Christmas Eve: Saint Joseph goes to Bethlehem with His Holy Spouse

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Christmas Eve

Saint Joseph goes to Bethlehem with His Holy Spouse
by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Ascendit autem et Joseph . . . ut profittretur
cutit Maria desponsata sibi uxore preegnantt.

“And Joseph also went up . . . to be enrolled with Mary
his espoused wife, who was with child.”–St. Luke, ii. 4.

God had decreed that His Son should be born not in the house of Joseph, but in a cavern and stable of beasts, in the poorest and most painful way that a child can be born; and therefore He caused Caesar to publish an edict, by which people were commanded to go and enroll themselves, every one in his own city whence he drew his origin.

When Joseph heard this order, he was much agitated as to whether he should take with him or leave behind the Virgin Mother, as she was now so near childbirth. My spouse and my lady, said he to her, on the one hand, I do not wish to leave you alone; on the other, if I take you with me, I am much afflicted at the thought of all that you will have to suffer during this long journey, and in such severe weather. My poverty will not permit me to conduct you with that comfort which you require. But Mary answers him, and tries to give him courage with these words: My Joseph, do not fear. I will go with you; the Lord will assist us. She knew, both by divine inspiration, and also because she was well versed in the prophecy of Micheas, that the divine Infant was to be born in Bethlehem. She therefore takes the swaddling-clothes, and the other miserable garments already prepared, and departs with Joseph. And Joseph also went up . . . to be enrolled with Mary.

Let us now consider all the devout and holy discourses which these two holy spouses must have held during this journey concerning the mercy, goodness and love of the divine Word, who was shortly to be born, and to appear on the earth for the salvation of men. Let us also consider the praises, the benedictions, the thankgs-givings, the acts of humility and love, which these two illustrious pilgrims uttered on the way. This holy Virgin, so soon to become a mother, certainly suffered much in so long a journey, made in the middle of winter, and over rough roads; but she suffered with peace and with love. She offered to God all these her trials uniting them to those of Jesus, whom she carried womb.

Oh, let us unite ourselves also, and let us accompany Mary and Joseph in the journey of our life; and, with them, let us accompany the King of Heaven, Who is born in a cave, and makes His first appearance in the world as an infant, but as the poorest and most forsaken infant that ever was born amongst men. And let us beseech Jesus, Mary, and Joseph that, through the merits of the pains which they suffered in this journey, they would accompany us in the journey that we are making to eternity. Oh, blessed shall we be if, in life and in death, we keep company with these three great personages, and are always accompanied by them!

Affections and Prayers

My beloved Redeemer, I know that in this journey Thou wast accompanied by hosts of angels from heaven; but on this earth who was there that bore Thee company? Thou hadst but Joseph and Mary who carried Thee with her. Refuse not, O my Jesus! that I also accompany Thee. Miserable ungrateful sinner that I have been, I now see the injuries I have done Thee; Thou didst come down from heaven to make Thyself my companion on earth, and I by my frequent offences have ungratefully abandoned Thee!

When I remember, O my Savior! that for the sake of my own cursed inclinations I have often separated myself from Thee and renounced Thy friendship, I could wish to die of sorrow. But Thou didst come into the world to forgive me: therefore forgive me now, I beseech Thee, for I repent with all my soul of having so often turned my back upon Thee and forsaken Thee. I purpose and hope, through Thy grace, nevermore to leave or separate myself from Thee, O my only love! My soul has become enamoured of Thee, O my amiable Infant God! I love Thee, my sweet Saviour; and snce Thou hast come upon earth to save me and to dispense to me Thy graces, I ask this one only grace of Thee, permit me not to be ever again separated from Thee. Unite me, bind me to Thyself, enchain me with the sweet cords of Thy holy love.

O my Redeemer and my God, who will then have the heart to leave Thee, and to live without Thee, deprived of Thy grace?” Most holy Mary, I come to accompany thee in this journey; and thou, O my Mother, cease not to accompany me in the journey that I am making to eternity. Do thou assist me always, but especially when I shall find myself at the end of my life, and near that moment on which will depend either my remaining always with thee to love Jesus in paradise, or my being forever separated from thee and hating Jesus in hell. My Queen, save me by thy intercession; and may my salvation be to love thee and Jesus forever, in time and in eternity. Thou art my hope; I hope everything from thee.

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

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Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Foundress
(1850-1917)

Dear to the hearts of American Catholics in many regions of the United States, Saint Frances Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, patroness of immigrants, was the first citizen of the United States to be canonized. Born in Lombardy, Italy, the youngest of thirteen children, she was fired with missionary zeal as a little girl, through family reading of the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. She gave up sweets because she would also be without them in China, where she aspired to go.

She earned a teacher’s certificate and applied to two Orders having missionary houses, but was rejected for reasons of health. Reluctantly, at the request of her bishop, she tried to save an orphanage and make of its staff a religious community, but after six hard years the work collapsed. And Frances, by then thirty years old, initiated her own missionary community with seven of her associates from the orphanage. Bishop Scalabrini suggested they work with Italian immigrants, especially in the United States, as the Congregation of Saint Charles which he had founded was doing; but Mother Cabrini’s heart was set on China. She asked counsel of Pope Leo XIII. Go not to the East, he told her, but to the West.

Founding schools, hospitals and charitable works of every kind, she would cross the ocean thirty times, bringing bands of young Italian Sisters to North and South America. Her amusing community letter, during her second trip to New York, gives a typical picture of these missionary voyages: This morning all the Sisters woke up very ill. Some of them thought they were going to die… Those who trusted my words rose and tried to eat, and presently were looking quite well. The others who thought death was at hand stayed in their rooms awaiting it…

Her letters are filled with the practical motherly instruction of a foundress who knew she was loved and imitated by her Sisters. When you are corrected do not justify yourself. Remain silent and practice virtue, whether you are right or wrong, otherwise we may dream of perfection but will never attain it. (Oct. 17-20, 1892) Love is not loved, my daughters! Love is not loved! (Aug. 21, 1890) Renounce yourselves entirely if you wish to enjoy peace… She who is not holy will make no one holy. (Oct. 17, 1892)

Explaining why she did not accompany some Sisters on a boat excursion she wrote, I admit my weakness, I am afraid of the sea. And if there is no very holy motive in view, I have no courage to go where I fear danger, unless sent by obedience. For then, of course, one’s movements are blessed by God.

Mother Cabrini died at sixty-seven, suddenly and alone in one of her Chicago hospitals, while preparing Christmas presents for 500 children.

Lives of the Saints: Daily Readings, by Augustine Kalberer, O.S.B. (Franciscan Herald Press: Chicago, 1975).

MY CATHOLIC FAITH: Authority of the Church

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MY CATHOLIC FAITH

LXVI. Authority of the Church

What are the chief attributes of the Catholic Church? –The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility.

An attribute is any quality or characteristic. Virtues as well as faults are attributes.

What is meant by the authority of the Catholic Church? –By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the lawful successors of the Apostles, have power from Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.

Authority is the power one person has over another, such that he can exact obedience justly. Thus rulers have authority over subjects; parents over their children; teachers, over pupils, etc.

Christ appointed the Church to teach whatever He, taught: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19)
Christ taught, as in the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ appointed the Church to sanctify the faithful, by administering the means of grace to its members.
Christ dispensed the means of grace, as when He forgave Mary Magdalen, gave His flesh and blood at the Last Supper, and blessed little children.

Christ appointed the Church to govern with authority and jurisdiction.

Christ was the pastor or ruler of men. He gave commandments, sent the disciples on missions, instructed them, reproved the Pharisees.

Did Christ give the Church full authority? –Christ gave the Church full authority and power, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

As a father who goes away on a journey leaves all his power and authority to the mother, so Christ upon leaving the earth gave to His Church full power and authority to carry on His work. “He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me” (Luke 10:16).

The authority of the Church is not restricted to matters of doctrine and belief, but to whatever is necessary for the good of the Church and its members.

Thus the Church lays down laws concerning fasting and abstinence, keeping of Sundays and holydays, worship, and administration of the sacraments.

The members of the Church must observe whatever laws and regulations it makes. Authority in some form is necessary for every organization; without it members could not be directed to their common purpose.

Every society lays down rules for its members. Those who do not wish to keep them are excluded from it. Without authority the Church could not fulfill its divine purpose. The denominations that broke from the unity of the Church denied its authority. Having no head to obey, they Split and resplit into hundreds of churches.

How does the Church exercise her authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful? –The Church exercises her authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful by various means, among them being:

Teaching by sermons and by religious classes in schools and parishes.

Today the Church teaches by preaching, by deciding controversies, and by condemning wrong teaching. Parish churches have sermons in the Masses of Sundays and holydays of obligation. Every Catholic school prescribes the study of religion in every class. Every parish holds catechetical classes.

Sanctifying by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the sacraments, by blessings, and by special devotions held in the churches.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Our Lord Himself, is the great act of worship of the Church, the source of grace to sanctify the faithful. The sacraments are means of grace by which we obtain help to become more holy children of God.

Governing by the commandments of the Church, by other laws ordered from time to time as need arises, and from the general control by bishops in the dioceses.
In her capacity as ruler, the Church makes regulations forbidding what is dangerous or sinful, as when she prohibits the reading of dangerous books and magazines. All members of the Church are under a strict obligation to obey her laws and regulations; disobedience to the Church is disobedience to Him Who authorized her rule, Jesus Christ, God.