of a Leinster couple who had two deaf daughters. The daughters were travelling with Brigid when her horse startled, causing her to fall and graze her head on a stone. A touch of Brigid’s blood healed the deaf girls.
  • When on the bank of the River Inny, Brigid was given a gift of apples and sweet sloes. She later entered a house where many lepers begged her for these apples, which she offered willingly. The woman who had given the gift to Brigid was angered by this, saying that she had not given the gift to the lepers. Brigid was angry at the nun for withholding from the lepers and cursed her trees so they would no longer bear fruit. Yet another woman also gave Brigid the same gift, and again Brigid gave them to begging lepers. This time the second woman asked that she and her garden be blessed. Brigid then said that a large tree in the virgin’s garden would have twofold fruit from its offshoots, and this was done.
  • One Easter Sunday, a leper had come to Brigid to ask for a cow. She said she would rest and would help him later; however, he did not wish to wait and said he would go somewhere else for a cow. Brigid then offered to heal him, but the man stubbornly replied that his condition allowed him to get more than he would if he were healthy. After convincing the leper that this was not so, she told one of her maidens to have the man washed in a blessed mug of water. After this was done, the man was healed and vowed to serve Brigid.
  • One of the more commonly told stories is of Brigid asking the King of Leinster for land. She told the king that the place where she stood was the perfect spot for a convent. It was beside a forest where they could collect firewood and berries. There was also a lake nearby that would provide water and the land was fertile. The king laughed at her and refused to give her any land. Brigid prayed to God and asked him to soften the king’s heart. Then she smiled at the king and said “will you give me as much land as my cloak will cover?” The king thought that she was joking and, hoping to get rid of her, he agreed. She told four of her sisters to take up the cloak, but instead of laying it flat on the turf, each sister, with face turned to a different point of the compass, began to run swiftly, the cloth growing in all directions. The cloak began to cover many acres of land. “Oh, Brigid!” said the frighted king, “what are you about?” “I am, or rather my cloak is about covering your whole province to punish you for your stinginess to the poor.” “Call your maidens back. I will give you a decent plot of ground.” The saint was persuaded, and if the king held his purse-strings tight in future, she had only to allude to her cloak to bring him to reason. Soon afterwards, the king became a Christian, began to help the poor and commissioned the building of the convent. Legend has it, the convent was known for making jam from the local blueberries which was sought for all over Ireland. There is a new tradition beginning among followers of St Brigid to eat jam on 1 February in honour of this miracle.
  • After Brigid promised God a life of chastity, her brothers were grieved at the loss of a bride price. When she was outside carrying a load past a group of poor people, some began to laugh at her. A man named Bacene said to her, “The beautiful eye which is in your head will be betrothed to a man though you like it or not.” In response, Brigit thrust her finger in her eye and said, “Here is that beautiful eye for you. I deem it unlikely that anyone will ask you for a blind girl.” Her brothers tried to save her and wash away the blood from her wound, but there was no water to be found. Brigid said to them, “Put my staff about this sod in front of you”, and after they did, a stream came forth from the ground. Then she said to Bacene, “Soon your two eyes will burst in your head” and it happened as she said.
  • She is associated with the preservation of a nun’s chastity in unusual circumstances. Some authors claim that it is an account of an abortion. Both Liam de Paor (1993) and Connolly & Picard (1987), in their complete translations of Cogitosus, give substantially the same translation of the account of Brigit’s ministry to a nun who had failed to keep her vow of chastity, and become pregnant. In the 1987 translation: “A certain woman who had taken the vow of chastity fell, through youthful desire of pleasure and her womb swelled with child. Brigid, exercising the most potent strength of her ineffable faith, blessed her, causing the child to disappear, without coming to birth, and without pain. She faithfully returned the woman to health and to penance.”

 The Tale of The Cross

SaintBrigidThere was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some believe this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the saintly woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. Whilst she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul, and that he was so enamoured by her words that the old Chieftain requested he was baptized as a Christian just before his passing.

Since that day and for the centuries that followed, it has been customary on the eve of her Feat Day (1st February) for the Irish to fashion a St Brigid Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.

Saint Brigid of Kildare

saint bridgetSaint Brigid was born in the year 451 AD in Faughart, County Louth. Her father, Dubtach, was a chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Brocca, a Christian Pict who had been baptised by Saint Patrick and was a slave in Dubtach’s household.

Grew up as a slave Christian girl, Brigid was noted for her generosity to the poor. She loved the poor and would often bring food and clothing to them. One day she gave away a whole pail of butter, and then began to worry about what her mother would say. She prayed to the Lord to make up for what she had given away. Fortunately her prayers were answered. When she got home, her pail was full!

As a very pretty young girl, and her father thought that it was time for her to marry. She, however, had given herself entirely to God when she was very small, and she would not think of marrying anyone. When she learned that her beauty was the reason for the attentions of so many young men, she prayed fervently to God to take it from her. She wanted to belong to Him alone. God granted her prayer. Seeing that his daughter was no longer pretty, her father gladly agreed when Brigid asked to become a Nun.

Around 480, with seven other young women robed in white, she took her vows before Saint Mel, the abbot and bishop of Longford. Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare (Cill Dara, “church of the oak”),  under a large oak tree on the ridge of Drum Criadh. Brigid, with an initial group of seven companions, is credited with organizing communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland. For centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of the monasteries in Ireland. Her successors have always been accorded Episcopal honour. Brigid’s small oratory at Kildare became a center of religion and learning, and developed into a cathedral city.

Brigid became the first Religious in Ireland and founded a convent so that other young girls might become Nuns. When she consecrated herself to God, a miracle happened. She became very beautiful again! Brigid made people think of the Blessed Mother because she was so pure and sweet, so lovely and gentle. They called her the “Mary of the Irish.”

Many miracles of healing are attributed to Brigid, such as curing Iepers and giving speech to the dumb. There are tales of her turning water into ale or stone into salt, and many concern her rapport with animals. She also negotiated the release of captives. Perhaps the best known story is of her visit to a dying pagan chieftain. While she prayed, she plaited rushes into a cross. The chieftain heard her account of the cross as a Christian symbol, and was converted and baptised before he died. It is still customary on 1 February to plait Saint Brigid’s Crosses, in the hope that they will protect a household in the year ahead.

Brigid has been called “Mary of the Gaels” and a common salutation in the Irish language expresses the hope that “Brigid and Mary be with you”. Her influence is not confined to Ireland, however, for she has been revered throughout the ages in innumerable countries. One legend is that the medieval Knights of Chivalry chose Saint Brigid as their patroness, and that it was they who first chose to call their wives “brides”.

“God is not interested in your art but, your heart.”

“God is not interested in your art but, your heart.” ~ Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha