DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     December 3-5, 1999     vol. 10, no. 230


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Friday, December 3, 1999

    Friday December 3:
    Feast of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest and Religious Missionary

    White vestments
      First Reading: Isaiah 29: 17-24
      Psalms: Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 9: 27-31

Saint Francis Xavier, Priest, Religious and Missionary

        One of the charter members of the Jesuit Order, Saint Francis Xavier was hand-picked by Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Born in the family castle of Xavier near Pamplona in the Basque country of the Spanish Navarre on April 7, 1506, Francis was sent to the prestigious University of Paris to receive his licentiate in 1528. While there he met Fr. Loyola. Though he rejected Ignatius' original plans, he was one over by his piety and became one of the original seven who took their vows as Jesuits, dedicated to the Pope, at Montmartre, France in 1534 on the feast of the Assumption. He became a Jesuit priest in 1537 in Venice, Italy and subsequently was sent to Rome along with four other Jesuits in 1538. After two years of "pestering the Pope" and keeping Pope Paul III abreast of the activities and ideals of the Society of Jesus, the Holy Father formally approved the Society. Once approval was official, Fr. Xavier and fellow Jesuit Fr. Simon Rodriquez were sent to the East Indies as the first missionaries. On their way they stopped off in Lisbon where King John II detained them. It was the king who had requested missionaries. When they were ready to head to the Orient again on April 7, 1541 the King felt Fr. Rodriquez was not healthy enough to go and other priests were assigned to join Francis, though not Jesuits. Thirteen months later Fr. Xavier arrived in Goa where he preached for five months to the children, ministered to the sick, and sought to correct the immorality factor - in particular the use of concubines so prevalent among the Portuguese community there, but frowned upon in Europe and by the Church. From there he traveled to the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka ministering to the natives. In 1544 he moved on to care for the Malaccans and a year later the Moluccas near New Guinea. In 1546 he landed on Morotai which was near the Philippines. In 1549 he reached his farthest destination - Japan where he preached until 1551. Whenever other missionaries joined him in these countries, Francis would turn over the duties to them and move on to new frontiers with a heart flaming with love for God and souls. Thus, he set out for China. On December 3, 1552 in sight of his life-long goal to evangelize to the Chinese, God took Francis home. Alone excepted for a Chinese youth named Antony, Francis, though only 46, died of exhaustion and fever on the island of Shangchwan just a short distance from the China mainland. No other missionary, with the exception of possibly Saint Paul, traveled more miles than Francis and in such a short span of time. He traveled to some of the most remote and inaccessible places then known to man under tremendous harrowing situations that a lesser man would have run from. But he persevered, despite the lack of cooperation from locals and the absence of funds, in converting over 30,000 people during his lifetime. In a time when thousands were fleeing from the faith in Europe as a result of the Protestant revolution, thousands were embracing the True Faith in the Far East thanks to the valiant, heroic deeds of St. Francis Xavier, the "Apostle of the Indies and Japan." It is all the more remarkable when one realizes he worked solely through interpreters and translators, not having the gift of tongues. He was credited with countless miracles and healings and was canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. Pope Saint Pius X proclaimed him patron of all foreign missions in 1927 along with the Little Flower of Lisieux- Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus.

Saturday, December 4, 1999

    Saturday December 4:
    Saturday in the First Week of Advent and
    Feast of Saint John of Damascus, Priest, Religious and Doctor of the Church

    Violet or white vestments
      First Reading: Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26
      Psalms: Psalm 147: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38; 10: 1, 6-8

Saint John of Damascus, Priest, Priest, Religious and Doctor of the Church

        In the year 675 as Mohammedanism was making its mark in the Holy Land, Saint John of Damascus was born into a wealthy Christian-Arab family. His mother was Catholic, his father Mansur a Moslem. Though John spent all his life under Mohammedan rule, he never wavered from the True Faith which was taught to him by a wise monk named Cosmas, a slave bought by John's father during a Moslem raid in Sicily. When John's father died, his inheritance included the position of chief revenue officer and counselor of the Caliph, the Mohammedan leader who was then Abdul Malek. In the early 700's the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Isaurian released a decree condemning the veneration of images. John knew it was a direct assault on Catholicism and he refuted all the Emperor had decreed which naturally drew the wrath of the Byzantine rulers who wanted to silence him, but they were prevented because John was under the Caliph's protection and rule. A year later, largely through the influence of Cosmas, he resigned the prestigious position of finance officer and became a monk at St. Sabas on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Even though Leo's successor, the Emperor Constantine Copronymus denounced John at a false synod he convened in Constantinople, the Patriarch John V still ordained John in 726. Now a priest, John returned to the monastery in Jerusalem to lead the defenders of the orthodox Catholic faith against the iconoclast movement of the Byzantine regime. Known as both a poet and theologian, John wrote his famous The Fount of Knowledge, translated into Latin with the title De Fide Orthodoxa. It had the most profound effect on theology for centuries. Teaming up with John V and Pope Gregory II, he defended the faith and the right to use images and icons of Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints with the beautiful rationale, "It is not the material that we honor but what it represents: the honor paid to images goes to the one who is represented by the image." He wrote countless works including poems still used in the Greek liturgy. The Greeks called him "Chrysoorhoas" which meant "pouring forth gold" since his words were a treasure so profound to those who heard them. John's peaceful death at the monastery at St. Sabas on December 4, 749 marked the end of the Greek Fathers of the Church. On the same date in 1890 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed John of Damascus a Doctor of the Church adding his feast to the Roman Calendar.

SUNDAY, December 5, 1999

      First Reading: Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
      Psalms: Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
      Second Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8-14
      Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 1-8

Monday, December 6, 1999

    Monday December 6:
    Saturday in the First Week of Advent and
    Feast of Saint Nicholas, Bishop

    Violet or white vestments
      First Reading: Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26
      Psalms: Psalm 85: 9-14
      Gospel Reading: Matthew 9: 35-38; 10: 1, 6-8

Saint Nicholas, Bishop

        The universal popularity of Saint Nicholas in both the Eastern Church, the Western Church and in secular circles has contributed to the legend of this saint. All we really know about him is that he was born of wealthy parents near Patara in Lycia part of Asia Minor. He was named bishop of Myra, which was a diocese in decline, but his holiness, zeal and accounts of miracles transformed the diocese into one of great faith. As bishop, he was among those who signed the doctrine affirming Jesus Christ's Divinity at the Council of Nicea in 325. Nicholas used his well-endowed inheritance from his deceased parents for the Church, aiding the poor. One legend, which spawned the concept of Santa Claus relates that there were three very poor sisters whose father, in order to make ends meet for the family, was about to turn them into prostitutes so he could also afford their future dowries. Nicholas, hearing of this, tossed a bag of gold into their house through a window on three different occasions, thus preserving them from a life of sin. The repentant father, discovering it was Nicholas, later fell at his feet in gratitude saying, "You are my helper. You have delivered my soul and my daughters' from hell." On another occasion, unable to personally reach the Emperor Constantine, through prayer he appeared in a dream to the Emperor informing the ruler that the three imperial officers he was going to put to death for treason, were innocent. Upon awakening, Constantine freed them immediately. Nicholas destroyed pagan temples and even managed to get a governor to admit publicly that he was condemning three innocent men because he had been bribed. The men were set free and the governor deposed. During the tyrannical rule of the Emperor Diocletian he was incarcerated for his faith along with many other Christians. There he was tortured and died around the age of 65 in the middle of the 4th Century. Nicholas had always been renowned for his charitable works toward poor children and, after his death the legend grew enormously. When the faith was brought to Northern Germany, so also were the tales of St. Nicholas who took on the folklore of "Weihnachtsmann", German for "the man of Christmas Eve. His popularity increased in the 11th Century when his relics were transfered from Myra to Bari in Italy. His shrine in this Adriatic coastal town became one of the most beloved of the Medieval times, visited by many crusaders who brought the legend back to various parts of Europe. The practice of giving gifts and sweets to children on the eve before the Christ Child's birth grew both from a secular standpoint as well as a religious one, for the adults spent much time in Church at Christmas with extensive ceremonies and if the children had something to keep them occupied, it made it easier on everyone. In Holland St. Nicholas became Sint Klaes which was soon translated into Santa Claus since the German name for Nicholas is Klaus. The image of Santa Claus however was taken from the pagan god Thor and associated with winter and the Yule log. They depicted him riding on a chariot led by two goats whose names were Cracker and Gnasher. It wasn't long before this translated into reindeer and the rest, as we know, is commercialism. St. Nicholas Day is still celebrated in Europe to this day with sweets placed in the shoes of children the night before. St. Nicholas is considered the patron saint of Greece, Sicily, Lorraine in France and Apulia, not to mention the universal patron of children everywhere. His popularity can be attested in the fact there are thousands of churches named in his honor throughout Europe.

December 3-5, 1999       volume 10, no. 230


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