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Brunei is getting as bad as Saudi Arabia, and Christmas is now banned…

Foreign workers are gathering their families, packing their bags and leaving Brunei, where a ban on celebrating Christmas has been enforced since 2014 by an authoritarian regime happy to impose stiff penalties for any breaches of the law. Fearing Muslims would be led astray and convert to Christianity, the sultan of Brunei imposed full Sharia law in April, a culmination of an all-imposing Islamic legal system that was introduced step by step over the last six years. In a move that bears striking similarities to Biblical stories from the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, Christians are only allowed to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes and only after they have notified authorities. Any breaches can result in jail terms of up to five years and fines of up to US$20,000...

Christmas is almost here! Get ready by studying the readings for the Nativity…..

The Christmas Solemnity has distinct readings for four separate masses:  Vigil, Midnight, Dawn, and Day.  They stay the same from year to year, so below are my annual comments, only lightly revised.  Merry Christmas! Christmas Vigil Mass For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,until her vindication shines forth like the dawnand her victory like a burning torch. Nations shall behold your vindication,and all the kings your glory;you shall be called by a new namepronounced by the mouth of the LORD.You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,a royal diadem held by your God.No more shall people call you “Forsaken,”or your land “Desolate,”but you shall be called “My Delight,”and your land “Espoused.”For the LORD delights in youand ma...

Cardinal Cupich approves Constitutions of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius…

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A late Advent message from the Lord…

The Prophet Isaiah, by Lorenzo Monaco (1405-10) As the end of Advent approaches, the Office of Readings features some final admonitions from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. On the one hand they console; on the other, they challenge us to remain firm. Isaiah addressed a people in exile who still awaited the first coming of the Lord. Today, these texts speak to us in difficult times when, exiled from Heaven, we await His magnificent Second Coming. Let’s look at these admonitions from the Lord (Isaiah 46:3-13), which were addressed to three different groups in ancient Israel. However, let’s apply them to three groups in our own times: the faithful remnant, the foolish rebels, and the fainthearted at risk. To the Faithful Remnant – Hear me, O house of Jacob, all who remain of the house of Isra...

The mystery of the Church in Advent…

Advent is a season for us to rediscover the mystery of the Church. She is the Bride who awaits the Bridegroom with eager anticipation. The shining glow of a secret joy glistens in her eyes. To glimpse her fierce majesty is to be drawn into her invincible dynamism.  For she awakens a longing that nothing can overcome and in the deepest center of the heart, brings to birth a new certitude. The Bride knows, in a way that no one else can know, the truth and goodness that the Bridegroom imparts, and each new gift that he gives makes her yearn for Him all the more. Conversely, without the Church, we are deprived of the passion that the Christian faith demands. We can only strain for what lies ahead as we learn to see the goodness of the life that He has given us now. The life of the Church ...

Why are Catholic homilies so short and light on Scripture?

COMMENTARY: Better preaching will increase the hunger and attentiveness to the word of God, and bring more people back to Mass. On Dec. 16, as Catholic clergy were in the heart of their Advent preparations for Christmas and getting ready to mount the pulpit for one of their most important preaching opportunities of the year, the Pew Research Center released an intriguing, first-of-its-kind study entitled, “The Digital Pulpit: A Nationwide Analysis of Online Sermons.” Using advanced computer technology, the study examined the websites of 38,630 Christian churches in the U.S., found 6,431 that publish audio or video recordings of the Sunday sermons and homilies in English and analyzed them, among other things, for length and vocabulary. The results were rather striking. First, the surve...

The Bransfield report: Washington Post publishes secret Vatican document as parishioners demand answers…

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Oh-so familiar Top 10 religion stories list (with a few exceptions)…

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“Brothers and Sisters, Christendom no longer exists” — At curial Christmas address, the Pope’s “hermeneutic of change” …

Over the last two pontificates, what’s formally known as the Pope’s Christmas “greeting” to his Curial chiefs has gone well beyond glad tidings – if anything, the forum has arguably made for the most significant in-house speech of the year for Benedict and Francis both. The traditional opening “bookend” to Vatican Christmas – which closes in early January with the “State of the World” address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See – at today’s appointment, the reigning pontiff yet again focused on his continuing effort on the reform of the Roman Curia, the wholesale thrust of which might finally be executed in the New Year with the most sweeping makeover of the church’s central government since Vatican II. Yet while Fr...

The Pope’s latest speech to the cardinals has a backstory — one that was supposed to stay secret…..

> Italiano> English> Español> Français > All the articles of Settimo Cielo in English * This time as well, in the speech he gives every year to the Vatican curia before Christmas, Pope Francis has come out swinging at his unfortunate listeners. Last year he went after the the Judases “who hide behind good intentions to stab their brothers and sow weeds.” Two years ago he had pilloried the “trusted traitors” who “let themselves be corrupted by ambition or vainglory and, when they are gently removed, falsely declare themselves martyrs of the system, of the ‘uninformed pope,’ of the ‘old guard,’ … instead of reciting the ‘mea culpa’.” And who is in the pope’s crosshairs this year? Below are the most biting passages from the speech given by the pope to the Roman curia on the mor...

Crisis at Christmas — A homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent…

Today’s Gospel gives us some background for the Christmas feast that we need to take to heart. It speaks to us of a crisis at Christmas. We tend to sentimentalize the Christmas story as we think of the baby Jesus in the manger. It is not absolutely wrong to be sentimental, but we must also be prayerfully sober about how difficult that first Christmas was, and about the heroic virtue required of Mary and Joseph in order to cooperate with God in making it come to pass. Let’s look at this Gospel in three stages: distress, direction, and decision. DISTRESS – This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilli...

Is a Catholic “victims’ rights” movement the next frontier in abuse reform?

ROME – For most of human history, when someone was accused of a crime, whatever passed for a trial to assess guilt was a simple affair: Victim v. Defendant. Unsurprisingly, such “trials” often boiled down to who was more powerful, wealthier or better connected, and had only a passing relationship to justice. In the late 17th century, Enlightenment philosopher John Locke argued that the progress of civilization required the state to supplant the victim as the accusing party in a criminal trial, in order to ensure neutrality and fairness. “All private judgment of every particular member being excluded, the community comes to be umpire, by settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties,” Locke wrote. “There, and there only, is a civil society.” To this day, as anyone who’s e...