Tag Archives: 2018-10

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle C    

First Reading
Micah 5:1-4
The ruler of Israel is promised to come from Bethlehem.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
A prayer for God’s salvation

Second Reading
Hebrews 10:5-10
Through his obedience to God’s will, Christ consecrated all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On this the last Sunday before Christmas, our Gospel reading prepares us to witness Christ’s birth by showing us how Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah even before his birth. The Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist to the events that preceded John the Baptist’s birth. The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel. Luke pairs the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, establishing John’s early connection to the Messiah.

Our Gospel reading recalls Mary’s actions after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel Gabriel. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also with child. Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles that they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation. If we were to continue to read the verses that follow in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her song of praise, the Magnificat. Both women recall and echo God’s history of showing favor upon the people of Israel.

In Luke’s Gospel the Holy Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as God to those who believe. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and sings Mary’s praise because she bears the Lord. We sing these words of praise to Mary in the Hail Mary. Even John the Baptist, the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb, is said to recognize the presence of the Lord and leaps for joy.

It is appropriate in this season of Advent that we consider the role of Mary in God’s plan of salvation. Elizabeth describes Mary as the first disciple, as the one who believed that God’s word to her would be fulfilled. Mary’s faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people’s history and in her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to everyone. Because of this, Mary is a model and symbol of the Church. May we be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation.-loyolapress.com


Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. Thus, Mary was the first to receive the benefit of the redemption that her Son would merit for all.

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Eucharistic miracles

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication presents a documentary on Eucharistic miracles, interviewing scientists and witnesses, and raising awareness of this global phenomenon.

The documentary “Segni” (Italian for “signs”), is inspired by the venerable Carlo Acutis, a young boy who died at the young age of 15 from a sudden onset of leukemia. He dedicated his life to spreading awareness of Eucharistic miracles. He even opened his own exhibition to showcase past miracles that, to him, prove God’s love for us.

Modern miracle

The documentary focuses on events that took place between 1999-2013 in Argentina, Poland, Mexico and Italy. These miracles that occurred when science was already advanced enough to become involved in defining the phenomenon occurring. Science that could look into these consecrated hosts that suddenly turned red, taking the form of meat, of human flesh.

Constant wonder

The producers of this documentary travelled to the locations where some of these miracles are said to have occurred. There, they spoke to those who discovered them, those who studied them and those who, to this day, still wonder over them.

Matteo Ceccarelli, the director, spoke before the projection of the film and explained that part of what he wanted to transmit through the documentary was the ‘what happens after’. He wanted to show that as a consequence of these miracles many of the priests “learned to re-commit themselves”. This was supported by Fr Andrzej Ziombra, from the Church of St Hyacinth in Legnica, Poland, where in 2013 a blood stain was discovered on a host. Fr Ziombra says “I discovered the beauty of priesthood”, after understanding that “something important had occurred in my church.”

Fungus one time, a miracle the next

Part of the fascination behind these modern day miracles is the voice that science has given them. Science can be used, and has been used, to refute miracles. This was the case in one church in Poland, where red stains were discovered on a host. After having it tested, it was discovered that the red was simply fungus. Science is also used to accept miracles, as was the case in the situations explored in the documentary.

God’s sign of love

In all these cases, the host, having taken on the form of flesh, was studied in depth by scientists. Similarities were discovered in all these cases: the presence of white blood cells that usually disappear after a few minutes after death; the recurring AB blood type; the heart tissue found; and the other signs of life and vitality. None of these could be scientifically explained.
As Franco Serafini, a cardiologist, said in his opening remarks, “faith is not humbled by science”. There are certain things medicine can do when studying miracles, he said. “The miracles can now speak to us in a scientific and technological language, understood by people in this day and age”.

Ricardo Castañón Gómez, contacted in 1999 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to study the host that had turned red after it had been placed in water, to this day is unable to explain this occurrence, at least not through science. One explanation, chosen by many, including the initially skeptical Mexican Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro, is simply that “this is what God wanted”, and that this is “Him, showing us He loves us”. Francesca Merlo

Synod: Pope Francis brings out the best in us

Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, says that the Synod of Bishops on Young People was a “moment of conversion and grace”, guided by Pope Francis who “brought out the best in us”.

Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry, one of the Synod auditors

One of the women religious who audited the Synod of Bishops on Young People is Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, the Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry. She represented the International Union of Superiors General in her capacity as its vice-president. She spoke with Sr Bernadette Reis about what it was like for her as a woman religious to participate in the Synod.

Moment of conversion

Sr Sally began saying that the Synod provided a “moment of conversion” for her. It helped her realize that she is not “as open to my young sisters or candidates as I could be”.

Moment of grace

Seeing how the Vatican works was a “moment of grace”, Sr Sally continued, because she was able to see it in a “different light”. She was “pleasantly surprised” by some of the processes used in the Synod, one of them being the brief period of reflection introduced by Pope Francis after each intervention.

“It gave the sense of more of a prayerful processing of information. This made a big difference. It’s very difficult to sit and listen to 370 interventions over the course of so many weeks. Having that moment of quiet and a beautiful scenery to look at on the screen really did help us to pause.”

Moments of openness

Sr Sally then described what it was like in her small group. “I could see conversion happening” among the Cardinals and bishops, she said.

“I could see their openness to our questions, to our modifications or amendments. The young people spoke often, as did I, as did the men from USG [Union of Superiors General, the male counterpart to the UISG], as did the priest from the Migrants and Refugees Section. We spoke as much as the Bishops and Cardinals, or more so, actually, than some of them.”

Moments of solidarity

Even though she and others in the small group could not vote, or formally present modifications, Sr Sally said that their suggestions were welcomed nonetheless. One of the Bishops in her group submitted some of the suggestions that came up.

“We worked as a network. That was very good for me as a woman religious to see. Because initially I thought, this is not very inviting to have us there but not able to submit amendments, or there and not able to speak freely. We all spoke very freely.”

Moments of being together with young people

Pope Francis contributed his own charisma to the Synod, Sr Sally said.

“Pope Francis is such a grace for our Church. He’s so open, he’s so welcoming, he’s so humble. And he brought that side out in all of us. There in person, he was able to bring us together with the youth and to bring the best out in us.”

Surprising moments

The youth sitting directly behind the women religious “were hootin’ and hollering”, Sr Sally interjected here.

“I watched the faces of the Bishops and Cardinals. And the first time, they were like, ‘Hmmm. This is different’. But after that, they loved it!”

Welcoming atmosphere

“In the end, it was a very welcoming atmosphere”, Sr Sally said. The difference made by the women religious auditors was their presence in the small groups and what they shared during informal discussions, she said.

“There were only 7 women religious there, but we made a huge impact on the Synod. We know that based on what people have told us. Last night when we were leaving, the Bishops and Cardinals were saying, “Thank you for being there. You really are the ‘Madri Sinodali’ [Synod Mothers]. That meant a lot to us because we knew our voices were heard.”- Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News, 30 Oct 2018

Women religious call to be prophetic voice of Synod

Fresh from the Synod experience, 6 women religious reflect on the specific gift women religious have in taking the Synod from the hall into the actual lives of young people.

Sisters who participated in the Synod speak about how women religious can implement it

Vatican – On Monday evening, the day after the Synod concluded, 6 women religious representing the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) met with women religious, ambassadors to the Holy See and journalists. They reflected on how women religious can make the Synod bear fruit in the lives of young people.


Young people’s needs and dreams should be part of the meetings and planning at every level of religious life, Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cambéry, said. Religious are the “memory”, the “prophetic voice” moving the Synod forward, reminding the Church what happened at the Synod and living the spirit, she said. This means reminding the Bishops of some ideas that came out of the Synod, such as, the creation of diocesan youth councils, synods of young people in the local churches, and the inclusion of youth in Bishops’ Conference meetings using the Synod method.


Religious life itself needs to undergo a conversion, several of the sisters said. Sr Allesandra Smerilli said that women religious need to open up their convents to allow young people in. In addition to being available to them for accompaniment, women religious need training. “Are we ready?” she asked.


Sr Mina Kwon, mentioned that she is disappointed that there is not more about overcoming clericalism in the Final Document. “It needs to be overcome before it’s too late”, she said. On the other hand, Sr Mina said that the Synod took place in the corridors and over meals and not just in the Synod hall. There, she was encouraged to keep speaking out. Because of this she is going back to Korea feeling called to continue working to overcome this sense of “superiority, and entitlement”.


Regarding the absence of a message for those who feel marginalized due to their sexual orientation, Sr Nathalie Becquart responded that the discussion of same sex relationships is stronger in some parts of the world than in others. Some countries are open to the topic whereas it bears the death penalty in others. One young person said that he could be killed if the topic were to appear in a document in which he participated drafting.

Sr Lucy Muthoni Nderi picked up the discussion saying that the Church is not ready to respond. The Bishops did not want to give “ready-made answers”. The Church needs time, Sr Lucy said, in order to understand. The message from the Synod is that discrimination does not belong in the Church. Jesus began with the lived experience of each person and brought the person on a journey toward accomplishing his dream for them.

Sr Lucy also reiterated the request from young people who said they want to hear the Church’s wisdom regarding the body and sexuality. Young people would like us to listen to them before we start listing the prohibitions and doctrine which turns them off, she said.

Fragility and holiness

When asked about the request from young people for both clarity from the Church, but also an accompaniment from fellow Catholics who can admit that they don’t know everything, Sr Lucy Muthoni Nderi responded. She said that young people seek clarity regarding the Church’s teaching, but vulnerability from those who accompany them, who can share the same faith journey. The relational approach, Sr Lucy continued, can teach a lot that includes doctrine, but that also manifests the face of Jesus. Young people seek credible and trustworthy adults to accompany them – adults who are not perfect but who are on the path to holiness. – Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News, 30 Oct 2018


A Synod transform by the presence of young people

One day after the Synod on Young People concludes, 6 of the 7 women religious who participated share their experience of how they saw the Synod transformed by the presence of the young auditors.

Women religious unpack the Synod experience

Vatican – A synthesis of the Synod on Young People through the eyes of 6 of the 7 women religious who participated, organized by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) in Rome, took place on Monday evening, the day after the Synod formally concluded. Women religious, ambassadors to the Holy See, and journalists took part in person while others joined online via webinar.

Sisters auditors and voting

Sr Sally Marie Hodgdon, representing UISG as a Superior General at the Synod, responded to the question regarding parity with the male Superiors General counterpart, USG. She said the executive boards of both the UISG and USG have decided to draft a document. In it, they will request that the numbers of auditors from both groups be the same, and that both have voting privileges. She added that this issue was brought up not only by women, but by Bishops, Cardinals and the young people as well.


Sr Allesandra Smerilli, a Salesian Sister, described the listening that led to conversion. Referring to Cardinal Tagle, she said that the listening took place not only with the ears, but also with their gut. Many, including Bishops, were moved by the stories that they heard. This, Sr Allesandra said, provides the backdrop to the addition of synodality in the Final Document which is absent from the Instrumentum Laboris (par. 118ff). A synodal journey took place and transformed the Bishops from defending their authority to embracing synodality. Sr Allesandra said it is because of the presence of the young people that the Bishops began to speak about their personal “synodal” experiences, and were able to articulate it in the Final Document.


Sr Mina Kwon, a Sr of St Paul of Chartres from Korea, called the Synod a festival. She was surprised each day by what God prepared. Throughout the month, the young auditors began to understand that the Church loves them, she said. It was not just the Bishops, but the young people, too, who were talking about what they plan on doing when they return to their countries.

The signs of the times

Sr Lucy Muthoni Nderi, a Salesian Sister from Kenya, said that it was the young people who helped the Bishops identify the signs of the times. The young people reminded the bishops not to talk about them as if they are outside of the Church, but as people ready to help in the Church’s mission. This, she said, is how they awakened synodality.

New Pentecost

Sr Nathalie Becquart, a sister of the Xavière Missionaries of Christ Jesus, feels that the Synod is a new Pentecost. She said she could hear the voices of young people in the Bishops. The strong and deep human experiences lived in the Synod helped the Bishops live the Emmaus encounter that became the paradigm of the Final Document. Through this experience they have understood that young people can be partners in the mission of the Church. It also affected the paragraph on man and woman (13), and the paragraph specifically on women in the Church (55), she said. Sr Nathalie emphasized as well that the Bishops and Cardinals at the Synod were asking for women to be present in the decision-making process.


Sr Maria Luisa Berzosa González, Director of Catholic School and Popular Education from Spain, took part as an expert. As an expert, she did a lot of listening and because of that began to understand a lot. The pilgrimage, the intergenerational dialogue, and the concert with prisoners were other ways that shaped the experience, she said. She drew particular attention to the pilgrimage. That was when everyone was equal, providing support, handing someone water…. Sr Maria Luisa thinks that the pilgrimage played a large role that allowed the Bishops a concrete experience within which to understand synodality. – Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, Vatican News, 29 Oct 2018

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