Today is the Feast of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church whose golden oratory touched countless souls. He is also known for overcoming adversity and political in-fighting within the Church in the East and the West. But he persevered, never wavering in preaching the true tenets of the Faith in the face of heresies and paganism. That is why it is such a delight to feature today another known for golden oratory in the modern sense. That person is, of course, Mother Angelica the tireless foundress of EWTN who has also overcome tremendous adversities as you'll see in her special two-part profile today in The Formation Years and The Fulfillment Years. Just as Ambrose had to deal with the heresy of the day in Arianism, Mother doesn't flinch in taking on modernism and a growing paganism within our culture. Through her determined efforts as a payback to Jesus for allowing her to walk when paralysis seemed inevitable, she has done the impossible; not only founding a Catholic monastery in the belt-buckle of the bible belt, but expanding globally with the highly successful, inspiring and influential EWTN and WEWN. The moral of the story on Mother is never tell her something can't be done. Like Almighty God, she doesn't take "no" for an answer. Her experiences with purveyors and contractors who have told her something wouldn't work are legendary. That's the kind of faith she has. Total trust in God. But she's not one to sit back and let Him do all the work, far from it. Just as Ambrose had to deal with ecclesial jealousies and grudges, so also Mother has had to deal with tremendous resentment and backbiting by many of the liberal bishops in America. It's sad that they can't see the phenomenal ministry she provides and strive to complement her efforts by promoting the tremendous contribution she has made in perpetuating the traditions and teachings of the Church. Hopefully, as we have written her many times, with the pendulum swinging back toward the conservative side through the changing of the guard within the episcopal ranks, most of the liberal bishops will fade away. It is our fervent prayer that in every diocese the bishops will fight to have Mother on the cable station in their area full time.
That brings up a sore point with us because even though San Diego county has a Catholic population of nearly 30%, we cannot get EWTN on any of our major cable stations except between the hours of 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Four lousy hours in the middle of the night. Thank God for VCR's. It used to be such a joy up until a few years ago when we relocated back to Southern California, to work at the keyboard while EWTN was on. It was uplifting and inspiring to say the least. This editor is unabashedly an admirer of Mother Angelica and her network, and though we have never met, feel akin to her. Yours truly also editor shares something special with Mother, the same birth date - different year. As we have said, though we have never had the privilege of meeting her, yet, through her programs, like millions of others, feel like she is an old friend with the emphasis on "friend" for she seems ageless. We've had the opportunity to visit the monastery and EWTN once but Mother was in the hospital at the time, and almost got to meet her in Denver during World Youth Days but it was so hectic that we just missed her. So we were overjoyed she garnered so many votes on the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY list. Evidently, thousands of others felt the same way about her.
Speaking of this list, while it is our policy not to pre-broadcast who the next selection is, you can guess the remaining six by a series of deduction. Because tomorrow is the Feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we will close down because it is a Holy Day of Obligation. Thus we will produce a double issue for Wednesday and Thursday featuring the sixth selection. You will see how fitting that selection is in relationship to the Feast Day tomorrow. We are featuring only one TOP CATHOLIC for that issue in order to finish up with a two-day special profile on the number one TOP CATHOLIC OF THE CENTURY as selected by the voters in a runaway. Thus the number fifth selection will be Friday, with the fourth on Monday, the third on Tuesday, the second on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday number one. It will cap seventeen weeks of bringing you all TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY.
There were a few who didn't make the list and definitely should have and we'll list a few of our own picks after all those the voters selected are revealed. Many have also expressed an interest in seeing these profiles published in book form. We're all for it, just don't have the funds to finance it. So if anyone out there has any ideas or knows of a publisher that would be interested, we're all ears. Like Mother, we'll do all in our power to help make this a reality, but we're not going to worry about it. If God wills it, there'll be a way.
And so, as we celebrate the final singular Feast of the Blessed Mother for the second millennium, we can contemplate on Mary and see how she provides the "female presence" in the Church, something so vital to a family and the Church is a family - the Mystical Body of Christ. The Holy Father has been especially attentive to this, devoting last Wednesday's Papal Audience talk to the family. As we all know Mary's Divine Son is the Head of the Church, she is the heart! What better personage than the Mother of God? She was God's perfect choice because He had prepared His vessel to be the purest of the pure from all eternity. The Father created His daughter to be totally free from Original Sin, the only such person to be gifted among all His creations. And it makes perfect sense for He would want the most perfect tabernacle to contain His Only-begotten Son. But Mary was not just a temporary tabernacle during the time she carried Our Lord. Like a devoted Mother she carried Jesus in her heart all her life and has continued to carry Him in her heart and share Him with all God's children ever since. By carrying Him in her heart, she also bears both the Immaculate Heart and her Sorrowful Heart for she shared everything with her Divine Son from the bitter cold that starry night in Bethlehem to the Presentation of Our Lord in the temple when Simeon prophecied that a sword would pierce her heart; from the rugged travels over rock-hewn terrain enroute to Egypt to the loss of His foster father Joseph and her chaste earthly spouse and protector; from the day He left their humble abode in Nazareth to begin His three-year public ministry to the pangs and pain of watching Him tredge up Calvary and die ignominously on the cross. But Mary knew this was all part and parcel in the mission God had intended for mankind and she played her role to perfection in perfect obedience. The Father knew this. That is why He chose this earthly daughter of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, who provided the ideal preparation for their precious bundle of joy by submitting her to the temple to study Mosaic law. This was something few women were ever allowed, but because she was of the House of David, she was granted this special privilege. Anne and Joachim didn't know of Mary's special mission when she was a child, but we suspect intuitively Anne knew something was special about her daughter from the second she was conceived. From that time on no person in history - world history or Church history has ever been depicted in more various forms than the loving, humble, obedient ever-virgin Mary.
Today she is known by so many titles. Just peruse and pray the Litany of Loreto, also the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and you'll see just how involved in salvation she is for she is the Daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son, and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. Many of her titles have been bestowed, many have been designated by Our Lady herself in her apparitions - from Zaragoza when she announced she was "Our Lady of the Pillar" to Medjugorje where she let all know through the visionaries that she was the "Queen of Peace." At one of her more memorable appearances - that of Lourdes in 1858, she told Saint Bernadette Soubiroux, "I am the Immaculate Conception." This Heavenly pronouncement confirmed, in a nutshell so to speak, the Dogma Pope Pius IX had proclaimed four years earlier on this date that the Mother of God had been conceived without the stigma of Original Sin, therefore: Immaculate Conception.
But this dogma has been misunderstood by so many Catholics and rejected by non-Catholics. They cannot fathom that God could do something so wonderful, that He would choose a human being to be so elevated. This is probably the biggest hurdle Protestants have to get over: Mary. Scott and Kimberly Hahn have confirmed this. By Scott's own admission, Protestants demean the role Mary plays in salvation by demeaning God's Will, supplanting that with their own finite will which cannot comprehend such a mystery of faith. That stubbornness is the very reason many have left the Church down through the centuries, unwilling to acquiesce to the Will of God expressed through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on earth - the ONLY True Church founded by the Son of God which has continued unbroken for two millenniums. No other faith derives its origins directly from Christ even though the common nomenclature today for non-Catholics who believe in Jesus is "Christians" but that is truly a misnomer for they forget obedience is at the root of faith and by breaking away from the apostolic succession, by breaking with the Universal Church, by breaking from the Holy alliance of the Divine Will, and by refusing to submit to the Bishop of Rome as the legitimate successor of Peter, they have turned their backs on what Christ intended. In short, they have become allies with the devil. There is the doctrine that, for some reason or other, quite possibly because of the liberals push for ecumenism, has been buried for too long. It is a burr in their saddle and must be overcome if ecumenism and unity are to become reality in the new millennium. That is "Outside the Church there is no salvation." Does that mean what we think it means? Basically, yes! All are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved. Jesus affirmed this in John 3: 5 when He says, "Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Ah, but the Protestants will refute that, pointing to "being born again in the Spirit" at some revival or another. But they forget that the Catholic Church is founded on the Apostles, those whom Jesus imparted the commission to baptize. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are made a member of the Church, we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ. In other words, Baptism is indispensable. Therefore, the syllogism follows that the Church has to be indispensable as well! Again, it must be noted this teaching is understood that those who do not know the Catholic Church is the True Church, or through no fault of their own cannot join, can still be saved. However, it speaks volumes for those who do know and by their own grevious fault, usually through pride, refuse to embrace ALL THE TEACHINGS of Holy Mother Church. This includes both non-Catholics and "Cafeteria Catholics."
When it comes to promoting Mary and the truths of the Roman Catholic Church, like Saint Nicholas, Saint Ambrose, Saint Pius X and Mother Angelica, we're not going to back down either. That is our whole purpose for publishing the DAILY CATHOLIC and will continue to be our only purpose. It's no accident, we do it on purpose!
Patriarchs, Archbishops, Exarchs, and representatives of thirteen different rites and creeds, including the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, celebrated an unprecedented communitarian religious service together. The very elderly and ailing Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem attended in a wheel chair. Together with his separated brethren he confessed "the sin of secular divisions, which at times became rivalry,... to promise that with no recriminations about the past, and adoring the Word of God made man in Bethlehem, we will only express love and peace to one another, until the much desired re-composition of ecclesial communion is reached."
This commitment was ratified by praying the Our Father. The coming Jubilee Holy Year could not have started with better ecumenical signs. John Paul II sent a message from Rome, which was confirmed by all the Christian leaders of the Holy Land. "May the Great Jubilee lead all Christ's disciples to atone for our past sins against unity and to work to hasten the blessed hour in which we shall all invoke Our Heavenly Father with a single voice," the Pontiff wrote.
The Inter-Confessional Committee of the Churches of Jerusalem, born three years ago in December to prepare to celebrate the Jubilee, chose this date to allow the different Churches to have the required time to prepare their own Christmas celebrations, which in some cases are very ambitious. The Greek-Catholic Patriarchy, for example, has invited the leaders of the national sister Churches and heads of State of their respective countries from January 2-7. Among the guests are Boris Yeltsin and Slobodan Milosevic. Armenian Christians will celebrate Christmas from January 17-18, and the highest leaders of the Church will come to Bethlehem for the event. Yasser Arafat has invited many heads of State of Catholic and Protestant countries for December 24 and 25. In addition, on Christmas Eve the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, will officially open the Holy Year at the same time as the Pope.
For Arafat, the Jubilee represents a unique occasion for international meetings which he will take advantage of to promote the Palestinian cause. For this reason, he has built himself a home in Bethlehem. He was excluded from the religious event at the wish of the other religious leaders, in order to avoid political overtones. Nonetheless, he was invited to participate in a "ceremony of light," when some children will carried candles to the Nativity grotto, from which the flame was passed by the Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops to the congregation. At the same time, Arafat lit the Christmas tree in Manger Square, outside the Basilica.
The Patriarchs and leaders of the 13 Christian communities in the Holy Land also wrote a letter to be read on the occasion offering a message of hope and love to the whole world, particularly the faithful of Palestine, Israel, Jordan and the Arab countries. "May we all be able to live in justice and peace," they prayed.
The heads of the Churches in Jerusalem continued, "We must confess honestly and frankly that during our pilgrimage in this Holy Land we have not kept the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, and that our obedience to the Savior's prayer at the Last Supper has been imperfect: 'That they all may be one, as you Father in me and I in you, that the world may believe.' " ZE99120308
Disagreement and discontent have been manifest even among Israel's political leaders. Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem since 1993, is among the most critical. "Fides" interviewed Mr. Olmert about the situation.
-- What do you think about Minister Ben Ami's decision to give government land for the building of a mosque in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth?
EHUD OLMERT: I think the decision is wrong. The government land was assigned to squatters who took possession claiming previous historic rights of ownership, rights which proved to be without foundation and were rejected by the Court in Nazareth.
-- What impact has this decision had on relations between the Israeli government and the various churches?
EHUD OLMERT: The relationship between churches (in this case with the Catholic Church) and the State of Israel is a tapestry woven with delicate and fragile threads; it cannot bear heavy blows. This decision does not contribute to good relations. It is obvious that the churches reject this act and see it as a humiliation for Christian status in the Holy Land. At the same time, for the churches the relationship is important and must be maintained and improved. Good sense must prevail and every effort be made to localize the incident, putting it into perspective to avoid compromising these fragile relations.
-- What must be done now?
EHUD OLMERT: The decision should be annulled. I suggest reclaiming the ownership of the property for the building of a public square for residents and tourists alike. This is on the government level. On the municipal level, the local building committee and the district building committee should not approve the construction of the plan, since these statutory rights are in their jurisdiction. I am not familiar with the specific details in Nazareth, but it does not seem to me that the plan could be approved in such a short period of time. So I find it difficult to see how the municipality of Nazareth gave permission for the laying of the foundation stone for a building of which the plans have yet to be approved. The only one in charge of these matters is the city of Nazareth, not the government of Israel.
-- In Israel and the rest of the world people are thinking of the imminent Christian Jubilee Year and wondering if this humiliation and friction will cause pilgrims and tourists to decide not to visit their Holy Places of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, towns that are preparing to accommodate hundreds of thousands of visitors. As mayor of Jerusalem, are you concerned?
EHUD OLMERT: Although squatters have illegally taken the land, the churches are not in the habit of disturbing the peace or breaking the law. The churches are confident that the Jubilee, an occurrence of unprecedented importance for all Christians, will be a peaceful, joyful event. ZE99120220
On Saturday, December 11, the Holy Father will bless the Sistine Chapel, where the long restoration process has finally been completed. After restoring Michaelangelo's ceiling and the Last Judgment, Vatican experts have spent the last two years attending to the frescoes on the walls. This includes paintings by Perugino, Ghirlandaio, Botticelli and other masters of Italian art, depicting scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ. The magnificent splendor of the choir loft has also been restored.
The most important novelty this year is the change in the schedule for the opening of the Holy Doors. As already announced, the Pope will open the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica on December 24 at the Midnight Mass. However, instead of delegating the other Basilicas to Cardinals, he will solemnly open the Holy Door of St. John Lateran on the afternoon of the 25th and that of St. Mary Major on January 1, 2000; finally, in honor of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians, he will open the Holy Door of St. Paul Outside the Walls on January 18. This is the first Jubilee in history in which a Pontiff has personally opened the doors of all these major basilicas.
Another big surprise of the papal agenda is an extraordinary "Urbi et Orbi" blessing, which will take place at 12 midnight on New Year's Eve, when the Pontiff will appear at the window of his library to greet the youth, who will be gathered for a prayer vigil to begin the new year in St. Peter's Square. Prior to the greeting, the Holy Father will have prayed the solemn "Te Deum" of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, instead of the Roman Church of "Gesú" where the "Te Deum" has been held in previous years.
The remaining engagements of the calendar of Christmas rites presided by the Pope are traditional. Very important is the blessing of images of the Christ Child on Sunday, December 12 in St. Peter's Square. Two days later, there will be a Mass for the university students of the city of Rome, and on the 21st, an audience with the Roman Curia, where John Paul II will touch on deeper topics. On January 2 the Children's Jubilee will be celebrated. On January 6, as customary, the Pope will consecrate new bishops, and on the 9th he will baptize several newborns in the Sistine Chapel. Finally, on January 10 he will receive ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, whom he will greet in the New Year and touch upon important issues of the current international scene. ZE99120309