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Praising the Names of Jesus:  

The Antiphons of Advent
Jeanne Kun

Advent3 A distinctive feature of the Liturgy of the Hours in this week preceding the Christmas vigil is the antiphon sung at Vespers (evening prayer) before and after the recitation of the Magnificat.  Originally incorporated into the monastic office in the Middle Ages, these antiphons, often called the "Greater Antiphons" or the "O Antiphons", are also echoed in the daily lectionary as the verse for the gospel acclamation during this week.  They add a mood of eager expectation to the liturgy that builds throughout these seven days and climaxes at Christmas. 

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  • December 17 - Wisdom from the Most High
  • December 18 - Ruler of House of Israel
  • December 19 - Root of Jesse
  • December 20- Key of David
  • December 21 - Rising Dawn & Dayspring
  • December 22 - King of the Gentiles
  • December 23 - Emmanuel, God-with-us 

Read  Sister Joan Chittister's  commentary.  

The Church I Love
Rev. Louis Arceneaux, C.M.
As a lifelong Catholic and priest for forty six years, I love being a member of the Catholic Church. There is a great deal about being Catholic that delights and encourages me. 
I appreciate the fact that   the Catholic Church is rooted in humanity through the Incarnation of Jesus and through his life, death and Resurrection. I find the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Church comforting. I find the full Catholic Social Teaching of our Church, rooted in the commitment of Jesus to the lowly, children and the poor. I am grateful that there is so much in the long history of our Church to keep us connected over centuries with saintly women and men who  have  gone before us and to so many different cultures throughout the world.  I belong to a religious community of apostolic life, the Congregation of the Mission, that  is one of many religious congregations in the Church. I even see value in the organizational structure of  our Church that connects parish communities to dioceses and dioceses to national conferences and  national conferences to the universal Church. I see value in clergy, religious and laity working together to promote the unfolding of God's reign in our world. I could go on with other positives about the Church that I love.

However, I am terribly saddened and even angry over some of the actions of the hierarchy, especially some bishops and popes, in recent years. The leadership of our Church has just proclaimed a year of faith, wants to promote a new evangelization and has been speaking out for "religious freedom" for the Church. Those are worthy declarations and goals. Unfortunately, I experience the actions of our leadership leading to the opposite rather than bringing more faith filled people into the Church. Here are some specific examples.

The bishops of the United States promoted a campaign this past summer before our national elections on "religious freedom." They expressed a concern that our government is doing things to prevent religious freedom in our Catholic Church, specifically regarding birth control and the definition of marriage. Certainly, religious freedom is worth standing up for.  However, it is just as worthy to grant "religious freedom" to the many Catholics and other people who have a different understanding of the legitimacy of birth control and the definition of marriage.  While making their stand on "religious freedom," it was sad to hear and read of  bishops who were threatening Catholics with eternal damnation if they dared vote for someone who allowed birth control, allowed people to make their own choices about abortion and had a different understanding of civil marriage.

In the interests of religious freedom for all people, why could not the bishops forcefully declare what is our Catholic  definition of marriage and what we expect of people who want their marriage to be accepted in the Catholic Church? In fact, that is the present position of the Catholic Church. Anyone who wishes to enter into a Catholic marriage must accept the Catholic Church's understanding  of marriage. The Catholic Church does not accept the limited understanding of marriage that civil law in the United States accepts and we have had no problems over the years with this approach.  If civil and state governments choose to broaden their understanding of what constitutes a civil marriage to include members of the same gender, that is the right of the government, generally after receiving the vote of the majority of the governed.  This marriage issue is  an excellent  example of the value of keeping Church and State separate.  The State need not tell the Church  or any religious group what must be an acceptable religious  understanding of marriage and the Church need not tell the State what is their acceptable understanding of marriage.  This is how freedom ought to be exercised.

A most recent example of how the hierarchy of the Church says one thing and practices another is the way they have dealt with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM.  He has publicly come out in support of the ordination of women in the Catholic priesthood. The Vatican has declared this a topic that we ought not to even speak about, declaring it a defined teaching that women cannot be ordained priests. Despite the fact that Catholic Biblical scholars and theologians have studied the matter and concluded that this is not so clear cut as the Vatican would like it to be, Popes and bishops have declared it so. Is this the  way to promote religious freedom? 

The reality is that many Catholics, indeed many Catholic priests and probably even some Catholic bishops think this is a topic worth continued discussion. Many would like to discuss this topic publicly and yet are afraid that they would be treated in the same way that Fr. Roy has been treated these past four years by Church hierarchy.  Fr. Roy chose to go public even to the point of participating in the ordination of a woman to the Catholic priesthood.  Because of that action, he was declared automatically excommunicated from the Church in 2008.  Since that time efforts were made to pressure his religious community, Maryknoll, to expel him from the community if he would not recant from his position on the ordination of women.  Fr. Roy said he could not recant because he would be going against his own informed conscience by doing so. Maryknoll did not choose to expel him. This October, the Vatican took matters into its own hands and expelled him on its own authority and informed the Maryknoll leadership, who in turn informed Fr. Roy that he was out. There is still some question about the authority of the Vatican to intervene in the life of a religious community and expel a member. However, the Vatican decided that it could do what it wanted because it is the highest authority in the Church. How do we reconcile this with the promotion of  religious freedom?

What makes this situation so striking is that the Vatican chooses to take such a strong and definitive stand on a matter of doctrine that is debatable in the eyes of many Catholics. At the same time, the Vatican has taken a much milder stand on a matter of moral behavior of its members, namely in the matter of clergy and bishops involved in pedophilia cases over the years. It appears that one can go against serious moral teachings of the Church to the point of harming and in some cases destroying the lives of other people and yet remain in full membership in the Church.  However, when one challenges some doctrinal teaching of the Church that is another matter.

How does this kind of behavior speak to people of faith in this year of faith
?  How can this behavior help to promote a new evangelization and bring more people into the Catholic Church?  How are young  and intelligent women of faith going to be kept or welcomed into the Church when they are told that they are not even supposed to talk about the possibility of their sharing in the priesthood in the Church?  How are inquiring young men going to be welcomed into the Church and to pursue priesthood when they are told that there are certain topics they cannot even talk about, such as ordination of women?
How are young married couples going to continue in or join the Catholic Church when they are told that the celibate hierarchy of the Church knows more about what constitutes legitimate forms of family planning than they do? How are homosexual men and women going to continue in or join the Church when they are told that the only way they can be Catholics is if they commit themselves to celibacy for the rest of their lives, that there is no debating any other form of behavior for them?

To conclude, what do these issues have to do with the Catholic Church, with Faith, with religious freedom and with a new evangelization? It appears to me and many I share with that there are many more fundamental issues of our Catholic Faith that we ought to focus on while leaving others open to debate and differing views.  We can promote our wonderful teaching on the importance of religious freedom and the formation of conscience, while allowing individuals to exercise that freedom. We can promote as strongly as we desire our wonderful teachings on the sacraments in the Church and still allow discussion on the possibility of extending the sacrament of Holy Orders to others besides celibate males. We can teach and continue to demand that all people who wish to marry in the Catholic Church accept our Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage while allowing civil governments the freedom to define civil marriage as the governed choose. In this way, we will truly be promoting the Catholic Church in this year of faith and we will be showing others what we stand for as Catholics while not imposing our views on others, especially when there are even differences within our Church on many of these issues. 
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Some things we have been reading  
Christmas 2012 - THE DIGITAL STORY OF NATIVITY - (Christmas 2.0)

 Christmas 2012 - THE DIGITAL STORY OF NATIVITY - (Christmas 2.0)



Retired bishop says citizens of faith must oppose unjust right-to-work laws
Jen Eyer     Dec.10, 2012

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton: 

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton We firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers for organizing."


 My brother bishops and I wrote that more than a quarter-century ago in our 1986 letter Economic Justice for All. Regrettably, it rings true still today.


The right-to-work legislation that was passed by the House and the Senate in Michigan just this month is designed to break unions. It is designed to prevent workers from organizing. And we must oppose it as firmly as we did during the 1980s.


As Catholics, we believe that if the dignity of work is to remain protected, then the basic rights of workers must be protected - fair wages, freedom from discrimination and the right to organize and join unions. We believe in justice. We believe in the common good.


Right-to-work laws go against everything we believe.

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ARCC  presented Bishop Gumbleton with its Hans Küng Award for the Rights of Catholics in the Church in November 2011. 

Colombian Jesuit silenced over critical review of Pope's book
ACP Ireland     Dec.15, 2012

Fr. Alfonso Llano Escobar, S.J. has learned the hard way that it doesn't pay to critique your boss's writings. Fr. Llano, whose weekly column Un alto en el camino ("A stop along the road") had appeared in the major Colombian newspaper El Tiempo for 30 years, has been told that his writing career has come to an end.


In a message to the editorial board of the newspaper, Fr. Llano wrote that "Father Adolfo Nicolás, the superior general of the Jesuits, has ordered Father Alfonso Llano to consider his apostolic vocation as a writer to be over, has deprived him of his freedom of speech, and is demanding that he not even say goodbye and that he keep absolute silence."


The priest columnist earned his silencing for a November 24th column in which he offered his views on Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, and specifically on the doctrine of the virginity of Mary. 

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Canada's first deaf priest ordained in Edmonton
Marty Klinkenberg     Dec.7, 2012

Canada's first deaf Catholic priest will celebrate mass on occasion using sign language and will hear confessions face to face.


Ordained Friday night at St. Joseph's Basilica, Matthew Hysell will minister to Catholics with hearing impairments, while also serving as a parish priest at St. Thomas Church in Mill Woods.

. . . .

Born and raised in a Baptist family in Michigan, Hysell decided he wanted to become a priest at age 13, when he read about them at school.

. . . .

He converted to Catholicism in 1993 at age 16, and in 1999 entered a seminary program in New York established by the late John Cardinal O'Connor and Father Tom Coughlin, the first deaf Catholic priest in the U.S.

. . . .
Coughlin, now one of 10 deaf priests in the U.S., flew to Edmonton from San Antonio to attend his ordination, as did Father Paul Zirimenya, a deaf priest from San Francisco. 

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Vatican implosions really first-order Space & Information Age effects
Eugene Cullen Kennedy  Dec.14, 2012

That noise you hear coming from the Vatican, according to Robert Mickens, one of the most experienced and trustworthy observers of the church, arises not from the clang of cell doors on papal butlers taking one for the system, but from the "implosion" of the system itself. Mickens, former editor of the London-based Tablet, tells us that, we are witnessing "the collapse of an entire system, structure, ethos, and culture." 

. . . . 

Mickens portrays a tragic but poignant collapse, and while he rightly attributes its onset to the double-team efforts of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI to restore a self-centered and therefore self-consuming church, the implosion may be read in another way, as well.   . . . .


Classic hierarchically structured institutions, such as higher education and medicine, which like the church exercised unquestioned power in large spheres of American life, found their influence wane as the Space and Information Age took hold. 


The "implosion" is actually a first-order effect of the Space and Information Age. First-order effects can be observed all around us, most of all in institutions that, like the church, developed their power and control as hierarchical structures.   . . . .  


Companies hierarchical by definition, such as General Motors, found themselves vulnerable to more nimble Japanese carmakers, a first-order effect. Second-level effects followed in their plunge into wild, expensive and largely ineffective experiments to find new forms. In other big companies these included knocking down all office walls and placing the CEO's desk in the middle, and resorting to pizzas with everything on them as models for restructuring their operations.


We are now so accustomed to first-order effects in this new age that we hardly name them as such. These include the death and decline of newspapers and magazines, and the emergence of as one of the world's largest retailers, despite the fact that it has no stores. 


The advent of the Space and Information Age coincided almost exactly with Vatican II in 1962.  . . . .


Telstar collapsed the layers of hierarchy through which papal statements were ordinarily filtered, and leapt over the barriers of control or censorship by the curia in a direct transmission of his [Blessed Pope John XXIII] words to all hearers. The first great movement of the council fathers was to break the waxen seal on the agenda prepared for them by the curia, toss it into the Tiber, and begin to frame one in the immediacy of the moment.  Unannounced, the Space and Information Age had opened for the Roman Catholic church.


Curialists and traditionalists have been scrambling to recover from the impact of what has followed ever since. The implosions reported by Mickens are, so to speak, symptoms of a hierarchical structure's increasingly agitated and transparent efforts to escape the Space and Information Age and to restore its multi-leveled glory and its emphasis on Roman rather than Catholic in the church's self-understanding.


Recently, a third-order Space and Information Age effect occurred when an Austrian priest was stripped of his honorific title, Monsignor, by powers in the Vatican who would not be identified for an offense that could not be named.  Thus, a title derived from medieval court protocol was stripped away by a skeletal hand rising from the hierarchical graveyard.

. . . .

Vatican II had, in fact, provided a lifeboat that was also a lifeline for survival in the Space and Information Age. The council fathers returned to the doctrine of collegiality that recognized that bishops have authority in their own right and do not have it as a delegation from the Pope. The council recognized the authority of individual bishops and of national conferences to deal with problems in their regions. Collegiality offered a structure ideal for the new age.


That is why Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI collaborated to downplay and destroy collegiality and to restore the hierarchical form in the church. Pope Benedict XVI says that he will settle for a smaller church. 

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Power behind the papal throne

Robert Mickens     Drc.15, 2012


He's been called Gorgeous George, il Bel Giorgio and even the Black Forest Adonis. And ever since making his world debut in the spring of 2005 as the 48-year-old personal secretary of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, Mgr Georg Gänswein has been one of the most talked about personalities at the Vatican.

. . . .

Last week, Pope Benedict announced that he was making his personal assistant the prefect of the Papal Household and was elevating him to the senior rank of archbishop. 


It was a surprising move that undoubtedly delighted Don Georg's friends and fans, but one that also left many others - especially some inside the Vatican - perplexed and ­troubled. "The naming of Gänswein as prefect and archbishop is a scandal," complained one church official. "The Renaissance papacy lives," he said, clearly accusing the Pope of promoting favourites.

. . . .

Nonetheless, Pope Benedict made Mgr Gänswein prefect and catapulted him to the second-highest rung of the Church's hierarchy in order to strengthen his role as "gatekeeper". Although the prefect of the Papal (or Pontifical) Household works with the Secretariat of State in deciding who has access to the Pope and who doesn't, because of his intimacy with Benedict, Archbishop-elect Gänswein will have effective power to make the final decisions. The reason is simple. As the Pope grows older and frailer, he will need to rely increasingly on this man whom he deeply trusts to protect him from being ­manipulated by others.  

. . . .

Georg Gänswein, despite his athletic and youthful appearance, is extremely conservative. But he has been careful to tone down his "traditionalist" side. Shortly after the election of Benedict XVI in 2005, all references to the papal secretary's life prior to his new-found fame disappeared from the internet. Only later did any personal information about him gradually find its way back into the public forum. One reason for this, it appears, is that he initially began his seminary training at the international seminary in Ecône (Switzerland) run by the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), or Lefebvrists. This was finally reported in 2009 by French magazine L'Express and repeated on numerous, mostly Vatican-friendly internet sites. No one at the Vatican has ever officially denied it.  

. . . .

While working at the doctrinal office, Gänswein also taught canon law at the Opus Dei-run University of the Holy Cross in Rome. In 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger asked him to be his personal secretary.  

. . . .

Then, just a year and half later, Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope and he took Mgr Gänswein with him to the Apostolic Palace.


There is a widespread conviction among officials in the Roman Curia that the personal secretary has had an unusually strong influence on Pope Benedict's governance of the Church, especially on his personnel appointments. 

. . . .

It is also widely believed that Archbishop-elect Gänswein serves as one of the Pope's chief advisers for Curia appointments and governing decisions. But perhaps more than influencing Pope Benedict, the personal secretary serves to confirm, reinforce and encourage the pontiff's already conservative leanings.  

. . . .

Now as prefect of the Papal Household he will add even broader institutional powers to his already more intimate duties of sharing the Pope's living arrangements and looking out for his health. Georg Gänswein will essentially run the Apostolic Palace, as it were, and supervises the planning of papal visits in Rome and throughout Italy. And, naturally, he will continue, with more authority than before, to help Pope Benedict set his and the Church's agenda. 

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Pope appoints English Archbishop as Nuncio to Australia
Gerard O'Conell     Dec.11, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher as the new apostolic nuncio to Australia. 

The Vatican broke the news on December 11, after the Australian Government had given its agreement. Archbishop Gallagher succeeds the Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarrotto whom the Pope last August sent as nuncio to Israel, and simultaneous as nuncio to Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine. 

A man of considerable diplomatic experience, the 58-year old Archbishop Gallagher is the only English-born nuncio in the active diplomatic service of the Holy See. At the time of his appointment to Australia he was nuncio in Guatemala, where he had served since February 2009.

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Chinese Catholics angry at punishment of Shanghai's bishop
Gerard O'Connell     Dec.12, 2012

Catholics in mainland China have protested publicly on websites their disagreement, discontent and anger at Beijing's revocation of the appointment of the courageous Thaddeus Ma Daqin as 'coadjutor' bishop of Shanghai.


They did so within hours after the news of the latest, definitive punishment of Bishop Ma was broken by UCA News on December 10.  Citing mainland sources, the news agency reported that the decision had come from the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC).

. . . . 

Several Catholics denounced the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association which advocates an independent Church, and called on all the faithful to come out to protest and defend the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


Sources in Shanghai report that almost all the Catholic priests, nuns and lay faithful - both in the 'open' and 'underground' Church communities, are "in total solidarity" with Bishop Ma.  "Never has there been such unity among Catholics in the Shanghai diocese since the early 1950s when the Communists first began their persecution of the Church here", sources in that megalopolis told Vatican Insider.


Father Thaddeus Ma Daqin was ordained bishop of Shanghai on July 7 with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI and the Beijing authorities.  The Chinese side presented him as 'coadjutor bishop' to the 95 year-old Bishop Jin Luxian, while the Holy See referred to him as 'auxiliary bishop', though it too considered him as the successor to both the 'open' Church Bishop Jin and to the equally elderly 'underground' Church, 94 year-old fellow Jesuit, Bishop Fan Zhongliang.


As is well known, Bishop Ma greatly upset the Chinese authorities when at the end of the ordination ceremony, he announced publicly that he was abandoning all posts of responsibility in the CCPA so as to devote himself fully to his ministry as a bishop, a stance warmly applauded at the Mass and which subsequently gained strong approval from most of the priests, religious and laity in the Shanghai diocese.


The Chinese political and religious authorities cracked down immediately on the courageous bishop, fearing that his defiant act could attract a wider following thereby undermining their control of the mainland Catholic Church.


They detained him on the evening of his ordination, and took him to Sheshan seminary on the outskirts of Shanghai, where he has been under house arrest ever since.

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Italian priest quits during Mass
Dec.15, 2012

A Sicilian priest has stunned his congregation by announcing during a Mass he's set to become a father and is quitting to marry his partner.


'It's my last Mass. I am in love with a woman and in a few months I will be a father,' Vito Lombardo, 33, told his flock in the city of Trapani in northwestern Sicily, local newspapers said on Friday.


The relationship had been going on for a while but the priest waited until his partner was five months pregnant before announcing his departure, the reports said.

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$35 million in parish investment funds off the table in sex abuse case
Annysa Johnson     Dec.11, 2012

Creditors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy cannot sue to recover more than $35 million in parish investment funds that the archdiocese moved off its books in 2005, a federal judge ruled Monday.


It was the second major victory for the archdiocese and its parishes in recent days.

In a 23-page decision, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley said, "arguably there was something 'fishy' about the transfer" at a time when the archdiocese was being sued for sexual abuse by priests and had started a mediation program for survivors.


But Kelley said the money never belonged to the archdiocese, that the parishes took the funds back or invested them elsewhere in good faith, and that the high cost of litigation would undermine the archdiocese's ability to develop a reorganization plan.

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Files on accused Los Angeles priests could become public next month
Erika Aguilar    Dec.10, 2012

Files the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles kept on dozens of priests accused of sexual child abuse could become public next month.


A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered Monday that the Archcdiocese turn confidential files over to her by the end of this month so she can review objections to redacted issues. Plantiffs and the Los Angeles Times have filed objections to the redactions. 

Plaintiffs and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to release the files. They're believed to contain letters, psychological reports, notes and other documents about the accused priests as part of a $660 million settlement in 2007 to close more than 500 alleged abuse cases.

"We've waited for five years," plaintiffs' attorney Ray Boucher said in court Monday. "We need to end this process."

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Offices raided; priest wonders why
Brendan J. Lyons    Dec.19, 2012

Father Peter Young, an Albany priest who heads a broad network of nonprofit support services for former convicts and addicts, said law enforcement raids of his offices this week has unsettled his organization and he's uncertain why it was necessary.

"I don't know where it's going to go," said Young, 82, in his first public comments since Wednesday's raid by a task force of federal and state investigators.

The raids took place at the Schenectady headquarters of The Altamont Program, and at two of the organization's offices in Menands and Albany. State attorney general's investigators, accompanied by FBI agents, interviewed employees while they seized computers and a trove of financial records.

"It scared our staff half to death because many are on parole," Young said. "They were sort of put in a room and couldn't move. Everyone's computer went. There was no dialogue and we didn't know what was going on."

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Fugitive Pinoy priest in pornography scandal surrenders, repatriated to US
VVP, GMA News     Dec.11, 2012

A fugitive priest wanted in the United States for more than a year for possession of child pornographic materials has surrendered to Philippine officials and is now on his way back to the US to face the charges against him.


According to a report of the Iloilo-based news site The Daily Guardian on Tuesday, Father Lowe Dongor, fled the US and returned to the Philippines last year but turned himself in to the National Bureau of Investigation after months of negotiations.

Dongor, 36, had fled the US in October 2011 after entering a "not guilty" plea on charges of possession of child pornography.


The Daily Guardian said the priest, a native of Barotac Nuevo in Iloilo, is accused in the US District Court of the District of Massachusetts of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP).

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Pope's strategic tweets excite, engage, evangelize
Cathy Lynn Grossman     Dec.12, 2012

Pope tweets Pope Benedict XVI fired off seven tweets Wednesday from his new personal account, adding social-media zip to his campaign to inspire the Catholic faithful.


By midnight in Rome he was closing in on 1.6 million worldwide followers, including almost 1 million at the English-language account, @pontifex.

. . . .

The words were simple. Benedict began with a blessing to his "dear friends" and went on to highlight three answers to questions posed using #askpontifex. The tweets were spaced to hit different time zones in prime time.


He advised: Listen to Jesus and (look) for him in those in need.

He reassured: God is a rock "and his love is always faithful."

He encouraged a busy mom: "Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you."

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New Translation of the Missal
St. Nicholas