Vol. 167 No. 47 - November 19 - November 25, 2016
As the Year of Mercy comes to a close, the Holy Doors at three basilicas in Rome – St Paul Outside the Walls, St John Lateran and St Mary Major – were closed during special Masses held November 13. The Holy Doors at churches and basilicas around the world were closed the same day.
The opening of the door was meant to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church's faithful are offered an "extraordinary path" towards salvation during the time of the Jubilee. Pilgrims who walked through the Holy Door were able to receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.
In his homily for the Mass at St John Lateran, Cardinal Agostino Vallini spoke about how the Holy Door, just closed, was a visible sign of the Jubilee of Mercy, a year where we learned "once again" that the fate of the world is not in the hands of men, "but in the mercy of God."
"What has it taught us, the meditation of God's mercy in this year?" he asked. "First of all, that mercy is not a sign of weakness or surrender," but the "strong, magnanimous" radiation of the loving omnipotence of the Father, who "heals our weaknesses, raises us from our falls and urges us to the good." Cardinal Vallini quoted the Pope saying, "The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality." If we look closely, he said, we can see how the whole history of salvation until today and into the future, has been an "economy of mercy." "If we stop to consider the love of Jesus toward sinners, the poor, the sick, the marginalised, and especially if we contemplate the passion and death on the Cross, we will not find any other explanation than the manifestation of His mercy towards us."
During his address for the Angelus the same day, Pope Francis said that we must "stand firm in the Lord" and work "to build a better world"; that despite difficulties and sad events, what really matters is how Christians are called "to encounter the 'Lord's Day'."
"Precisely in this perspective, we want to place the commitment resulting from these months in which we have lived with faith the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy," he said, "which concludes today in the dioceses of the whole world with the closing of the Holy Door in the cathedral churches."
"The Holy Year has urged us, on the one hand, to keep our eyes fixed toward the fulfilment of God's Kingdom, and on the other, to build the future of this land, working to evangelise the present, so that it becomes a time of salvation for all." The Vatican marked the Jubilee Year with many events, including a special audience with the Pope, which happened on one Saturday each month in St Peter's Square.
There were many large events which took place, including a 24-hour long period of Eucharistic adoration and a prayer vigil. Additionally, "jubilees" were held which centred on (among others) the sick and disabled, catechists, teenagers, deacons, priests, religious, volunteers of mercy, and most recently, the poor and homeless.
Pope Francis also spent one Friday a month during the year making private visits to groups he found in special need of being shown God's mercy. These "Mercy Fridays," as they were called, included visits with refugees, victims of sex trafficking, those in hospitals and retirement homes, and children in difficult situations.
The year will officially end on November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, when Pope Francis will close the Holy Door at St Peter's Basilica. It was opened on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
As the Holy Father will seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future.
(Culled from website reports of CNS and EWTN)
One week before the feast of Christ the King, on Sunday November 13, the Holy Doors of St John Lateran, St Mary Major, and St Paul Outside the Walls were closed.
The cardinals who represented the Pope in the rites were the archpriests of the three basilicas, as follows:
• Cardinal Agostino Vallini, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St John Lateran
• Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Mary Major
• Cardinal James Michael Harvey, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls
The Year of Mercy closes on the feast of Christ the King.
In the bull announcing the Jubilee, Pope Francis wrote:
The Jubilee Year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20, 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking Him to pour out His mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!
The kingship of Christ is paradoxical. For instance, we hear in the reading from the Apocalypse that "Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth," while also hearing Christ's words to Pontius Pilate: "But as it is, my kingdom is not here." Jesus is King of all —and yet, His kingdom is not earthly.
Over the centuries, some have interpreted this to mean that Christ's kingdom and kingship is spiritual only, and therefore internal and unseen. However, this is a misunderstanding, for the Son did not become flesh and dwell among us, so we might ignore the meaning of our physical actions, but so we could truly understand the meaning and purpose of the material world. The road to this understanding extends back many centuries prior to the time of Christ, as Scripture is filled with numerous references to kings. In fact, kings are the most mentioned group of men in the entire Bible. While the title 'priest' occurs around 500 times and 'prophet' about 300 times in the Old and New Testaments combined, there are an astounding 2,700 uses of the Hebrew word 'melek' and around 125 uses of the Greek word basileus or vasilios, both of which are translated as 'king'.
If we are to understand the Feast of Christ the King, we need to recover the biblical idea of kingship as seen in Israel's greatest king—David, the shepherd turned warrior. An unlikely candidate at first glance—a mere shepherd boy. When you consider God's idea of kingship, maybe David's experience as shepherd made him perfectly suited for the task. For the shepherd's duty was twofold. When a lion or bear threatened the flock, the shepherd had to fight and protect. But his more daily task was to bring the sheep to pasture where they could eat and drink, rest and prosper.But remember,God had advised His people (through the prophet Samuel) against a king in the first place. The great ones of this world, reminds Jesus, make their authority felt. They use their authority for their advantage, ultimately exploiting those whom they are supposed to protect.
India's secular Constitution provides space for religious pluralism. All religions are to be respected, and a prior condition for this to happen is to be well-informed about other faiths, and learn how to appreciate them. On November 3, 2016, the Bombay Jesuit Province organised a day-long seminar entitled "Christians and Muslims Journeying together as Co-pilgrims: The Ideal and the Existential Reality." Province members and priests from the Bombay Archdiocese and members of the Conference of Religious (an association of women and men belonging to Catholic religious orders or congregations) of India (CRI), Mumbai Branch, and a special Muslim invitee participated in the seminar. Its aim was to provide reliable information about Islam, so that a mutually enriching dialogue could emerge in areas of faith, spirituality, work and socio-ecological action.
The timetable of the seminar included a morning session of two inputs by an expert, with time for questions and clarifications, followed by group discussion that focussed on future action plans to further dialogue. The post-lunch session was given to presenting group reports, and a panel discussion concluded the seminar.
The first session drew attention to the Catholic Church's appreciation of Islam as reflected in the Vatican II's documents: Lumen Gentium 16 and Nostra Aetate 3. Both religions stress that God is One, Merciful and Creator of all. In the light of Abrahamic faith, all persons are duty-bound to submit to God who is also Judge. Recent popes, like Paul VI and John Paul II, have declared their admiration for Muslims, and asked that Christians be open to what Muslims say, and be enriched and challenged in practising their Christian commitment. The second session offered a commentary on Islam's teachings and practices. The participants were introduced to the five pillars of Islam: (a) Shahada - the profession of faith; (b) Salat - daily ritual prayer; (c) Zakat - the tax to help the poor; (d) Saum - the Ramadan fast; and (e) Hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca. Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam is a religion of the book, and absolute importance is given to the text of the Qur'an by Muslims.
October 31: India remembered Sardar Vallabhai Patel who was born on this day in 1875 in Gujarat; he was more famously called 'the Iron Man of India'. As free India's first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, he worked tirelessly for national integration, fully convinced that groups like the RSS (whom he banned) were doing their best to destroy the unity and secular fabric of the country. Unfortunately, today, the 'powers-that-are' are doing great disservice to this visionary statesman and of all the values he embodied, by attempting to construct a so-called 'statue of unity' (at a scandalous cost and great profits for China), by displacing the poor tribals and destroying the environment and the fragile eco-system. We need to learn from Sardar Patel what unity, integration and service to the country is all about!
October 31: On this day, Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India was assassinated in 1984; this heinous deed was condemned by all. What followed was even more gruesome, when thousands of Sikhs in India were massacred, burnt alive, brutalised, left homeless. Many of us were witness to those bloody days of India's history. Till today, several of those responsible for this communal carnage have not been brought to book. A Hindi film, '31st October', on the aftermath of Indira's assassination, has just been released in Indian theatres. Indira's 'Emergency rule' and 'Operation Bluestar' will always be major blots on this two-time Prime Minister who did plenty of work for the poor and marginalised of the country. We need to do much for justice for all - especially for the minorities and subalterns!
The Media in India has been hailing the recent demonetising of the Rs 1000/- and Rs 500/- notes as a 'surgical strike'. This so called 'master stroke' of Mr Modi looks most non-surgical, in every sense of the term. It comes with a lot of collateral damage for all to see. A surgical strike is a precise strike that is targeted at only those who are intended to be targeted, with little or no collateral damage.
This move of Modi to demonetise large denomination notes has hit the honest, tax-paying common man the hardest. We have all been using Rs 500/- notes for our daily purchases and transactions. Suddenly to take these notes out of circulation would certainly inconvenience all and sundry. The common man has been standing in long queues in front of banks and ATM machines, for hours, from as early as 4 in the morning. Some only to be told at the end that money has run out, and they will have to come the next day. We have heard heart-rending stories of daily wage-earners standing in long queues for three days, and still not managing to get the low denomination notes. Their families had to go to bed hungry. Weddings had to be cancelled. Not to forget the persons who lost their lives in the process.
We all know that the actual black money makers are builders, politicians, a few businessmen, bureaucrats and government servants who take big bribes. A surgical strike would mean targeting these people with systematic Income Tax raids. It is common knowledge that this category of people never stash their black money in cash. They invest it in gold, jewels, benami properties, shell companies and foreign exchange.
A brief history of the 204-year-old Church of Our Lady of Health, Cavel,
on the occasion of the Patronal Feast - November 13, 2016
Here is Thy footstool and there rest Thy feet where live the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.
Pride can never approach to where Thou walkest in the clothes of the humble amongst the poorest, the lowliest and the lost.
My heart can never find its way to where Thou keepest company with the companionless amongst the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost."
(from Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali)
On Sunday, November 13, 2016, the parishioners of the little church of Cavel gathered together in the newly repaired church to celebrate the Feast of their Patroness, Our Lady of Health. Together with the celebrant, they bowed their heads in prayer, in a church that is more than 200 years old. A church, whose history is intertwined with the history of Christianity itself in Mumbai. A church that once resonated with strains of organ music. A church that has stood sentinel through the corridors of Time. A church still so beautiful…
Two hundred and four years is a long time. That is how old this 'little church' really is. Perhaps more, if you consider the chapel of Cavel, which pre-dates the present church. Cavel is certainly one of the oldest parishes in the city, and can proudly trace its history way back to 1794, when the original chapel was built. What was Cavel really like 200 years ago?
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