Friday, November 26, 2010

Advent: A time to prepare for Christmas

Today's posting is a friendly reminder to our fellow Catholics that this Sunday, November 28th, is  Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year.  It is a time dedicated to preparing for Christmas, for Christ's birth and His entry into our lives in an ever increasing and renewed way!  The information which follows we hope will help you to better embrace Advent.  At the end of the entry, you will find resources for further reading.

Advent is the four week period before Christmas when the Church celebrates the first coming of Christ and anticipates His second coming.  The word "advent" comes from the Latin adventus (Greek parousia), which means "coming" or "arrival."  Advent is not part of the Christmas season, but a preparation for it.  This is why we do not sing Christmas hymns or use Christmas readings at Mass, until December 25th, the first day of Christmas.

Advent is a time of spiritual preparation.  Many during Advent focus on the external preparation:  decorating homes, visiting friends and relatives, going to parties, purchasing gifts and more, all of which are appropriate, but these things should not be our main focus. Advent provides us all with an opportunity to continually re-orient ourselves to God's will as we, together with the entire Church, expectantly wait for the true meaning of Christmas, the incarnation of God the Son.  The spirit of Advent should help to arouse in each one of us, an intimate and personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ in our soul.  This "coming" is accomplished through grace and the more it matures in us, the more abundant it becomes, penetrating us until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus.

The season of Advent is focussed on the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.  Our worship, scripture readings and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christ's first coming (Christmas), but also His second.  This is why the scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the Messiah and the New Testament passages concerning Jesus' second coming.

The liturgical colour of Advent is violet, except for the Third Week of Advent (Guadete Sunday) in which rose is the colour used as a reminder that we are called to rejoice. Advent is somewhat penitential, similar to Lent as worship during Advent is more solemn, quiet and less festive than other times of the year.  The Church discourages excessive ornamentation, boisterous music and even weddings during Advent, in order to foster a sense of quiet hope.

Some prominent feasts to look out for during Advent are:  the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th.

Some Resources For Further Reading:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We Applaud Canada Post for the Madonna and Child Christmas Stamp

Much of Canada has become so secular that we debate whether we can call a tree a Christmas tree, whether the holiday season should be named the Christmas season, and whether it is acceptable to refer to holiday parties as Christmas parties. So, it’s encouraging that Canada Post for the last three years has issued Christmas stamps with a difference. I say with a difference because they feature images not of Santa Claus, candy canes or reindeers, but of the Wise Men and the Holy Family. The stamps all depict a religious theme and were inspired from a sculpted nativity scene by local artist Antonio Caruso.

The Christmas crèche tradition was started in 1223 in Europe and popularized by St. Francis of Assisi. A few years ago Caruso had contributed his sculpted crèche as part of a Christmas exhibit at the Cathedral Church of St. James Church. Caruso’s pieces came to the attention of designer Joe Gault, who photographed and designed the background lighting, and the rest is history.

This November, Canada Post issued its new Christmas stamps. The first issue of Caruso's work produced in 2008, showed the Wise Men, last year the stamp depicted Baby Jesus and this year it’s the Madonna and Child. It is a beautiful image which should remind us about why we celebrate Christmas. It is also a perfect reason to get these stamps and send them to your friends and family as well as an opportunity to talk to your children about the stamp and its significance. If you have not seen the series of stamps, I encourage you to do so. They are truly beautiful and inspiring.

The 2010 Madonna and Child visually makes the point that Christmas is a religious celebration. We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour. It ought to remind us too that so much of our Canadian history, including the first European settlers to Canada, the French, the English, the Jesuits as well as that wonderful Huron Christmas song, the Huron Carol, is wrapped around the meaning of this special time of the year.

One of the reasons Caruso originally sculpted the nativity scene was to be a display piece for his own house. Christmas for the Caruso family is very important chiefly because it reminds us of the gift of God-made-man. In addition, families get together, friends are visited, and Christmas mass including all the other wonderful church activities are attended. Christmas is part of the family tradition and who they are.

The statue itself is carved from lime wood. It measures 85 cm in height and weighs 15 Kg. Its title is Our Lady of the Night and was inspired by the idea of the baby Jesus sleeping in his mother's arms. Mary's tender embrace, as the child rests safely, reminds us how children feel protected by their mothers in the darkness of the night.

Canada Post issued the very first Christmas stamp in the world over 100 years ago on December 7, 1898. The tradition continues with this Madonna and Child. Antonio Caruso who lives and has an art studio in Maple, Ontario, is grateful that his art work has found its way on Canadian stamps. He also recognizes the significance of a Christmas stamp for the entire Christian community. His paintings and sculptures are found in private collections, museums, cathedrals and churches in North America and Europe.

With past images of the infant Jesus, the Wise Men and this year’s Madonna and Child millions of stamps will have been issued by Canada Post. Caruso says that he has been getting many requests for information from many people across Canada and also from different parts of the world. You can get the stamp at your local post office or by calling Canada Post. By using the stamp for our Christmas cards and other mail, we can help keep the true meaning of Christmas in our minds.

Canada Post describes the stamp this way, “The first images of the Madonna and Child are found in the catacombs of Rome, and the tradition of Madonna art flourished in Europe during the Renaissance. Inspired by this tradition, Canadian artists have produced spectacular representations of this sacred scene, many of which have been feature on Christmas stamps—traditional paintings (2006), wood icons (1988), and stained glass (1997), to name a few.”

We congratulate Antonio Caruso and we hope that all Canadians use the stamp on envelopes this Christmas season. It’s one way to keep in mind that we need to keep Christ in Christmas and throughout the year. We give credit to Canada Post for selecting and issuing this wonderful commemorative stamp of the Madonna and Child. Canada needs this positive message of love, of hope and of life during Christmas and everyday for the rest of the year.

(Note to our readers: Friends of the Creche: International Convention is coming to Toronto next year on November 10-12, 2011. If you’re interested in going to this world event or want more information, you can visit the St. James website. In addition to this you can see the permanent exhibit of nativity scenes from every part of the world at St. Joseph's Oratory, in Montreal, Canada.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Madia Have the Responsibility to Build the Common Good

La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family)
(A note to our readers: Corriere Canadese is the daily Italian newspaper published here in Toronto. It was founded by Dan Iannuzzi in 1954. The paper's website states that the purpose of the publication is to keep the Italian language and culture alive in Canada. It is distrubuted mainly in Ontario, especially in the Toronto area and in Montreal, Quebec. In these areas alone there are about 900,000 people with an Italian background. The Saturday edition includes a section called "Chiesa 2000" which covers news about the Catholic Church both at the local and world level. The Editor-in-Chief is Paola Bernardini, the Political Editor is Angelo Persichilli and the publisher is Italmedia S.R.L. The open letter below was sent to the editor on Monday November 8. It's meant to remind those in charge of the publication to once again revisit and live up to their media mission statement. Corriere Canadese receives funding from the Italian government and so has a responsibilty to truly inform and help to build the common good in Canada and the rest of the world where Italian is spoken.)

November 9,2010

Dear Editor,

In the front page of yesterday’s issue, November 8, of Corriere Canadese, you cover the story of a homosexual group that organized a “kiss-in” as Pope Benedict the XVI left Barcelona from his visit to Spain. I found the story insulting and degrading. The Pope was there to consecrate and declare the Sagrada Familia, a Basilica. The Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpiece. Moreover, he was there to visit one of the oldest Christian shrines in the world, Santiago de Campostela as it celebrates the Jubilee Year of St. James the Apostle. Corriere Canadese missed a wonderful opportunity to inform and instruct its readers. Instead, the paper chose to cover a story by a fringe group whose only purpose is to be critical of the Pope, the Catholic Church and its faithful, many of whom are your readers.

The public display of stupidity has nothing to add to the discussion of building the common good, unless you consider a public “kiss-in” and sexual gratification-on demand to be useful public policy. Yet, Corriere Canadese featured it and by doing so lends it credence. Now seriously tell me, how can this be front page news? The Pope had so much to say on defending and promoting human life, justice and the family. Why wasn't this on the front page? You lost an opportunity to tell your readers about the great architect Gaudi and his life mission to erect a stone structure which reveals God, creation and the story of mankind.

I will be telling people I know who subscribe to Corriere Canadese, to re-consider their support. If the paper intends to export the sexual immorality of Silvio Berlusconi, then coverage of a “kiss-in” fits the theme, but it is never responsible journalism. These stories which debase the human person don’t help me, my family or our society. Your readers deserve greater respect.

Thank you,
Lou Iacobelli

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Anti-Life Forces Promote a Deadly Message

While in Italy this September, I read much to my dismay an article in a women’s magazine, Io Donna, (the translation is “I’m Woman”), published by the daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera called: “No Children I’m an Altruist”. Is this the next step for the anti-life movement? According to the article, married couples are better off if they are child-free. Children after all cause problems, they cost too much to raise and if that’s not enough, they’re even a source of pollution for the environment. The article boldly proclaims that life without children is the way of the future.

Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have terrible consequences. The very notion for couples not to have children is not only intrinsically bad social policy, but it’s also immoral because it claims to define the final value of life. Christians by definition naturally should want to promote and to celebrate a culture of life. So it’s our baptismal mission, our Christian responsibility to point out ideas that can have devastating results if adopted in society. The evidence is now readily available on the horrible problems which have resulted because Canada in the past has passed unjust laws. In particular, I’m thinking of all the laws which have been enacted to legalize and support abortion during the last forty-one years. What started as a campaign by a one man, Morgentaler, to open an abortuary, has currently resulted in the killing of countless hundreds of thousands of innocent babies in Canada. So our recent history proves only too well that bad ideas can bring about terrible societal outcomes.

It follows then that this idea for married couples that is emerging on the world scene, not to have children, is one terrible idea we need to fight in Canada. Most importantly we must not let this influence our own children. What may sound as a completely innocuous idea: the notion of being proud in being child-free can too easily become dangerous and life threatening. In Brussells, for example, last year one couple actually started a feast day to celebrate the decision for those who openly choose to remain childless. This movement has already spread to the United States, Great Britain and France. In France, the child-free event called "La Fete des non parents" opened with a documentary video which included material collected by a Canadian, Magenta Baribeau. Part of the video shows interviews with couples proudly discussing their child-free status. At one point the singer-songwriter GiedRe’ sings on French television an “Ode alla contraccezione” (an “Ode to contraception”). In addition, Vehmt: “the organization for the voluntary extinction of humanity” is already in existence…. in essence it’s a group advocating the end of human life. Finally there’s the Gink association, Gink is an acronym for “green inclination no kid” that sings from the same songbook…..the songbook of death.

This is the kind of false thinking which results when bad ideas are allowed to spread. People begin to falsely believe, for example, that in not having children they are making an environmentally friendly decision. One American blogger Lisa Hymas has gone so far as to say that the greatest contribution any person can make to save the environment is not to have children. They cost too much. She claims parents need to spend $291,570 by the time a child reaches 18 years and that a new life adds 9.441 tons of CO2 to the environment. Of course she never mentions that this is just her idea or ever offers the reader an explanation as to how she arrives at such figures. Why doesn’t she also tell her readers that each human life has the potential to solve the problems of CO2 emissions and contribute to improving the common good? Here’s why: The information would seriously undermine her argument. You can try to mask these anti-life ideas with all the good intentions in the world, but this changes nothing because they are self-serving lies.

Some of the advocates for couples to be child-free go so far as to say that it’s a form of altruism. They should, however, tell the truth: a child-free philosophy is self-centered and egotistical. It’s a form of deism: “I want to be God”. It celebrates the sin of pride. Its next of kin is despair and depression: life is just suffering. Nobody in his right mind actively chooses death over life. Only a ghoul would make that anti-life choice. A child-free philosophy rests on fear and defeatism….that I can’t make it through life or life has little value. This false way of thinking tries to put the human person as the author of life. And isn’t this the greatest lie about life? At the centre here is a total distortion of the Christian meaning of life. Only by telling the truth can the lies be revealed. But don’t wait for them to do so. As Christians, we must act to reject this infectious argument and offer our own pro-life vaccine whenever and wherever we can.

Yes, this anti-humanity and destructive thinking must be countered by every Christian before it infects the next Canadian generation. If the young hear this selfish refrain: “My adult life is important and children get in the way of my pursuit of pleasures and in exercising my freedom”, how can they possibly embrace life for themselves and for future generations? Here’s an obvious fact which the child-free proponents purposely neglect to answer… did they get to be adults? Surely they did not appear on this earth as 25 year-olds? Openly demonstrating these flaws in the child-free postion is one of the things we can do to warn young people or it won’t be long before they begin to entertain and live the child-free message. We must fight this culture of death. For deep down in our hearts, we all know that life is a divine gift, the major gift and wonder each of us has been given.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, bad ideas can only leads to bad consequences. Child-free thinking is a terrible idea because it promotes a culture of death. Christians must unmask this deadly ideology which is anti-future, anti-life and anti-family. It’s a purely selfish seed which we hope doesn’t germinate and take hold in Canada.

We need to heed the warning in these Scriptural words: "Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! (Deuteronomy: 30:19)